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Archive for Saturday, October 12, 1996

S YOUR BIRTHDAY

October 12, 1996

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Remember when...

  • May 1975 -- The Federal Communications Commission granted a permit for an FM station at 90.7 with call letters KJHK, shorthand for Kansas Jayhawk.
  • Oct. 15, 1975 -- KJHK began broadcasting.
  • 1976 -- A survey of Kansas University students convinced KJHK staff to dump its Top 40 format. The Bee Gees were silenced.
  • 1980 -- KJHK was granted permission to increase its signal to 100 watts.
  • 1986 -- Spin magazine honored KJHK for "excellence in supporting the local music scene."
  • 1992 -- KJHK was recognized by the National Association of College Broadcasters as the "Station of the Year."
  • 1994 -- KJHK became the nation's second college radio outlet to broadcast live on the Internet.
  • 1995 -- Reflecting its roots, KJHK changed its tag line from "The Sound Alternative" to "The Hawk."
  • Oct. 15, 1996 -- KJHK celebrates its 21st birthday by promoting a month of live music shows in Lawrence.

KJHK, the student-run radio station at KU, has grown from infancy (Top 40) to adulthood (alternative) and turns 21 on Tuesday.

Kansas University's student radio station is about to celebrate its 21st birthday.

The joke is that students delivering music, news and views at KJHK will finally act like adults.

Ha ha. Seriously, KJHK General Manager Gary Hawke, a veteran of many years in the biz, said KU students at the station were generally more reputable on the air than professional colleagues.

"I ran stations for 20 years," he said. "The amount of irresponsibility is less than in the commercial world."

KJ, as it's called by some, cuts the birthday cake on Tuesday. With the words "KJHK-FM now begins broadcast activities," the station went on the air Oct. 15, 1975, during a remote broadcast in front of Stauffer-Flint Hall.

In the beginning

A student-run station had existed since 1952, which was known as KGDU and had such a weak signal it didn't reach all of campus.

Call letters were later changed to KUOK. In 1975, the station moved to 90.7 on the FM dial and became KJHK, "The Sound Alternative."

Power was increased to nine watts in 1976 and then to 100 watts in 1980.

Last year, the station changed its nickname to "The Hawk."

KJHK originally had a Top 40 format -- a painful legacy to today's generation of students who think of KJ in terms of alternative music shows such as "The Hip Hop Hype," "The Punk Show" and "Ska'd For Life" or a sex talk show called "Between the Sheets."

It's the latter that often makes listeners take notice.

"As an old guy who is a general manager, I get worried," Hawke said. "It's spoke at a level a college audience relates to. We get lots of people calling and expressing things I think are genuine."

He said Holden Kushner and Suzie McKinney, the two students who host "Between the Sheets," had done a good job addressing sex and the college student in a tasteful manner.

Kushner said one of the duo's most popular shows -- it airs 9:15 p.m. Tuesdays -- was on virginity.

"We want to be educational, but it has to be entertaining. If it's boring, nobody will listen," he said.

Expanding the mix

Expect talk shows -- sports and current events -- to be a big part of KJ's future. News will remain and KU sports broadcasts will eat up air time. But the campus station will always be defined by its music. KJ's alternative shows fill the air Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Tunes played on most of these off-beat programs would collect dust at most FM haunts.

"There is a long history here with alternative music. They're known for helping break bands," Hawke said. "Talk will not supplant music."

He said the station's jazz program had done well on weekday mornings. It doesn't have the same sound as an evening program on KU's other radio station, KANU-FM.

"You may hear Frank Sinatra followed by someone hammering on Coke bottles. It's a more unstructured approach," he said.

Hawke said he was surprised that the same number of students applied to be jazz disc jockeys as alternative music jocks.

In the future, Hawke said rifts would remain between students who want to shape the station's programming in ways that boost audience share and those who want to stretch the envelope regardless of listener response.

"There is a line between total artistic freedom and ... ratings delivery," he said. "We're constantly going back and forth from being not too commercial and not too avant-garde."

He said finding a niche was difficult because student talent emerged and disappeared each semester. In fact, "Between the Sheets" could be influenced by Kushner's graduation this year.

Pushing frontiers

Hawke said KJHK's board was considering ways of increasing wattage -- perhaps as high as 2,000 -- to reach the Kansas City area and improve reception around Lawrence.

That could cost as much as $60,000 -- a big-ticket item for a station financed with student fees and public donations.

The station also will try to push the technological frontier. Production quality has been improved with installation of digital equipment, Hawke said.

As of this weekend, KJHK will be online with Audionet, a leading provider of live radio on the Internet. The station has been online since 1994, but access on the Internet site was limited to 20 at a time. Audionet will permit about 100 simultaneous listeners.

Hawke said KJHK's equipment and staff were more sophisticated now than when the station started in 1975 -- a year in which disco ruled the nation. He expects that to continue and invites people within earshot to explore 90.7 FM periodically during the next 21 years.

"We've got something for everybody," he said.

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