A Big Change Is Coming To Ktuh

Beyond-the-groove-RadioI overheard recently that KTUH — Hawaii’s beloved college radio station that’s been broadcasting live 24/7 from the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus since 1969 — is switching frequencies soon to 90.1 FM.

Gone will be the days when we tune into 90.3 FM to catch “Hawaii’s Only Alternative” (an old KTUH motto that it abandoned after Star 101.9 FM branded itself as “Hawaii’s New Music Alternative”). For the student-run college station, the “alternative” means providing the community with programming that’s noncommercial, different, offbeat, peculiar or uncommon.

Here’s how the decision switch happened: In March 2015, KTUH came to an agreement with Hawaii Public Radio to install a transmitter and antenna on HPR’s broadcasting site located at Tantalus. HPR has existed at this site since 2007, when the state Board of Land and Natural Resources granted the public radio station a 30-year lease to use the land as a broadcasting site.

This would make KTUH one of the strongest radio stations in Hawaii — rare for a college station anywhere in the country. It means that instead of hosting three different frequencies throughout Oahu (“90.3 in town, 89.9 on the Windward side and 91.1 on the North Shore” — which leaves a lot of DJs out of breath having to repeat it at the top of every hour), KTUH will broadcast islandwide from one new frequency: 90.1FM.

Request for approval from the DLNR to allow KTUH to co-lease with HPR was submitted in mid-July and, as far as I can tell, is well underway:

In September, KTUH publicly tweeted: “Surprise surprise!! KTUH FM will soon be shifting over to 90.1FM islandwide! We will still always be the station that loves you, but KTUH needs a new logo with a new frequency. We are reaching out to you for help designing a fresh logo!”

That’s great news! But … I’m concerned that the station’s listeners aren’t aware of the big change ahead.

Me? I heard it through the grapevine. I didn’t hear any notices on air. That September tweet is the only public mention I could find online (and it was more of a call for logo submissions than an official announcement of the frequency switch). The KTUH website doesn’t make any mention of the upcoming change either.

KTUH is Hawaii’s first and longest-running non-commercial FM station, broadcasting 24 hours a day with a real, live DJ in the booth, never switching to prerecorded programming — a feat that requires serious dedication from its staff of mostly student volunteers.

Playing Nelly’s Hot In Herre for three days straight (Google it) would be an extreme publicity stunt to announce a big switch at the station (and probably would repulse all of KTUH’s loyal followers). But by the looks of it, not many know a change is coming; a legion of listeners could feel hopelessly lost once 90.3 goes quiet.

Which goes to say, now that midterms have passed, KTUH must work hard to get the word out that “The Only Station That Loves You” will soon be loving you as it always has, only it’ll be across the air-waves at 90.1FM.

Stay tuned for more info from KTUH at ktuh.org.