WEXP (La Salle University)
|Broadcast area||Philadelphia, PA|
|Branding||La Salle University Radio|
|Slogan||"Raise Your EXPectations"|
|First air date||1972|
|Owner||La Salle University|
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WEXP opened its studio at La Salle University in 1972. Initially, the radio station could only be heard inside the Student Union building, and the start-up price for the station was around US$7,500 ($1,000 of which came through a donation from U.S. Ambassador to Britain Walter H. Annenberg). Airing on 640 AM, “EXPlorer 64” was founded as a co-curricular activity, and was tied directly to the Marketing Department and the English Department’s Speech and Drama course. Much of WEXP’s early programming featured commentary opposing the Vietnam War, and oldies music. Coverage of La Salle basketball was also aired live from as far away as Arlington, Virginia. The station only aired from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
After operating (despite a weak signal) throughout the 1970s, WEXP suffered what would arguably be its biggest setback in 1980. On September 15, a student installed a transmitter to WEXP’s existing antenna on top of the Union building. The student did so “without consultation” and “exceeded FCC Federal Communications Commission capabilities”, according to federal documents dated in October. As a result of this setup, WEXP could be heard throughout the east coast. Listeners requested songs from as far away as Albany, New York, and the station could be heard as far south as Miami, Florida. FCC officials in Washington did not press any charges, which could have included a $10,000 fine and imprisonment for a year. The incident forced the university to shut down the radio station entirely, and led to an apparent distrust of the student organization for many years.
WEXP was revived during the 1980s. The station featured mostly heavy metal music. This was in sharp contrast to previous formats, which included easy listening, adult contemporary, album-oriented rock, and freeform. After collapsing again in 1988, the station returned on 530 AM in 1989. “EXPress 530”, as the station was referred to, was again just a carrier current AM signal. In February 1988, the university had the opportunity to purchase WPWT 91.7 FM, and operate at an initial expense of $100,000. Many students, and most notably professors from the communication department, pushed for support of the project. The University Budget Committee, however, rejected the plan that would have given WEXP an FCC-regulated FM station with an annual operating budget of $50,000.
In 1997, WEXP began simulcasting over La Salle 56 cable television, but the relationship between the two campus stations was short-lived. In 2000, a proposal to turn WEXP into a low-power FM station also failed. However, with the advent of computers in every dorm, where AM radios became scarcer to find, the station chose to embark on an Internet-only focus, setting up a partnership with live365 beginning in the fourth quarter of 2002. The shift in focus re-energized the station by recruiting more members and boosting listenership both on campus and across the country.
While WEXP's main format is popular music, it is not confined to any specific genre. There are also a series of call-in and campus news/discussion shows that promote campus interactivity through the telephone, particularly during the late evening hours. There is also a presence of discussing professional and college sports. From 2000-2009, WEXP students have broadcast live NCAA sporting events featuring La Salle University in football (discontinued), men's and women's soccer, men's and women's basketball, and baseball, promoting an interest in play-by-play announcing, and producing remote radio broadcasts, on the university campus.
WEXP has featured live performances on its airwaves by many local bands, including James Dalton, Chris Meservey, Noringo, Rich Varevice, Matt Gauss Band, Cipher, How It Ends, Nook the Crook, Forever I Burn, Fall River, Falling Down, Jason Ager and the Three Formed Fates, The Divining, and Dead Again. Among several nationally notables, staff at WEXP live have also interviewed the members of Leftover Salmon, Rockapella, and Killswitch Engage, and also comedian Dane Cook, to promote each of their Philadelphia tour stops in 2003-2005.
The longest running shows on WEXP were Steel Cage Radio (1999-2004) and Needle to the Groove with DJ Somavilla and DJ Helix (2000-2006). Another tradition of college radio that has continued to grow over the years has been the annual free picnic, which was rebranded as WEXPfest in 2005. The 5th Annual WEXPfest was 29 March 2009, and featured free food, WEXP giveaways and live bands.
On April 13, 2007 WEXP began an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for "Longest Radio Quiz", which was previously set at 30 hours.
In May 2006, the station won an award for Excellence in Broadcasting, from the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters. Play-by-play broadcaster Adam Bagni, color commentator Mike Petty, and sideline reporter Andrew Neumann were the individuals honored based on their work at WEXP. The station won in the category of Best Coverage of a Local Sporting Event: Major Market for a January 21, 2006 NCAA basketball game between La Salle and Saint Joseph's University. The award was also split with Merrill Reese and Mike Quick of Free FM (WYSP) for their coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles American football team.
- WEXP RADIO IS BACK
- Grabenstein, Brother Joseph. La Salle University Archives. WEXP File: La Salle University, October 2005
- PAB Awards for Excellence in Broadcasting, Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters, May 22, 2006 Archived May 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
- Erin Brodbeck, Radio Station Wins Award, The Collegian, April 26, 2006
- Dan Gross, Lachey, MTV'er Mixx it up: La Salle lads win Radio Award, Philadelphia Daily News, June 13, 2006 Archived March 15, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- La Salle Student Radio Station Shares Top Award for Sports Coverage with Philadelphia Eagles Announcers by Pa. Association of Broadcasters, La Salle University Press Release, May 1, 2006