The early 1970s. Boulder, the town missing a radio station. Sure there were other stations, two had been providing radio service for decades. Another was standing by quietly, waiting to make a few people rich on its way to fame and rating points. But in the early 1970s it just seemed that something was missing. Where, for example, was the university radio station? Did any school this size not have some sort of college radio station? And if there was no university station, how about one of those emerging public radio stations?
It was these conditions which motivated a few visionary folks to take matters into their own hands and create the station we now know as KGNU. This is a humble volunteer’s short history.
Roots, Rock, Reggae
Some of the underlying motivation for this endeavor can be found in the social ferment of the 1960s. Access to media was a big issue in those days and during the early ’70s there was a proliferation of “alternative” print resources including magazines, catalogues, brochures, newspapers, and books. It also became obvious that the electronic media were powerful tools of communication and social transformation, yet the question was: how to seize this form of communication?
It was during this period across the United States that young social activists identified the “how” as non-commercial, listener-sponsored radio. On the federal level the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Public Broadcasting Service, and National Public Radio were developing a network of stations, a result of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television and pioneering work of the Ford Foundation. On another level, colleges and universities were shoring up existing on-campus radio and television stations as well investigating possible new broadcast outlets. It is in this context that the media activists of the counterculture jumped into the fray, inspired by several factors — including their own experience of the past few years, mutual interests, the history of the Pacifica radio stations, and a book titled Sex and Broadcasting.