Pine Bluff’s Southeast Arkansas College will soon be taking to the airwaves.
The two-year college has been awarded a construction permit for a new FM radio station on its Hazel Street campus, The station will be broadcasting around the clock on 100.7 MHz on the radio dial and also on the Internet, with operations beginning in the fall.
SEARK Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Gunter directed the application and permitting process and will manage the station’s installation and operation. Gunter was tagged for the assignment in large part because of his radio and television technical and programming experience. Gunter said recently that his first “real job” was at a Batesville radio station.
He later served as a chief engineer and on-air personality at Little Rock’s KARK-TV Channel 4, where his wife — Norma Gunter — worked in accounting.
The low-powered SEARK radio station will feature a 100-watt transmitter and 100-foot broadcast tower. It will have a range of 7 to 8 miles on automobile radios and “a little further” on in-home receivers, Gunter said.
The campus station will be utilized in some courses that Gunter said are being developed. Instructional areas will include engineering and technical operations, a fairly large discipline involving “a lot of science” and familiarizing oneself with applicable federal regulations. Speech, voice and some writing guidance also will be offered.
“I’m looking forward to sharing what I know about the broadcasting business with students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy a broadcasting experience,” Gunter said. “There’s a lot more to it than many people might realize.”
Gunter downplayed the possibility of SEARK acquiring a television station within the near future.
“That hasn’t been discussed,” he said. “A television station would be more expensive to run, and could cost $250,000 or more just to start.”
SEARK’s initial radio station expenses are figured at just $10,000 to $20,000, with the biggest cost being a tower.
“Our content will be driven by what’s happening in Pine Bluff and on campus,” Gunter said of the station’s programming plans. “We won’t be staffed 24 hours a day. We’ll be setting up and using an automation system.”
Pine Bluff attorney Paul Bennett, chairman of the SEARK Board of Trustees, said he sees the radio station as an excellent marketing device for the institution. He figures the station will carry the college’s name and activities to probably all of the homes within the city.
“It’s going to help people to think of us,” Bennett said. “It’ll be good advertising for us and help the public to learn more about our college.”
Calling the station “a good teaching and service tool,” Bennett said the development is a good example of how the college is advancing.