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"College radio can be summed up in five words: Dead Air, um, Dead Air."

Radio stations in colleges and universities, often portrayed as a couple of students brought in to try their hand at being an announcer or talk show host, which is usually Truth in Television. The students are probably majoring in communications or a related field, although oftentimes, there won't be enough communications students to fill the roster, so students from other departments are allowed to take air shifts. College radio stations are very rarely high priority.

There was a time when college radio, even at state colleges in fairly conservative states, was both the last bastion of truly unadulterated Sixties liberalism in the media, and the proving grounds for many a genre of music that eventually became mainstream, such as Alternative Rock, Indie Rock, and Hip Hop. Nowadays, college radio is still going strong, even if the Internet has mainly taken over the once-pivotal role that it played in the development of pop culture. However, they are still a useful source of underground music.

In fiction, the college station is something that either everyone listens to, or no one does. Either the whole campus (and no small number of people in the school's metropolitan area) tune in to the station, or the astonishingly low listener-base becomes a Running Gag.

Tropes used in College Radio include:


  • At the end of Old School, Frank "The Tank" becomes a college radio host.
  • In the movie Urban Legend, some plot includes Sasha's radio sex advice show.

Live Action TV

  • In an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, her normally grumpy roommate turns out to be great at talk radio (although this isn't spoken of again).
  • In How I Met Your Mother, a flashback reveals that Ted had a radio show in college, where he took on the persona of "the mysterious Doctor X" (a ridiculously over-the-top Soapbox Sadie). His show, and his attempts at a secret identity, are universally mocked. See for yourself on the Doctor X website.
  • In a 3rd Rock from the Sun episode, Harry took over Pendleton University's radio station and became a talk radio host. He proved popular until he started needlessly insulting everyone.
  • On Family Ties Alex had a college radio show playing old music from the Thirties and Forties.
  • Radio Free Roscoe
  • On Married... with Children, one of the show's many poorly disguised pilots included an episode that focused on the radio DJ's at Bud's college.


  • The Replacements' song "Left of the Dial", named after the physical motion to find these stations - they'd usually be found on the low end of the FM dials (anywhere between 88.1 and 91.5) before the commercial stations start to pop up around 92.0 (or earlier in some places, which made these stations hard to hear because of the larger station conflicting with the signal of the tiny college stations).


  • Garrison Keillor has a terrific monologue on this subject, detailing his experiences as a classical music DJ on college radio, that ends with his discovery that the station was not on the air for most of the time (due to their engineer turning the transmission off for his Christmas vacation in California and forgetting to turn it back on when he got back.) and the realization that for the last three months he had been, essentially, talking to himself.

Web Animation

Western Animation

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