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Provo’s First Radio Station Came in 1939

Utah broadcasting began in the early 1900s when young amateur radio operators working from basements and attics in Salt Lake City first transmitted voice and music over the airwaves.  Finally, in 1922, eleven new commercial radio stations went on the air in Utah.   Only three of those new stations – KZN (KSL), KDYL (KCPX), and KFUR (KLO) – survived until the 1930s.

Investors established radio stations in Salt Lake City, Ogden, Logan, Price, and Cedar City before a commercial station came to Provo in 1939.  Clifton A. Tolboe, a building contractor, first saw the economic possibilities of a radio station in Provo.  With the help of others, he worked for two years to get a license from the Federal Communications Commission.

After receiving permission from the FCC, Tolboe acted as the primary owner and the builder of Provo’s first radio station, which received the call letters KOVO, the last three letters being the last three letters of the city’s name.  The studio was conveniently located at 108 West Center in Provo.  Tolboe build the first transmitter at 307 South 1600 West,  The company later built twin transmission towers on 1560 South.

Howard Johnson, who built his first radio set at age eleven, installed the station’s modern electrical equipment.  Arch L. Madsen, who began his career as an amateur radio operator at age eight, served as station manager.  He later became founder and president of Bonneville International., the LDS Church’s radio and television empire.

The “Voice of Central Utah” officially began broadcasting on September 21, 1939.  Two hours of music preceded by the opening program which originated from College Hall on the BYU Campus.  Local mayors, other dignitaries, and the general public attended the opening ceremonies.  KOVO served Utah County and as far south as nephi.  Regular broadcasting hours ran from 7:00 A.M. until 11:00 P.M.  The station used both an extensive record library and the best local talent.

KOVO is now a sports station and is affiliated with ESPN radio.

This is plaque #45 in the Series of Events from Provo’s History and it is located in Big Springs Park.

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