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Radio K is the branding used for programming that originates from the studios of KUOM, a student-run non-commercial educational station, licensed to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Programs include a wide variety of Independent and Alternative music, and feature specialty shows dedicated to Instrumental, Metal, Hip Hop, Jazz, R&B, Electronic, Punk, Folk, and World Music. The station specializes in promoting local musicians[2][3][4] and produces local shows, including the award-winning Off The Record.[5][6]

Radio K (KUOM) logo
City Minneapolis, Minnesota
Broadcast area Twin Cities
Branding Radio K
Slogan Real College Radio
Frequency 770 AM, 100.7 FM, 104.5 FM, 106.5 FM (part-time)
First air date January 13, 1922 (experimental 1912-1922)
Format college radio
Power 5,000 watts day 770 AM
ERP 99 watts 100.7 FM
99 watts 104.5 FM
6 watts 106.5 FM
Class D (AM), D (all FMs)
Facility ID 69337
Callsign meaning University of Minnesota[1]
Former callsigns WLB (1922-1928), WLB-WGMS (1927-1933), WLB (1933-1945)
Owner University of Minnesota
(Regents of the University of Minnesota)
Webcast Listen Now - 256k

During daylight hours, Radio K programs are carried over KUOM, which is licensed to Minneapolis, Minnesota and transmits at 770 kHz on the AM band. 24-hour service is provided by three low-power FM transmitters located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and the programming is also available over the Internet.

Radio K was named the "best radio station of the Twin Cities" in 2010,[7] 2013,[8] and 2015[9] by City Pages editors. It receives funding from a number of sources, including donations from listeners.


Broadcast FrequenciesEdit

Radio K's primary station, KUOM on 770 AM, is limited to daytime-only operation, due to clear-channel restrictions that require it to remain off the air at night in order to avoid interfering with New York City's WABC and KKOB in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Radio K's programming is relayed full-time by two FM translator stations, providing 24-hour service.[10][11] Much of its programming is also carried by a third low-powered FM station, KUOM-FM, however, this station is only allowed to broadcast during the time periods when its timeshare partner KDXL, which operates from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on "Designated School Days", is off the air.[12]

Call sign Frequency
City of license ERP
Class FCC info
W264BR 100.7 Falcon Heights, Minnesota 99 D FCC
K283BG 104.5 Minneapolis, Minnesota 99 D FCC
KUOM-FM 106.5 St. Louis Park, Minnesota 6 D FCC


Radio experimentation at the University of Minnesota, initially using spark transmitters that could only transmit the dots-and-dashes of Morse code, began in 1912, conducted by Professor Franklin Springer.[13]

The development of vacuum tube transmitters, capable of audio transmissions, led to further development. Following the end of World War One, in late 1919 the University was authorized to establish a "War Department Training and Rehabilitation Schools" station, with the call sign WX2.[14] This was followed in early 1920 by the issuing of an Experimental radio license, with the call sign 9XI.[15][16] These operations were under the control of electrical engineering professor C. M. Jansky, Jr. (the older brother of Karl Jansky).[17]

9XI began to be used to broadcast to more general audiences. 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".[18] The station also provided reports on farm markets and weather.

Initially there were no formal standards for radio stations making broadcasts intended for the general public. However, effective December 1, 1921, the U.S. Department of Commerce, which regulated radio at this time, issued a regulation requiring that broadcasting stations now had to operate under a Limited Commercial license.[19] On January 13, 1922 the University was issued its new license, which was given the randomly assigned call letters of WLB. This was the first broadcasting station license issued in the state of Minnesota. The University of Wisconsin–Madison's WHA 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.[20]

In February 1922, when a heavy snowstorm knocked out newswire services into the region, personnel at the Minneapolis Tribune convinced operators to help them retrieve the day's news through a roundabout series of amateur radio relays.[21]

From 1927[22] to 1933,[23] the station operated with a secondary call sign of "WGMS", for "Gold Medal (Flour) Station",[24] which was used when station WCCO employed WLB's transmitter (for use during this period in addition to or as auxiliary to WCCO's own facilities at 720 kHz, 740 kHz and 810 kHz).[25][26] On June 1, 1945, WLB's call sign was changed to KUOM.[27]

For 53 years, from 1938 to 1991, WLB/KUOM time-shared the daytime-only 770 kHz frequency with St. Olaf College's WCAL in Northfield, Minnesota.[28] 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 full use of the AM frequency.

Prior to the transition to a student-run station in 1993, KUOM was known as University of Minnesota Public Radio (unrelated to Minnesota Public Radio) and broadcast public affairs, arts, classical music, and a variety of other programming.

Focus on educationEdit

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. Until the change to Radio K in 1993, the station operated with a paid staff.

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.

Campus radio station 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-'60s 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.

WMMR ended operations in 1993 with the launch of Radio K.

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.

Formation of Radio KEdit

In the early 1990s, after a great deal of 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 certain level of continuity, while students would provide 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.

Radio K has received accolades from local newspapers and magazines, especially the weekly City Pages which has consistently ranked the station among the best for music in the region. 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.


Music submissions are filtered through a large group of volunteer reviewers and DJs. Recordings that pass review are added to the library that is constantly updated, and from there on-air DJs pick CDs to play songs from. Some specialty shows may not necessarily use this library due to the unique genres played.

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). The hosts of the program ended the show in late 2004, saying that their itch had been scratched.[29]

A news program called Access Minnesota began in 2004 and is carried on several dozen radio stations across the state.[30] Focusing on politics and the media, the program is produced by Radio K and the Minnesota Broadcasters Association.[31]

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,[32] and two regional honors.[33]

Studio and transmittersEdit

The Rarig Center on the West Bank of the Minneapolis campus of the University of Minnesota

Broadcasts initially originated from the electrical engineering building on the Minneapolis campus, where a transmitter was installed on the roof. The facilities were moved to Eddy Hall in 1936. In 1974, the studios were moved just across the Mississippi River to Rarig Center .

KUOM operates at 5,000 watts on 770 kHz with a non-directional antenna. Due to its low AM frequency, and the region's flat terrain and excellent soil conductivity, the station's coverage is comparable to that of a full-power FM station. KUOM can be heard across the Twin Cities area and with grade B coverage in St. Cloud and Mankato. It broadcasts during daylight hours from the U of M's St. Paul/Falcon Heights campus, signing off at sundown to protect WABC in New York City and KKOB in Albuquerque. The exact time that the station goes off the air varies from month to month, ranging from 4:30 p.m. in the winter to 9:00 p.m. in the summer.

At night, on weekends, and during the summer, Radio K also broadcasts on the 6-watt KUOM-FM 106.5. This frequency is shared with KDXL, a station at St. Louis Park High School in St. Louis Park, which began broadcasting around 1978. KDXL uses the frequency while classes are in session at the school, with KUOM-FM operating at all other time periods. Setting up KUOM-FM took several years of negotiations with the Federal Communications Commission. In 2004, the transmitter was moved from the high school to a location in southwest Minneapolis near Lake Calhoun, near the St. Louis Park city limits, and raised to a greater height on a high rise residential building, expanding the signal's range. Even with the increased 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 of St. Paul (subject to occasional interference from a 197-watt translator of CCM outlet "The Refuge" in the southern suburb of Elko New Market), and cannot be heard at all even in most of the inner-ring Twin Cities suburbs.

Radio K also transmits via a 99-watt translator, W264BR 100.7 FM, which is co-located with the AM transmitter. When it went on-air in late July 2005, the original 10-watt transmitter covered only the U of M's St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses, with spotty reception even within the inner-ring suburbs. The transmitter power was increased to 99 watts in early July 2011 . This significantly expanded the coverage to include almost all inner ring suburbs and many outer ring suburbs, with the potential for reception as far away as Hastings, MN and Hudson, WI under favorable conditions.

Radio K operates a second 99-watt translator, K283BG at 104.5 FM, with the transmitter located near Radio-K's studios in Rarig Center on the West Bank campus of the University of Minnesota. Before W264BR's transmitter was upgraded, K283BG was important for offering at least secondary coverage to most of the inner-ring suburbs.[34] Through these two translators KUOM is able to broadcast around the clock throughout the year.


Radio K is a non-commercial educational radio station. 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.

KUOM is a member of AMPERS, the Association of Minnesota Public Educational Radio Stations.[35]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Call Letter Origins". Radio History on the Web. Archived from the original on 2016-02-18. 
  2. ^ "Radio K (104.5 FM, 100.7 FM, 106.5 FM, 770 AM) | Best of the Twin Cities® 2010: Your Key to the City". City Pages. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  3. ^ "Radio K | Best of the Twin Cities® 2013: Your Key to the City". City Pages. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  4. ^ "Radio K | Best of the Twin Cities® 2015: Your Key to the City". City Pages. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  5. ^ "Radio K's Off the Record | Best of the Twin Cities® 2011: Your Key to the City". City Pages. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  6. ^ "Radio K's Off the Record | Best of the Twin Cities® 2012: Your Key to the City". City Pages. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  7. ^ Best Radio Station 2010
  8. ^ Best Radio Station 2013
  9. ^ Best Radio Station 2015
  10. ^ "Upper Midwest Broadcasting". Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  11. ^ "Twin Cities Class D FM Stations". Retrieved 2009-03-20. 
  12. ^ Annual Notification of Sharetime Schedule - Radio K
  13. ^ Radio history at the U of M
  14. ^ "New Stations: War Department Training and Rehabilitation Schools", Radio Service Bulletin, December 1, 1919, page 5.
  15. ^ "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.
  16. ^ The same apparatus 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 website.
  17. ^ C. M. Jansky had previously been at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he had worked at its experimental station 9XM.
  18. ^ The First Quarter-century of American Broadcasting by E. P. J. Shurick, 1946, page 115.
  19. ^ "Broadcasting Service", Radio Service Bulletin, December 1, 1921, page 10.
  20. ^ "New Stations: Commercial Land Stations", Radio Service Bulletin, February 1, 1922, page 2. There was no differentiation between commercial and non-commercial broadcasting stations at this time. The serial number for WLB's Limited Commercial license was #275, and WHA's was #276.
  21. ^ "The Book of Radio--Amateur extract (1922)". Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  22. ^ FCC files, page 16.
  23. ^ Ibid, page 18.
  24. ^ Requested Broadcast Calls of the 1920s
  25. ^ FCC files, page 3.
  26. ^ White's Radio Log, Fall and Winter Issue, 1930, page 5.
  27. ^ Three-Letter Roll Call. When WLB was first licensed in 1922, the dividing line for eastern "W" call letters and western "K" calls 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.
  28. ^ FCC files, page 9.
  29. ^ "Cosmic Slop Home Page!". Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  30. ^ "Access Minnesota". Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  31. ^ "Welcome". Minnesota Broadcasters Association. Retrieved 2016-04-25. 
  32. ^ Society of Professional Journalists News: SPJ Announces 2008 Mark of Excellence Awards National Winners
  33. ^ Society of Professional Journalists News: Announcing 2008 Region 6 Mark of Excellence Awards Winners
  34. ^ Radio K FM Coverage Map
  35. ^ "stations & coverage map | ampers". Retrieved 2016-04-25. 

External linksEdit