It started out as a way to broadcast Kansas University sports throughout the state and educational programs to the Douglas County area.
Now it's an outlet for national cultural and news programming for eastern Kansas as well as a conduit for state news and local performing talent.
KANU-FM 91.5, the public radio station licensed to KU, marks its 40th anniversary this fall. But what KANU was 40 years ago is a good deal different from what it is now. In fact, one of the prime reasons for starting KANU was to provide KU sports broadcasting to other state radio stations.
"Sports were very important productions in the early days of KANU,'' said Howard Hill, the general manager of the station. "In that day, not too many stations were carrying sports. The station was basically an outreach facility for the university for both sports and for on-the-air classes.''
TODAY, KANU has a budget of more than $1.4 million, broadcasts 24 hours a day, can be heard from Manhattan to Blue Springs, Mo., and uses four translator stations in Iola, Emporia, Manhattan and Atchinson. The station also operates the Audio-Reader Network for transmissions to people with disabilities.
But when the station first went on the air Sept. 15, 1952, and its first general manager, Ed Brown, worked from 1951 to 1969. Dick Wright, now a KU associate professor of music history, ran the station from 1970 to 1977, when Hill took over.
"ORIGINALLY we were more of an educational station, with programs like `The Jayhawk School of the Air,' when we were teaching subjects like art on the air,'' Hill said in a recent interview. "We also had an hour that was used to tell children's stories.''
KANU hooked up with National Public Radio in 1971 and was one of the first radio stations in the system. Broadcast of "All Things Considered" started later that year. "Morning Edition" went on the air nationally in 1979 and on KANU in 1983. To broadcast NPR programs, KANU buys the material from the network.
KANU ALSO buys programs from American Public Radio, a separate service that offers programs produced by other public radio stations. The list includes "The American Radio Company'' featuring Garrison Keillor, which KANU began broadcasting in 1982.
The station also produces its own news coverage, including reports on state government, as well as "The Imagination Workshop'' and "Goodtime Radio Revue.'' "Workshop,'' a live comedy program, gets play throughout the United States.
"We feel that since we're on the campus of a major university with national prominence, we should produce programming that gets national attention,'' he said.