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City East Lansing, Michigan
Broadcast area Lansing, Michigan
Branding NewsTalk 870
Frequency 870 kHz
Translator(s) W286DC (105.1 MHz, East Lansing)
First air date May 13, 1922 (experimental 1917–22)
Format News/Talk
Power 10,000 watts day only
Class D
Facility ID 41684
Transmitter coordinates 42°42′19″N 84°28′30″W / 42.70528°N 84.47500°W / 42.70528; -84.47500
Callsign meaning Were assigned randomly and do not relate to MSU's original name (Michigan Agricultural College)
Affiliations NPR
Owner Michigan State University
Sister stations WKAR-TV, WKAR-FM
Webcast Listen Live
Website wkar.org

WKAR is a National Public Radio member station in East Lansing, Michigan, United States; broadcasting at 870 kHz. It is owned by Michigan State University, and carries news and talk shows from NPR. The station has also been licensed to operate a FM Translator at 105.1 MHz (W286DC).[1] 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'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 is the oldest surviving radio station in the Lansing area. The first station was WREO which went on the air in 1921 and shut down in 1927.[2][3] It was one of a number of AM stations signed on by universities (mostly land-grant institutions like MAC) in the early days of radio.

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. It moved to its current home on 870 in 1941 as part of the massive frequency shift enacted by the North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement.[4] Between 1939-1941 WKAR boosted power from 1,000 to 5,000 watts. The station expanded 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 in New Orleans, though W286DC is allowed to operate 24/7 as an FM translator.[5] The majority of its schedule consists of NPR national programming, and the BBC World Service. 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 Español hosted by Tony "El Chayo" Cervantes on weekends.

HD signal[edit]

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. This feed originally simulcasted on the translator at FM 94.5 before moving to FM 105.1 in March 2018. It is also streamed via the station's website.[6] As a result, most of the Lansing area now has access to a locally-focused NPR news station in one form or another. Before 2010, Michigan Radio flagship WUOM in Ann Arbor was the only source of 24-hour NPR news programming for Lansing; its signal easily covers most of the Lansing area.

As of May 2018 WKAR-FM is no longer broadcasting in HD, but WKAR-AM programming continues 24/7 on 105.1 FM.

Analog signal[edit]

Its 10,000-watt signal reaches as far east as Flint and Ann Arbor, and as far west as Grand Rapids.[7][8]


  1. ^ http://radio-locator.com/cgi-bin/finder?call=W286DC&x=0&y=0&sr=Y&s=C
  2. ^ http://www.michmarkers.com/startup.asp?startpage=S0652.htm
  3. ^ https://www.flickr.com/photos/lugnut215/26089732252/
  4. ^ 1938 Broadcasting Yearbook lists WKAR as operating on 1040. However Radio Annual for 1936-1941 says 850 moving to 870 in the 1941 frequency shift
  5. ^ "Long-distance listening: Norwegians pick up WKAR over-air signal". Michigan State University. November 18, 2008. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  6. ^ http://hdradio.com/station_guides/widget.php?id=75 HD Radio Guide for Lansing-East Lansing, Michigan
  7. ^ "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."
  8. ^ "Predicted daytime coverage area for WKAR 870 AM, East Lansing, MI". radio-locator.com. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 

External links[edit]