KUAF began broadcasting as a ten-watt station in January 1973 from a renovated clapboard house on Duncan Street in Fayetteville (Washington County). Owned by the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville, the station began as a student-run operation with a staff of twenty-five students and a faculty advisor, Dennis O’Neal, from the Department of Journalism. The station served as a training ground for students.
Planning for the station began the year before its debut. The initial finances were provided by the Associated Student Government and Student Services Allocations. A transmitter was installed on the top of Yocum Hall, and a survey was conducted during registration in fall 1972 to determine what type of music the students most preferred. The most requested music was progressive rock, which made up most of the initial programming, although jazz, classical, and soul were also played, along with brief newscasts.
Over the next few years, programming was expanded and became more regular. By 1975, there was a staff of about fifty, although only eight were paid. The majority of workers were students seeking class credit and/or experience. The station was broadcast from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. on weekdays and 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. It used a block programming format with a different type of music each night. Ten-minute newscasts were broadcast three times a day, with a thirty-minute newscast once a day. Donations allowed for added programs, such as comedy shows and Razorback baseball games. Also in 1975, KUAF created and broadcast the Musical Melting Pot show celebrating the musical heritage of America.
In 1980, Rick Stockdell became the new faculty director of KUAF, and the station soon underwent some changes. In 1982, the station increased from ten to 100 watts due in part to the 1979 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) eliminating the ten-watt license. Then, in 1985, KUAF was converted to a National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, and a new closed-circuit radio station was created to provide journalism students with a training ground.
By 1985, the NPR station was offering programs of fine arts, jazz, and national news. The station increased from 100 watts to 60,000 watts in 1989, growing its listening area from 40,000 to 400,000 people and changing from 88.9 to 91.3 FM on the dial. KUAF also produced local shows, such as the award-winning Ozarks at Large created in 1990 by Kyle Kellams. While a previous show had used that name, Kellams re-formatted the show to a news magazine format, featuring news, sports, politics, commentary, arts, culture, and local events. The show expanded from half an hour twice a week to an hour-long daily program, adding additional producers and content providers.
The station continued to grow and, in 1991, moved to a university-owned apartment complex on Dickson Street. The building housed KUAF studio and office space along with classroom and lab space. Then, in 1993, KUAF received a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation to fund its Public Affairs and Outreach Division. As a result, two projects began in 1994. The first was the KUAF Writing Project, which was a series of workshops and a writing contest developed to promote the writing success of K–12 students. The project continued annually for six years. The second project was the Classical Music Month Tour in which P. J. Robowski, Jennifer Fulford, and Sharita Paterson visited school children to give an educational program about classical music and conductors.
The station expanded again in 2001 to 100,000 watts and became in 2006 the first station in the region to broadcast in HD. In 2009, KUAF built a specially designed station, dedicated as the Lynn and Joel Carver Center for Public Radio, on S. School Avenue in Fayetteville. KUAF has the ability to reach an audience of over 600,000 people, covering a fourteen-county area stretching through western Arkansas, eastern Oklahoma, and southern Missouri.
For additional information:
“Campbell, Wernet Debate on KUAF.” Arkansas Traveler, February 15, 1973, p. 3.
“FM Station Features Progressive Rock: Station KUAF on the Air Nov. 13.” Arkansas Traveler, November 6, 1972, p. 6.
“KUAF—88.9 on Your Radio Dial—Is in Full Swing.” Arkansas Traveler, August 28, 1974, p. 18.
“KUAF Boosts Power Source.” The Spectrum, November 12, 1982, p. 1–2.
“KUAF Continually Improving.” Arkansas Traveler, February 2, 1973, p. 4.
KUAF National Public Radio 91.3. http://www.kuaf.com/ (accessed December 17, 2021).
KUAF National Public Radio Records (MC 2079.UA). Special Collections. University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
“KUAF Presents Comical Music.” Arkansas Traveler, September 26, 1975, p. 6.
“KUAF to Broadcast in Oct., Says O’Neal.” Arkansas Traveler, September 12, 1972, p. 1.
“KUAF to Feature Mixed Programming Until First of Year.” Arkansas Traveler, August 22, 1984, p. 1.
“Spring Is in KUAF Air: Everything’s Fine at 88.9.” Arkansas Traveler, January 13, 1975, p. 3.
“Students Run Station: KUAF Educates, Entertains.” Arkansas Traveler, October 13, 1975, p. 3.
Amy Leigh Allen
University of Arkansas Libraries
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