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WKSU-FM logo (new).png
City of license Kent, Ohio
Broadcast area Akron metro area
Branding 89.7 WKSU
Slogan NPR. Classical. Other smart stuff.
Frequency 89.7 MHz
(also on HD Radio)
Translator(s) DW204AJ/Wooster 88.7 MHz
W239AZ/Ashland 95.7 MHz
Repeaters WKSV/Thompson 89.1 MHz
WKRW/Wooster 89.3 MHz
WNRK/Norwalk 90.7 MHz(also on HD Radio)[1]
WKRJ/New Philadelphia 91.5 MHz
First air date October 2, 1950
Format Public radio/classical (Analog/HD1)
Folk music (HD2)
Classical (HD3)
News (HD4)
ERP 12,000 watts
HAAT 277 meters
Class B
Facility ID 1418230
Transmitter coordinates 41°04′58.00″N 81°38′2.00″W / 41.0827778°N 81.6338889°W / 41.0827778; -81.6338889
Callsign meaning W "Kent State University" –FM
Affiliations American Public Media
Public Radio International
Owner Kent State University
(Kent State University)
Webcast Listen Live
Website wksu.org

WKSU-FM (89.7 FM) – branded 89.7 WKSU – is a non-commercial educational radio station licensed to Kent, Ohio, primarily serving the Akron metro area. WKSU-FM also reaches much of Greater Cleveland, and extends its signal throughout Northeast Ohio by using two translators and four full-power repeaters. Owned by Kent State University, WKSU-FM broadcasts a mix of public radio and classical music, and serves as the local affiliate for NPR, American Public Media, and Public Radio International. Besides a standard analog transmission, WKSU-FM broadcasts over four HD Radio channels, and is available online. The WKSU-FM studios are located on the campus of Kent State, while station transmitter is located in Copley.


The origins of WKSU-FM started in 1941 with the Kent State University Radio Workshop, which presented 40 different programs over several local commercial stations. In 1949, The Kent State University Board of Trustees began to take notice of the station’s modest broadcasts, and soon gave KSU President George Bowman the go-ahead to apply for a 10-watt educational station. In April 1950, the FCC gave the station permission to build a small transmitter attached to the roof of Kent Hall, and on October 2, 1950, WKSU-FM was born. The signal was transmitted only within the confines of the campus. By November of that year, WKSU-FM was broadcasting five hours a day, five days a week.

The 1960s brought about slow but steady growth for the fledgling station. The station’s music library was built up from private collections and the collections of its student employees, and its airtime expanded to 40 hours a week. WKSU-FM began to produce reports covering everything from election returns to football games.

The tragedy of the Kent State shootings on May 4, 1970 was an opportunity for WKSU-FM to prove it was a vital part of the University.

By 1973, according to a former general manager, WKSU-FM had only 7,500 watts of power, and was not yet broadcasting in stereo. The station was only on the air for 85 hours a week, and programming was created by students, and scheduled around their class and vacation times. The entire operating budget was $42,000, reaching an audience of about 1,200 listeners. The station had a full-time staff of three.[2]

The remainder of the decade saw changes for WKSU. The station began transitioning from a student to professional staff, thus the need for the station’s first fund drive. The drive raised $5,000. In April 1974, the station became a member of the then three-year-old National Public Radio. For the better part of a decade, it doubled as Cleveland's NPR station as well until WCPN signed on in 1984. Although WKSU-FM operates at relatively modest power for a full NPR member, its 908-foot tower allows it to provide at least grade B coverage to most of Greater Cleveland to the north, with Cleveland itself getting a city-grade signal.[3][4] It currently operates a newsroom in Cleveland.

On January 22, 1980, the station reached a milestone when it linked up with the satellite Westar 1. This not only greatly improved WKSU-FM's signal, but also allowed it to record NPR programs. This triggered a period of growth that still continues today. In July 1980, the station expanded its signal to reach over a million potential listeners in Northeast Ohio thanks to a grant from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration increasing its power to 12,000 watts.

Shortly after, the station bought a remote truck, enabling it to record more than 1,000 programs in Summit, Stark, Portage, Cuyahoga, Wayne and Trumbull counties. The station’s web site was launched in 1994, and began offering on-demand streaming starting in 1995. The station added its third repeater tower in 1997, broadcasting in Thompson from WKSV 89.1.

The past 10 years have seen rapid technological advances for the station, including three different live streams from WKSU.org. The station now broadcasts from its Kent location and via its four repeater towers and two translator stations.

Current programming[edit]

HD Broadcasting[edit]

WKSU broadcasts over four HD Radio channels:[5]

  • HD1 simulcasts the analog feed;
  • HD2 airs folk music;
  • HD3 broadcasts classical music exclusively; and
  • HD4 airs an extended schedule of news and talk programming from NPR and the BBC World Service. All three subchannels also stream live on the Internet.


WKSU-FM also extends its signal via full-power satellites WKSV/Thompson (89.1 FM), WKRW/Wooster (89.3 FM), WNRK/Norwalk (90.7 FM), and WKRJ/New Philadelphia (91.5 FM), as well as low-power translators DW204AJ/Wooster (88.7 FM), W239AZ/Ashland (95.7 FM), All four of the station's full-power repeaters also broadcast in HD Radio.[6]

Station facilities[edit]

WKSU-FM studios on Loop Road in Kent

WKSU operates out of a broadcast facility at the northeast corner of Loop Road and Summit Street on the Kent State campus. The facility was built in 1992, and brought together production and administrative offices for the first time in 18 years. The building cost $2.1 million and was funded entirely from private sources.

The station's offices were located everywhere from the cramped confines of Kent Hall to a restaurant on State Route 59 before moving to its present facility. WKSU also had its offices in Wright Hall, part of the Tri-Towers residence complex at the university. Around 1977, six floors of the residential building were turned into office space. In 1987, they were converted back to dormitories and WKSU had to move to another campus building.[7]

WKSU's maintains news bureaus in Cleveland and Canton. WKSU-FM has established a news bureau in downtown Akron, sharing space with public television station WNEO/WEAO 45/49 (of which Kent State is part-owner), and Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC.[8]

Kent State Folk Festival[edit]

The Kent State Folk Festival is the second oldest continuously produced folk festival on a college campus. Started in the 1960s by a group of Kent State students, the festival continues to preserve folk and heritage music through concerts, workshops and educational programs. Since 2000, WKSU-FM has produced the Kent State Folk Festival, after more than 30 years of production by student campus organizations.

The Kent State Festival typically features several performances by both legendary and up-and-coming folk artists. Recent performers include Bob Dylan, Donavan, Avett Brothers, Judy Collins and Arlo Guthrie. The festival also includes a segment entitled "'Round Town" with dozens of folk musicians simultaneously performing in dozens of venues throughout Kent.

The Kent State Folk Festival will celebrate its 45th year in 2011. Featured artists will include Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary fame as well as the Grammy Award-winning trio Carolina Chocolate Drops.

Folk Alley[edit]

FolkAlley.com offers live streaming folk music 24 hours a day and is produced by WKSU. Created in September 2003, Folk Alley's web site is built and produced by the station. The Folk Alley playlist is created by senior host, Jim Blum and Folk Alley Music Director Linda Fahey. Folk Alley features singer/songwriter, Celtic, acoustic, Americana, traditional, and world sounds.

Since July 10, 2008, Folk Alley's programming stream has been aired as a subchannel on WKSU's HD Radio over-air feed. Folk Alley currently has more than 105,000 registered listeners.

Folk Alley features Open Mic, a place for developing and under-exposed singers, songwriters and musicians to post their music to share with Folk Alley listeners. Folk Alley's Open Mic opens the stage to up-and-coming artists - presenting new music to thousands of folk music lovers. Musicians are encouraged to choose their best work and upload it on the Folk Alley Open Mic website (www.folkalley.com/openmic/). All songs must be original works or a traditional song that is part of the public domain.

University of Pennsylvania radio station WXPN has streamed the Folk Alley feed on its website since 2007.[9] WXPN personality Gene Shay also serves as one of Folk Alley's on-air hosts.


External links[edit]