Public station KUNC on sale block

News will likely replace diverse music programming

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— News that a Greeley public radio station is changing owners and content struck a harsh chord in the ears of local listeners who appreciate the selection of music they can hear on 88.5 FM.

KUNC, which offers residents of the Yampa Valley a diverse blend of music and news from around the world, may soon become a 24-hour all-news station.

The Greeley station announced Thursday that it plans to sell its broadcasting license and station endowment to Colorado Public Radio out of Denver for almost $2 million. If the sale goes through, KUNC will become part of Colorado Public Radio's new two-channel network.

Those two channels, which will begin broadcasting in late March, include a 24-hour news station and a 24-hour classical music station. KUNC will be the news station, though a representative from Colorado Public Radio said the organization is not sure of the breadth of programming it will eventually offer northern Colorado residents.

"There is certainly going to be a major difference," said Sean Nethery, the vice president of communications for Colorado Public Radio.

Nethery said his stations' missions are to broadcast news and classical music, but not a diverse selection of music. He said the Colorado Public Radio has received feedback from listeners encouraging it to move in that direction, however.

KUNC listeners can expect many of the same kinds of news programs from the new station, including "Morning Edition," "All Things Considered" and "Car Talk." Nethery could not confirm, however, whether other programs like "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me!" will remain on the air.

But it is the loss of music diversity that was most upsetting to a number of local listeners. KUNC is a station that would play Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" just before a jazz guitar solo. The selection of music spanned classical, pop, jazz, folk and sometimes even country, said Erick Glanz, a member of the board of advisors for the radio station in Steamboat.

"The thing that really separates KUNC from other stations was this diverse music," Glanz said. "It'd give you a taste of the best jazz, a taste of the best country You may hear some really excellent Joni Mitchell and even some Paul Simon. You don't hear that anyplace else in Steamboat."

Glanz said that if the community is interested in keeping the programming as is, and can come up with $2 million by today, it may be able to, though he doubted the likelihood of that happening. A spokesman for the University of Northern Colorado also said that possibility is still open.

Steamboat is not the only area that will be affected by the change. The Greeley station broadcasts throughout northern Colorado, reaching to Boulder and Fort Collins, Glanz said.

Ken McConnellogue, a spokesman for the University of Northern Colorado, said the money that has been supporting the station will go toward more student-oriented programs.

The university, which spent about $170,000 on the station this year, as opposed to about $440,000 (including student fees) last year, has been phasing out its support of the station for the past two to three years, McConnellogue said.

"Over the course of the last couple of years the university has been looking at all its administrative expenses," he said. "The administration's priority is to direct funds to the classroom."

McConnellogue said the university has trimmed $4 million from administration costs over the last two and a half years.

McConnellogue said the new station will be using the same translators, which allow it to broadcast to remote locations, as the university did.

Unlike the University of Northern Colorado, Colorado Public Radio is 93 percent listener-supported, Nethery said.

The university's board of trustees will vote on the proposal today and it also must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission. Spokespersons from both stations, however, seemed relatively sure the sale will go through.

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