Published by the Mount Olive Chronicle on April 12, 2017.
MOUNT OLIVE TWP. – To many listeners of the once-popular WNTI radio out of Centenary University, the 2015 sale to a National Public Radio subsidiary was a financial deal that was met with sadness and pessimism.
Now, nearly three years later, the public radio station has gone to the Internet, some of the more popular DJs have returned and Centenary University is working to energize the programming.
WNTI 91.9 FM was suddenly and without warning, pulled from the airwaves in October 2015. A few days later, the university announced it had sold the station for $1.25 million to WXPN 88.5 FM, a public radio station owned by the University of Pennsylvania. The agreement also brings Centenary an additional $500,000 in underwriting value over 10 years.
The station is now on-line at wnti.org. Radio director Richard Hinchliffe said the most recent report from March showed more than 24,000 listeners in the U.S. and 1,000 more worldwide, according to social medium statistics compiled by SecureNet Systems.
The Internet site is most popular in the New Jersey and New York market. But internationally, Hafslo, Norway is at the top; followed by listeners in Samia, Kenya; Balestrand, Norway; and Edmonton, Canada.
Hafslo is a village located on the northern shore of the lake Hafslovatnet . The population as of 2013 was 1,828. Samia is a village in Kenya near the border with Uganda. Balestrand is famous for its 19th Century Kvikne’s Hotel, a summer vacation spot for German Kaiser Wilhelm II before the outbreak of World War II.
Edmonton is Canada’s fifth-largest municipality and home of the Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League.
Hinchliffe had no rhyme or reason for the popularity in such diverse locales.
“I don’t know why,” said Hinchliffe, who also is an assistant professor, teaching radio.
There is, however, a good reason why the people of Kingston, Jamaica , are seventh on the international list. They listen to DJ Lloyd Jones who hosts his “Global Mix” show featuring Reggae and various Jamaican artists from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Fridays.
WNTI radio was formerly a private station on the campus of Centenary, relying on public funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Since Sept. 2015, it has been a part of the university’s department of communications and fine arts.
“The change in direction means that students have much more to say,” Hinchliffe said. “It’s really a fun place to be. We’ve opened the door wider to student and community involvement. We’re open to anyone who wants to collaborate.”
When he was named the station director, there was one student working on a music show. By April, the number has grown to 25 students who are hosts and work behind the scenes. The station has 10 to 15 volunteer DJs. Many of the hosts who were unceremoniously let go in 2015 have since returned.
Among them are Mike Watterson, who returns with his show “Dogbites” from noon to 3 p.m., Saturdays. Watterson had hosted his rock and roll show since 1987.
Gup Gascocigne, “The Golden Gup,” and his wife, Lulu, offer classic pop music from 1 to 2 p.m., Sundays. They have been on WNTI since the early 1990s.
Trevor B. Power plays rock and roll, blues, soul and jazz from 3 to 5 p.m., Saturdays.
Leon Castner’s weekly call-in antiques and collectibles show is on from 8 to 9 a.m., Saturdays and 9 t0 10 a.m., Sundays.
And the popular “Little Steven’s Underground Garage” with Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street band, plays classic and obscure rock from 5 to 7 p.m., Wednesdays.
John Lewis, who formerly hosted “The Boss Hour,” a show of all Springsteen, is on the staff of Centenary.
Hinchliffe said “80X,” is hosted by “Ken (Hegarty) the Space Fish” who plays ‘80s music, novelty songs and movie tunes on Monday afternoons and Wednesday nights.
“He is quite a personality,” Hinchliffe said. “It’s two hours of clever, innovative entertainment.”
Hinchliffe said Internet radio will undoubtedly grow as the technology improves.
“Internet radio is growing in popularity,” Hinchliffe said. “But no Internet-only radio station in the country gets the same number of listeners as broadcast signals. That’s not our goal.”
The 40 and older audience remains much more comfortable with the traditional radio but Hinchliffe said younger people listen more to their computers. The big leap will come when Internet is regularly offered in vehicles, he said.
Hinchliffe said the station is promoted on Facebook, Twitter and its new webpage created by Edwin Malave, the webmaster for Centenary.
As a radio station manager, producer, reporter and educator, Hinchliffe has worked with students and professional colleagues at Montclair State University, Union County College, Bloomberg Radio, WNYC Radio, NPR, The Associated Press, CBS Radio News and elsewhere.
He has written and produced programming on news, business, sports and the arts, and his professional articles include “The News from Poems: Radio and the Humanities” and “A Commitment to Excellence: Radio News for the 21st Century.”
A native of the Boston, Mass., area, Hinchliffe lives with his family in Glen Ridge.