POCATELLO — KISU FM is celebrating its 20th anniversary this month.
The traditional public radio station began broadcasting on 91.1 FM on June 4, 1999.
Jerry Miller has served at the helm of the radio station almost from the beginning.
He had many things he wanted to do with the infant station, but was told early on that he was going to have to take baby steps to get there.
“That’s exactly what it’s taken over 20 years. Considering how we had to grow the budget so slowly, the strides we’ve made (have been) very significant,” Miller said.
KISU FM started after a group of community members and Idaho State University students and faculty started discussing the idea of bringing traditional public radio back to ISU in the mid 1990s, according to a news release.
“The idea gained momentum and ISU students eventually voted to fund a station with student fees,” the news release states.
At that time, the station only had 400 watts of transmitting power, and it was difficult for people to get a good signal even in Pocatello. But officials say two factors helped the station early on.
The first was the success of the 2000-2001 women’s basketball team at ISU.
“It was the first year KISU aired women’s athletics, and the Bengals responded by going 25-5, going undefeated in Big Sky Conference play, including the post-season tournament, and going to Nashville for a first-round NCAA Tournament matchup against Vanderbilt,” according to the news release.
“ISU’s 21-game win streak that year had fans, old and new, tuning their radios to 91.1 to hear the Bengal’s latest exploits.”
Officials say the second factor, tragically, came on September 11, 2001, when hijacked commercial airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
“East Idahoans were ravenous for news following the attacks, and KISU FM’s daily news format from National Public Radio (NPR) drew thousands more to 91.1 FM, listening at work, at home and as they traveled about in their cars,” the news release states.
The radio station’s reach has continued to grow over the years. In April of 2008, KISU FM expanded its signal from 400 watts to more than 4,000 and added translator K217EJ at 91.3 in Idaho Falls. Four years later, it added translator K201IG in Rexburg at 88.1 FM. Officials say the station is now available to nearly a quarter of a million people in the upper and lower Snake River valley.
Miller says less than one-third of the station is now funded by student fees. They get more than two-thirds from listeners, underwriting dollars and grant money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
“While still airing many traditional public radio news and information programs like NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and World News Overnight from the BBC, KISU also focuses on local news and public affairs programs,” the news release states. “The station regularly records and broadcasts forums of the Idaho Falls City Club and Alturas Institute, along with issue programming from the ISU campus, as well as numerous locally-produced music programs. KISU can also be found online at www.kisu.org, Your Ear to the World.”
Miller says they plan to host a birthday celebration for the station from 1 to 4 p.m. on June 24 at the ISU Pond Student Union Building’s Quad Lounge.