Granted an FCC license in 1976, KRTU initially offered a mixture of rock, jazz, Dixieland, country, and classical music
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A student broadcasts on KRTU

Students are the backbone of Trinity’s own radio station.

There were no cellphones in January 1976, when KRTU first aired for one hour before abruptly going silent to avoid breaking FCC laws. Ron Zimmerman, the first news director for the fledgling radio station, had to pull over and find a phone booth to work things out with the FCC and the chair of Trinity’s journalism department. Since overcoming this short hiccup, KRTU has been keeping the San Antonio music scene strong for forty years.

After a long fight for funding, narrowly avoiding the federal government was the least of KRTU’s worries. Back when KRTU was just an idea, Emilio Nicolas, director of the Student Activity Board, organized benefit events for months to raise interest and money. Student groups raised more than $7,000 altogether to pay for construction of the new station. Local businessman Bernard Waterman donated $17,000, as well as equipment and legal aid, to help get KRTU off the ground and on the air.

Collage of vintage photos of KRTU studio and students broadcasting inside of it

Initially sending out an eclectic mixture of rock, jazz, country, and classical at a low-level 50-watt signal, KRTU has since tightened its focus on jazz and acquired a newer 3000-watt transmitter and can be heard across the city. The programming schedule in the 1970s also included weekly talk shows and a one-hour show called “Studio-B” that featured live music from the Richardson Communications Center studios. Devoting special attention to local music, KRTU now also plays indie overnight from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Although different genres have come and gone, KRTU has kept the spirit of  “unusual radio,” as the first station manager Don White put it.

KRTU prides itself on its independence. Unlike most other college radio stations, KRTU is deeply rooted in the local community. The station maintains partnerships with local museums to host events, such as the weekly “Jazz at the Witte.” The station is almost entirely run by students, and its endless improvement is almost entirely fueled by its listeners.

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