Rice University’s student-run radio station, KTRU, will begin broadcasting on 96.1 FM on Friday, Oct. 2, according to a station press release. KTRU has been on 90.1 HD2, a digital format, since the sale of its previous FM frequency in 2011.
The station will celebrate its return to FM radio with a day of special programming on Friday and a concert held at Rice Memorial Center on Thursday night starting at 7:30 p.m., according to Mike Hua, one of the event’s organizers. The free concert will feature three local artists: Robert Ellis, Buxton and Deep Cuts.
“FM launches right after the concert ends, at midnight,” Hua, a Duncan College sophomore, said. “We have special programming for the first 24 hours of FM on Friday, featuring many of our specialty shows in hour-long segments.”
According to an email sent to KTRU DJs, the lineup for the first day of FM includes Hip-Hop, World, Downtempo, Chickenskin, Kids, Americana, Funk and Soul, Electronic, Local and Mutant Hardcore shows spread throughout the day. Other special features will continue on FM throughout the weekend: For example, Saturday’s Navrang show will include performances by student a capella group Basmati Beats, according to a member of the group.
Station Manager Emily Meigs said Friday marks the culmination of a multi-year effort. “Years of work have been put into this project since the sale,” Meigs, a Martel College senior, said. “To see the result of this is awesome. KTRU is a great part of Houston’s culture and I think moving back to FM will give students another opportunity to be part of that.”
KTRU disc jockey Sunny Sharma, a Brown College senior, also said the station’s return to FM will be beneficial for Houston. “KTRU has had a long and rich history in the Houston music scene, and I think it’s great that we now have the visibility to reach more listeners and grow our organization,” Sharma said. “We’re pretty excited for what the future holds.”
KTRU, which is staffed by Rice students and volunteers from the local area, received its FM broadcast license in 1970, but switched to the HD2 format in 2011 after the university administration decided to sell its FM frequency and 50,000 watt transmitter to the University of Houston for $9.5 million. UH is currently putting that frequency up for sale again.
Kelsey Yule (Hanszen ’11) was the station manager when the administration decided to sell the previous FM frequency and transmitter, a move she said was a serious mistake. “The administration’s sale … was an irreparable breach of the student body’s trust,” Yule said. “The station was built on 40 years of student effort and support from the Houston community, but was sold through a secretive and deceitful process without consultation of the stakeholders.”
The new KTRU frequency, which has already been tested, will be broadcast from a new antenna on Rice Stadium at a power of 41 watts and corresponding range of around 5 miles, according to emails sent by station directors. The station’s official call sign will be KBLT-LP, though it will continue to call itself KTRU.
In addition to FM radio, KTRU will continue to live stream on the web, on TiVo and Next Gen Radio and on various mobile services including its own app, according to the press release.
Jeff Horowitz, KTRU’s station engineer, said the wider audience of FM radio will help KTRU but also places DJs under greater pressure to maintain high standards. “I’m a little anxious about the pressure associated with so many new listeners, but mostly I’m excited we can reach out to more people,” Horowitz, a Brown College sophomore, said.
Yule said the move back to FM is a step in the right direction, but the lower range of the new transmitter does not make up for the loss of the old FM frequency. “I am hopeful that the new frequency … will restore some of KTRU’s previous influence, but the majority of the original listening audience will remain unable to access this signal,” Yule said. “Unfortunately, the new frequency and transmitter will not restore what has been lost.”