Once-popular station is back in the hands of students
KUNV-FM will lay to rest past controversies, opening its arms and airwaves to students with the launch of “The Rebel KUNV-HD2.”
The station that was once popular with students in the 1990s served as the beginnings for comedian Jimmy Kimmel and artists like Ken Jordan of The Crystal Method.
Under the direction of then-UNLV president Carol Harter and KUNV General Manager Don Fuller, the station changed from the student-friendly “Rock Ave.” format to a mainly jazz format and subsequently moved off campus. Given the station’s success and its UNLV orientation, the decision was very controversial.
“KUNV’s traditions live on in many ways outside of the station,” said Michele Ferm, a graduate student working on the development of the new station. “We would like to see that same spirit of KUNV’s past, but there are a lot of new challenges.”
The challenges Ferm speaks of are mostly centered around the medium itself. At the height of student involvement with KUNV, radio was radically different.
Concerns about decreases in radio listenership mean “The Rebel” may not have the same captive audience it once enjoyed.
New laws also present strict governance of online delivery of public radio. Only a certain number of songs can be played by a single artist during a shift and students will be required to keep accurate and detailed records of all the music they play.
“I think it could definitely fit in there again because I don’t really hear good commercial radio in Vegas right now,” said Jordan, who was also a former Rock Ave. program director.
Because there is no mandate on what genre of music or type of program will be on “The Rebel,” developers of the new station face big decisions about what kind of content to support.
To be a “Rock Ave.” disc jockey in the ‘90s, one was expected to play certain genres — primarily, music that was not already being played on Las Vegas commercial air waves.
“You had to stick to a music rotation,” said former Rock Ave. DJ and current host of KUNV’s “Neon Reverb,” Donald Hickey.
“It was very geared toward breaking new music. If you were playing ‘Stairway to Heaven’ or something like that, you would get thrown off the air,” Hickey said.
“When KUNV was really happening, it wasn’t like there was any other commercial stations doing anything similar,” Jordan said, “so I think it worked well then.”
KUNV became part of the Greenspun School of Journalism and Media Studies in 2001 and moved back onto the UNLV campus in 2009.
Students can expect to hear “The Rebel” at select locations around campus this August. The signal is available to anyone with an HD radio.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Chad Martinez is a volunteer for KUNV-FM.