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Entrance to college radio station WGTB offices, with posters covering the door. Photo: J. Waits

College Radio Watch: Moonies, Nirvana, and Trent Reznor’s College Radio Ties

This week, so many fascinating college radio stories caught my eye. We learn about college radio’s profound influence on music culture in the 1980s and 1990s in a piece about the marketing of Nirvana as well as in Trent Reznor’s recent speech at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Reznor explains that college radio opened a musical world for him and introduced him to the Cure and other artists.

College radio’s roots come to light in articles outlining the deep history of radio at University of Kentucky, where an early program was produced to air on a nearby station in 1929. The university launched an AM station in 1940. Out in California, we learn that KCRW began in 1945 as an FM radio training ground for war vets.

The back stories behind two college radio ownership changes were also illuminating to me. A string of controversies led to the $1 sale of Georgetown University’s WGTB license and equipment in 1978. In one of the oddest tales yet, University of Bridgeport was taken over by the Moonies, leading to its college radio station WPKN going independent.

Prisoners and Late Night Listeners

We’ve written about incarcerated listeners and college radio before, so I loved a recent in-depth article about prisoners who have been long-time fans of college radio station KCPR. The extensive piece interviews inmates, DJs and station alumni about the profound influence that the station’s programming has had on nearby prisoners.

I also enjoyed the story about early morning and late night DJs at KVRX. Round-the-clock live radio hosts is something that many college radio stations are known for and it’s a special experience for both DJs and listeners

Another First College Radio Station

I’ve been obsessing a bit about various claims related the first non-commercial educational radio station, so I was intrigued to run across another station making that argument. Some early radio was happening at University of Kentucky as pointed out in university publication UK Now:

The beginnings of University of Kentucky’s public radio station WUKY happened April 1, 1929, when the first UK-produced program was broadcast on WHAS Radio in Louisville. It took 11 more years before WBKY (the former call letters of WUKY) actually went on the air as the nation’s first university-owned non-commercial educational radio station. That was Oct. 17, 1940.

WBKY adds itself to the list of early non-commercial educational radio stations, debuting over AM in 1940. A 2015 story in Radio World clarifies some confusion that has arisen:

The FCC had just designated a new band (42-50 MHz) for experimental FM and wide-band Apex AM broadcasting. Further, the commission had set aside a portion of the band for what they called ‘Non-Commercial Educational’ broadcasting. School boards in Cleveland and New York quickly licensed stations. WBKY was next in line, and thus UK became the first university to obtain an NCE license.

A bit of myth-busting is necessary here; WBKY is not, as sometimes reported, the first university-owned FM station. Copies of the 1940 construction permit and the 1941 FCC license verify that the transmitter’s type of emission was ‘A-3’ (i.e. Amplitude Modulation).

More College Radio News

History and College Radio’s Influence

Infrastructure: Moves, Rebranding, Probation, Finances

Profiles of Stations and Staff




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