At this writing, Colorado Public Radio is just over half an hour away from finishing its latest game of signal-go-round: At 10 a.m. on July 9, KCFR, the news-and-information branch in Denver, is slated to switch from 1340 AM to 90.1 FM, where KVOD, the classical-music wing, has been heard in recent years. KVOD, meanwhile, will leap to 88.1 FM, a much weaker signal. When I tuned to the dial spots at around 5:20 a.m. during my drive to work on the 9th, the same classical passage was playing on both. But whereas the sound boomed out of my radio at 90.1, it was much quieter at 88.1 -- and while I live in an outlying suburb (Ken-Caryl Ranch, near the foothills), it's still part of the metro area. Imagine how the swap will impact listeners north of the city.
Of course, complaints about this situation have been circulating for a while, and even CPR acknowledges that the times are about to change for the worse for some classical buffs. A web page on its site notes that "after July 9, listeners north of the metro area may have difficulty receiving 88.1 FM clearly, depending on location." Here's their list of potential solutions:
HD Radio: Both KVOD and KCFR are also available on HD Radio, a new technology that allows Colorado Public Radio to offer two distinct channels on one frequency with consistently high sound quality. In addition to its new location at 88.1 FM, KVOD classical music will also be available on HD Radios at 90.1 FM HD-2. KCFR news and information will also be at 90.1 FM HD-1. If you receive 90.1 FM clearly, without interference, HD Radio may offer a good solution in your home or car...
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Internet Radio: With a high-speed Internet connection and a wireless router (installed by your Internet service provider), an Internet radio receiver will allow you to listen to KVOD, KCFR, and thousands of other radio stations from around the world anywhere in your home...
On your computer: Both KVOD and KCFR will continue to be streamed live at www.cpr.org. The Internet has become an increasingly popular listening option in offices and homes...
None of these options will please the average KVOD fan in, say, Windsor -- but the relatively modest size of the classical audience in those parts means CPR will likely be able to ride out the complaints without too much difficulty. Granted, power boosts are possible, especially if the Federal Communications Commission opts to expand the FM dial. (Public comments about this possibility are being accepted through July 15; check out this item on the Colorado Public Radio Blog for a thorough rundown of the issue and its potential ramifications.) If something like that wins approval, though, it won't happen quickly.
Until then, the northern Colorado classical contingent had better learn to love the news. -- Michael Roberts