The history of South Dakota Public Broadcasting is the history of South Dakota. Begun by a curious teenager, SDPB was built over the years by people determined to offer educational and informational programming to the sometimes remote rural population of South Dakota. As we pass the 90th anniversary of public radio and the 50th anniversary of public television in South Dakota that mission continues to this day.
What is now South Dakota Public Broadcasting began as an experimental radio station in the Engineering department at the University of South Dakota. E. O. Lawrence, future Nobel Laureate (Physics, 1939) started the experimental station in 1919. Originally it was licensed as 9APC, an amateur station broadcasting Morse code. In May 1922 it aired its first voice broadcast and was licensed as WEAJ by the Federal Radio Commission. A call letter change to KUSD happened in 1925, and we were off and running! Today SDPB has radio transmitters across the state serving virtually every citizen.
Likewise, SDPB’s network of television stations dot the map, offering programming on three digital channels. It, too, had humble beginnings - in unused space that once housed a boiler and cistern, KUSD-TV went on the air July 5, 1961. Programming consisted of lectures, interviews, documentaries and musical entertainment. By 1967 it was a network of three stations, and by 1978 it covered virtually the entire state.
SDPB’s Internet presence began in 1996, and now offers live streaming of all legislative activity, coverage of all SDHSAA-sanctioned Fine Arts and Sports offerings and educational content for the classroom and the living room.
Our mission: To challenge the mind and lift the spirit of South Dakotans with creative Public Broadcasting.
Click here to hear SDPB radio programming from days gone by.
Click here for SDPB video of historic importance.
Click here for SDPB photos of historic importance.
If you have photos or other memorabilia you’d like to share, contact Fritz Miller.
Watch interviews of past and present SDPB employees, as well as video from the archives on our YouTube Channel.