Hundreds of Central Texas children will get brand-new bicycles this Christmas thanks to longtime Austin radio hosts JB Hager and Sandy McIlree.
The morning duo, who joined 105.3 Fringe FM this spring after spending almost two decades at another local station, said reviving their annual Bikes for Kids campaign was a top priority after settling into their new gig.
One of the nation’s highest-rated contemporary Christian radio stations is right here in Austin.
Since it hit the air four years ago, Spirit 105.9 has steadily climbed the ratings charts and now sits comfortably in the top five citywide in many key demographics.
Among women ages 25-54, a group coveted by advertisers, Spirit 105.9 placed second in October, for example. Among all listeners in that age bracket, it ranked fourth, according to Nielsen.
Its morning show, featuring hosts Steve Sunshine and Amy Byrd, has grown into a powerhouse of sorts. It was No. 2 among listeners ages 6 and up in October and regularly attracts almost 10 percent of all Austin-area women ages 25-54 listening to radio in the early hours of the day, general manager Tim McCoy said.
Weekend programming is highly rated as well, including the Sunday morning “Keep the Faith” show.
“We’re very blessed to be in that arena, to rank so high,” McCoy said. “We’ve got a great team here, and we have a great navigator and captain in Jesus Christ.”
The station will celebrate its success at Spirit Fest, set for Sunday at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. The event draws about 13,000 people annually, McCoy said.
Performers this year include Jeremy Camp, Kutless, Gungor, Building 429, Jamie Grace, Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Shawn McDonald and Tedashii.
General admission tickets start at $25, with some discounts available for members of the military and children.
“This year’s Spirit Fest is going to be incredible,” McCoy said. “We’re doing our best to bring as much contemporary Christian music to Central Texas as we can. We want people to see, hear and experience this music in person.”
Part of the reason Spirit 105.9 has been such a hit, McCoy said, is because the music the station plays is family friendly — no sex, no violence, no swear words. It’s a claim many of its competitors can’t make.
“We will never say something or air something that would be offensive to children,” he said. “It’s our mission to inspire, to help people, to let people know there’s hope.”
Grande Communications has expanded its super-fast, 1-gigabit Internet service to the West Campus area, the San Marcos-based company said Wednesday.
Customers in parts of West Austin and Buda got Power 1000 1-gigabit service earlier this year.
Eventually, Grande said it plans to make 1-gigabit service available to all of its Central Texas customers. About 75,000 homes and businesses in the Austin area are wired for Grande’s cable, phone and Internet services.
The price for the Power 1000 Internet service is $64.99, Grande said.
A new crime-focused TV network will sign on this January in cities across the country, including Austin.
The Justice Network will air as a digital subchannel on Gannett-owned stations nationwide, including KVUE.
Programming on the Justice Network will largely consist of repeats of shows that previously aired on other broadcast and cable networks, including “Alaska State Troopers,” “Body of Evidence,” “Dominik Dunne’s Power Privilege and Justice,” “I, Detective,” “The Investigators,” “LA Forensics,” “Locked Up Abroad,” “Masterminds,” “Missing Persons Unit,” “Murder by the Book,” “Over the Limit” and “Psychic Detectives.”
Local affiliates will also contribute content, such as safety tips and details on wanted criminals and missing children.
“Recognizing that by 2013, half of the top 50-rated prime shows on television were justice-oriented programming, our management team saw the need to satisfy America’s obsession with justice,” said Steve Schiffman, Justice Network’s CEO. “We are proud to be a part of this unique multicast network’s efforts to make a difference in people’s lives, fight crime and to keep communities safer.”
The first pro sports matchup airs tonight at 7:30 p.m., when the Rockets take on the Memphis Grizzlies.
U-verse subscribers can find Root Sports Southwest on channels 758 and 1758. On DirecTV, tune to channel 674.
Root Sports Southwest is the new name for what was Comcast SportsNet Houston. The channel filed for bankruptcy and was recently gobbled up by AT&T and DirecTV.
The change in ownership dramatically expands the audience for Rockets and Astros games, which previously had been limited to Comcast subscribers and customers of a few very small cable companies in the Houston area.
Other programming airing on Root Sports Southwest includes “The Rich Eisen Show” and “The Dan Patrick Show,” as well as some college sports matchups.
That doesn’t sound like a winning radio slogan, but it’s worked just fine for student-run 91.7 KVRX-FM for the past two decades.
The station is celebrating its 20th birthday this weekend with a number of special events, including an alumni reunion and a Saturday night benefit concert featuring Hickoids, Daniel Francis Doyle & the Dreams and Pure X at the old “Austin City Limits” studio on the University of Texas campus.
The goal, organizers say, is to raise $20,000 for new equipment for KVRX. The station’s transmitter is on its last legs and has required significant repairs recently. Other gear reportedly isn’t far behind.
“To really compete technologically, we just need to upgrade,” said station manager Rodrigo Leal. “We’re running Windows ’98 on some of our computers.”
The fund-raising effort comes at a time when a number of universities nationwide have either eliminated student-run radio stations or are thinking of doing so. In Houston, for instance, Rice University pulled the plug on KTRU-FM in 2011 and sold the frequency the station had long occupied.
Before KVRX hit the FM dial in 1994, the station was available to cable TV subscribers through a unique arrangement with Time Warner Cable that started in 1988, according to Kevin Tuerff, one of its co-founders. Back then, the station was known as KTSB.
The goal from the very beginning was to give UT students an independent, uncensored outlet to hone their skills.
“In the 1980s in Austin, every radio station in town was just awful,” said Tuerff, who today serves as president of Austin-based marketing firm EnviroMedia. “All you heard was all the hits, all the time. We wanted our own station with our own news, music and sports.”
After some lobbying, that’s exactly what Tuerff and his pals got. “None of the hits, all of the time” was born.
“KVRX attracts people who are risk takers and not scared to jump in, people who want to do something great,” said Carol Ramsey, who served as station manager during KVRX’s 1994 sign-on.
The station got off to a humble start, largely using donated equipment. When there wasn’t enough money for sound insulation, co-founders resorted to covering studio walls with carpeting salvaged from a seedy motel, Tuerff said.
One of the rules back then was that Texas artists had to be played in heavy rotation. That’s still the case today, meaning local musicians often get their big break on KVRX.
“There’s so much musical talent in Austin, but no outlet was paying them the attention they deserved,” said Sara Beechner, another KVRX co-founder. “KVRX is such a great launch pad.”
KVRXFM20 benefit concert featuring Hickoids, Daniel Francis Doyle & the Dreams and Pure X
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Former “Austin City Limits” studio, University of Texas communications complex, 2600 Guadalupe St.
KEYE’s Deeda Payton will anchor her final weekend newscast Nov. 30.
Payton is leaving the station to become general manager of Community Impact’s Central Austin edition.
She announced the news on Facebook saying, in part, “The time has come to announce I’m retiring from TV News. I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some of the most fascinating people, work with the best in the biz & make lifelong friends, but it’s time for a new challenge. Thank you all for your support!”
Payton joined KEYE in January 2013 as co-anchor of the station’s morning newscast before shifting to weekends. Prior to arriving in Austin, she worked at the Fox station in Oklahoma City.
A replacement for Payton hasn’t been lined up yet, the station said Monday.
Listen for some Texas twang on the next edition of NPR’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!”
The popular show, which quizzes participants on current events, was taped in front of a capacity crowd Thursday night at the Bass Concert Hall on the University of Texas campus and is scheduled to air on NPR affiliates nationwide this weekend.
Guests included local musician Dale Watson.
In Austin, “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” can be heard at 10 a.m. Saturday and 7 p.m. Sunday on 90.5 KUT-FM.
It’s not the first time the Chicago-based show has visited Austin – and host Peter Sagal said he hopes it won’t be the last.
“We love Austin,” he said. “Austin represents everything that’s best about America – and Texas. It’s this wonderful amalgamation of politics, the Mexican culture, food, tattoos … you name it.”
“Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!” is a bit of an oddity on the news-heavy NPR schedule. In fact, when Sagal was first tapped to serve as host, he said he didn’t expect the gig to last very long. He was wrong. The show’s been on the air for 16 years and counting.
“People who listen to public radio need humor, just like the rest of us,” Sagal said. “There’s very little comedy on public radio. We almost have that to ourselves. It’s nice that there’s one hour a week where NPR isn’t serious.”
Taking the show out of the studio and recording it in front of a live audience from time to time is something Sagal, who has a background in theater, said he pushed for after taking over as host.
“For me, it was weird to be stuck in a studio,” he said. “I need to see people in front of me to see if they’re laughing, if we’re connecting. You need people to laugh, you need them to respond. If there’s someone who might reward you with a laugh, we all become these leaping porpoises in search of attention.”