Aaron Mayes / UNLV Photo Services
Friday, Dec. 9, 2016 | 2 a.m.
The dedicated hordes of UNLV students who packed regents meetings to defend the campus radio station can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
KUNV 91.5-FM, headquartered in the university’s journalism school, has been spared a takeover by its larger sibling, Nevada Public Radio.
University officials have agreed to keep the student-run radio station independent for now, culminating a yearlong battle that threatened to permanently change the face of the scrappy campus outlet.
“The radio station has been part of the school of journalism for a long time,” said Joel Lieberman, interim director of the journalism school. “Pretty quickly we realized that (the public radio deal) wasn’t what we wanted to do.”
Although the station has a small contingent of professional faculty who oversee the finances and administrative overhead, KUNV's day-to-day operations are mostly handled by the 79 students who work as DJs, interns and producers.
Prompted by concerns that the station was struggling financially, the university came to an agreement last year with Nevada Public Radio to assume control over the station’s finances and format. UNLV was to invest its $200,000 annual subsidy to the station into other educational endeavors, while NVPR said it would convert the station to serve a younger audience.
But the young people who ran the station pushed back. At a December 2015 meeting of the Board of Regents, which oversees overseeing Nevada’s public colleges and universities, students lined up to voice their opposition to the merger.
It was enough for higher education officials to halt the plan, and, at least for now, it seems to be off the table for good.
“There’s a lot of excitement now,” said Frank Mueller, general manager of KUNV. “Once it became clear [the merger was off] it allowed our team to really step back and see what things we’re doing well and what things we’re improving on.”
Now the station is looking to upgrade. Mueller said they are in the final stages of hiring a new underwriting director, and are looking to expand their intern program, which gives students a chance to gain in-depth radio experience with the possibility of being hired on thereafter.
Mueller also said the journalism school was in the process of developing two more radio-centric classes, bringing the total to three in time for next fall.
“It’s essential to have a radio component,” Lieberman said. “The most important thing is greater student integration into the radio station.”
When UNLV hosted the final presidential debate in October, radio broadcast students were among the only in local media allowed into the debate hall at Thomas & Mack Center. There they reported alongside major international outlets like CNN and Reuters.
“That’s the ultimate benefit for the university,” Mueller said. “The educational value.”