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            The history for all of Public Broadcasting in South Dakota traces its roots to KUSD (AM), now silent. This station was one of the oldest educational radio stations in the United States and the flagship station of what was to become the South Dakota Public Broadcasting Network. The station began on the University of South Dakota Campus in Vermillion in 1919 as an “Experimental Wireless Station” in the USD College of Engineering. Sophomore student E.O. Lawrence (who later won a Nobel Prize in Physics) and USD Dean Lewis Akeley were largely responsible for putting this historic station on the air. The station held several licenses and was assigned various call signs in the early days including 9APC, 9YAM, and WEAJ. Its first license for regular voice programming was granted on May 27, 1922.


            The first music and voice transmission from the station occurred on May 29, 1922 and was reported to be a live concert featuring a vocal quartet with piano accompaniment. The program was broadcast from the chapel of University Hall (now called Farber Hall in the Old Main building on the USD Campus). The station began a regular schedule of programming in 1924 with the call letters WEAJ which had been assigned in early 1923. The call letters KUSD were granted in October of 1925.


            In 1931 the station began its “School of the Air”, educational programming for use in the schoolroom and elsewhere which continued into the early 1960’s. This was the precursor for the later presentation of television programming for use in schools.


            In 1935 the station moved its studios to the fourth floor of the South Dakota Union Building, its home for the next 47 years.


            The station’s transmitter plant moved for the last time when use of the site north of Vermillion was begun in 1952 with two new towers, a new transmitter and transmitter building. At this time the frequency changed for the last time as well (to 690 kc). The station operated at a power of 1000 watts (daytime only) and with a two-tower directional antenna array. The antenna pattern provided signal to the northwest and the southeast in a “figure-eight” pattern.


            When the studios were moved to the E.O. Lawrence Telecommunications Center in 1982, the AM station had the company of FM stations at Vermillion and Brookings. KESD-FM began as a student station at South Dakota State College in Brookings in 1967 but was operated later by a service division of the College. KUSD-FM began service in late 1967 from the South Dakota Union Building on the University of South Dakota campus.


            Programming on AM continued until December of 1992 when one of the towers was toppled by a nighttime encounter with a Chevrolet Suburban being driven illegally across the golf course where the towers stood. The driver was caught and prosecuted, but the station was unable to collect a large enough settlement from his insurance carrier to re-erect the tower. The money that was recovered was used to purchase and install FM translators in Huron, Aberdeen, and Pierre to enhance local coverage from our new FM station network which had added stations at Rapid City, Reliance, and Pierpont.


            The station could not operate with its assigned directional pattern with only the remaining tower but was allowed to remain on the air with a non-directional pattern and at low power for just over one more year under Special Temporary Authority from the FCC. The decision to terminate operations was made in mid 1994.


            The remaining tower stood until October of 1998 when it was deliberately cut down. This was another painful decision, but due to the age of the tower and some continuing liability concerns it was the best of the alternatives. This structure stood 285 feet above the base insulator and had a face width of about twelve inches. It was manufactured by the late Windcharger Company of Sioux City, Iowa. It was hot-dip galvanized and had two levels of red sidelights and a top 300 mm. aviation code beacon. By clicking on the icon below, you can watch a short video of the tower falling to the ground after all of the guy wires to the north were released at the same time.


            When the AM license was surrendered to the FCC, we requested that they reassign the flagship “KUSD” call letters to our Vermillion FM station, so it became just KUSD (formerly KUSD-FM). They granted the request so that even today this historical call sign lives on as apart of our FM radio network.




            In the 1970's and 1980's, the South Dakota Public Radio Network built and now operates nine radio stations and ten radio translators across the state. When South Dakota Public Broadcasting built its television network, every site and tower was designed for the eventual addition of an FM radio transmitter and antenna. Although the television stations were constructed first, this vision was culminated in 1991 when the last of the nine radio stations began transmitting from KZSD-FM at the Long Valley site.


          Prior to 1982, South Dakota Public Radio was comprised of three stations (KUSD AM&FM and KESD (FM) located in the east-central and southeastern portions of the state. KUSD (AM) began regular program service in 1924 from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion. KESD (FM), licensed to South Dakota State University, began as a student station in Brookings in 1967 but was operated later by a service division of the University. The transmitter was moved to the KESD television transmitter site in 1973 and was increased in power from 10 watts to 38,000 watts. KUSD-FM (licensed to The University of South Dakota) began service in late 1967 from the South Dakota Union Building on the USD campus. In 1974 it was moved from the campus to the KUSD television transmitter site near Beresford and its power was increased from 10 watts to 50,000 watts. With the exception of a few shared programs, the Brookings and Vermillion stations operated as independent entities.


          In 1982, KESD and KUSD (AM) & FM merged to form the South Dakota Public Radio Network.  The merger resulted in a common programming schedule for the three stations and new network outlets were planned to cover the unserved portions of the state.


            In 1984, The State Board of Directors for Educational Television built radio stations in the Aberdeen, Pierre, and Rapid City areas.  The licenses of the University stations were transferred to the ETV Board on July 1, 1985.  On the same day, ETV and Sioux Falls College, working via a Management Agreement, activated a new station in Sioux Falls.  Translators serving six Black Hills communities were added during 1986.  Since then, the State Board built stations to cover north central, northwestern, central west and southwest South Dakota.


            In 1992, KUSD (AM) suffered what was to become a fatal blow when an errant driver out for a midnight joyride trespassed across the Vermillion Golf Course where the towers stood and knocked down one of the two towers of its directional antenna array. The network was unable to recover sufficient funds to rebuild the station, and after a year of reduced power operation, the decision was made to let the AM station go silent. Please see our AM Radio web page for a more complete history of this remarkable station.


            Our currently operating stations and translators are located as follows:




Call Sign       Frequency    City of License   Transmitter Site      Air Date

KUSD           89.7 mHz       Vermillion        near Beresford    October 1967

KESD           88.3 mHz       Brookings         near Hetland        July 1967

KBHE-FM      89.3 mHz       Rapid City          Rapid City         March 1984

KTSD-FM      91.1 mHz        Reliance         near Reliance     February 1984

KDSD-FM      90.9 mHz        Pierpont         near Pierpont        April 1984

KQSD-FM      91.9 mHz        Lowry              near Lowry         June 1988

KPSD-FM       97.1 mHz        Faith               near Faith          June 1989

KZSD-FM      102.5 mHz       Martin          near LongValley        July 1991

KCSD           90.9 mHz       Sioux Falls         Sioux Falls            July 1985




K19CM              91.7 mHz          Aberdeen          State Highway Shop

K201AP             88.1 mHz          Belle Fourche     Belle Fourche

K214BN             90.7 mHz          Edgemont          Mount Matias

K201AQ             88.1 mHz          Hot Springs        Battle Mountain

K217CE             91.3 mHz          Huron               State Fairgrounds

K220BA             91.9 mHz          Lead                 Terry Peak

K215AI              90.9 mHz          Mitchell             State Highway Shop

K241AF             96.1 mHz          Pierre                Ft. Pierre

K203BN             88.5 mHz          Pringle              Mount Coolidge

K216AO             91.1 mHz          Spearfish           Lookout Mountain



            Programming is provided 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the Vermillion studios of our flagship station KUSD (FM); our own remote studios in Rapid City, Pierre, and Brookings; National Public Radio (NPR); and other outstanding program providers.


            In cooperation with the South Dakota Service to the Blind and Visually Impaired, we also carry a reading service for the visually impaired on our SCA (subcarrier) service. If you know of someone who might benefit from this service, the special radio receivers are available at no charge from that agency. You may click here to link to their home page, or you may call them at 605.773.4644


            The primary objective of the radio broadcasting service is to provide programs of a general educational, informational, and cultural nature. Staff members have won repeated awards from the Associated Press and other organizations for the quality and innovation of news coverage they provide to our listeners.





            KUSD TV, Channel 2, went on the air in 1961 from the University of South Dakota in Vermillion as a low-powered station, the first educational television station in the state. It is now the flagship station for South Dakota's public television network. In 1967 the State Legislature provided matching funds for a federal grant which enabled transmitter relocation from Vermillion to a site near Beresford with a much taller tower and a major power increase for KUSD-TV. It also made possible the creation of two more high powered stations - KBHE (late 1967) in Rapid City, and KESD (in early 1968), near Hetland. The Legislature also created the State Board of Directors for Educational Television (now the South Dakota Board of Directors for Educational Telecommunications) to oversee growth of the network. Their mandate to Martin Busch (their first Executive Director) and Jim Prusha (their chief engineer) was to construct a system of television stations such that every school across the state would have access to in-school instructional television programs.


            By 1978, after the construction of five additional stations, virtually the entire state had coverage from the television network. In 1995 the network built another medium-powered station in Sioux Falls to provide even better coverage to that ever-expanding market. A network of translators has also been built, expanding coverage to areas where terrain and distance make reception difficult. The stations and translators are as follows:




Call Sign       Channel      City of License   Transmitter Site         Air Date

KUSD-TV          2             Vermillion        near Beresford         July 1961

KBHE-TV          9             Rapid City          Rapid City             July 1961

KESD-TV          8             Brookings         near Hetland       February 1968

KTSD-TV        10               Pierre            near Reliance        August 1970

KDSD-TV        16             Aberdeen         near Pierpont        January 1972

KPSD-TV        13            Eagle Butte        near Faith          September 1973

KQSD-TV        11               Lowry            near Lowry          January, 1976

KZSD-TV         8                Martin          near LongValley       January 1978

KCSD-TV        23             Sioux Falls         Sioux Falls              June 1995




K07JD                 7                    Aberdeen          State Highway Shop

K19CG              19                     Belle Fourche     Belle Fourche

K64AL               64                     Edgemont          Mount Matias

K09UN                9                    Mitchell             near Mitchell

K06HG                6                    Pine Ridge         Pine Ridge

K55AV               55                     Pringle              Mount Coolidge

K04GW               4                    Spearfish           Lookout mountain

K55BG              55                     Wagner             near Tripp

K13PN               13                     Wasta               Wasta



            Although the stations at Vermillion and Brookings were originally licensed to their two respective universities (USD in Vermillion and SDSU in Brookings), the network was consolidated under the umbrella of the Board in the 1980's. The network continues to provide instructional programming for use in school settings, and public television for all of South Dakota on a seven day a week schedule. The state network is affiliated with the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), and other regional program suppliers. KUSD TV's studio production center in Vermillion is utilized for production of programs about South Dakota, student training, production of Instructional Television, and for satellite delivered teleconferences.


We produce several program services which are broadcast weekly including:


Buffalo Nation Journal, a series for and about native Americans;

Dakota Decisions about candidates and issues in election years;

Dakota Life, a magazine program;

Garden Line, a call-in program about home gardening; and

Midwest Market Analysis for agricultural issues


Network production staff members travel the length and width of the state to create programming which has flavors from almost every corner of South Dakota. Our largest and longest remote programming effort originates from our state Capitol during the annual Legislative session.


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