ultoday.com interviews KRVS Director David Spizale, on the future of public media, and why 'public radio' is passé.

David Spizale is the General Manager of,UL's Public Radio Station, KRVS. The 'RVS' in the call sign hearkens back to the founding of KRVS, as the "Radio Voice of Southwestern." He is currently operating KRVS in the midst of Burke-Hawthorne Hall’s renovation and expansion. The expansion will provide a new home for KRVS. We spoke with him recently.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well let's see,,, the short story is that I was born & raised in New Orleans in the Gentilly area, near Robert E. Lee and Elysian Fields, an area that suffered mightily after Katrina. I went to public schools in New Orleans, some of which were not very strong.

Didn't you go to Ben Franklin (the highly regarded N.O. magnet school)?

No, although they wanted me desperately, Ben Franklin was only available to students who could pay attention. But the New Orleans public schools had great music programs, and I was in band from the 5th grade at McDonough 39, all the way through jr. high and high school. I played bass clarinet and Bb clarinet, and I was a snare drummer in the marching band. So that's how I came by my interest in music.

In 1969, I decided to come to USL. One of my cousins was attending, and my best friend had lived in Lafayette before moving to New Orleans. He spoke highly of the university, he had some friends here, and they told me about the friendliness of Lafayette. I also made the choice to come here because it was the right size; I had heard horror stories about a larger university where you would simply become a number.

 So I came here, and it was a very tumultuous time in history. It was the late '60s, there was a lot of political activity on universities, and a lot of discussion about public and foreign policy. I majored in communications, so the political activism spurred my interest in media and led me to KRVS.

I also met my wife here, a Lafayette native. Upon graduation, we got married. Then I went to graduate school at Miami of Ohio, where I earned my MS in Telecommunications. In graduate school I directed a gospel music program for the local area, which included PBS stations in Dayton and the Cincinnati area.

From there I went to Bethany College in the West Virginia panhandle, where I started teaching. And then, because my primary interest was television, I also managed their local TV access channel, like AOC here, but primarily broadcasting programming by students. But at a very small school like Bethany, where there are only 1,000 students and 90 faculty, there's very little anonymity.

So after 3 years there, I came across an opportunity at Montana State, in Billings. They were converting a low power radio station into a qualified public station featuring NPR and local programming. The same situation happened here at UL, with the transition from a 10 watt to 100,000 watt facility. I worked with them for 5 years making that transition, boosting the power, and essentially taking the station from a small local service to a full-service public radio station. It was quite an effort, because we needed multiple transmitters/translators to get past the mountains, and beam into local communities in the unserved areas.

And then in 1984, my predecessor at KRVS left, UL did a search, and I applied. I had the management experience which coincided with what KRVS had been through in their conversion to a high-wattage station, and I got the job.

So I returned to Lafayette, to my wife's family, and to be near New Orleans where my parents were at the time. Our first child was born in Montana in 1982, and this was a chance to get him closer to our families.

And I also I returned to Lafayette to the facility that had not only been there when I was a student, but had been there before I arrived. Ironically, in those days KRVS was in the same space we are now housed in.

Now we are awaiting a once-in-a-lifetime event, a new home for UL's public media facility, which will involve not only traditional analogue broadcasting, but streaming online, podcasting, and-- most exciting-- we are also expanding into more frequencies with digital multi-channel technologies. KRVS will become the manager of 3 or 4 channels of digital, high quality stereo reception.

Here's the deal: 88.7 is our current analogue frequency, but it actually occupies a portion of the spectrum wider than just that frequency. That's because with analogue, a station needs to be protected from adjacent frequencies, so our license actually includes more bandwidth real estate than we have traditionally used.

Because digital technology allows you to operate in smaller bandwidth slices, you can originate more than one signal within your spectrum license. So near 88.7, you will be able to find HD2, HD3, things like that, even though KRVS has the same antennas, and the same power demands.

Analogue receivers will soon be retired from the market, and the liberated areas-- which are huge-- can be converted to larger numbers of broadcasts. There are already some radio stations with 2 or 3 broadcast channels. Once we acquire the necessary equipment, we can offer, at least, 3 distinct program services.

So with the elimination of analogue in the next 5 or so years, that will open up additional opportunities for broadcasting. Public radio will go from being stations with a single frequency, and become channel managers. Because interestingly enough, with public radio content hasn't been the limiting factor, bandwidth has been.

There's a public radio station in Washington DC, that was airing NPR news, some entertainment. They were early adopters of this new digital technology, and they dedicated one auxiliary frequency to BBC broadcasts. On another, they began transmitting "Groove Salad", electronic trance music that the local clubs would actually pipe into their patrons.

The really exciting part of this is that as the price of digital receivers comes down-- and they're already getting into a range that is more affordable-- you'll get a lot more programming everywhere. We're looking at a radio reading service for the visually and print handicapped, not only the visually impaired, but all reading impaired; people who can’t hold a book, and some who simply can’t read. The most popular of these reading programs is simply reading from local media. You read the news yes, but also things like advertisements, letting listeners know about opportunities in the community. We could do that, and we can look at a lot of other diverse options.

That's why its KRVS public media. Media is more about getting what you want, when you want it... downloading, time shifting, putting a podcast on your phone and listening to it when it fits your schedule.