Rice Taking KTRU Off the Airwaves, Handing Over Humble Transmitter to KUHF

RICE TAKING KTRU OFF THE AIRWAVES, HANDING OVER HUMBLE TRANSMITTER TO KUHF A vote this morning by UH’s board of regents means Rice University student radio station KTRU’s broadcast license and 50,000-watt transmitter tower in Humble will soon belong to the University of Houston. The purchase price: $9.5 million, which Rice officials say will be used for “campuswide enhancements that benefit all students.” Rice-run KTRU will continue to broadcast, but as an internet-only station. UH plans to convert its existing radio station at 88.7 FM to a 24-hour NPR news and information format, and use the new frequency at 91.7 FM for classical music and fine-arts programming. [Rice News; more details]

39 Comment

  • NO!!! This is terrible news for Houston and it’s already deplorable clear channel blandness that exists on the radio. This as a former DJ there makes me incredibly sad.

  • I will be sad to lose KTRU, but on the other hand it will be good to have an NPR broadcast station that plays more of the good public talk programming — it always baffled me that I couldn’t listen to “Fresh Air” in Houston without downloading a podcast. I’m not a fan of the all-classical format though.

  • Commercial radio is hideous and you will still be able to stream KTRU so I really don’t see it as a big deal.

  • I wonder if any of that money will go towards grants or reducing the cost of tuition..


    I kill me..

  • KUHF already has two digital FM broadcasts going on right now, one all classical/arts and the other all news/talk. They don’t need to do this. They could spend a small fraction of their $9.5 million dollar purchase on promoting their digital broadcasts instead. Leave my KTRU alone!

  • I probably like the IDEA of KTRU more than I actually like the programming, and I suspect there are others like me. The reality is that I will probably listen to the new NPR station much more. Wish we could do both though.

  • The most disturbing aspect of this sale was its rapidity and secrecy. No student or alumni input wanted, please! I wonder if Rice has any other assets secretly for sale.

  • The music variety of FM stations in Houston is horrible. Check out Alvin Community College radio at FM 89.7 KACC.

  • This will be a big win for the classical and arts audiences if KUHF can pull it off. I agree completely with tacotruck that the IDEA of KTRU is more appealing than their actual programming. Rice says they are going to use the money for student housing and dining improvements.

    If I recall correctly, the reason that KTRU had a giant transmitter in Humble was that it was funded by the investors who wanted to start the now-defunct KRTS commercial classical radio station on 92.1 FM. The on-campus transmitter at 91.7 was too close both geographically and in terms of frequency to allow KRTS the kind of power they wanted, so they gave KTRU the Humble transmitter and a big power upgrade.

    Still. Internet radio is more internet than radio, as anyone with a car knows. A university of Rice’s stature and aspirations needs a presence on Houston FM radio. A radio station that depends neither on ads nor on pledge donations has a remarkable freedom which shouldn’t be thrown away. KTRU did and does play music on the radio which no one else would, and has done so for forty years. My hope, as others have suggested, is that eventually there will be a small transmitter on the Rice campus, audible pretty much only in the immediate area, and that KTRU will come back on a different frequency. It’ll be interesting to see what the Rice community’s reaction will be.

  • UH just had a staff-wide furlough two months ago to save money. Looks like everyone took a hit on their paycheck so UH could buy a radio station.

  • This makes me very sad. The end of an era for my beloved Rice. Internet radio is not the same.

    And right on about KACC Joe.

  • Honestly, it’s been years since Rice Radio has been any good. Now, it’s little more than a marketing ploy for Rice Athletics.

    That said, I can’t believe that Rice has become so cheap that they’ll sell off a student institution for $9 million and some change.

    Likewise, UH is having budget troubles. Seems like this $9.5 million could have been used more wisely.

  • This sale and its secrecy violate Rice’s stated goals: http://burndownblog.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/burn-down-rice-selling-ktru-violates-the-v2c/
    Last time I take them seriously.

  • I guess I would be more upset about this if I ever actually listened to KTRU. Instead, it takes up valuable real estate on one of my presets, without ever playing anything to entice me to stop there when I scroll through. I used to listen to it quite a bit, so I don’t know whose tastes have changed, mine or KTRU’s.

    And what does it say about Houston radio that a dyed-in-the-wool Indie/Alternative Rock fan like myself listens to 97.1 Country Legends more than any other station in town?

  • ha, so true about 97.1. whenever my cd player isn’t working in the winter and KTRU is doing talk shows, 97.1 is the only reasonable option. nice to know i’m not the only one.

    i’d say this affects the community relation with Rice, sends the wrong message to students that everything has a price, blah blah blah. in reality, the community is dying along with the montrose anyways and radio is dead.

    it sux, but i can’t justify kids paying to keep a radio station going that is of little interest to anyone but the local scene, music nerds and those who treasure music in all it’s different shapes and forms.

  • At least our community based (twice-bombed by KKK) KPFT 90.1 is still around for music & news. It’s one of 5 in the country. We should be pround of it.

    Sad to see KTRU go but equally excited to have a 24/7 NPR news station. I am also not thrilled about a 24/7 classical format. I think KTRU will surface locally on Rice Campus sooner or later and grow organically again.

  • Both KTRU and KUHF’s terrestrial broadcast licenses are “educational” and “non-commercial” in the eyes of the FCC, who have the authority to grant terrestrial radio licenses by the logic that the traditional radio band is a “scarce” resource. The number of slots on the dial is finite, and new license opportunities are practically non-existent.
    KUHF, as an NPR affiliate, is a heavily underwritten station (read: non-commercial, but certainly corporate) and UH will inevitability see an increase of underwriting dollars with a new “classical and fine arts” station which will certainly finance their purchase over the next decade or less.
    But KTRU is the only station of it’s kind in Houston, part of a larger (and culturally important) American phenomenon of “College Radio.” This may sometimes sound like noise your ears, but it is where contemporary independent music thrives and where avant-garde and experimental music are understood as artistic expression.

    SHAME on Rice for letting this unique urabn resource slip away. I can’t help but imagine that there will be a number of college-bound students who choose to matriculate at any number of other upper-tier universities who still celebrate the creative spirit of independent student broadcasters and music enthusiasts, and support a vision of a community that benefits from their contribution.

  • My college radio station did just fine as an internet/dorm/on-campus only station 15 years ago. (the campus was within 1 mile radius of all local radio & TV stations, which created horrible interference). KTRU will be fine. As an avid listener of KUHF’s news station online, I can’t wait for it to be on the airwaves. Ditto to the comment of liking the idea of KTRU more than listening. I also like Pacifica over on 90.1. I am rarely disappointed when I happen upon it on the dial. And, I do not fit into their target demographic.

  • love the idea of a 24 hour NPR station and the classical station as well…and I <3 97.1, glad I’m not the only one!

  • Montrose Jack – you are right on target. Long live college radio!
    I used to love KUHF back when it was a jazz and NPR station, and was not particularly thrilled when it was hijacked as a classical station. It has been a drag that KUHF hasn’t been broadcasting all of the other great NPR programming – and it has sometimes felt (and I may be totally off base on this) as though the NPR listeners’ contributions were being used to prop up the classical side of the programming. So while I’m sad at the demise of KTRU, I am happy about having a full time NPR outlet. Still, when push comes to shove, my money will go to support KPFT.

  • Sad day. They play some weird, ungodly shit…and thats what makes it so GREAT. You get it or you dont, but it will be missed by many people. And now we will have more of the same on the airwaves.

  • Screw all this – the worst news since KTRU took the S&M show off the air years ago.

    Now KCOH AM is the only listenable alternative.

  • Blues in Hi-Fi.
    Rhythm & Vinyl.
    Clint. Where will we find you?
    very sad news.
    Crowner, you said it so right.
    Benjy et al, me too with 97.1 Country Legends in my car. The only commercial station I listen to, and I surely don’t fit the demographic either………

  • KTRU will not be fine, it will be gone. And best of luck finding ANYTHING interesting on the radio. Gone are the days of playing Miles Davis at the wrong speeds, taking requests we’ll never play (yeah dude who always requested fugazi). I’m surprised stalwarts like HK Khang haven’t stepped up and made their opinions know.

    Sad day indeed Houston, and your apathy really isn’t helping…

  • The largest crime here is that KTRU was built and run by a group of –admittedly small, but dedicated– students over the years. When they received the 50,000 watt gratis upgrade that would preserve their broadcasting as a larger station started up (thanks marmer), the students were warned that Rice would see the expanded station as too tempting a resource to ignore.

    Sure enough, Doofus, there was a public uproar several years ago when Rice decided to take over part of the broadcast time for broadcasting athletics. I seem to remember some KTRU staff going so far as to barricade themselves in the KTRU office, which I assume is why the whole deal was kept quiet this time.

    According to the president’s letter this morning, there will be some paid internships funded for KTRU. This resource that just netted the university $9.5 mil was created by students, so I guess the internships are throwing the students a bone in the administration’s eyes.

    The fact is, KTRU was one of the last remaining corners of the “weird, smart Rice” that was last seen in the late 90s. I too loved the idea of “50,000 watts of pan-banging,” even if I didn’t listen too loyally.

  • Tech savvy young people don’t listen to radio anymore, they stream internet “radio” with their computers or smartphones, or they download podcasts and plug their iPods into speakers or their car stereo. We’ll probably always have radio, like we have things like letters and magazines, but the Information Age has newer and more specifically targeted venues for reaching people. U of H is buying outmoded technology to reach their aging demographic.

  • So, is Valhalla the next Rice institution to go away?

  • Katk, I couldn’t agree with you more about losing a bit of the “weird, smart Rice.” In the late 80s and early 90s, KTRU played some of the best music around. I actually played some of the music I heard on KTRU at my college radio station, WEOS. My all-time favorite exposure from KTRU might have been this


    Heck, the M.O.B. isn’t even creative anymore.

  • I hope not, MarkD! That would be the last straw. However…

    The Rice Thresher reported in 2009 that the administration was considering raising Valhalla’s rent by almost 250%.

    Since the staff is all-volunteer, the rent increase would be passed along in the price of beer, which is one of the main reasons to go to Valhalla of course. (The other being that Rice is the largest outdoor drinking area in Houston.)

    So even if the administration isn’t planning on taking Valhalla down all at once, it could be done in by a slow strangulation of rising costs.

  • Losing Valhalla would be the last nail in the coffin for me.

    If I were a high school nerd looking for the right college now, I don’t think Rice would be on the list. And I’m the chick that was in a crib next to my mom as she typed my dad’s doctoral thesis as he handed her his scribbled notes.

    It is definitely losing the “weird, smart Rice” that my family loved (Though my mom still bitches about when she was not allowed in the Rice library wearing pants).

  • “It is definitely losing the “weird, smart Rice” that my family loved (Though my mom still bitches about when she was not allowed in the Rice library wearing pants).”

    That’s funny. They wouldn’t allow me in Fondren library without pants. Damn uptight librarians!

  • Agreed on all counts.

  • I work for one of the guys who built KTRU back when it was a pirate station on campus (and they basically forced the administration to get a license for it before it was discovered and shut down.) In his words, the station started as an engineering project as much as out of the desire to hear something that wasn’t top 40 on KILT. After all, we’re talking “weird, smart Rice.”

    Back then, the students who ran the station were acutely aware of what it cost to run that radio station because they either built it themselves or they had to hire someone to do it for them. Has that been passed down over the years?

    But if you want to bring KTRU as an online station full circle with KTRU’s beginnings on FM, maybe it’s time for an enterprising engineering student at Rice to design something that makes listening to online radio in a car cheaper and not as clunky as it is today. You know, embrace new technology and make it better… and make some money in the process.

    The fact that I have a job today is directly related to KTRU – his work designing equipment for use at the station led him to found a company that makes that equipment like it today. Maybe 30 years from now someone can say the same thing because an enterprising Rice engineering student today looks at audio streaming as it exists and decides to design something that make things better for KTRU that also becomes a business.

  • KTRU always ran on a shoestring budget; once the tower and 50kW transmitter were paid for by the interfering station, along with the microwave links from the RMC to SidRich and from SidRich to the tower, Rice owned it free and clear, and they were selling tower space on the transmission tower to telecommunications companies (cell phones, long distance telecom, etc). At the time I was there, this was a better-than-break even prospect, and the station’s op expenses were funded by a student tax. In the mid-90’s, which I was there (as chief engineer from 93-96) the ops budget was $14k/year, which forced me to do a lot of scrounging and scraping to keep the station running…but it did work, and as much as some things weren’t my musical taste, there was no denying the importance of bringing that programming to Houston.

    I lamented the hiring of a paid staffer; it was the beginning of the end. There was nothing wrong with putting Rice Athletics on the station, except for the greedy athletic department. All the “good” conference games were sold to other stations to carry, and the worthless “doesn’t matter” games were forced upon KTRU. Very unfair, and of course no one would want to listen to them. What’s worse is that they pre-empted a lot of musical programming for them.

    KTRU was a fabulous asset to Rice, and one that the professional staff failed to recognize, lead, or develop. It’s unfortunate the old, cantankerous 650W transmitter on top of Sid Rich had to be retired due to interference, or KTRU might have lived on for a lot longer.

    Even though I’m no longer living in Houston, I lament the passing of KTRU into the “internet only” space. It’s a lost resource, and was one of the few remaining places on the FM band where you could go for education, from a bunch of passionate kids sharing their excited discoveries of new ideas and sounds on the air.

  • Without wading into the issues of KTRU, I sincerely miss KRTS and having an all-classical station. I like KUHF and I like NPR, but I like hearing classical music too, and the main times I listen to the radio, in the car to and from work, KUHF/NPR has only news/talk. I’ll be happy to have classical during drive times.

  • Goodbye sunday morning jazz, friday night electronica. Won’t be the same, and no amount of Liltz or Bach will make up for our loss. How many bands have I heard from KTRU and then gone out and bought their LP or CD? Too many to count.

  • Last.fm, Blip.FM, Pandora… I thought the kids at Rice were forward thinkers? The music industry is changing. It ALWAYS has been. Remember records and 8 tracks and Top 40 countdowns? It’s not dying… just changing again.

  • Forward thinking but with slight sentimental tendencies. :-) Good point though, and this thread is an excellent read kudos all.

  • I am all for this. I travel alot and “Most” citys have a 24/7 NPR channel. We are one of the few that does not.
    I like KTRU to a point. Almost half the time they are off the air, or Playing Noise…And this is from a life long drummer. They could have done “So Much More” with this.
    Lets see…Listening to “Fresh Air” or or a noise band playing an hour long song using only chainsaws and hammers…….