University budget crisis prompts St. Louis Public Radio takeover of station

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St. Louis Public Radio is expanding its coverage with the addition of KMST, based in Rolla, Mo.

St. Louis Public Radio will take over operations and programming at the public radio station, which broadcasts on the 100,000-watt 88.5 FM signal in Rolla and on a translator in Lebanon, Mo. The Missouri University of Science and Technology currently operates KMST. But the Curators of the University of Missouri System hold licenses to both stations. 

The decision was made as a “direct result of the severe budget crisis the University of Missouri System campuses, including Missouri S&T, are facing,” Mary Helen Stoltz, a spokesperson for the school, told Current in an email. In determining what to cut, the university determined that KMST “falls outside the academic core.”

The station’s seven full-time employees were laid off Wednesday. The change will save Missouri S&T $240,000 annually, Stoltz said.

KMST currently airs a mix of national news programs and classical, as well as some other musical genres. Starting July 1, the station will air St. Louis Public Radio’s schedule of news programming. KMST will continue to air a weekend bluegrass program hosted by Wayne Bledsoe, a professor emeritus at the school, since 1978.

“Public radio is a vitally important asset to the many communities it serves, so it is important to us to ensure that KMST will continue serving the Rolla area,” said St. Louis Public Radio general manager Tim Eby in a press release.

In addition to its broadcast in St. Louis on 90.7 KWMU, St. Louis Public Radio also airs on 90.3 WQUB in Quincy, Ill., on the border with northwest Missouri.

“For more than 40 years, KMST has played a significant role in the culture and social fabric of our community and the surrounding area,” said Missouri S&T interim Chancellor Christopher G. Maples, in the release. “This arrangement with St. Louis Public Radio will ensure that KMST’s loyal listeners will continue to benefit from quality public radio programming for many years to come.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that St. Louis Public Radio is owned by The University of Missouri–St. Louis. It is owned by Curators of the University of Missouri System.