Back On The Dial

After five-year hiatus, beloved Rice University radio station returns to FM dial

After 5-year hiatus, beloved Rice U radio station returns to FM dial

KTRU radio station
KTRU Rice Radio will return to radio as 96.1 FM on October 2. Photo by Ian Wells

After five years off the radio dial, Rice University's popular college radio station KTRU Rice Radio will return to FM on Friday (October 2).

Listeners located within approximately a five-mile radius of the school, stretching from 610 South to the Buffalo Bayou, will be able to enjoy the university's station on 96.1 FM. After spending four years pursuing a new FCC-approved FM license — an effort spearheaded by Rice students, alumni, staff and community volunteers — the station will be able to broadcast on FM from an antenna placed atop Rice Stadium. 

"Returning to the air is truly turning the page to a new chapter in KTRU's history," said one of KTRU's music librarians, George Barrow, in a statement. "We're returning to our roots with the on-campus, low-power transmitter.

"Not only is this an important step in KTRU's story, but it's also extremely important for the Houston music community, since no station on the FM dial right now focuses on exposing local and emerging talent quite like KTRU does. It's amazing to be a part of this organization during one of its most important transitions."

The station will also continue to broadcast live on the Internet through its website, as well as apps like i-Heart Radio and Tune-In.

The station's first FM broadcast day coincides with College Radio Day, a celebration of college radio stations across the country, and KTRU DJs will play a varied array of music combined with live appearances from special guests.

Founded in 1967, the university's station is highly regarded for its eclectic programming and focuses on noncommercial music. Showcasing everything from old school blues and avant-garde jazz to experimental noise and black metal, the station also shows a strong appreciation for local artists, with whom they have a unique open-door policy.

In 2010, university officials announced plans to sell the station's FM frequency, broadcast tower and license to the University of Houston for $9.5 million, outraging Rice students and the station's fans alike. In spite of many protests, the sale was approved by UH's Board of Regents in August 2010 and KTRU broadcasted its final FM transmission in April 2011.

Ironically, the University of Houston — which launched Houston Public Media's all-classical station on the newly acquired 91.7 KUHA in May 2011 as part of a reorganization plan — announced last month that the institution plans to sell the FM channel and move the station's programming to 88.7 HD-2.

The official call signs for the new Rice radio station are KBLT-LP since the KTRU call signs are currently licensed to a noncommercial station in La Harpe, Kansas, but the station will continue to be referred to as KTRU.

The station is celebrating the launch of its new signal with a free concert — featuring local artists Robert Ellis, Buxton and Deep Cuts — at the Grand Hall at the Rice Memorial Center on Thursday at 8 pm.