KULT: UNI’s Alternative

Tucked away in a small office and audio booth in the lower level of the Maucker Union is KULT, the student-run, low-power FM station. Although the space is small, the sound is big, with students playing hip-hop, punk, and indie rock music that is seldom heard on commercial radio, along with some news and sports talk. It’s all true to the station’s motto: “No Commercials. No Repeats. UNI’s Alternative.”

The station is an independent student organization, but its links run deep with the Department of Communication Studies. A number of electronic media majors lead a staff of approximately 40 students, while the station is advised by communication studies professors, Ronnie Bankston and Joyce Chen. Professor, Francesca Soans and adjunct instructor, Pat Blank (of Iowa Public Radio) work on the board that oversees the station. On a recent afternoon, the deejay team of Kenzie Bloom, a public relations major and Linnea Griffith, a communication science and disorders major, filled the airwaves with alternative music and banter about their favorite movie villains. Bloom did an internship with a radio station last summer, which spurred her continuing interest in radio. This fall she asked her friend Griffith to join her for a radio show on KULT. Griffith is enjoying the experience. “It’s fun,” she said, “You get to push a lot of buttons.” KULT’s general manager, Bevan Lucas, a senior electronic media major who had radio experience before coming to UNI, wants students to be able to learn and grow. “I know some of our students won’t be the next Ryan Seacrest,” Lucas said, “However, KULT provides them real world experience and the opportunity to have fun while learning.”

Student broadcasting began at UNI in 1955, with the formation of a student radio station on the third floor of the Old Aud Building (now Lang Hall). The station was KYTC (Know Your Teachers College), and could only be heard on the campus of the then-Iowa State Teachers College. The programs included live dramas, concert music and news. The station changed campus locations several times, but in 1969 moved into the new Maucker Union. In 1974, KYTC became KCRS (Campus Radio Service), and by the early 1990s it had become KGRK (“The Gerk”), and was carried as audio on campus cable channel 5. In 1998, the station began web streaming, and in 2003, it flipped the switch on a new 100-watt low power FM signal that began transmitting from atop Schindler Hall to a several mile radius. Today, the station can be heard online at www.uni.edu/kult, and at 94.5 FM.