KYUK Radio turns 40

by Mike Martz on May 12, 2011

KYUK Radio celebrates a significant milestone this month, it’s 40th anniversary.

In 1970 the late George Hohman, then a new state representative, was able to secure state funds to match a federal grant that allowed the construction of KYUK.  It’s beginnings were humble.  A temporary studio was set up in a small house in the Housing neighborhood of Bethel.  The living room was the record library – with a total of six albums in its collection.  There was no plumbing only a honeybucket in the back room.

The first engineer, David Moore, constructed a makeshift antenna from wire he pick up from the White Alice radar site.  The antenna was strung between two telephone poles and was, Moore recalled, “very ineffieient” but still reached 20 miles.  Moore signed the station on the air himself on May 13, 1971.   The first song to eminate across the tundra was Cat Stevens’ “Morning has Broken”.  Public Radio had come to the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta.

The original FCC permit was for a daytime only operation.   The original frequency was 580 on the AM dial.  Sometime in the 1980’s that was changed to the present frequency of 640 AM.

Eventually KYUK moved into bigger quarters, the Bobby Guinn Communications Building located at 640 Radio Street.  Low power television service began in 1972; full power TV service commenced a year later.  The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

For the past four decades, KYUK has endeavored to fulfill its public service mission of providing news, information, entertainment and cultural and language maintenance to the communities of Bethel and the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta.

As the world moves into the digital age, KYUK will move with it, facing the challenges and opportunities this new frontier presents to us as we strive to bring public media in all its varieties, modes and models to all of you.

I invite you to join us on Friday May 27th from Noon to 7pm for an open house to help us celebrate 40 years of public radio on the Y/K Delta.

(Thanks to Rhonda McBride for some information used in this column)

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