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Celebrating 60 years, radio station KPRS proudly remains a family-owned business

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By Steve Penn, Kansas City Star

It started with a favor from a distinguished former Kansas governor.

In 1950, Alf Landon gave a malfunctioning radio transmitter to Andrew “Skip” Carter, who was in pursuit of his dream to start a radio station. Carter drove to Leavenworth, retrieved the transmitter and hauled it back to Kansas City on a flatbed truck.

Carter repaired that transmitter and went on to launch his radio station in 1950. That radio station, now known as KPRS, would grow and exceed expectations.

Today, 60 years later, KPRS-FM is still firmly rooted on the Kansas City landscape. And according to the president of the family-owned business, KPRS Hot 103 Jamz is here to stay.

In fact, KPRS is the oldest African-American continually owned radio station in the United States. Ensuring that KPRS would remain a family-run business, Michael Carter, the grandson, was named president of the company years ago. He actually made his radio debut at age 8.

“I’ve been at the helm almost 25 years,” Michael Carter said recently. “To be in business in radio today is a plus, with all the things we’ve had to face. We’ve had to deal with the new Arbitron rating system, to royalties issues and the loss of business overall. We’ve seen a lot of things go down this past couple of years. And for us to be able to celebrate 60 years in broadcast is a monumental thing for us.”

Serving as president of a radio station has provided Carter with an extraordinary life. And he’s looking forward to handing the business off someday to the next generation of Carters. KPRS now has 67 employees.

“I’m hoping we can continue it for my little guys to come up and run the business at some point,” Carter said. “We’re also trying to keep it running so our folks can continue to have their jobs. We’ve been working really hard to keep this thing in business.”

Carter said his grandfather and grandmother instilled in him a sense that the radio station was a vital part of the community.

“The old station was built on being the voice of the African-American community,” Carter said.

“Today, that’s where we are, not only in the African-American community but the Kansas City community as well. With the fact that we’re locally owned and I’m the owner, we can do a lot more things more readily.”

Tony Gregg, better known on air as Tony G, has worked at the station 21 years.

“The industry has changed a lot,” Gregg said. “Music has changed a lot. How radio stations are perceived has changed a lot. How radio stations are rated has changed.

“To go through all of that and still be a mainstay in the community and be respected in the industry says a lot. Since Mike has taken over, he’s made sure we stay true to the community.”

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Written by Symphony

August 31, 2010 at 10:34 am

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