By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
By Jena Ardell
By Mary Willson
By Bree Davies
Listeners to KS-104 (aka KQKS-FM/104.3) can be forgiven for wondering if the station has been abandoned. Earlier this year, the entire KS-104 air staff was raided by KJMN-FM/92.1 (Jam'n), the station that rose from the ashes of the late, lamented 92X format. Rather than recruiting new jocks, however, the folks at KS-104 have learned to live without them. For months now, it's been almost impossible to hear a live human being between the R&B and hip-hop cuts that continue to form the foundation of KS-104's sound. Fans are instead subjected to recordings of a single, robot-voiced fellow hyping "loooooong" music sets over and over again. It's as if the outlet has been taken over by the Borg.
In some ways, this tack isn't all that bad; at least you don't have to hear chuckleheaded twerps insult your intelligence every three or four minutes. But at the same time, it leaves the station seeming bereft of life. Even satellite services do a better job of fooling their audiences into believing that somebody's home. Hence, the rampant speculation in the local radio industry this fall that KS-104 was on the block--and that the new owners would almost certainly change the format as soon as possible.
The first of those speculations came true several weeks ago, when Jefferson Pilot, a nationally known media giant that already controls country provider KYGO-FM/98.5 (frequently the top-rated broadcaster in the marketplace), classic country KYGO-AM/1600, sports-talk KKFN-AM/950 and K-Hits, at 107.5 on the FM dial, formally purchased KS-104. The Federal Communications Commission must give its okay before the sale becomes final--and until recently, such permission was not considered a sure thing. A number of complaints filed with the FCC against KS-104 impeded the deal, and while neither Bob Call, senior vice president and general manager of Jefferson Pilot, nor Mark Stevens, general manager of Western Cities (KS-104's previous owner), will go into specifics about these matters, they confirm that they have been resolved. (A reliable source suggests that the disputes were smoothed over thanks to generous cash payments.)
So what does the future hold for KS-104? Although Jefferson Pilot is operating the station under a local marketing agreement that would allow it to make changes immediately, no DJs have been hired, and the format remains in limbo. (According to Western Cities' Stevens, the reason that KS-104 is currently without voice talent is because of "our cramped studio conditions while they're building a new studio at Jefferson Pilot," but this claim sounds like only a small part of the story.) These clues lend credence to speculation that the contemporary-hits stylings in which KS-104 traffics are going the way of the dodo bird. After all, Jam'n is offering much the same sonic menu. And even though the ratings earned by Jam'n continue to lag behind KS-104's, few observers believe that a city like Denver can support two urban FMs for much longer.
If Call agrees with these observations, he's not saying. A radio pro, he responds to questions about KS-104 with industry jargon and chipper generalities. He refers to the station's sound as "primarily music-intensive" and says that Jefferson Pilot hasn't altered the format because "we're test-driving things and getting reactions from listeners and clients in terms of what we might or might not do down the line." When pressed, though, he admits that new moves are likely once the FCC gives its blessing to the sale, perhaps by the end of the year. "We didn't purchase KS-104 to have it operate in a sleepy fashion," he notes. "We're excited to make it part of our family, and we hope to improve the station as the market dictates. As far as live talent and contesting and so forth, it's probably best to leave that to speculation at this point. But we will consider the station to be just as important to us as any of our other properties."
In other words, say goodbye to KS-104 as we know it, and say hello to...something else.
The Bug Theater, at 3654 Navajo Street, began life as a bold experiment--a space in which underground performances could be presented in an over-ground manner. But making the operation cost-effective has not been easy. In late August, Michael Thornton, president of the Bug's board of directors, mailed a letter to theater members and mailing-list subscribers noting that the Bug had built up a considerable debt to its landlords, local art-scene figures Reed Weimer and Chandler Romeo. To pay off this bill, Thornton announced that the board had raised the theater's rental rates, changed its booking policy to include more regular series, and was staging various benefits and fundraisers. In addition, he revealed that the Bug was in the midst of jumping through governmental hoops in an effort to be designated a nonprofit organization.
For now, at least, these various plans seem to be working: The Bug remains open, and Thornton is optimistic about the future. "We couldn't have done it if Reed and Chandler hadn't been so patient," he remarks. "They allowed us to miss the rent so that we could apply for some grants and for nonprofit status. We've stayed current with our other bills, so now what we'd like to maintain is the ability to pay each month's rent plus pay off some of what we owe them."