KUT expansion to make waves with new station

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Jay Trachtenberg, afternoon music host at KUT, plays music on the air in the Belo Center for New Media studio Wednesday. Trachtenberg will be moving over to the new music station, 98.9 KUTX.

Photo Credit: Marisa Vasquez | Daily Texan Staff

On-campus radio station KUT may soon be able to boast two frequencies and say it has a station dedicated solely to news. Should someone want tunes, he or she had better change to KUT’s music channel.

The UT System submitted filings with the Federal Communications Commission, the government entity in charge of regulating radio and television, earlier this week to request permission to purchase Austin oldies station 98.9 KXBT. UT is expecting a final decision by late November.

Hawk Mendenhall, associate general manager for KUT-FM, a National Public Radio affiliate, said the new station will bring ample opportunity to the UT and greater Austin communities by expanding local coverage of both news and music content, providing more airtime for University academics to share their work and creating additional internship opportunities for students.

The UT System Board of Regents approved KUT’s $6 million purchase at its meeting last week. The purchase will be funded by $2 million in donations and a $4 million loan from UT to be repaid over the course of 10 years. If KUT falls more than four months behind on its payments, UT will sell the station’s license.

Mendenhall said the public will have the opportunity to voice opinions on the purchase, and the FCC will consider all information before making a final decision. He said he expects the purchase to be approved and completed by November.

“We think we have a very strong case on this,” he said.

KUT spokesperson Erin Geisler said she expects the number of available internships at the station to double to nearly 110 positions per year.

Mendenhall said the current KUT will switch from a combined music and news format to an all-news format by adding more localized content.

The new station will then adopt an all-music format by taking the music content currently being run on KUT and adding more localized coverage.

Mendenhall said every state capital in a major radio market other than Austin and Atlanta, Ga., has a full-time news radio station.

“Basically, there’s a lot going on in Texas,” he said. “It’s arguably the most important state capital in the country right now, so it deserves full-time coverage.”

Robert Ascott, UT chemical engineering graduate student and avid KUT-FM listener, said he is thrilled about the possible new station.

“If we claim to be the live music capital of world, having that expanded music coverage for Austin would be very good,” he said.

Ascott said he also likes the idea of being able to choose between KUT’s quality music and news coverage depending on what mood he is in.

“I enjoy their news, and I listen to it whenever I can,” he said. “At the same time, being able to switch off and listen to a broader music venue is likely going to be a plus to myself and the broader community.”

The KUT station recently moved into the newly constructed Belo Center for New Media.

Mendenhall said since KUT’s move to the new building last month, he has seen an increased desire for student involvement with the station because of its more prominent location. The station was formerly located in the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center.

“It’s great to be in a new building and have all this energy around,” he said. “It’s great to have a lot of students coming in and asking how they can help, how they can get involved. You know, people are really buzzing about the opportunity to be involved, particularly when they are walking right past it.”