WLHA was the student run carrier current radio station serving the Lakeshore Halls area. The Badger Herald published this excellent and accurate history of the station back in 2002:
Dating back at least to World War II, the UW campus has never had a truly campus-wide station — though not from lack of effort.
The first attempt at creating a radio station on campus was made March 29, 1952, in the basement of Gilman Hall, which was then one of the Lakeshore-area UW residence halls. Engineering major Charles Bartelt began the first broadcast of a radio station, dubbed WMHA.
The acronym “MHA” stood for Men’s Halls Association, which was the governing body for the Lakeshore halls at the time.
In those early days, the local Public Radio Station, WHA, went off the air every evening at sunset. Bartelt and his partner Richard Greiner’s primary goal in starting the station was to continue broadcasting the same type of music after dark.
Gathering the equipment, as well as support from the public radio station and a grant from university alumni, they began to create a studio.
When Bartelt graduated later that year, he left the equipment and a grant of $50 for future students to keep the station running. Between 1952 and 1956, the station met several problems — primarily with the FCC, which declared in 1956 the radio wiring in the Lakeshore dorms was illegal.
The station moved in 1959 to a studio on Elm Drive, where it managed to broadcast for nearly 35 years, eventually changing its name to WLHA, for Lakeshore Hall Association.
By the middle of the 1960s, radio listenership was at an all-time high, and WLHA was legally wired into every room in the Lakeshore dorms. The format, previously jazz and classical, became dominated by rock ‘n’ roll, and it took nearly 100 volunteers to keep the station playing about 100 hours of music per week.
The station was so popular it was taking in approximately $100,000 in advertising revenue annually.
The success of this exclusively Lakeshore-area station caused a second station, WSRM, to be born in the Southeast residence halls. Initially, WSRM battled a lack of student, financial and technical support, but in time the station went on to become equally as popular as WLHA.
In June 1970, the stations’ business departments merged in hopes of creating a single, self-supporting, campus-wide entity. The ’70s were hard times for these stations, as the newly developed FM band increased in popularity, and student listenership on the AM band dropped.
Funding and advertising revenues fell accordingly, and the stations began to face difficulty.
In an attempt to maintain listeners, the radio stations began offering call-in contests and scavenger hunts. In one of the earliest contests, WLHA challenged students to see who would be the fastest to find out the telephone number of the “Morgue Bar in Slab City, WI.” Without conveniences like online telephone directories and dialable yellow-page services, students reportedly tied up the state patrol emergency phone line trying to find out the right answer. However, over time, the station lost popularity, money became tight, equipment became outdated and student radio began to decline.
In May 1981, WSRM succumbed to financial pressures, leaving WLHA once again the sole radio station on campus.
In 1984, WLHA installed an FM transmitter and began broadcasting at 1.5 watts on 91.5 FM. The weak broadcasting signal meant the listening range was very limited and listenership was low.
The station also made negative comments about UW’s administration, making Bascom bureaucrats reticent to support the goal of a campus-wide station.
Over the next several years, the station struggled to gain listener support and faced licensing problems from the FCC. The station also insisted on remaining independent from the administration, thus disqualifying itself from student fee subsidies
In 1992, the station began to market aggressively on campus, joining in the Homecoming parade for the first time and hosting a dance, among other activities.
However, in 1993, when the Associated Students of Madison took over as UW’s student governing body, WLHA found an ally with a seat at the UW administration’s table.
With a newfound popularity stemming from the marketing tactics and support from ASM, the station made an error that proved fatal.
Turning up the power on the FM band, WLHA hoped to improve broadcasting capabilities to reach the entire campus.
Shortly thereafter, an anonymous call was placed to the station, ostensibly from a member of the FCC, who informed them that they were not licensed and suggested they shut down before being fined. The call was initially treated as a hoax, but this proved a fallacy.
In spring 1993, the station succumbed to legal pressure and voluntarily shut down after 41 years of broadcasting.
The spirit of WLHA was reborn with WSUM, 91.7 FM, which is now home to WLHA's annual resurrection reunions each July.