Broadcast areaLexington Metro Area
Central Kentucky
Frequency91.3 MHz (HD Radio)
BrandingNPR Rocks @ 91.3
FormatAdult Album Alternative
Public Radio
AffiliationsNational Public Radio (NPR)
Public Radio International (PRI)
American Public Media (APM)
BBC World Service
OwnerUniversity of Kentucky
First air date
October 17, 1940; 82 years ago (1940-10-17) (in Beattyville, moved to Lexington in 1944)
Former call signs
WBKY (1940-1989)
Call sign meaning
W University of KentuckY
Technical information
ERP100,000 watts
HAAT237.4 meters (779 ft)

WUKY (91.3 MHz) is a listener-supported, public FM radio station in Lexington, Kentucky. Owned by the University of Kentucky (UK), it has an Adult Album Alternative radio format, airing more than 100 hours of music per week. Some news and informational programming is supplied by National Public Radio (NPR), Public Radio International (PRI), American Public Media (APM) and the BBC. The station broadcasts from state of the art radio studios in northwestern Lexington at the intersection of Greendale Road and Spurr Road.

WUKY is supported by its listeners, with periodic fundraisers airing during the year. It also receives funding from the university, as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and its underwriters. WUKY has an effective radiated power (ERP) of 100,000 watts, the maximum for most FM stations in the U.S.


The station's original home office, the former Beattyville Grade School

Establishment as AM Apex station WBKY

Organized radio broadcasting was introduced in the United States in the early 1920s,[1] and by the mid-1930s the standard AM broadcast band was considered to be too full to allow any meaningful increase in the number of stations. Looking to expand the number of available frequencies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) began to issue licenses to parties interested in testing the suitability of using higher transmitting frequencies between roughly 25 and 44 MHz. These stations were informally known as "Apex" stations, due to the tall height of their transmitter antennas, which were needed because coverage was primarily limited to local line-of-sight distances. These original Apex stations operated under experimental licenses, and like standard broadcasting stations used amplitude modulation (AM) transmissions.[2]

In October 1937, the FCC announced a sweeping allocation of frequency assignments that included a band for Apex stations, consisting of 75 channels with 40 kHz separations, and spanning from 41.02 to 43.98 MHz.[3] In addition, in January 1938 the band's first 25 channels, from 41.02 to 41.98 MHz, were reserved for non-commercial educational stations.[4] (Although there had been stations operated by educational institutions on the standard AM band since the early 1920s,[5] there had not been a separate license classification for them.)[6]

WUKY began broadcasting on October 17, 1940 as WBKY, a 100-watt station on 42.90 MHz in Beattyville.[7] The original program director was Ruth Foxx Newborg, and from the beginning the station was owned by University of Kentucky. Its primary mission was to serve rural schools, and at its start the schedule was limited to noon to 2:00 p.m. on weekdays.[8] The station soon ran into technical and financial problems, and suspended operations after June 27, 1941.[9]

WBKY was the last of three educational station assignments granted on the Apex band.[10] At the time the Apex band was established the FCC noted that "The Commission at an early date will consider carefully the needs and requirements for high-frequency broadcast stations using both conventional [AM] modulation and frequency modulation".[3] The commission's studies soon found significant advantages to FM transmissions over the Apex AM signals, with sound quality, and especially resistance to interference from static, including from lightning, found to be far superior for FM. In May 1940, the FCC announced the creation of an FM broadcast band, effective January 1, 1941, operating on 40 channels spanning 42–50 MHz, with the first five channels reserved for educational stations.[11] This new assignment also resulted in the elimination of the Apex band, and the Apex stations were informed that they needed to either go silent or convert to FM.[12] The deadline for the switch to FM transmissions was extended for WBKY, and it continued to be authorized for amplitude modulation (AM) transmissions on 42.9 MHz until May 1, 1944.[13]

Transfer to FM

In June 1944 WBKY was issued permission to move from Beattyville to the Lexington campus of the University of Kentucky.[14] In early 1945 the station was reactivated as an FM station,[15] still transmitting at 42.9 MHz, from its current home at McVey Hall on the university campus.[16]

In July 1945 the FCC announced that, due to interference concerns, it was reallocating the current FM "low band" frequencies to other services, and existing FM band stations would be relocated to 88-106 MHz (later expanded to 108 MHz).[17][18] WBKY began testing the transmitter for its new assignment of 91.3 MHz in June 1947,[19] although for a time it continued to also broadcast on its original 42.9 MHz frequency in order to ease the transition. In 1948 the station reported that due to the lack of listeners with FM radios, it was on the air for only 6 hours per week, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.[20]

WBKY helped create NPR, and was one of the 90 stations that carried the inaugural broadcast of All Things Considered when it debuted in 1971. On October 1, 1989 the station changed its call letters to WUKY, to better reflect its affiliation with the University of Kentucky.[21] Longtime All Things Considered host Noah Adams began his career at WBKY. The station celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2015.[22]


  1. ^ "Amendments to Regulations", Radio Service Bulletin, January 3, 1922, page 10.
  2. ^ "Enter the 'Apex' Broadcasting Station", Broadcasting, February 1, 1936, pages 51, 62.
  3. ^ a b "Upper Bands Set Aside for Television", Broadcasting, November 1, 1937, pages 60-61.
  4. ^ "Ultra-high Waves Granted Educators", Broadcasting, February 1, 1938, page 17.
  5. ^ "Early Stations 1920-1929", Radio in Education,1939, pages 1-7.
  6. ^ "Introduction", Fourth Annual Report Federal Communications Commission (Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1938), page 49.
  7. ^ "WBKY Goes On Air Waves For First Time" by Gerald Griffin, Louisville Courier-Journal, October 18, 1940, page 24.
  8. ^ "Radio Education by Short-Wave Makes History in Kentucky", FREC Service Bulletin, February 1941, page 3.
  9. ^ "Educational Radio's First Rural Radio Station" Public Telecommunication Review, September–October 1979.
  10. ^ The first two Apex educational stations were WBOE (now WCLV) in Cleveland, Ohio, and WCNY (now WNYE-FM) in Brooklyn, New York.
  11. ^ "FCC Order No. 67", Federal Register, May 25, 1940, page 2011.
  12. ^ "FCC Order No. 69" Federal Communications Commission, May 22, 1940.
  13. ^ "Educational Broadcasting", Independent Offices Appropriation Bill For 1946 (Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, Seventy-ninth Congress), page 1080. "A3 emission" is a reference to standard AM transmissions, while "special emission" refers to FM transmissions.
  14. ^ "University Will Establish Founders'-Day Observance", Lexington (Kentucky) Leader, April 5, 1944, page 12.
  15. ^ "U.K.'s New FM Station On Air". (Danville) Kentucky Advocate, February 25, 1945, page 5.
  16. ^ "Kentucky University's FM Station Now in Operation", FREC Service Bulletin, April 1945, page 3.
  17. ^ "FCC Allocates 88-106 mc Band to FM" by Bill Bailey, Broadcasting, July 2, 1945, pages 13-14.
  18. ^ "FCC Allocations Order Text", Broadcasting, July 2, 1945, pages 64-68.
  19. ^ "Radio" by Bill Ladd, Louisville Courier-Journal, June 8, 1947, Section 2, page 16.
  20. ^ FM for Education by Franklin Dunham, 1948, page 4.
  21. ^ "History". WUKY. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  22. ^ "WUKY Turns 75" by Tom Godell, Radio World, October 1, 2015.

37°52′44″N 84°19′34″W / 37.879°N 84.326°W / 37.879; -84.326