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60 Years: KASU's History Part 2

Football coverage on KASU, which originated broadcasts on the Indian Sports Network.

Friday, May 17th, 1957.  KASU radio station signed on the air on the campus of Arkansas State College in Jonesboro.  The frequency is 91.9 FM.  The station broadcasted out of the Wilson Hall building and the signal strength was 760 watts…which gave the station a coverage distance of 20 miles.  Dr. Carl R. Reng was extremely pleased with KASU.  He gave the opening speech when KASU signed on the air…the Arkansas State Band performed a concert…and interviews were conducted on air with students and faculty members.  Reng was the president of Arkansas State College.  He saw KASU as a station that would be an outreach tool of the college…a station that would entertain and inform its listeners…as well as be a training ground for those who wanted to go into radio journalism.

In those days, KASU was not on the air 24 hours a day.  It was more like eight hours a day Monday through Friday and four hours a day on Saturdays.  No programs on Sundays.  The exception to the rule was sports.  Football and men's basketball games were originated from KASU and the Indian Sports Network fed games to stations across the region, even as far away as Little Rock.  
In 1958, KASU became a source of pride for Arkansas State College.  Interest in the radio journalism program skyrocketed, the Indian Network saw an increasing listenership, and programs were taking off.  In that year, John Cramer retired.  Over the next three years, KASU and the radio journalism program faced some challenges.  In 1959, the quality of the programming on KASU's FM signal declined dramatically and the station barely signed on.  This is because attention was turned to an AM carrier current, which would allow for students to listen to the station along electrical lines.  Radios would have to be plugged into power outlets or be located near a power line to pick up the station.  AM stations were more popular than FM stations in those days, so the focus was to get more people to listen to KASU's signal on AM.  KASU's FM signal no longer had regular broadcast hours and was seldom on the air.  The station was not run as professionally as it was in the past.  And, the station almost lost its license from the Federal Communications Commission due to a very late renewal.  In 1961, Charles Rasberry was brought in to manage KASU and turn around a program that had been going in the wrong direction.  
Under Rasberry's direction, KASU kept its FM license and attention was turned to the FM signal.  The station started running professionally again and Rasberry revamped the broadcasting program at Arkansas State. Students were the heart of running the station and creating the bulk of the programming that aired on KASU.  Raspberry also increased the number of hours KASU broadcasted daily.  The new schedule was from noon to ten.  
Rasberry says the support also was evident as KASU moved from Wilson Hall to a new building built on campus in 1966, which helped provide needed classrooms and offices for KASU.  During the summer of 1966, KASU received permission from the Federal Communications Commission to increase power from 760 watts to 3-thousand-500 watts.  A 160-foot transmitting tower with a four-bay antenna was constructed near where the Convocation Center is today at Arkansas State.  
In 1967, Arkansas State Ciollege was granted university status, making KASU an accurate name for the station.  In that same year, the Carnegie Commission issued a report on non-commercial broadcasting in the country.  One of the recommendations in the report was that Congress provide funding to those stations through the formation of what would be the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.  That year, United States President Lyndon B. Johnson persuaded Congress to approve the Public Broadcasting Act.  
KASU applied for a grant and received its first grant in 1970.  Before the grant was approved, KASU was only able to stay on the air during semesters and not year round.  Rasberry says the first CPB grant that KASU received was for almost 13-thousand dollars and that was used for year-round broadcasting.
In 1970, KASU started broadcasting six days a week from noon to ten p.m. year round.  In 1971, KASU accomplished one of its many "firsts" as it became a member of newly-formed National Public Radio.  KASU started carrying the newsmagazine All Things Considered.  In 1971, KASU received a community service grant, which allowed the station to broadcast from seven am to ten p.m.  That new broadcast schedule started July first, 1971.  
In 1973, KASU recived a 68-thousand-dollar grant from the Educational Broadcasting Facilities program to begin broadcasting in stereo and to increase its power to 100-thousand watts, which is what KASU is at today.  The new transmitting tower was constructed in the summer of 1973 at a site four miles north of Jonesboro.  KASU started broadcasting at the new wattage in August of 1973 and started broadcasting 18 hours a day.  The  popularity of the broadcasting program's growth led to construction of a new building on the A-State campus to house the communications and education programs.  Construction on the new building started in 1980 and was completed in 1983.  KASU moved to the new building in 1982 and started operating in the studios KASU are still in today.  KASU started broadcasting from the new building June 30, 1982.  Then-Governor Bill Clinton dedicated the building on April 14, 1983.  Later in the 1980s, KASU would broadcast 24-hours a day.  
In our next program, we will continue the story of the history of KASU as we will focus on the programs that were aired in the early days.  We are used to programs being carried on satellite and for a lot of programs to be available for people to choose from.  It was not always that way.  I will explain more in the next program. 

Johnathan Reaves is the News Director for KASU Public Radio. As part of an Air Force Family, he moved to Arkansas from Minot, North Dakota in 1986. He was first bitten by the radio bug after he graduated from Gosnell High School in 1992. While working on his undergraduate degree, he worked at KOSE, a small 1,000 watt AM commercial station in Osceola, Arkansas. Upon graduation from Arkansas State University in 1996 with a degree in Radio-Television Broadcast News, he decided that he wanted to stay in radio news. He moved to Stuttgart, Arkansas and worked for East Arkansas Broadcasters as news director and was there for 16 years.