WKAR is a National Public Radio member station in East Lansing, Michigan; broadcasting at 870kHz. It is owned by Michigan State University, and carries news and talk shows from NPR. It is part of MSU's Broadcasting Services Division, and is a sister station to the FM radio and television stations with the same call letters. Its studios and offices are located in the Communication Arts and Sciences Building, at the southeast corner of Wilson and Red Cedar Roads on the MSU campus.
The station dates to experimental broadcasts at Michigan State, then known as Michigan Agricultural College, beginning in 1917. WKAR-AM's first official broadcast was a "Founder's Day" speech on May 13, 1922. MAC was granted a full license on August 18, 1922. Although the call letters appear to stand for K(C)ollege of AgricultuRe, they were actually randomly assigned by Herbert Hoover, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce (which was the sole radio licensing authority). It was the only radio station in the Lansing area until 1934.
Originally broadcasting at AM 1050, it moved to 1080 in 1928. It moved to 1040 in 1930 to alleviate interference with KRLD in Dallas, but had to move to 850 in 1936 and to its current home on 870 in 1941 Between 1939-1941 WKAR boosted power from 1,000 to 5,000 watts. The station went to its current 10,000 watts in the late 1960s. The WKAR stations were charter members of NPR, and were among the 90 stations that carried the initial broadcast of All Things Considered.
The station is one of the few NPR stations that does not operate 24 hours a day. It must sign off at sundown to protect WWL-AM in New Orleans. During the winter months, it generally signs off between 5 pm and 6 pm, returning to the air at 8 am. During the summer months, it generally signs off at 8 pm and returns to the air at 6 am. The majority of its schedule consists of NPR national programming. Local programs include the daily news/arts magazine "Current State", the daily sports talk/call-in "Current Sports" and the long-running Spanish-language "Ondas en Espanol" hosted by Tony "El Chayo" Cervantes on weekends.
Since 2010, WKAR's programming has been simulcast on WKAR-FM's HD subcarrier during the AM station's hours of operation. Originally on the FM station's second channel (HD2), it moved to a new third channel (HD3) in 2012. The NPR news and talk format continues after the AM signoff, providing a 24/7 NPR service to the Lansing area. This feed is also streamed via the station's website.
^"Michigan". Public Radio Coverage 2004. National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Retrieved February 24, 2012. "WKAR(AM) 870 kHz signal covers about half the Lower Peninsula operating at 10 kW daytime only."