How Will Colorado Public Radio's Switch Impact Northern Colorado Listeners?

Anyone in these parts who's tuned in a Colorado Public Radio station lately has heard frequent mentions of the impending July switches involving two of the network's metro-area signals; as outlined in this More Messages blog, KVOD, the operation's classical-music purveyor, leaps from 90.1 FM to 88.1 FM, while KCFR, its news-and-information service, settles in at 90.1 FM after abandoning 1340 AM, its current broadcast base. However, members of CPR's air staff haven't talked about the possibility that KVOD listeners in northern Colorado will be losing their access to CPR's classical fare as soon as the shift takes place -- and neither have they addressed blogosphere speculation about possible moves to address this situation.

The classical dilemma for northern Coloradans revolves around a power disparity between KVOD's 90.1 FM dial locale, which is licensed to broadcast at 30,000 watts, and 88.1, approved for just 1,200 watts. In an interview for the aforementioned blog, CPR head man Max Wycisk insisted that "88.1 will cover metro as well as 90.1 does." However, 90.1 can be heard across the Front Range, and that simply won't be the case with 88.1, as Loveland resident Dick Hilker pointed out in a guest commentary published in the Denver Post on June 10. "As far as the airwaves are concerned, there will be no more Grieg in Greeley, Lalo in Loveland, Franck in Fort Collins or Walton in Windsor," Hilker wrote, adding that "CPR is pulling the plug on about 400,000 northerners."

In the meantime, KCSU, the public-radio station associated with Colorado State University in Fort Collins, is set to come under control of a nonprofit -- a plan conceived in the wake of controversy over another CSU student-media entity, the Rocky Mountain Collegian, which made national headlines last year over a two-word editorial that read, "FUCK BUSH." (Get the lowdown on that kerfuffle here.) The folks at ColoradoPublicRadio.Blogspot wonder if CPR might take advantage of the license transfer that will have to take place in relation to this move to acquire KCSU.

Such a prospect has historical context. CPR has long wanted to establish a beachhead in northern Colorado, and nearly did so when it attempted to purchase KUNC, the University of Northern Colorado station in Greeley, earlier this decade -- a bid thwarted when a community group dubbed Friends of KUNC raised enough dough to grab the outlet themselves, thereby maintaining local control. That tale, and plenty of others, is told in this 2002 Westword feature about Colorado Public Radio.

In all likelihood, CPR will be too busy with the transfers of its existing stations to take a serious run at KCSU. Still, it's not beyond the realm of possibility. Until then, northern Colorado classical-radio buffs like Hilker will have to resort to satellite or Internet radio in order to satisfy their orchestral jones. -- Michael Roberts

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts