As a service of the Department of Communication in 1984, the station initially operated as a cable channel on the Joplin cable television system. Programming included regular coverage of Joplin City Council meetings, and numerous programs presented by students, faculty and staff of the University.
Over-the-air broadcast television programming began on a low-power television station, K57DR-TV. The call letters were changed in 1995 to KGCS-LP.
KGCS moved to channel 22, and began broadcasting a digital signal. The changes allow KGCS to reach more than 167,000 households in Southwest Missouri, Southeast Kansas and Northeast Oklahoma. The changes were made possible by a generous donation from the Ruth I. Kolpin Foundation. As a result, the studios were named in honor of Ruth Kolpin.