KKFI Origin

In 1977, a group of radio and media enthusiasts got together to set up a Communiversity course called “Radio Free Kansas City” for exploration of the idea of a citizen-owned, non-commercial radio station. At the time, there was no community owned and operated radio in the area.

The people who came to the class were ordinary people from the community who were dissatisfied with the radio landscape in Kansas City at the time. The only public radio stations were KCUR – which was controlled by the university and mostly played classical music; KGSP – a small 10-watt college radio station in Parkville, Missouri; and KTSR – another 10-watt radio station run by the Nazarene Church which was only on for a few hours each day.

Around the country, in the 60’s, there was a wave of counter-cultural enthusiasm which helped create community owned and operated radio stations in some cities. Inspired by the Pacifica Stations and Lorenzo Milam who founded several community stations, activists wanted to set up people-controlled radio (see the KKFISTORY sections under “what is community radio” in the website menu).

Community Radio is a special type of “public radio” which is community owned, not owned by a media-company or an institution. The only reason it is part of “public radio” is that community radio stations occupy the educational portion of the radio dial that is set aside by the Federal Communications Commission to serve the public.

Many other “public radio” stations do not serve a wide spectrum of the public and are narrow in their broadcasting. This fact was challenged by Lorenzo Milam and Jeremy Lansman in their infamous”Petition to the FCC against duopoly, conflict of interest of state-owned broadcast facilities, and the abuse of the educational portion of the broadcast band by ‘religious broadcasters’.” A copy of this appeal to the FCC may be found on the menu of this site under the tab “What is Community Radio”.

The Communiversity was a free-university under the auspices of the University of Missouri, Kansas City. People from the community could offer courses where ordinary people could enroll ranging from pottery, to investment strategies for a small fee. A quarterly catalog of courses was put out, and “Radio Free Kansas City” was offered several times.

Communiversity Course 1977 Page 1

“Radio Free Kansas City” appeared alongside “Outdoor Adventures With the Mentally Retarded”, and “One China – US-China Peoples Friendship Association”, among other courses taught by ordinary citizens.

Announcement for Communiversity Course that started KKFI Summer, 1977
Communiversity Course that started KKFI Summer, 1977

The radio-free course was popular, drawing over 30 people who attended, the first classes organized by David Dye and Steve Litwer. But it soon became apparent that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to put a community radio station on the air in Kansas City. There was no spot on the radio dial for a new station.

The few who remained with seemingly fading hope, persevered, meeting sporadically, until in the mid-80’s the FCC changed its rules and grants became available under the Department of Commerce. Then – a very small door opened which led to a maze of tasks and bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo which if followed to the final exit could – with a lot of luck and chutzpah -make it possible to put a community radio station on the air.

When it seemed that it might be feasible to found a radio station, people drifted back to the struggle. A board was elected, grants were applied for, tower sites were found and lost and found again, studio sites voted on, bingo games conducted, and money seemingly from the blue, miraculously appeared.

The year-to-year goings-on of how KKFI came to be, can be further traced by going to the KKFISTORY menu above, called “years”, and reading about each year to find out what happened to bring about the birth of the station.