Reaching out with radio: Student station expands coverage

By Melody Bailiff

WRFL-FM 88.1, or Radio Free Lexington, UK’s student-run radio station, has decided after 22 years of broadcasting locally it’s time to expand its boundaries.

June 17 marked the day WRFL went from broadcasting locally in Lexington to regionally to cities like Midway, Stamping Ground, Georgetown, Shelbyville and Lawrenceburg, Ky.­

Since the expansion, the station has been receiving numerous calls from listeners saying they have always wanted to get WRFL but were never able to, says Public Relations Director Anthony Taylor.

“It’s all about giving people options, showing them this kind of music does exist,” Taylor said. “Maybe there is a teenager out there hearing something they never heard on the radio before and maybe that opens a door for them.”

WRFL shies away from music played on larger radio stations, giving listeners a more “indie” feel. It doesn’t specialize in a certain type of music, and the disc jockeys have the freedom to play music of their choice.

The groundbreaking changes for the radio station didn’t happen overnight. For the past decade, students and faculty involved in WRFL have been fundraising to obtain the money necessary for the expansion.

Through free concerts, donations and raising awareness of their situation, WRFL finally reached the amount of money needed to replace its 250 watt tower with one of 7,900 watts.

“If anything else, this is a really big publicity move,” Taylor said. “This raises our profile with the bands we work with so we have some credibility nationwide.”

And with more credibility comes more enforcement from the Federal Communications Commission. Previously, it may have been OK to make a minor mistake on air, Taylor said, but with the FCC watching WRFL now more than ever before, everyone is trying not to slip up.

The frequency of WRFL also recently took over some frequency of religious programming. So there is extra pressure not to offend any listener, as they could report a violation on WRFL to the FCC.

The fear of the FCC won’t stop WRFL from broadcasting 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, though.

“Our station is known nationwide as a model radio station,” said Kakie Urch, one of the founders of WRFL and a professor in the school of journalism. “It has run for 22 years for 365, 24/7. That’s the license we’re given by the FCC.

“We know the Internet has changed the way people listen to music, and we man our station with real people as opposed to stations who man by ‘robot reporting’. We feel it’s important for music to be available this way in a live format.”

For more information on WRFL, visit their website, (, call in at (859) 257-WRFL or tune in to 88.1-FM.