Musical Chairs

Christian hip hop will replace classical music on Houston radio dial after sale

Christian hip hop will replace classical music on Houston radio dial

NGEN Christian radio
After the sale of KUHA-FM is finalized, 91.7 on the FM dial will be home to Christian hip hop station NGEN. Courtesy photo

A coveted Houston FM signal that has broadcast on-the-fringe indie rock and classical music will now turn to Christian hip hop.

University of Houston officials announced Wednesday that they plan to sell the signal frequency of KUHA-FM, Houston Public Media's Classical 91.7, to the KSBJ Educational Foundation, which operates non-commercial Contemporary Christian music radio station KSBJ- 89.3 FM, with the tag line, "God Listens."

KSBJ, which is based in Humble, plans to use the newly acquired signal to broadcast sister station NGEN, which currently features Christian hip hop and pop music in an online all-digital format.

The purchase price is $10 million, a Houston Public Media station representative told CultureMap, "which covers the costs and obligation of the transmitter as well as costs associated with the sale."

The frequency was once owned by Rice University, where the college radio station broadcast a widely admired freeform-eclectic music format under the call letters KTRU. In 2010, Rice officials sold the 50,000-watt receiver and license to the University of Houston for $9.5 million in a controversial move that outraged many students and alums, who organized "Save KTRU" protests.

Last August, Houston Public Media, which operates KUHA as well as News 88.7 (KUHF-FM) and TV 8 (KUHT-TV), announced plans to sell the frequency and move classical music programming to all-digital distribution format once the sale is finalized. The Federal Communications Commission is expected to approve the sale later this spring.

“This is a significant milestone for KSBJ. For 34 years, we have dreamed of having a full power FM station covering all of Houston that reaches young people,” says Tim McDermott, president of KSBJ, said in a statement. “We are so excited about having this and the impact for good it will have on our city.”

Last October, KTRU, which reaches listeners via online streaming, returned to the FM dial (at 96.1) with a low-power station that covers a five-mile radius of Rice University. Its call letters are now KBLT-LP, but the station continues to be referred to as KTRU. It is available online as well.