Frequency anniversary

Student-run KSSU radio at Sac State celebrates two decades

Sacramento State radio’s 20th-anniversary bulletin board.

Sacramento State radio’s 20th-anniversary bulletin board.

KSSU Awards Ceremony & Alumni BBQ is this Friday, May 13, noon to 4:30 p.m. at Sac State’s University Union Lobby Suite, 6000 J Street; free.
Listen online at

Sacramento State

6000 J St.
Sacramento, CA 95819

(916) 278-5155

It was spring 1990, and Jim Bolt and Chris Prosio had called an open meeting to outline their efforts to create a Sacramento State student-run radio station.

The initial turnout was promising—more than a 100 students showed up to learn more about the proposal. Still, Bolt and Prosio knew better.

Although they believed in the need, Bolt and Prosio didn’t want the students to have false expectations about what a proposed college-rock station would mean.

Bolt addressed the crowd:

“If you’re here to be a deejay, there’s no station yet—and we’re looking at a one- to two-year process.”

Just like that, more than half the people in the room got up and left.

Perhaps Bolt and Prosio should have given up then, too, but both Sac State communication majors had already invested time in the project, fiercely believing in its importance to the campus. Ultimately, it took more than two years to bring the station to fruition from start to finish.

Now, two decades later, KSSU, originally known as KEDG, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with an alumni gathering—as well as increased listenership, thanks to the station’s growing Web presence.

The seeds for the fight to launch KEDG were initially planted in 1989 with news that the college’s existing station, KXPR, wanted to add a second frequency. The local NPR affiliate, perhaps better known as Capital Public Radio, played classical and jazz. The second, proposed frequency would also play classical and jazz and, like the original, offer few opportunities for student involvement.

The school, Bolt and Prosio argued, needed a station that provided educational opportunities for Sac State’s communications department.

“Here was Sac State, with more than 20,000 students and no [student] station,” Bolt said. “Our ultimate goal was a professional-level station that would train students at Sac State.”

This was, also, the height of the college-rock radio era—a time when influential university stations were making alternative-rock heroes out of the likes of R.E.M., X and Oingo Boingo.

Sacramento, in contrast, felt like a musical wasteland.

“There wasn’t a whole lot on the dial at that time unless you wanted oldies, heavy metal or bubblegum pop,” Bolt said. “We were culturally landlocked in Sacramento.”

The pair, who met in a TV production class, proposed a new station, KEDG, but initial reception was lukewarm at best.

Sac State had once had a student-run station, after all. KERS, which operated on campus from the early 1960s through the late ’70s, eventually shut down due to budget cuts and concerns about politically and racially charged programming.

Now, Sac State brass worried that initial support for the station would fade as students cycled out of the system.

In December 1989, Bolt and Prosio formed the Associated Broadcasting Club to rally support, but many students questioned the need for a station.

“There were [questions such as] why should we have a student-run radio station when we don’t have a fully funded day care for mothers on campus,” Prosio said.

Undeterred, Bolt and Prosio secured a faculty adviser and hosted 24-hour music marathons on campus during which they passed around petitions.

Eventually they garnered more than 1,200 signatures in support of their proposal, the school granted the Associated Broadcasting Club $100,000 in startup and operating costs, and the club got its station—sort of.

When KEDG finally started broadcasting in the fall of 1991, it was through Access Sacramento, a local community resource for media training and production with several local cable TV channels. KEDG’s first wave of deejays trained and worked out of the Access Sacramento studios.

While it may have seemed strange to broadcast on a public-access TV station, Bolt says it was the best solution for getting on the air.

“Our faculty adviser told us, ‘I know you want to broadcast from campus, but this is an opportunity to get trained and promote the station,’” he said.

By this time, both Bolt and Prosio had already graduated from Sac State. But although they technically no longer had ties to the campus, neither was ready to move on—especially following the death of the station’s program director D.J. Willis, killed in a hit-and-run accident in the summer of 1991.

“D.J.’s dad was heavily involved in radio in Southern California, and D.J. brought in some of that experience and took up the mantle,” Prosio said.

“We’d graduated, but we [wanted to] stick around after D.J. died,” Bolt said.

The station’s early days reflected an all-for-one ethos.

Local musician Mickie Rat’s official title at KEDG was promotions director but, as he remembers, “We all did a little bit of everything in the beginning, because there were so few of us.”

Eventually KEDG secured an on-campus studio—two cramped rooms in the back of Sac State’s library. Unable to use the library outside of the building’s normal operating hours, deejays recorded hours’ worth of programming onto VHS tapes that could be played overnight.

Live or taped, KEDG’s range was extremely limited. The station’s spot at 530 on the AM dial barely reached beyond Sac State’s dorms, and on campus, students referred to it as “the station that rocks the block.”

Now, two decades later, the station is known as KSSU (it was forced to change its name after another station claimed rights to the call letters) and has its own studio, located in the University Union.

It still broadcasts on the air at 1580 on the AM dial but can also be heard online at and, says current station adviser Susie Kuo, its reach is much greater and reflects listeners’ changing habits.

“When some people think of radio, they still think of FM and listening in their cars, but I feel like the goals of KSSU have expanded beyond that,” she said. “The space on the dial just isn’t there, but our overall mission is to provide opportunities in radio broadcasting for students and for them to have fun and to have a place where they feel like they belong.”

Bolt and Prosio say they are both “blown away” by KSSU’s enduring legacy.

“We’re very proud to have helped make this happen,” Bolt said. “It’s just incredible.”

“Even as traditional on-air radio stations are slowly dying, KSSU is all over the Internet,” Prosio added. “Student-run Internet radio stations are poised to be at the next forefront in radio.”