College radio debuted the 1960s, as a result of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) issuing Class D Licenses to low-watt stations to expand the recently developed FM band. While prior to the 1960s some colleges had access to AM and used it for science experiments, access to the FM band gave these stations a few hundred watts each and therefore greater broadcasting abilities (DIYMedia.Net).

In the early years, college radio stations carried local and national news, sports scores, and music, and in some cases, distance learning courses and lectures. Eventually, however, towards the later half of the 1970s, college radio stations began to switch to an “alternative rock” format, later dubbed “college rock.” College or alternative rock was any type of music that was not mainstream (or mainstream yet) (All Music Guide). From there, stations began to diversify their formats, becoming more and more experimental in nature.

FM radio popularized almost immediately and soon there was great competition for channels and licenses. In 1979, the FCC somehow concluded that the low-power stations were a hindrance to broadcasting and revoked many of the Class D Licenses (Tufts). If a full-power commercial station wanted a radio signal, the college radio stations would be forced to bow down. In order to avoid this untimely fate, many stations were required to upgrade their facilities and stations, on the students’ dime. Those stations who could not afford to upgrade were forced off the air and locked-in by other booming stations.