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UT News

KUT Radio Celebrates 50 Years of Music and News

KUT Radio 90.5 FM, listener-supported news and music from Central Texas, begins a year-long 50th anniversary celebration on Aug. 21.

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KUT Radio 90.5 FM, listener-supported news and music from Central Texas, begins a year-long 50th anniversary celebration on Aug. 21.

Since receiving the call sign of KUT from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Aug. 21, 1958, KUT Radio has nurtured and shared the most authentic and remarkable voices of the community–and the world–through local and national news, and through innovative and authentic music that is picked for qualities of substance and integrity. Today, KUT is one of the top public media institutions in the country, reaching 500,000 people each week through traditional radio, two HD Radio channels, the Internet, podcasts and mobile devices.

“The founding vision for KUT–to extend to the public airwaves the thoughtful deliberation and exploration of civic and cultural issues on a daily basis–remains relevant, and possibly even more critical, today,” said Stewart Vanderwilt, director and general manager of KUT.

Anniversary events are planned throughout the next year, including: KUT Live with Patty Griffin (Aug. 22); two live broadcasts of “BBC–World Have Your Say” (Nov. 20-21); a 50th anniversary gala at the Four Season Hotel (Feb. 28, 2009); a live taping of the popular events game show “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” (May 28, 2009); and a line-up of soon-to-be-announced musical performers at the Bass Concert Hall (Sept. 3, 2009).

From the beginning, KUT has striven to be an integral part of the community it serves and relies upon for 86 percent of its operating budget.

Robert Schenkkan, a professor in the Department of Radio-TV-Film at The University of Texas at Austin, led the effort to establish a full-power FM station that would become KUT. Upon receiving its license, which is operated by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas, KUT made its debut broadcast with “The Eyes of Texas” in November.

After broadcasting a mostly classical format for seven years, KUT diversified its programming to incorporate more arts and civic information. In 1970, John Aielli’s morning program evolved into “Eklektikos,” which continues to have a loyal fan base. The following year, KUT became a charter member of National Public Radio (NPR) and was one of the first public radio stations to carry NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

In 1993, in collaboration with the university’s Center for Mexican American Studies, KUT introduced Latino USA, the premier English-language public radio newsmagazine covering Latino news and culture, which is broadcast on 130 NPR member stations and 40 community radio stations across the country.

With the goal of rounding out its news programming with the kind of local coverage listeners would expect from NPR, KUT started a news department in 2002. Since then, KUT News has broadened its daily local news programming to produce special feature series and documentaries, which are regularly broadcast nationwide. KUT News is now the largest public radio news operation in Texas and has earned more than 50 state, national and international awards, including 12 Edward R. Murrow awards for journalistic excellence.

KUT is also known nationally for its diverse music programs and its efforts to play artists of importance to Central Texas while introducing national acts that might not get airplay on commercial stations. This is achieved through programs on traditional radio, such as “Eklektikos” with John Aielli, “Music” with Jay Trachtenberg, “Left of the Dial” and the many projects of KUT’s “Texas Music Matters,” and through podcasts, blogs and the Internet with programs, including “Radio Without Borders,” “KUT Song of the Day,” “Aielli Unleashed” and a video project, “Retread Sessions.”

More information about KUT’s 50th anniversary events, along with a timeline of KUT’s history and historical photographs, is available online at KUT Radio.