KUNC gets extension to raise funds

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— With some local residents ready to mark Feb. 9 "the day the music died," the board of trustees at the University of Northern Colorado voted Friday to give KUNC-FM's diverse music selection another 19 days of life support.

The Greeley-based public radio station, which comes in at 88.5 FM in Steamboat, was about to be bought by Colorado Public Radio out of Denver Friday when the university's trustees balked at the sale in favor of giving the station until the end of February to come up with a figure that approaches the nearly $2 million sale price.

"The odds are long," said Neil Best, the station manager and programming manager for KUNC. "Two million to be raised in three weeks would be incredible. We just hope it isn't putting off the inevitable.

"But we think we've got a chance," Best quickly added.

The station had received more than $60,000 in donations as of 5 p.m. Friday, Best said.

He said the station greatly appreciates smaller donations but could really use a few checks with a $50,000 or $500,000 written on them.

The station will be attempting to gather the donations through an organization called "Friends of KUNC." Best said the trustees might be willing to accept an amount that had not yet reached the original sale price by March 1, though that magic number is as yet undefined.

Colorado Public Radio was planning to make KUNC the 24-hour news arm of its two-channel radio network beginning this March, eliminating the "diverse music" blend that many think makes the station unique. KUNC currently broadcasts news programs from National Public Radio along with a motley medley of music, which consists of everything from jazz to country to pop. Shows such as "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered" would remain on the air, but the diverse music aspect of the station would be lost under Colorado Public Radio.

Steamboat residents were among those who lobbied the university to give listeners time to save the station, e-mailing and calling to voice their support.

"Their music mix is like nobody else's in the country," said Rick Fisher, who started an employer-match contribution program at The Industrial Company to help out the station. Fisher e-mailed a university official Friday to urge her to stop the sale.

Fisher also expressed his concerns that a company from the Front Range would be dictating what the residents of northern Colorado could listen to.

"The identification with northern Colorado in Greeley is a lot more relevant to the economy of the rural areas that we have here in Steamboat," Fisher said.

Erick Glanz, a member of the local advisory board on the station, was worried about the race against the clock that ensued Friday.

"I'd like to say I'm hopeful but I need something to base that on," Glanz said. "I guess 19 days is better than 24 hours."

Ken McConnellogue, a spokesman for the University of Northern Colorado, said the board of trustees were influenced by the outpouring of support for the station. He said the university has received hundreds of calls in the past two days pleading with them to save the station.

"(The board was influenced by) a combination of some pretty eloquent defenses from the management and supporters," McConnellogue said.

The station is already supported in large part by listeners, Best said. Aside from a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a federal agency, which covers 12 percent of the station's costs and in-kind contributions from the university, the station's budget depends entirely on listeners, Best said.

The station's total budget is about $1 million this year, Best said.

"If we don't try, we will always wonder what we could've done," Best said.

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