A few weeks after KNTU-FM began broadcasting from campus in 1969, staff members were fielding calls from local residents who complained about receiving KNTU audio instead of TV audio on four channels. The problem was solved after the staff members kept a list of names and addresses of the 30 people who complained, and provided them each with a certain length of cable to filter out KNTU's audio from their televisions.
The audio interference from KNTU, which was reported in the Denton Record-Chronicle, turned out to be a plus, since the newspaper story raised awareness of KNTU, and the radio station began gaining an audience. KNTU, 88.1, became the only station in the Dallas-Fort Worth area featuring classical jazz, and eventually the strongest university station in the area, with 100,000 watts.
KNTU’s founders, past and present station managers, former and current student staff members, and devoted listeners will gather for a 40th anniversary celebration Nov. 6. The evening begins at 6 p.m. in the ballroom of UNT's Gateway Center. Hors d’oevures will be served, and UNT's acclaimed One O'Clock Lab Band will perform beginning at 8 p.m.
Tickets cost $30 per person and must be reserved by 5 p.m. Oct. 30. To reserve tickets, call Russ Campbell, current KNTU general manager, at 940-565-2554.
KNTU's launch on Nov. 3, 1969, came after 18 months of negotiation for a Federal Communications Commission license. Ted Colson, then the head of the radio, television and film division in the Department of Speech and Drama, filed all of the paperwork, which became a 3-inch-thick stack. Bill Mercer, who had been recruited to the university to become the campus radio station's first general manager, discovered that the preferred call letters, K-N-T-U, had been assigned to a Coast Guard cutter that had been decommissioned. He received permission to use the letters from the ship's admiral.
Colson, Mercer and Reginald Holland, the chair of the Department of Speech and Drama in 1969, will be among those recognized during KNTU’s 40th anniversary celebration. Campbell says that during the past 40 years, the station has had six general managers, which, along with station engineers, were the only full-time positions until the program/operations manager position was added in 2000.
KNTU was first on the air from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and had a staff of 20 to 25 student volunteers, who brought their own albums to play on the air. Initially 450 watts, the station boosted its power to 6,700 watts in 1981, allowing it to be heard outside of Denton in many other cities. In 1988, it became a 100,000 watt station.
Today, KNTU is on the air 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Its staff includes 50 to 75 paid and volunteer student workers. The students have most of the responsibility for KNTU's day-to-day programming, including newscasts and sports broadcasts. Many KNTU student workers became successful broadcast and music professionals in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The station still plays classic jazz for more than 23 hours Monday through Friday, and also has blocks of jazz on Saturdays and Sundays. KNTU also offers a two-hour request show of songs from any music genre; a six-hour show of Tejano music; a four-hour alternative classical music program; a three-hour show combining varieties of jazz with alternative, blues, ethnic and folk music; and a two-hour show of current and classic rock.
Nancy Kolsti with UNT News Service can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.