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NPR in Idaho
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Station History

Boise State Public Radio is Idaho's largest nonprofit, listener-supported NPR member station, reaching metropolitan and rural areas.

As the only sources of quality public radio news, classical music, jazz and unique cultural programming, our radio stations are distinct in their mission, their audience and their partnerships.

Mission Statement:

Produce, acquire and distribute distinctive programs and services that stimulate, educate, inform, and entertain those we serve using all appropriate media. Reach out to the community through strategic partnerships. Enable listeners to learn about issues and ideas that affect our communities, our nation, and our world.

Our Vision:

We will build a stronger community-centered broadcasting organization by focusing the station’s new and existing resources where our listener and membership base is the strongest. Our goal is to build a more effective service emphasizing national and local programming that deepens the relationship between us and our listeners.

Station History:

Boise State Public Radio is Idaho’s connection to NPR news programming, classical music, and jazz. The station’s 23 transmitters and translators reach about one million listeners from Boise and Twin Falls to McCall and Sun Valley to Lewiston and Pocatello.

In the Treasure Valley, 91.5 FM is Boise State Public Radio News. Here, you’ll find NPR’s cornerstone programs like Morning Edition and All Things Considered, plus fan favorites like Fresh Air and This American Life. 91.5 FM is also home to local and regionally-produced in-depth news features and interviews.

Credit Emilie Ritter Saunders / Boise State Public Radio
Boise State Public Radio
The Boise-band Sherpa stopped by the KBSU studio in 2013 for a live performance.

90.3 FM is Boise State Public Radio Music, our music and arts service. In addition to hearing world-class symphonies perform great works by composers like Mozart, Dvorak, and Bach, Boise State Public Radio Music is also where you’ll hear jazz, folk, rock, and alternative music. 90.3 FM broadcasts nationally-distributed programs like From the Top and Mountain Stage. A handful of local hosts produce a range of music programs, from Open Range Radio and Idaho Music to Private Idaho and Shakedown Street.

Credit Boise State Archives
Here's a meeting of Boise State's radio club back in 1965.

Boise State Public Radio’s journey to a robust dual-service station can be traced back to a Boise State University – then Boise Junior College – amateur radio club that began in the 1930s. By 1967, and a handful of call letters and frequencies later, the radio club had become KBSC and broadcast various programs to the campus area. In 1974, once the university changed its name to Boise State University, the radio station again changed its call letters, this time to KBSU.

Boise State Public Radio marks its inaugural year as 1977 when the station manager at the time applied to the FCC to change the station's license from being an AM broadcaster to a non-commercial FM broadcaster. Broadcasts began on 90.1 FM in the fall of 1977.

By 1986, Boise State Public Radio had begun its transition from a student-run college station into a professionally-operated public radio station. The station hired its first non-student manager and secured its first Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant. In 1988, KBSU again increased its reach by growing to 19,000 watts and becoming an NPR affiliate.

By the turn of the century it had expanded its broadcast network outside Boise, north to Salmon and McCall and south to Twin Falls. Over the years, increasing funds were directed to national news programming, and news (KBSX) and music (KBSU) formats were separated into stand-alone services. But Boise State Public Radio’s musical roots are steadfast and long-time local hosts still bring popular music shows to listeners every day.

The opening years of the 21st century saw further growth with the addition of a new full-power station in Sun Valley, and the transmitter in Jackpot, Nevada, was thought to be for a time the only wind-powered broadcast tower in the nation. An expanding news staff increased focus on local news, broader statehouse coverage and regional news-sharing.

Over the past decade Boise State Public Radio has expanded its digital footprint, produced and distributed a range of podcasts, and created a mobile app. It relocated to new studio headquarters in the Yanke Family Research Park and in 2016 joined Boise State University's Division of Extended Studies. Public-affairs show Idaho Matters and regional journalism center the Mountain West News Bureau both launched in 2018.

In 2020 Boise State Public Radio established The Endowment for Local News, with a legacy gift of $1 million. Recently, it broadened its statewide network, adding services in Lewiston in North Idaho and Pocatello in eastern Idaho. The network now includes 23 transmission sites with broadcasts available to more than one million listeners in Idaho as well as parts of eastern Oregon and northern Nevada.

Historical information in this post was researched by a Boise State University student.