By Lorri Allen
UT Tyler Senior Lecturer and KVUT General Manager
Documentation suggests Provost Amir Mirmiran wanted a radio station on the UT Tyler campus as long ago as 2015.
His persistence has paid off. UT Tyler Radio, also known as 99.7 KVUT, is on the air.
Through a combination of connections, administrative support and right-place, right-time coincidences, not only has UT Tyler built a radio station, but it’s also locked in unique programming and hired seasoned professionals.
Mirmiran is modest and deflects credit to others. However, his enthusiasm and guidance have been instrumental. “You don’t know how happy I am to see that KVUT is coming to life,” Mirmiran writes in an email.
“Provost Mirmiran’s leadership in the development of 99.7 KVUT has been inspiring and supportive, and his excitement is contagious,” says Neil Gray, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Many shared the vision for a broadcasting serving the UT Tyler community. When Dennis Robertson, Ph.D., was hired in 2018 as the communication department chair, he says he and Dean Gray dreamed about opportunities coming for a station “five or 10 years down the road.”
But through media connections, Robertson soon met a man who had a station for sale, and for UT Tyler, the owner made a reasonable offer.
Robertson and Gray made many presentations to the UT Tyler president and cabinet, found funds to purchase studio equipment, negotiated contracts for tower space, worked with attorneys, and sought necessary Federal Communications Commission approvals.
Robertson envisioned more than a student-run station. He wanted professionals to work at it, and to support them, he scored a rare – and new – National Public Radio affiliation for KVUT.
“Tyler and this part of East Texas were devoid of their own (public) radio station since KTPB went off the air in 2006,” Robertson says. “When there is a need to reach key audiences with factual and trusted information … public broadcasting delivers.”
After the deal was approved, funds had to be secured to purchase a satellite dish and other transmission equipment.
Look up at the roof of the Cowan Center to see it.
Robertson retired in December 2020, but he will always carry the title, “founding executive director of 99.7 KVUT.”
“The commitment of the university to provide high-quality, high-caliber radio for our East Texas communities showcases UT Tyler’s desire to improve the quality of life throughout the region,” Robertson says. “We are seizing an opportunity to reach radio audiences with important programming that the commercial marketplace, by nature of its structure, could never embrace.”
The FCC classifies the station as “educational non-commercial.” That means serving listeners with information provided by UT Tyler professors is important. It also means providing educational opportunities for students is crucial.
As for Provost Mirmiran, recently he stood in the 99.7 KVUT office suite and mused, “Now that we have radio, let’s get a PBS station!”
99.7 KVUT Fast Facts
- From 7 p.m. – 5 a.m., hear eclectic Jazz.
- From 5 a.m. – 7 p.m., hear news, information and more.
- News director Mike Landess delivers local news and weather.
- Landess, director of operations Jeff Johnson, and general manager Lorri Allen have a combined 130 years of broadcasting experience.
- The tower is located in Bullard, Texas.
- The FM signal reaches to Lindale, Frankston, Athens and Canton.
- Like UT Tyler, NPR turns 50 this year.