By Anastasia Yakunina
— At the beginning of this school year, 2nd-year AUC student Aaron Altaras set up a web radio to give students the opportunity to discuss important issues, as well as broadcast their creative work.
Like many other freshmen arriving at AUC, Altaras, one of the students behind AUC Webradio, was surprised that besides print there was no other medium that provided information to the student body and offered a platform to demonstrate their creativity and talent.
This is how Altaras came up with the idea of setting up a web radio that would make it possible. “AUC is a very new institution, which is why there is room for a lot of things that have not been done yet,” he said.
What started out as an assignment for his Media and Communication course soon turned into an entire project that required commitment and dedication. The web radio’s early beginnings included deciding on aspects such as promotion, the general setup and the technical elements of creating the radio. “The idea was to have live broadcasts and an archive, so people could go back and listen to what they missed,” explained Altaras. “Those two options were the most important thing, but they also turned out to be the biggest difficulty,” he added.
As it turned out, the media theories from the course were crucial in setting up the radio in terms of creating a feeling of solidarity, understanding the concept of framing, and knowing the importance of being objective. “There was a lot we had to think about and decide,” he says.
Even though he was able to programme the web radio to some extent, Altaras quickly realized he would not be able to tackle the job on his own. “I posted in the AUC Facebook group whether anyone had the time and the dedication to set it up with me, and it exploded,” says Altaras. “It turns out a lot of people that responded had been thinking about the same thing”.
Within a day, Altaras managed to find four students that are now all active members of the team who equally contribute to the long-term programme. The board currently consists of Aaron Altaras as chair, Tadé Hogenelst as head of broadcasting, Eden Benat as secretary, Loïs Hutubessy as PR manager, and Dora Brooks as treasurer.
According to Altaras, the shows do not have a very fixed schedule yet; still, there is at least one monthly talk show, which involves 60% talking and 40% music and there are several spontaneous shows that are solely based on music. “We thought that the talk shows should provide entertainment, information, and should endorse other AUC committees,”explained Altaras. “There is so much talent and so many great ideas that we think need to be promoted,” he added.
The web radio shows follow a specific theme, which includes topics that are relevant on a global level but which also involve the students. The first subject matter of the show focused on the refugee crisis and how it was connected to AUC, which is why the KLM incident was mentioned, and both people from the University of Colour and those who were opposed to this form of protest had a discussion. “We tried to incorporate most opinions to make it as neutral as possible,” said Altaras. “We had [board member] Tanushree [Kaushal] speak on behalf of the Student Council and we also invited the three students who volunteered at the Serbo-Croatian border.”
According to Altaras the main idea of that show was to provide information on the issue, but to also demonstrate that as a student it is certainly possible to do something about it. “We wanted to show every student that tunes in, that there is always room to do something for the integration of refugees, and we cooperated with HandsOn to do that and to promote such initiatives at AUC,” he says.
The music shows work similarly in terms of having a certain theme or a specific music genre, and the DJs and bands that are invited on the show are usually from AUC. “We want to offer them a platform where they can perform,” explained Altaras.
The core idea of AUC Webradio consists of a certain “liveness factor,” which means that anyone can tune in and listen to the show at the same time. “There is always a level of risk when you do something live, which also makes it exciting,” said Altaras.
The radio’s upcoming show will be a review of Scopophilia, AUC’s annual art festival. It will include profiles on the artists, information on how it was organized, who exhibited work and will feature general discussions on what art entails.
Another upcoming event will be a Boiler Room session, organized in collaboration with Solace. It will be a party with three to four DJs playing their music for three hours, all of it live streamed through the radio’s website, and with the opportunity to go and witness how it is all made. According to Altaras, the focus should be on the music, just like at a Boiler Room event.
Altaras is hoping to have AUC Webradio as an established committee, that will continue even after its current members leave AUC, to have more consistency in terms of set dates for shows and better communication with the listeners. Another major goal is to have more guests and speakers that are not a part of the board, and who are willing to continuously work on the radio and do things like read poetry, do reportages and make music.
The web radio team strongly encourages feedback and suggestions. “We appreciate any contribution because we obviously cannot know and hear everything that happens within AUC,” emphasized Altaras. The website features a comment section, so it is possible to ask questions, comment on the speakers, and suggest ideas during the actual show. “We always look for topics that have a certain relevance and can be related to other AUC committees,”said Altaras. “We have experts within the student body, who actually know more and are able to talk about it,” he added.
The key concept of AUC Webradio is that it offers a moderated platform for people to use for any creative, informative or educational purposes. “If anyone thinks they have an interesting topic or something they think is worth sharing, whether it is a musical, an essay, poetry, or just an idea for a topic, they should write to us,” said Altaras. “We are very happy to have people on the show, so anything is greatly appreciated!”