Saturday, July 26, 2008

Happy Anniversary, KUNC!

July 24, 2008 marked the first anniversary of KUNC's signal improvements, which added a potential 800-thousand listeners in metro Denver to their service area. The changes greatly improved the signal quality of the station in downtown and across the rest of Denver, as well as other sections of metro, particularly on the northern, and eastern side. Better reception is also attainable in sizable portions of Northern Colorado; in Longmont, Broomfield, Arvada, Wheat Ridge, Lakewood, and throughout Boulder.

Along with its blend of music heard weekdays between 9 AM and 3PM, KUNC is the only public radio station along the front range where you will hear several top notch syndicated programs on Saturdays and Sundays, including:
These offerings, along with their local news efforts which are inserted into the drive time NPR news programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered -- especially their solid reporting from the Colorado State Capitol -- sets the station apart from other public radio offerings available across metro and the Colorado Front Range.

KUNC Has Done Its Homework

Some public stations do their homework better than others. In Boulder, less than a week following KUNC's signal improvements last July, the station provided a clear signal with a recently-licensed translator at 99.9 FM. This addition became necessary when KUNC's 91.5 FM broadcast antenna was moved from the prairie of northwestern Weld County to Buckhorn Mountain, northwest of Fort Collins; the move which gave KUNC much better coverage for most of metro, but not in Boulder, where KUNC's main signal became much more shaded from KUNC's new Buckhorn location.

Hats off to KUNC Manager Neil Best (a 35 year veteran of public radio management) and a cracker jack engineering department for thinking ahead and securing the 99.9 FM frequency for their Boulder translator, an effort which can take months and even years to navigate through the bureaucratic maze known as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The KUNC proactive approach to covering and even improving its signal in Boulder, Colorado illustrates the way to keep on top of thing technical, unlike the Boulder train wreck that continues to unfold for the KVOD classical music service provided by (see previous articles Colorado Public Radiohere and here on this page).

Trying to locate an FM translator frequency for the crowded Denver metro market is tough. But the area around Boulder, tucked up against the foothills, is shaded enough from Colorado Springs, Colorado and Cheyenne, Wyoming radio signals to sometimes make it possible to install a limited power translator for Boulder on a frequency used by Colorado Springs and/or Cheyenne FM stations). But, it takes planning, and above all else -- caring to make such improvements happen.

In recent weeks, we have also seen KUNC move ahead with efforts to return its service to Grand County, Colorado (see previous article on this page here); an area where public radio signals come at a premium. Again, hats off to a public station interested in serving ALL Colorado residents with a solid signal, including blue-collar places away from the Colorado Front Range places without ski resorts, like: Sterling, Yuma, Wray, Holyoke, Buena Vista, and Salida. Too bad KUNC's delivery system can't reach hamlets like Meeker, Colorado where frustrated public radio listeners continue to put up with on-again-off-again service from CPR, our supposed state-wide radio service.

Congratulations KUNC! You are not only an achieving public asset -- from your relatively modest home in Greeley -- you are also a model for Colorado and regional public radio service. In the shaky financial times seen in the public radio world since 1981, such operations need skill and luck to thrive, expand, and continue. You possess the skill; here's hoping for all public radio listeners within your reach that you have continued luck as well.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Author Craig Childs on KAFM

Craig Childs will appear at KAFM, not KVNF as previously reported. Please find a link to the event here. Many thanks to Ryan for correcting our error. Colorado Public Radio Blog regrets the error.

Craig Childs
will be at the Western Slope's KAFM Radio Room on Wednesday, July 30th, at 7:00 p.m. to speak about his river trip to Tibet and the January article he published about it in Men's Journal. A $5 donation is suggested for these events and seats are on a first come, first served basis. To reserve your seats by phone to any of these events, call: 970-241-8801 ext. 3.

Here is a list of Childs' interviews with commentaries for NPR. And, here is a list of Craig's books from Amazon.Com.

Craig Childs has also appeared severally on Colorado Matters, KCFR News' daily interview show heard on Colorado Public Radio.

Switch off KVOD, Switch on Internet Radio?

Colorado Public Radio encourages listeners in Boulder, Colorado -- where KVOD on 88.1-FM is "spotty," according to CPR's Sean Nethery -- to switch to HD radio. Failing that, there is Internet radio. In this article from the Boulder Daily Camera, a "peeved listener" by the name of Carla Selby, finds that there are 127 classical music stations for her to listen over the Internet. And, she says that she won’t be listening to her old favorite anymore; that she "feels betrayed, and that [she] probably will never forgive them [Colorado Public Radio]."

It make you wonder. With 127 different classical music choices on internet radio, will Carla find yet another reason -- besides irritation and disappointment with CPR's decision -- to tune out KVOD? Why spend money on an HD radio -- especially when it won't work in Boulder anyway -- if for the same price or less, you can get an Internet radio and use the broadband connection you already have at home? And, what if Carla finds better classical music content on the Internet besides? What coy or evasive answer does Sean Nethery of Colorado Public Radio have prepared for that?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

KUNC Moves Back in Grand County & Winter Park

Sky Hi Daily News reports that by September 2008, KUNC will be back on the air in Grand County and Winter Park with a translator located at Grand Ranch's Sol Vista and on the radio dial at 91.7-FM. KUNC raised $43,000 for the new tower.

KVOD Kvetching Continues . . .

Longtime KVOD listener and Boulder, Colorado resident, Carole Bayer, has this to say about Colorado Public Radio and HD radio. I guess the next round of advice from CPR to Carol will be that she NEEDS to buy a computer and get broadband access? Well, she had a good run -- 33 years of listening!

Carol also managed to get her complaint letter in The Denver Post, with yet another complainant.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Classically Speaking: Southern Colorado 2, Northern Colorado 0

Checking public radio sports, in the Classical Music League, in the third inning, it's Colorado Springs 2, Fort Collins, Loveland, Windsor, Greeley NOTHING.

It's Only a Game, Right?

If Colorado Public Radio (CPR) were operating under the spirit and intent of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, the score would be 2 to 1.

That's because listeners in Colorado Springs have KCME at 88.7-FM, A Voice for the Arts, and Colorado Public Radio (CPR) at 94.7-FM BOTH programming classical music, while people in Larimer and Weld Counties in Colorado have NO CLASSICAL MUSIC OPTION on their radio dials.

Game Analysis

The score is 2 to zip, because the public radio system has been GAMED -- beaten up for nearly 30 years. Public Broadcasting's funding arm, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, was threatened with zeroed-out funding by the Reagan team, and ever since 1981, many in the public radio system have played things way too safe -- with some players playing with a sinister twist (quick, check that ball for foreign substances).

When CPR pulled the plug on Classical KVOD at 90.1-FM recently, and replaced it with KCFR News, CPR lost its connection with Summit County (see previous article), and it ALSO wiped out classical music listenership in Larimer and Weld Counties in Colorado. Now, public radio listeners there are treated to drive time news from KUNC at 91.5-FM AND KCFR at 90.1-FM which is almost identical -- save for local drop-ins from each station -- times at which KUNC has shined in recent months. Since KUNC is more localized than CPR could ever hope to be for this region, the only motivation for CPR to remove classical music and replace it with news is because they know it brings in more money, and it could weaken KUNC's base of support by just offering the same NPR news shows.

The intent of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 is completely ignored in this instance. It was created and funded so that non-commercial radio and TV could take chances; bring new programming and ideas to the airwaves, and serve UNSERVED audiences. Colorado Public Radio's recent removal of KVOD from 90.1-FM takes CPR in the opposite direction from that reason to exist in the first place! All that we may see from this reckless behavior is the support base for CPR growing a bit (at the expense of KUNC) while overall the PUBLIC loses content! Is that what Colorado Public radio means by news initiative?

Game Recap

Meanwhile, back in Summit County, the residents have scored big time with recent actions by the Summit County Translator Board. That's because they recently took the new KCFR-FM signal from 90.1 (previously KVOD) off their system, and replaced it with KCME music. In their own important way, the County -- NOT Colorado Public Radio -- is fulfilling the original intent of the Public Broadcasting Act, by reinstating classical music for its residents. WAY TO GO!

That's it from the public radio ballparks for now. There's still some hope for a rally.

Train Story Train WRECK!

You gotta love the irony! Or is it coincidence? I get those two words mixed up, since Alanis Morisette confused everyone with her song Ironic in 1996. Let's just call it a situational irony, or perhaps (my personal favorite) a viciously-funny coincidence.

Anyway . . . on Tuesday, July 22nd, during NPR's All Things Considered, Colorado Public Radio's KCFR News gave its statewide listeners a real Two for Tuesday. However in this case, the "two for" was a back-to-back, double-shot of an interview with KCFR's Mike Lamp and Cal Marsella; the General Manager of Denver's Regional Transportation District, referred to as RTD-Denver. You can hear the on-air train wreck here (until next Tuesday, July 29th), from the 2-hour stream that Colorado Public Radio rips from its on-air broadcast.

At around 45 minutes past the hour (hard to tell because the stream's timing is screwed up), KCFR News Host Anna Panoka introduces the RTD story, just after NPR finishes its regular segment. Then Mike Lamp interviews Cal Marsella for around 7 minutes and 30 seconds, at which point KCFR runs a series of: (a) call-letter promos mixed with weather, (b) an underwriting spot, followed by (c) more promos, and (d) a testimonial from a paying underwriting client. Then after all of that jerking off, KCFR runs the entire interview -- AGAIN!

Since the story ran so long -- the second time -- KCFR News cut into its regular programming at the end of the story: (a) a promo for Talk of the Nation, and finally (b) a cut into NPR's top of the hour news. In the meantime, Colorado Public Radio missed their FCC-mandated station identification, just BEFORE the top of the hour, because they were so busy crashing into NPR news headlines, which had already started just past 5:00 p.m. You see, NPR news headlines are broadcast LIVE -- unlike all of KCFR's programming, which is entirely AUTOMATED.

Of course, we all like automation, for what WOULD we do without all of our machines? But when it comes to radio -- an intimate medium, as described by CPR during its heavily-produced fundraising segments during drive time-- most people don't actually see the wizard behind the curtain. Technical difficulties, like CPR's yesterday, raise the curtain -- and the issue -- in great relief, and in obvious ways that repetitious (and dated) Denver-area weather spots heard in Grand Junction, Colorado and Pueblo, Colorado do not.

A wise man once told me that the best tool to gauge the current weather was "with an open window." As an extension of that, I might suggest that the best tool to gauge on-air radio content is "with an open set of ears." But when an automated station is on the air, it is essentially on autopilot. Ears? Hello? What did you say? Please stand by . . .

Speaking of pop singers (with bad ears), there is a fantastic Pete Townshend song which is particularly à propos to describe Colorado Public Radio's functional (and structural) dilemma. The song is entitled "Crashing by Design."

Nothing must pass this line
Unless it is well defined
You just have to be resigned
You're crashing by design

I couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks to DenverDXer of DenverRadio.Net for bringing this story to CPRB. You can find the original post here, in the Comments & Rumors section.

CPRB Bonus Audio File: Listen to the 1 minute and 12 second technical difficulty here. It doesn't sound bad, but remember -- this technical glitch happened after 7+ minutes of a just-repeated news story, which plowed through a station identification, on live radio, during drive time -- at 5:00 p.m! Does anyone at the station listen to the actual content? If not, then why do they expect us to listen -- and subscribe? By the way, what time do CPR employees leave the station anyway? Maybe someone should drive down to Centennial, Colorado -- with an open set of eyes -- to check. Let us know what you find out.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Colorado Public Redundancy

Here is another complaint from The Daily Camera regarding Colorado Public Radio's move of KVOD to 88.1-FM in Denver. Roger Cichorz, a KVOD listener, asks some important questions regarding the downgrade of KVOD. CPR celebrated -- and to some degree, warned about -- the move "back to FM." But if 1490-AM is still on the air (it is), carrying NPR news in northern Colorado including Boulder, and if 90.1-FM covers both Denver and Boulder, then there seems to be an overage of KCFR news coverage while there are enormous gaps KVOD classical music coverage. As a matter of fact, you can now get NPR news from Centennial-based, Colorado Public Radio on three different and over-lapping stations in the north metro area: 1340-AM, 1490-AM and on 90.1-FM. Sounds like Colorado Public Redundancy to me.

In the immortal words of CPR President Max Wycisk, more public radio IS better for everyone -- especially when part of CPR's mission is to blast KUNC listeners with KCFR's competing content from National Public Radio throughout northern Colorado. It sounds to me like CPR knows exactly what it is doing -- LITERALLY!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Changes at KCSU are Finalized for the Better

Beginning August 1, 2008, KCSU-FM at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado will be part of a finalized agreement which places KCSU, The Collegian Newspaper, and other Student Media groups under a newly-formed 501c3 non-profit organization. The student-controlled KCSU will continue to operate separately from the university with a student-dominated governing board, which will also include community members and faculty.

While the new Governing Board will provide guidance, the license of KCSU will remain with the Colorado State Board of Agriculture, which serves as the Colorado State University System Governing Board (the CSU System also includes the Colorado State University in Pueblo, and Fort Lewis College in Durango. Along with Fort Collins, the other campuses in the system have student-operated FM radio stations as well; KTSC, Pueblo, and KDUR, Durango).

During the process which formed the new Student Media Governing Board at CSU, the issue of a possible license transfer of KCSU arose with some trepidation. By keeping the KCSU license during this time of transition, The Colorado State Board of Agriculture avoids a potential legal quagmire that a license transfer could bring. That's because the Federal Communications Commission requires a public comment period for any proposed change in the licensee for radio stations, a process which often brings people and interest groups out of the woodwork.

In KCSU's case, the stakes at such a public comment period would be very high. With enough of an investment by the University, the spotty signal of the station can be improved to serve the Fort Collins-Loveland-Greeley market; an area which recently lost the signal of KVOD classical music from Colorado Public Radio (CPR). With CPR's mission at stake, to supposedly bring back classical music to the Larimer-Weld County market, observers see KCSU as a potential target for CPR acquisition because of what could be a relatively cheap price tag for such a station. The alternative for CPR is pretty steep. KYEN-FM, Severence is up for sale at a starting price of $10 Million.

The new agreement for student media at CSU reduces speculative activity over KCSU, but CONTINUED DILIGENCE will be wise. It was fifteen years ago that CPR head Max Wysick reportedly held a closed door meeting with then CSU President Albert Yates, unbeknownst to the KCSU Manager at the time. Fortunately for CSU and the communities of Fort Collins, Colorado and possibly Durango, Colorado (CPR already has its game going in Pueblo, Colorado), nothing concrete came from those discussions.

The new not-for-profit Student Media Governing Board stems from discussions on the CSU campus in recent months, which brought together students, University officials, and community members who recommended such a governing board.