The sounds of the 50s, 60s and early-70s can now be heard on the North East airwaves, thanks to Mercyhurst North East’s new radio station: WYNE 1530 AM, MNE’s first teaching radio station. It shares its space with the MNE Municipal Police Academy on West Main Street in North East.
With the station’s launch comes the creation of a new concentration at MNE: radio/broadcasting, which falls under the liberal arts associate degree program. Students will learn everything from on-air broadcasting of news, sports and weather, to how to operate radio equipment, to advertising sales.
Bill Shannon, director of the station and instructor of communications at MNE, also plans to summon some help from some fellow radio experts still in the business.
“I hope to find mentors for the students among current practitioners, so the students can get a better feel for the radio business,” he said.
WYNE is run entirely in stereo, which is unique for AM, said Shannon. All of the equipment is digital and it features an Optimod 9400 audio processor.
“It’s the most state-of-the-art audio processing equipment out there,” said Shannon. “And we’re one step from high definition.”
WYNE could be the first station in the area to broadcast in high definition, once the HD equipment is purchased and installed. This is something Shannon hopes to accomplish within the next few months.
Right now, FCC regulations do not allow AM radio stations to broadcast 24 hours a day, so the station will only be on the airwaves from sunup to sundown. However, those rules are expected to change soon, Shannon said.
The system can basically run itself, with songs, jingles and weather bulletins all pre-programmed. Shannon designed the jingles and overall sound of the station to have a vintage style, reminiscent of radio of the mid- to late-1960s.
The format will be all oldies—50s, 60s and some early 70s. Shannon explained that music from the 50s and 60s has virtually been eliminated from the local airwaves, and he hopes to bring that back. But he emphasizes, “No Disco!”
“Basically, it will be everything up to, but not including, the Carpenters,” he joked.
Shannon pointed out that the now-defunct Froggy 94.7 FM, which for a long time, was Erie’s primary oldies station, had between 700 and 900 tracks in their system. Shannon anticipates having close to 3,000 songs in rotation on WYNE.
“We will have the finest collection of oldies in the area,” he said.
The call letters, WYNE, not only include the “NE” for North East, but are also a play on words for “wine,” since it’s located in the heart of wine country.
It will be a commercial station, so it will generate revenue through advertising. The students in the radio concentration will take a course in sales as part of their studies.
But all technicalities aside, the primary focus and purpose for the station is to prepare students for careers in radio. And with that, comes imperfections in programming and broadcasting.
“This is a teaching facility,” said Shannon. “Students will be in here that don’t know anything about radio. So until we teach them, they’re going to make mistakes.”
Although it has a new format and new purpose, the station has actually been around since 1966, when it began as WHYP. Shannon, then just beginning his radio career, was hired to work weekends.
“So I’ve kind of come full-circle,” he said.
It had several different formats and call letters over the years, until Mercyhurst College purchased the station several years ago and began simulcasting with WMCE 88.5/104.9.
The college always had the intention of starting a program at MNE using the station, but it wasn’t until Mercyhurst trustee and JET Broadcasting founder Myron Jones provided a gift towards its launch that it became a reality.
“He was very generous to give us this gift and to make this possible for our students,” said Dr. Gary Brown, executive vice president of MNE. “He’s a great individual.”
Shannon said he will do all that he can to make the most out of Jones’ contribution.
“I want to create a program that’s very unique for this part of the country,” he said. “This is a project that I’ve wanted to see succeed for a long time.”