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Boise State Public Radio is your nonprofit, listener-supported connection to our community, our nation and our world. We provide quality news, intelligent talk, classical music and outstanding music programming.
We are Central and Southern Idaho's NPR member station, reaching the region’s metropolitan and rural areas. As the only sources of quality public radio news, classical music, jazz and unique cultural programming, our radio stations are distinct in their mission, their audience and their partnerships.
Be at the civic, cultural and intellectual forefront of our community to create an informed, engaged public.
Produce, acquire and distribute distinctive programs and services that stimulate, educate, inform, and entertain those we serve using all appropriate media. Reach out to the community through strategic partnerships. Enable listeners to learn about issues and ideas that affect our communities, our nation, and our world.
We will build a stronger community-centered broadcasting organization by focusing the station’s new and existing resources where our listener and membership base is the strongest. Our goal is to build a more effective service emphasizing national and local programming that deepens the relationship between us and our listeners.
Integrity: We demonstrate honesty, trust, and credibility.
Tolerance: We embrace our differences in ideas and processes; we respect each other’s opinions.
Professionalism: We care enough about our jobs to train and aspire to the highest standards of our professions.
Transparency: We strive to be proactive and open in all of our communication processes.
Respect of our co-workers: We aspire to develop a climate of mutual respect in our working environment.
Respect for our audience: We aspire to meet the life-long learning needs of our audience, treating them as valuable partners in our production process.
History Of BSPR
Today, the programming on Boise State Public Radio ranges from classical music and jazz, to the latest local news and world and national news from National Public Radio (NPR). Boise State Public Radio stations cover most of southern Idaho and parts of northern Nevada. From Boise to Burley and Sun Valley to Jackpot, Nevada, Boise State Public Radio is on the air.
Radio at Boise State University began as an unofficial club as early as 1935. At this time, Boise State University was known as Boise Junior College (BJC) and had been in operation since 1932. Radio at this point was limited to those students who participated in radio transmission as an extra-curricular activity, as there was no formal radio instruction offered through the college. These students placed a makeshift antenna on top of St. Margaret’s Hall (at the college’s former location) and a transmitter on the second floor of the building. The amateur station was assigned the call letters W7EVV by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and the students used the station mostly to entertain themselves and others, offering no formal broadcast (Barrett, 1984, p. 137).
After BJC moved to the University’s current location in 1940, instruction in radio was offered in formal classes when there was adequate interest and funding (Barrett, 1984, p. 137). Some of these classes produced radio shows to air on local stations. In 1947, the Radio Class broadcast a program on the Betterment of Education on KIDO-FM. Radio Classes during the late 1940s and early to mid-1950s continued to produce programs to air on local radio stations.
The radio class of 1949 presented a series of shows on the station KIDO entitled “This Is Your College.” The first program of this series aired on Saturday, October 22 and included student leaders on campus discussing the purposes and responsibilities of various organizations (BJC Roundup, 10/28/49, p. 4). Subsequent Radio production classes continued to air programs related to college life, popular music, and roundtable discussions that aired on various stations including KIDO, KBOI, KDSH, and KGEM.
By May 1950, the radio department had moved to a better facility and these programs could be completely produced in the college’s own radio control room (BJC Roundup, 5/26/50, p. 2).
By 1957, BJC was prepared to set up its own radio station on campus. Paul Mumford, a full-time student and engineer with KFXD radio in Nampa, was largely responsible for suggesting that BJC have its own radio station and building it. It was the goal for the new station to be run entirely by members of the newly formed Broadcasting Club (BJC Roundup, 10/8/57, p. 2).
KBJC went on air Thursday, November 21 at 8:00 a.m. The station was broadcast five days a week from 7:58 to 9:00 a.m. and again from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The student union and dormitories could hear the broadcasts at 670 on the radio dial during the school year. The goal of the station was to provide information to the student body concerning upcoming social functions. It also gave campus organizations the chance to run announcements and programs while financially supporting the station (BJC Roundup, 11/19/57, p. 1, 3).
Throughout the next several years, interest in KBJC came and went. The station continued to broadcast various programs and music to the campus community. During this time, KBJC was student-run and any student who was interested in having his or her own program could do so with reasonable restrictions (Boise College Roundup, 9/15/66, p. 3).
Throughout these years, the station changed its frequency from 670 to 1080 to 1280 and also varied the hours the programs were on air. In 1965, BJC was changed to Boise College. It was questioned whether or not KBJC would change its call letters to accommodate this transition. The station did change its call letters to KBSC, but not until Boise College became Boise State College in 1967.
By 1974, Boise State College had become Boise State University (BSU) and the radio station changed its call letters once again; this time to KBSU. The station manger Gary McCabe ,was looking to increase its broadcasting power to 10 watts and applied to the FCC to change KBSU from an AM broadcaster to a class D non-commercial educational FM station. This initial request was denied, but in March 1976, the FCC approved the FM license (Arbiter, 3/22/76, p. 1, 6). The station was set to begin airing broadcasts on 90.1 FM in the fall of 1976.
KBSU set itself apart from other radio stations in Boise by being the only local live FM station and by playing varied types of music along with special programs (Arbiter, 9/7/76, p. 4). The granting of the FM license and the installation of a new antenna on top of Table Rock were major steps in establishing KBSU as a prominent radio station in Boise.
The station was still establishing itself in the community and working through problems. The original station staff had deemed itself a progressive or alternative station, playing music other than Top 40 or easy listening. However, many people complained that the station was playing too much rock and roll and very little music of other genres. Some also complained of the lack of educational programming since the station was licensed as a non-commercial, educational station. Along with the complaints, other listeners commended KBSU on its programming and the station continued to grow.
In November 1979, then station manager Marla Leggette applied to the FCC to increase the broadcasting power of the station from 10 watts to 2000 watts. Billboards all over town declared their increase in power in order to reach a broader audience and gain listenership. Leggette wrote a staff policy manual for the community volunteer and student staff and tried to improve the sound of the station as well. More jazz and classical programming appeared as well as four hour blocks of eclectic music such as Blues Deluxe, Fossil Flashbacks, Country Jam, and quieter morning shows also were aired. Public affairs programs were also added and were now part of the new KBSU. The radio station became a strong cultural force and truly became Boise’s first community radio station. Staff departments were also created as Leggette brought in Carl Scheider as Program Director, Robb Campbell as Music Director ( Tim Johnstone took this position in 1985), Tracy Curry as News Director, Catherine Hart as Public Affairs Director, John Jansen and Jeff Caves as Sports Directors, Walter Fields as Production Manager and Jim Gonnoud as Operations Manager. It had finally become a real radio station and was gaining in popularity. In 1984, Leggette received the Boise State University Student of the Year award for her work at the station.
However financial support from the Associated Students of Boise State University’s board was dwindling so the staff formed the Friends of KBSU. This group was made up of listeners, and underwriters that financially supported the station in it’s time of need. On-air fund drives, as well as fundraising events supplemented the $28,000 allocated by the ASBSU annually and the station managed to remained funded. Also in 1982, KBSU was able to give communication department credit to students working at the station for the first time, under the direction of Communication Department Professor Laurel Traynowicz, which opened the door to working with and assistance in funding from a Boise State University Department.
In 1982 the station was preparing to move from its location on University Drive, where it had been since 1976, to the second floor of the Communication Building. Along with the move came a change of status from a student organization to university affiliation with the communication department. This meant that KBSU would receive funding from this department, rather than through the Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU). The station would also have an adviser from the communication department. This adviser, Dr. Lee Scanlon, announced that he had no intentions of removing the station from the students’ control (Replogole, 9/4/85, p. 5). He was later proved wrong.
John Keiser, then president of BSU, decided it was time to expand KBSU even farther. He asked Dr. Scanlon, KBSU adviser and Director of Broadcast Services, and Mercedes McCarter, Director of Development and Public Relations, to seek a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) (The University News, 10/30/85, p. 4). The CPB stipulated that stations must have at least five full-time professionals with three in programming and/or managerial positions to receive a grant. This idea was unsettling to the students who staffed the station. Their concern was that bringing in a professional staff would cause students to lose decision-making control of the station. According to Keiser, a partnership with CPB would benefit KBSU by increasing program quality and broadcast area and by allowing more students to work at the station while receiving professional-quality training. Students were also assured of their continued presence at the station when Keiser signed a contract that said student positions would be created to mirror every professional position (Kammann, 11/6/85, p. 1).
Throughout the next few months, the potential for affiliation with CPB progressed. Scanlon and McCarter filled two of the required professional positions and search was on to fill the remaining three positions. Students were continually assured that the presence of professional staff would not change the station’s alternative format and that students would still be involved. Regardless of these promises, Friends of KBSU (an organization supporting student-run radio) President Marla Leggette insisted the professional staff would be making policy and programming decisions and that music would be cut back. She stated, “KBSU as we know it today will not exist” (Lyon, 3/5/86, p. 1).
In June 1986, Dr. Jim Paluzzi was hired as the station’s general manager. With his hiring came some changes in the programming on KBSU. The station saw the introduction of various, non-musical programs that Paluzzi described as minor programming changes (Gould, 9/8/86, p. 1). This was a difficult time for many of the station’s staff members as the producers were used to having the freedom to play whatever they wanted with little regulation. Some of the employees did not respond well to this or the programming changes and decided to leave the station. Many of the employees who quit were angry and albums and equipment began to disappear from the station. One KBSU employee recalled Jerry Carter, an on-air personality, bolting himself in the room during the broadcast and speaking against changes being made. More than one producer resigned while on-air (Kammann, 1/26/87, p. 1). Debbie Finley who was manager after Leggette returned to producing her own show, had agreed to stay on as a DJ, also left the station. Paluzzi minimized the situation by stating that “some [of the employees] have been happy, and some have been upset” by the changes, but that 90 percent of the staff who were employed before implementation of new management remained at their jobs (Gould, 9/8/86, p. 1). However, 90 percent of the staff did not remain and Marla Leggette, was fired by Paluzzi for conflict of interest in her attempts to tell the truth.
Only three of the original staff remained at the station including Linda Laz, Arthur Balinger, and Victor Pacania who continued to produce their own musical shows. Laz , who retired after 30 years in 2010 gave her show to Marla Leggette, and Victor Pacania, who passed away, gave his show to Carl Scheider. Arthur Balinger remains today producing several eclectic music shows including Blues Deluxe, Edges, and Shakedown Street.
Throughout this transition period, students continued to become more upset about the changes to KBSU. Many condemned the changes arguing that the station did not play the progressive music that it had in the past and that too much airtime was dedicated to news. Students began to protest their student fees being allocated to a station that did not meet their needs. Bumper stickers that read, “I used to listen to KBSU” were gaining in popularity, as well as “KBSU- FM Worth Fighting For”. It was also during this time that KBSU was inspected for NPR affiliation and students began discussions of creating their own radio station (Cooley, 12/8/86, p. 5).
By 1988, KBSU had increased its broadcasting power from 2,000 to 19,000 watts and had become an NPR affiliate. Protesting by students gave way to proposals outlining station modifications. In the 1988 “Proposal for the Growth and Development of Students at KBSU,” Friends of College Radio asked for six hours of student managed programming per day and changes in the training and staffing of students (Arnold, 2/29/88, p. 1).
Eventually, students and the professional staff of KBSU found a balance in the programming schedule. KBSU continued to grow with the purchase of another FM station. However, in 1998, students once again started to demand more time to broadcast their programs on KBSU.
The Student Radio Now! campaign was launched by the Boise State Broadcasting Coalition (BSBC). The BSBC used budget reports, fundraisers, and faculty and student support to fight for their own FM radio station. BSBC argued that since Boise State Radio received part of their funding from student fees, there should be a portion of the station that was completely controlled by students. This point was argued by administration and management who said that the student producers were having trouble filling the twelve hours allotted to them each week. How would they be able to fill 24 hours a day, every day? In addition, the reliability of student producers was questioned as John Franden, executive assistant to the president, stated that student producers frequently did not have their programs submitted on time (Adams, 11/25/02).
After much negotiation, students were granted 12 hours a week on the AM station that would be heard in one block on Sundays. Their request for FM airtime was denied, but the management offered some suggestions such as the pending digital radio agreement that should give the AM 730 frequency clearer reception and a wider broadcast area. Management also suggested that students start their own online station. Finally, to combat the variable student interest in radio from year to year, the suggestion was made that a mass communication curriculum should be started in the communication department to insure there would be adequate student participation.
Recently, students have expressed a renewed interest in providing student-run radio programming to the campus community and beyond. Student support for radio was revitalized in February 2005 with the recognition of University Pulse, a student radio organization. University Pulse is in the process of setting up new offices and a recording studio while preparing to broadcast online 24 hours a day, every day. Currently, University Pulse produces various programs on AM 730 that can be heard Sundays from noon to midnight.
Despite the problems of the past, student radio has managed to survive and improve. Working together with KBSU, University Pulse provides student-produced programs to the Boise State University community. In addition to the programming produced by University Pulse, KBSU can be heard in Boise on 90.3 FM, NPR News 91 on 91.5 FM, and Idaho Jazz on AM 730. These same programs are aired on other frequencies in various Idaho cities and Jackpot, Nevada.
(Editor’s note: This paper on the history of Boise State Public Radio ended in 2005. We have added to the document to extend the history out for the stations from 2005 to 2010.)
The last five years have been quite busy for Boise State Public Radio. Jim Paluzzi station manager from 1986 to 2004 left the organization to take a job at Colorado Public Radio. He was replaced by John Hess who came from public station KUNI, a group of six public radio stations based in Cedar Falls, Iowa. During Hess’s first year a number of initiatives were started, they included; creation of a station wide integrated strategic plan, the consolidation of the news staff out of the state capitol and into office space at the station’s studios on the BSU campus, the hiring of BSPR’s first news director, the beginning of more local news on the stations’ air and the implementation of a quality control plan that reduced the number of on-air errors and incidences of “double audio” significantly.
These measures and many others helped to bolster listener confidence in the stations resulting in increases in the amount of people who used the service on a weekly basis. Over the past five years weekly cumulative audience numbers listening primarily to the Classical/Arts and News/ Information service have increased from 75,000 to 90,000 weekly listeners as of the spring 2010 (RRC April 2010).
The increase in listenership has bolstered listener confidence in the service, resulting in increased fundraising revenue to the stations, growing from $700,000 annually to over $1,200,000 in FY 2010. These trends in audience listening and fund raising have gone against a national trend for public radio stations of minor gains in audience and fundraising over the past half-decade.
The increase in annual fundraising revenue has translated into an increase in local programming from BSPR. The amount of local news broadcast daily has steadily increased with an average of 50 minutes of local news produced each week day, tripling the amount of local news that was produced in 2005. As news stories have increased, so have the awards and accolades given to the stations.
Over the past five years the BSPR news department has dominated the Idaho Press Clubs awards in the area of local news on the radio. In 2007, BSPR won its first regional award, the Edward R. Murrow award for excellence in radio journalism. In 2009, BSPR repeated that achievement with another Edward R. Murrow award.
Increased marketing and promotion of the stations continues to increase. In July of 2009 BSPR embarked on its first mass market advertising campaign in Canyon and Ada counties. This effort was followed up by another campaign that debuted in the fall of 2010 to favorable reviews. BSPR hired its first full time web developer in the spring 2009 and undertook a massive overhaul of its website. The new website was completed in June of 2009 and monthly visits from listeners who want to go more in-depth with BSPR news stories and programs have been increasing steadily.
Overall the future looks bright for Boise State Public Radio despite threats to federal funding and the growth of web based media. By focusing on the local experience via news and music programming, Boise State Public Radio continues to be viewed as a valuable community resource in Southwest and Central Idaho.
Adams, J. (2002, November 25). Students, radio managers debate student radio resolution. Arbiter. Retrieved July 22, 2005, from http://www.arbiteronline.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2002/11/25/3de1aa005b085?in_archive=1
Adams, J. (2002, December 9). Group meets to decide student radio future. Arbiter. Retrieved July 22, 2005 from http://www.arbiteronline.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2002/12/09/3df438a632eb5?in_archive=1
Arnold, L. (1988, February 29). Proposal outlines plans for station. The University News, pp. 1, 5, 10.
Barrett, G. (1984). Boise State University: Search for excellence, 1932-1984. Boise, ID: Boise State University.
Cooley, C. R. (1986, December 8). Panelists discuss future of KBSU, student involvement. The University News, p. 5.
Don’t Take Away KBSU. (1985, October 30). The University News, p. 4.
Gould, R. (1986, September 8). Major changes not planned for KBSU. The University News, p. 1.
Grange, N. J. (1957, November 19). KBJC goes into operation: Receiving area to include student union-dormitories. BJC Roundup, pp. 1, 3.
Kammann, K. (1985, November 6). KBSU disputed. The University News, p. 1.
Kammann, K. (1987, January 26). Shakeup continues at KBSU. The University News, pp. 1, 7.
Long-awaited KBSU radio to emerge this fall. (1976, September 7). Arbiter, p. 4.
Lyon, S. F. (1986, March 6). KBSU future brings affiliation. The University News, p. 1.
Minor, D. (1979, November 14). KBSU boosts power to 3000 watts. Arbiter, p. 4.
Outsen, D. (1976, March 22). BSU receives permit for FM station. Arbiter, pp. 1, 6.
Radio class presents show on station KIDO. (1949, October 28). BJC Roundup, p. 4.
Radio station to be set up on campus. (1957, October 8). BJC Roundup, p. 2.
Replogle, J. (1985, September 4). New home, manager for KBSU. The University News, p. 5.
RRC #’s (April, 2010) Radio Research Consortium, Inc 2010 Steele, B. (1950, May 26). Campus life aired by JC radio classes. BJC Roundup, p. 2.
Would-be disk jockeys step up. (1966, September 15). Boise College Roundup, p. 3.