KUT 90.5, Austin’s NPR station, and its sister station KUTX 98.9, the Austin Music Experience, strive to provide content that reflects the broad interests and tastes of Austin.
KUT and KUTX are leading sources for knowledge and ideas that enrich and sustain greater Austin’s unique sense of place, cultural identity, and position as a center of leadership. KUT and KUTX inform, inspire, and engage while becoming the most trusted source for news, information, and the Austin music experience.
Established in 1958, KUT is licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to The University of Texas at Austin and operates as a service of the University of Texas’ Moody College of Communication. The station is committed to supporting civic and cultural life in Central Texas through daily news coverage, high-quality documentary production, and exceptional music programming that reflects the Austin experience.
The actual start date of radio broadcasting at The University of Texas at Austin is uncertain, but the most reliable information indicates that the first radio license was issued to the University on March 22, 1921, and the call letters were 5XY, which existed primarily as a demonstration project for the physics department. A new license was issued in 1922 with the call lettersWCM, and on October 30, 1925 a new license was issued with the call letters KUT. Eventually, the expense of operating the station became too great for the physics department, and the University decided to discontinue the station in 1927. The catalyst for the rebirth of radio at the University was Robert F. Schenkkan, who came to the University in 1955. Schenkkan saw that obtaining funding was an obstacle and set the stage for a station that would be partially funded by the University and community. KUT-FM went on the air in 1958, broadcasting at 90.7FM with an old transmitter built in 1939 and 4,100 watts of power, a 268-foot antenna, and total signal radius of 15 miles.
KUT became a charter member of National Public Radio (NPR) in 1971, and carried the first-ever broadcast of All Things Considered in May of that year. KUT also contributed the first of, what would become in time, 14 of the station’s employees to the NPR staff. In 1979, KUT carried the November inaugural broadcast of Morning Edition, with Bob Edwards as host and, in doing so, helped to launch what has become one of the most important and honored public radio programs. In 1982, KUT began broadcasting in stereo at 90.5FM with 100,000 watts of power, a 1,595-foot antenna, and a total signal radius of 97 miles. In partnership with The University of Texas’ Center for Mexican American Studies, and with support from The Ford Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, KUT launched the national radio series Latino USA in 1993 at a reception in Washington, D.C., with President Clinton, cabinet secretaries Henry Cisneros and Federico Peña, and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus in attendance.
By the 1990s, KUT was consistently being recognized as “Best Radio Station” in The Austin Chronicle readers’ polls, and according to Arbitron research achieved a listenership of more than 100,000 each week.
Innovation After assembling a team of journalists led by veteran newswoman Emily Donahue, KUT launched Central Texas’ first full-time public radio news operation in 2002. The following year, the KUT Advisory Board was established by KUT Director Stewart Vanderwilt, Senator Ray Farabee, philanthropist Chris Mattsson, and the late civic and business leader Lowell H. Lebermann, Jr. to assist with long-term planning and funding projects. Get Involved, KUT’s community service program highlighting Central Texas non-profit organizations in need of volunteers, began broadcasting during the first week of each month in 2006. In the following year, KUT launched HD channel KUT2, an all-news and public affairs programming channel, and KUT3, a mostly jazz channel. Additionally, KUT, NPR, and 11 public radio stations launch an online music site, NPRmusic.org. In 2008, KUT launched an iPhone listening application designed to stream all three signals in HD, along with a fully functional mobile site. The University of Texas Board of Regents approved the design and construction of the Belo Center for New Media in 2009, including the new KUT Public Media Studios.1
Today, KUT is one of the best performing public radio stations in the country, and routinely has the largest per capita public radio listening audience among the top 200 cities in the nation., More than 250,000 people listen to KUT in Central Texas each week. The station has received more than 100 state, national, and international awards since 2002, including 25 regional and two national Edward R. Murrow awards, seven National Headliners awards, and 11 New York Festival awards. Among those are a 2009 Grand Award from the National Headliners Awards and a 2011 Grand Award at the New York Festivals.