Today the Federal Communications Commission issued a permit to Rice University to resume broadcast of the university’s student-run radio station, KTRU, on a new frequency, 96.1 FM. KTRU has been off the air since 2011, when its previous frequency, 91.7, was sold to the University of Houston for $9.5 million in a deal that provoked outrage from Rice students, KTRU DJs, and loyal listeners. Since 2011 the station has continued broadcasting online and through a digital subchannel of KPFT, but today’s FCC action clears the way for a return to the mainstream airwaves.
The new KTRU will have only a small fraction of the old station’s range. The FCC authorized the station to operate at a power range between 22 and 41 watts, giving it a broadcast range of only a few miles—essentially limiting it to the Rice campus and surrounding neighborhoods. The old 91.7 had a 50,000-watt transmitter, one of the city’s most powerful, which was transferred to UH as part of the sale.
According to online comments, it appears that KTRU has yet to begin broadcasting on 96.1. “I’m only hearing silence on that frequency right now,” said James Medford on Facebook, “but maybe they’re doing a John Cage tribute.”
Given KTRU’s famously eccentric programming, that might just be possible.