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KOPN logo.jpg
CityColumbia, Missouri
Broadcast areaColumbia, Missouri area
BrandingCommunity Radio
SloganIt's not just radio, it's community radio.
Frequency89.5 MHz
First air dateMarch 3, 1973[1]
ERP36,000 watts
HAAT72.0 meters
Facility ID48674
Transmitter coordinates38°59′53.00″N 92°11′48.00″W / 38.9980556°N 92.1966667°W / 38.9980556; -92.1966667
AffiliationsNational Public Radio, Public Radio International
OwnerNew Wave Corporation

KOPN (89.5 FM) is a non-profit community radio station in Columbia, Missouri, United States, which from its start was modeled on the progressive format of KPFA in Berkley, California. The station relies heavily on volunteers for programming and also carries programming from National Public Radio, Public Radio International, and Pacifica radio network.[2]

The station went on the air in 1973, becoming the eighth open-access, listener-supported station in the U.S. and the first to serve an audience of less than 100,000 people.[3]


The station traces its roots to a November 1971 meeting at The Issue, an alternative newspaper in Columbia. They picked the call sign KOPN to commemorate its openness to all. Patricia Mae Watkins and her life partner David Taylor were listed as the driving forces behind the founding.[4][3] Steve Dreher was named the station's first manager.[3]

The station went on the air as 10–watt station on March 3, 1973. It broadcast a monaural signal and operated out of a space from a food cooperative on the second floor of 915 East Broadway (it still broadcasts from the address even as the food cooperative left the building). In its first 2 months it had $340.81 in cash and $200 in subscriptions.[3] It broadcast from atop the newly opened 15-story Paquin Tower adjoining the University of Missouri campus and Columbia's second tallest building (after Jesse Hall).[5]

In the planning stages the radio received assistance from KPFA personnel Jeremy Lansman and Lorenzo Milam who had started similarly formatted KDNA in St. Louis. KDNA had already financial failed by the time KOPN went on the air. KOPN acquired the KDNA transmitter and in 1974 began broadcasting at 40,000 watts and moved its frequency from 89.7 to 89.5.[3]

From nearly the start the station has hosted locally produced radio plays. In 1979 it began hosting the Midwest Radio Theatre Workshop

In 1979 the station sought to start a public television in Columbia. It initially got a license to re-broadcast the public television station signal from Kansas City, KCPT, via a Broadcast relay station. Its signal only reached an 11–mile radius from its tower. When it abandoned it the station, K56AU became a repeater for the Trinity Broadcast Network.[6] The University of Missouri station KOMU is a commercial station and not a public television station.

In 1980 the power was reduced to its present 36,000 watts after an assistant professor at the University of Missouri campus which was next to the tower requested the change after he claimed the power was affecting his cancer research.[7]

While most of the station's offerings in the 1970s tended to be leftist/progressive, it was one of only two stations in Missouri to carry the conservative 5 minute daily program "This is Liberty Lobby" which concluded with an invitation to get the group's "America First" publication.[8]

In February 1981 the station received extensive publicity after escapees from the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri called the station's Zebra Sunrise show aimed at inmates to complain about prison conditions.[9]

In a wink to its leftist history the station on April Fools' Day in 1981 joked that it would cancel "Zebra Sunrise" which had been deemed moral trash by the Moral Majority and station would begin producing anti-Communist programs, have a 50 percent increase in religious programming and offer Paul Harvey, Phyllis Schlafly, William Buckley and Jerry Falwell as commentators and that "Liberty Lobby will be aired morning, noon and night."[3]

In 1996 the station became associated with National Public Radio. While this brought some federal grants to the station it also put it in direct competition with the University of Missouri-owned NPR radio station KBIA (which is just four blocks from KOPN) for the same subscribers and division of federal grants.[10] The NPR affiliation also meant increased costs for membership. At the time KBIA did not broadcast the entire NPR offering particularly talk shows as KBIA broadcast classical music instead. This led to an initial scheduling battle as KBIA increased its talk time.[11].

The station has gone through economic issues including in 1984, 1991 (when it almost lost its lease), and in 1994 (when it lost its bingo fundraiser). In 2017-2018 it went through another crisis because of proposed cuts in federal grants to public broadcasting entities, particularly its main grant source from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.[12] Estimates in the small market of Columbia is that it has "2,000-3,000 listeners per week and roughly 800 listener-sponsors"[11] In 2018 its budget was $200,000. For a time, KOPN loaned its online store sales to women in developing nations, working with Kiva (organization) which specializes in funding loans to entrepreneurs in the developing world (this was seen as a way to support others in need, with no actual cost to the station).[13]

Records and audio recordings of its programs from its founding through 1999 are now housed at the State Historical Society of Missouri in St. Louis.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Our History". kopn.org. KOPN. Retrieved February 15, 2019.
  2. ^ "KOPN Facility Record". United States Federal Communications Commission, audio division.
  3. ^ a b c d e f http://www.kopn.org/about/history/
  4. ^ http://www.kopn.org/media/KOPN_graphics/PDFs/OpenMicFall07.pdf
  5. ^ https://emporis.de/city/102667/columbia-mo-usa/status/all-buildings/1
  6. ^ http://kcradio.tripod.com/895col.html
  7. ^ https://www.newspapers.com/clip/17825425/kopn_power_19800504_p27/
  8. ^ "Liberty Lobby 1974-07-17 p19". 17 July 1974. p. 19. Retrieved 26 February 2018 – via newspapers.com.
  9. ^ "17 Feb 1981, Page 3 - St. Louis Post-Dispatch at Newspapers.com". Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  10. ^ "Stations battling over PBS: Columbia's KOPN and KBIA are duplicating each other. - Free Online Library". www.thefreelibrary.com. Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  11. ^ a b "KOPN Hangs in There: Small Community Station Struggles to Survive in Mid-Missouri". www.johntarleton.net. July 2001. Retrieved February 26, 2018.
  12. ^ Keller, Rudi. "KOPN facing 'serious' financial woes". Retrieved 26 February 2018.
  13. ^ https://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/local/spence-seeks-to-build-on-kopn-s--year-history/article_ab9518fe-110c-11e8-90ab-37af71ecc7db.html
  14. ^ https://shsmo.org/manuscripts/columbia/ca5984.pdf

External links[edit]