KTRU began in February 1967 as a two-watt station, KHCR, broadcast by students from Hanzsen College in the Hanzsen basement. In 1968 the station relocated to the basement of the Rice Memorial Center and broadcast throughout campus on 580 AM as KOWL. During the process of licensing and transitioning to FM, students discovered that the call letters KOWL were already in use by a station in California and in 1969 the station was renamed KTRU, for The Rice University. In 1970 the FM committee was established as a guiding entity of the licensing process and an application was submitted to the FCC. When the license request was granted in 1971, KTRU’s power upgraded to 10 watts and the station began broadcasting at 91.7 FM from the top of Sid Richardson College, reaching approximately an 8 mile radius of campus. At this stage, KTRU, frequently referred to as “the radio”, identified itself primarily as a source of diverse and underexposed music while incorporating campus news and events of interests to emphasize the educational purposes of the service. The staff was entirely volunteer, comprised mainly of electrical engineering majors due to the technical complexities of the equipment. KTRU evolved from 250 watts in 1974 to 650 watts in 1980, followed by an unexpected leap to 50,000 watts in 1991. This major shift emerged from the ambitions of neighboring station KRTS 92.1 whose request to expand to 50,000 was denied by the FCC due to the complete overpowering of KTRU’s broadcast that would result. KRTS reached an agreement with Rice administrators to pay for the installation and maintenance of the new transmitter, located off campus in Humble, a northwest suburb of Houston. One consequence of the move was the interference of the Texas Medical Center with the broadcast signal, causing poor reception on campus and a decrease in the student audience. In 1997 a committee was formed to redirect KTRU in terms of a “university asset”. The tensions between KTRU staff and the university administration manifested in November 2000 when two DJ’s protested an arrangement made to broadcast more athletic events by playing punk rock songs over the last half of a Rice women’s basketball game. The station was abruptly shut down by administrators for nine days until reopened after a series of protests condemning the university’s action and negotiations with the station.
KTRU’s content progressed from art rock in the 1970s to alternative, experimental, and underground rock in the 1980s, mirroring the national musical movement of the time. This decade also brought forth the addition of specialty shows, which balanced the alternative bent with segments of jazz, blues, folk, classical, independent and world music. Most recently KTRU boasts a similar eclectic mix of tunes directed away from the mainstream and towards open-minded tastes. Additionally, KTRU broadcasts Rice athletic events, interviews, public lectures of Rice affiliates, concerts from the Shepherd School of Music, and news and events relating to the campus and beyond.
Up until 2010, KTRU broadcasted twenty-four hours a day from a 50,000 watt antenna and streamed online from the Ley Student Center at Rice University. As of April 28, 2011, KTRU no longer broadcasted on the 91.7 frequency, which had been sold to the University of Houston. It only streamed music online until KPFT allowed KTRU to broadcast on its HD2 channel.
For more information, visit KTRU on-line at http://18.104.22.168/.