KUOM (770 AM) – branded Radio K – is a daytime-only non-commercial educational college/alternative rock radio station licensed to serve Minneapolis, Minnesota. KUOM covers the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area, and extends its reach with two low-power broadcast relay stations and one full-power repeater. Owned by the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, the station is operated by both faculty and students. The KUOM studios are located at the Rarig Center on the University of Minnesota campus, while the station transmitter is in Falcon Heights. Besides a standard analog transmission, KUOM is also available online.
|Broadcast area||Twin Cities|
|Owner||University of Minnesota |
(Regents of the University of Minnesota)
First air date
|January 13, 1922|
Former call signs
Call sign meaning
|University Of Minnesota|
|Power||5,000 watts (daytime)|
|Repeater(s)||See § Repeaters|
Public license information
KUOM's AM signal operates with a non-directional antenna located on the St. Paul/Falcon Heights campus. Due to its 770 kHz frequency located low on the band combined with the region's flat terrain and excellent soil conductivity, the station's AM coverage is comparable to that of a full-power FM station, thus 770 can be heard throughout the Twin Cities area, with grade B coverage in St. Cloud and Mankato. However, the AM is licensed to operate during daylight hours only in order to protect WABC in New York at night. The hours of operation vary from month to month, reflecting local sunrise and sunset times, with the day's sign on and signoff changing from month to month; signoff, for example, ranges from 4:30 p.m. in winter to 9:00 p.m. in summer.
KUOM's first broadcasting station license, as WLB, was granted on January 13, 1922. This was Minnesota's first broadcast station license, making KUOM one of the oldest radio stations in the United States. In addition, the university traces its radio activities back more than 100 years, starting with experimental work in 1912, followed by radiotelegraph broadcasts begun in 1920, and radiotelephone broadcasts of market reports inaugurated in February 1921, making KUOM one of the oldest surviving radio stations in North America.
WX2 and 9XIEdit
Originally called "wireless telegraphy," radio experimentation at the University of Minnesota began in 1912, conducted by Professor Franklin Springer, using spark transmitters that could only send the dots-and-dashes of Morse code. In January 1916, it was reported that as a "first in the northwest," the College of Engineering was planning to transmit the progress of that night's basketball game between the University of Minnesota and the visiting University of Iowa team.
In late 1919, following the end of World War I, the university was authorized to establish a "War Department Training and Rehabilitation School" station, with the call sign WX2. This was followed in early 1920 by the issuing of an experimental radio license, with the call sign 9XI. These operations were under the oversight of electrical engineering professor C. M. Jansky Jr., the older brother of Karl Jansky.
In 1920 a one-kilowatt spark transmitter was installed. In addition to communicating with amateur and other university stations, 9XI, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, transmitted market and weather reports by radiotelegraph. The development of vacuum tube transmitters, capable of audio transmissions, would lead to further advances, and over time 9XI began including broadcasts for general audiences. On February 2, 1921, the station inaugurated audio transmissions, as part of its nightly 8:30 p.m. broadcasts of market reports. In the fall of 1921, the station gave "a running account of a Minnesota football game through notes brought to the station's studios by a relay of students from the sidelines at the field." December saw the beginning of a daily noon broadcast of livestock prices. These transmissions initially originated from the electrical engineering building on the Minneapolis campus, where a transmitter was installed on the roof.
Initially there were no formal standards for radio stations making broadcasts intended for the general public. However, effective December 1, 1921, the United States Department of Commerce, which supervised radio at this time, issued a regulation requiring that stations making broadcasts intended for the general public now had to operate under a "Limited Commercial" license." On January 13, 1922 the university was issued its new license, which was given the randomly assigned call letters WLB, and authorized the use of both broadcasting wavelengths: 360 meters (833 kHz) for "entertainment", and 485 meters (619 kHz) for "market and weather reports". This was the first broadcasting station license issued in the state of Minnesota. WHA, operated by the University of Wisconsin–Madison, was issued its first license on the same day, making WLB and WHA the first two broadcasting licenses issued to educational institutions, and early examples of college radio stations. Other Midwestern universities also doing early telegraph and radio experiments include the University of Iowa's WSUI and Iowa State University's WOI, both started in 1911, and St. Louis University's WEW in 1912. WHA began its experiments in 1915.
In February 1922, when a heavy snowstorm knocked out newswire services in the region, the Minneapolis Tribune asked the station's operators to help retrieve the day's news through a roundabout series of amateur radio relays. From 1927 to 1933 the station operated with a secondary call sign of "WGMS", for "Gold Medal (Flour) Station", which was used when station WCCO employed WLB's transmitter. (At the time, WCCO was also using its own facilities at 720 kHz, 740 kHz and 810 kHz.) Station facilities were moved to Eddy Hall in 1936.
On November 11, 1928 a major reassignment of station transmitting frequencies took place, under the provisions of the Federal Radio Commission's General Order 40. WLB began operating on 1250 kHz, but a shortage of available assignments meant it had to share this frequency with three other stations: St. Olaf College's WCAL in Northfield, Minnesota; Carlton College's KFMX; and the Rosedale Hospital's WRHM, which in 1934 changed its callsign to WTCN (now WWTC). WLB, WCAL and KFMX were operated by educational institutions, while WTCN was a commercial station which aggressively sought to expand its operating hours at the expense of the other three stations.
KFMX surrendered its license in 1933, and in 1938 WLB and WCAL made peace with WTCN by agreeing to move to 760 kHz, where the stations were restricted to daytime-only transmissions, with WLB to receive 2⁄3rds of the available hours. In 1941, as part of the frequency shifts resulting from implementation of the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement, WLB and WCAL moved from 760 to 770 kHz. In 1991, The University of Minnesota made an agreement with St. Olaf in which WCAL was provided land for an improved FM tower near Rosemount, Minnesota in exchange for fulltime use of the AM frequency.
WLB's programming was expanded to include lectures, concerts, and football games. In the 1930s and 1940s, the station broadcast a considerable amount of educational material and was used for distance learning—a practice that continued into the 1990s. On June 1, 1945, WLB's call sign was changed to KUOM, to stand for University of Minnesota.
A polio epidemic in 1946 that resulted in temporary school closings and the cancellation of the Minnesota State Fair led the station to create programming for children who were homebound. Those programs, along with others broadcast in the 1940s, were recognized for their importance and led to several awards being given to the station.
Carrier current WMMREdit
In 1948 a low-powered student-run carrier current station was established, with studios in Coffman Memorial Union. Due to its very limited coverage, which was restricted to the campus and immediately adjoining areas, the station did not require a license from the Federal Communications Commission, or qualify for officially assigned call letters. However, it informally identified itself as WMMR for "Women's and Men's Minnesota Radio." Focused on providing a service for the student body, WMMR initially broadcast at 730 AM as "Radio 73". The programming was later also carried by the Minneapolis cable television system.
WMMR was a student-run operation and relied solely on volunteers. By the mid-1960s through the end of its life, WMMR tried to emulate the management structure of a typical AM rock station of the day, with an appointed General Manager, Program Director, Music Director and other management positions. A news and sports operation broadcast daily reports, and the basketball, football and hockey programs were usually broadcast with live play-by-play. A number of live broadcasts were done from the Whole Music Club and the Great Hall and the station promoted other campus events such as the 'Campus Carny' held annually in the old field house. Garrison Keillor, the well-known creator of Minnesota Public Radio's A Prairie Home Companion, began his radio career broadcasting classical music on WMMR as a student in the early 1960s. He then worked at KUOM from 1963 to 1968.
WMMR ended operations in 1993 with the launch of Radio K.
Until the change to Radio K in 1993, KUOM operated with a paid staff, and was known as "University of Minnesota Public Radio" (unrelated to Minnesota Public Radio). The station broadcast public affairs, arts, classical music, and a variety of other programming.
In the early 1990s, after lobbying by WMMR General Manager Jim Musil, the University began to examine the idea of merging WMMR and KUOM. The University explained the transition to a music format by saying that most of the educational value of KUOM had been superseded by other media outlets by this time. To avoid the lack of direction found at some college music stations, the new "Radio K" had a small full-time staff to oversee operations and provide a level of continuity, with students providing much of the on-air talent while going through their radio studies. The transition took place in 1993, and KUOM began using the "Radio K" name on October 1 of that year.
One notable program in the first decade of Radio K was Cosmic Slop. The show, which first went on the air in the waning days of WMMR, searched through the station's considerable library of 1970s pop music, playing both the best and worst from that decade (with occasional forays into the recordings from the rest of the 20th century). In 2008, the Radio K Sports Desk aired a series of stories about the Minnesota football team (by sports reporter Marco LaNave) which received a national finalist honor in the 2008 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence Awards, and two regional honors.
KUOM-FM, with 6 watts at 106.5 FM, began operating in 2002 and also carries Radio K's programming. At one point, this station was only licensed to broadcast during the time periods when its timeshare partner KDXL was off the air. KDXL, which began broadcasting in 1978, was owned by the St. Louis Park Public Schools district and operated by and from St. Louis Park High School, during the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on "designated school days," so outside of the summer months KUOM-FM generally operated only at night and on weekends.
Setting up KUOM-FM took several years of negotiations with the FCC. In 2004, the transmitter was moved from the high school to a high rise residential building near Lake Bde Maka Ska in southwest Minneapolis near the St. Louis Park city limits. The new site offered greatly increased height, therefore expanding the signal's range. Even with the additional height, the station operates at such low power that it can be heard clearly only within two to three miles of the transmitter. While Minneapolis gets a fairly strong signal, this signal only provides fringe coverage in St. Paul at best (subject to occasional interference from a 197-watt translator of Christian contemporary outlet "The Refuge" in the southern suburb of Elko New Market), and cannot be heard at all in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburbs except under rare circumstances or with a sensitive receiver. In 2018, KDXL turned in its license, allowing KUOM-FM to broadcast full time, ending the time share agreement between the two stations.
The station's programming has been recognized as the "best radio station of the Twin Cities" in 2010, 2013, and 2015 by City Pages editors. Pitchfork founder Ryan Schreiber also commonly cites the station's influence as having been an integral factor in his decision to start an online publication dedicated to the coverage of independent music.
Radio K is a non-commercial educational radio station. It receives funding from a number of sources, including donations from listeners. Approximately 40% of the station's funding comes from listener support, while the rest is provided by the state and federal governments, along with the University of Minnesota.
Programs include a wide variety of Independent and Alternative music, and feature specialty shows dedicated to Metal, Hip hop, Jazz, R&B, Electronic, Punk, Folk, and World Music. The station specializes in promoting local musicians and produces local shows, including the award-winning Off The Record. Music submissions are filtered through a large group of volunteer reviewers and DJs.
A news program called Access Minnesota began in 2004 and is carried on several dozen radio stations across the state. Focusing on politics and the media, the program is produced by Radio K and the Minnesota Broadcasters Association.
|Call sign||Frequency||City of license||Facility ID||Class||ERP
|KUOM-FM||106.5 FM||St. Louis Park, Minnesota||122699||D||6||63.4 m (208 ft)|
|City of license||Facility
|W264BR||100.7||Falcon Heights, Minnesota||142994||99||186.2 m (611 ft)||D||FCC LMS|
|K283BG||104.5||Minneapolis, Minnesota||143025||99||63.1 m (207 ft)||D||FCC LMS|
- "Call Letter Origins". Radio History on the Web.
- "Radio history at the U of M" by Rebecca Toov, January 13, 2016 (continuum.umn.edu)
- "Wireless to Flash Minnesota-Iowa Basketball Score", Minneapolis Tribune, January 21, 1916, page 13.
- "New Stations: War Department Training and Rehabilitation Schools", Radio Service Bulletin, December 1, 1919, page 5.
- "New Stations: Special Land Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, April 1, 1920, page 5. The "9" in 9XI's call sign indicated that the station was located in the ninth Radio Inspection district, while the "X" signified that the station was operating under an Experimental license.
- The same equipment was used for both station operations. A photograph of the 9XI-WX2 transmitting equipment is included at the "Radio history at the U of M" webpage.
- C. M. Jansky had previously been at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he had worked at its experimental station 9XM.
- Radio Education Pioneering in the Mid-west by Albert A. Reed, 1942, page 74.
- "'U' Wireless Station Has Market Service", Minneapolis Tribune, February 6, 1921, page 35.
- The First Quarter-century of American Broadcasting by E. P. J. Shurick, 1946, page 115.
- "Live Stock Prices by Wireless at 'U'", Minneapolis Tribune, December 4, 1921, page 1.
- "Amendments to Regulations", Radio Service Bulletin, January 3, 1922, page 10.
- "New Stations: Commercial Land Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, February 1, 1922, page 2. At this time there was no differentiation between commercial and non-commercial broadcasting stations. The licenses were not time-stanped, however WLB's Limited Commercial license serial number was #275, and WHA's was #276.
- Charles William Taussig (1922). The Book of Radio. pp. 199–201. Retrieved 2018-03-04.
- FCC History Cards: KUOM (image #2), "Broadcasting Station License Record: Card #1".
- Requested Broadcast Calls of the 1920s by Jeff Miller
- FCC History Cards: WCCO (image #3), "Construction Permit and License Record" (back of "Broadcasting Station License Record: Card #1")
- "United States Broadcasting Stations", White's Radio Log, Fall and Winter Issue, 1930, page 3.
- "University of Minnesota", Education's Own Stations by S. E. Frost, Jr., pages 215-218.
- "WTCN Goes Full Time: College Stations Improve", Broadcasting, May 15, 1938, page 36.
- "Three-Letter Roll Call" by Thomas H. White (earlyradiohistory.us). When WLB was first licensed in 1922, the dividing line for eastern "W" call letters and western "K" call signs ran along the western borders of the Dakotas. In January 1923 the boundary was shifted to the Mississippi River, which moved Minneapolis into the "K" call letters region.
- "Cosmic Slop Home Page!". www.stitzel.com. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
- "SPJ Announces 2008 Mark of Excellence Winners", Society of Professional Journalists, May 13, 2009 (spj.org)
- "Announcing 2008 Region 6 Mark of Excellence Awards Winners", Society of Professional Journalists, March 30, 2009 (spj.org)
- "Annual Notification of Sharetime Schedule" (radiok.org)
- "Twin Cities FM DX log". Ubstudios.com. Retrieved 2018-11-11.
- "Best Radio Station: Radio K (104.5 FM, 100.7 FM, 106.5 FM, 770 AM)". citypages.com. City Pages Best of the Twin Cities 2010.
- "Best Radio Station: Radio K". citypages.com. City Pages Best of the Twin Cities 2013.
- "Best Radio Station: Radio K". citypages.com. City Pages Best of the Twin Cities 2015.
- "Stations and Coverage Map". ampers.org. Retrieved 2018-03-07.
- "Best Local Music Broadcast: Radio K's Off the Record". citypages.com. City Pages Best of the Twin Cities 2011.
- "Best Local Music Broadcast: Radio K's Off the Record". citypages.com. City Pages Best of the Twin Cities 2012.
- "Access Minnesota". www.accessminnesotaonline.com. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
- "Welcome". Minnesota Broadcasters Association. Retrieved 2016-04-25.
- "Twin Cities Class D FM Stations". NorthPine.com. Retrieved 2009-03-20.
- Radio K FM Coverage Map (radiok.org)
- Official website
- FCC History Cards for KUOM
- KUOM in the FCC AM station database
- KUOM on Radio-Locator
- KUOM in Nielsen Audio's AM station database
- K283BG in the FCC FM station database
- K283BG on Radio-Locator
- W264BR in the FCC FM station database
- W264BR on Radio-Locator
- Hennepin County Public Library historical photos of WLB, 1939-40 search for "WLB"
- Minnesota Historical Society historical photos of KUOM, mid 1940s