Wednesday, February 28, 2001
Steamboat Springs The Friends of KUNC, which received about $2 million in pledges and donations in its effort to acquire KUNC, offered Wednesday to buy the Greeley-based public radio station from the University of Northern Colorado.
Bidding on the station ended at 5 p.m. Wednesday with the Friends of KUNC and Colorado Public Radio the only two companies interested in the station's broadcast license. Colorado Public Radio, in addition, pushed its offer for the license from $1.3 million to $2 million plus the station's approximately $600,000 endowment Wednesday.That increase was an effort to fend off other potential buyers which might not support public radio, said spokesman Sean Nethery. Among those potential buyers was the owner of K-LOVE, a Christian radio network which eventually decided to back off.
The question of what will happen to KUNC will remain up in the air until as late as 5 p.m. today, when the university plans to make a decision, KUNC station manager Neil Best said.
The Friends of KUNC, a nonprofit organization formed to raise money for the station, was incorporated as Public Radio for Northern Colorado and will direct the station as such if the university chooses to sell the group the license.
Colorado Public Radio has offered to allow the Friends of KUNC's programming team to broadcast a diverse music medley during the evenings Monday through Friday and on weekends, if it gains control.
Right now the station mixes its quirky music medley throughout the day with a variety of informational programs.
Earlier, Colorado Public Radio said it wanted to make KUNC an all-news channel. The diverse music, much to the chagrin of loyal Steamboat listeners, would have been silenced.
The Friends of KUNC have claimed to have received just more than $1 million in pledges and donations as of Wednesday afternoon, though Best said the organization offered the university much more than that.
Best said the organization actually presented the university with the promise of about $1.4 million in direct donations. That, in addition to $600,000 more in pledges, surprised Best, who, like many following the progress on the Friends' Web site had expected the total figure to be closer to $1 million. Best said the organization got some very large donations Wednesday which filled the pot.
The Friends of KUNC had worked feverishly to collect as many last-minute donations as it possibly could before they had to make the counter-offer Wednesday.
The university's board of regents had given the station's listeners 19 days to come up with an unspecified "significant benchmark" approaching $2 million when it decided to hold off selling the station's broadcast license to Denver-based Colorado Public Radio Feb. 9.
The organization spent the last hours pleading for some large donations to get the pledges and contributions up to at least $1 million which appears to have paid off.
"There's going to be a public outcry like they've never seen if they let the sale go through," said local Friends of KUNC member Rick Fisher.
The potential loss of northern Colorado's beloved public radio station, which comes in at 88.5 FM in Steamboat, upset many locals who tune in to get a healthy dose of news as well as a diverse selection of music that includes folk, jazz, pop, classical, country and world music.
Fisher recounted local success stories of the people who have contributed to the cause, including the story of a Routt County woman who gave almost her entire disability check to the station.
"When it's all said and done, the people from the Yampa Valley can be very proud," Fisher said.
Local Friends of KUNC member June Lindenmayer attempted to drum up local support and get businesses and individuals to open their wallets as the days until the deadline dwindled down. She, along with Fisher and local attorney Erick Glanz, have gone to businesses and local organizations like the Rotary Club and the Board of Realtors to try to get them behind the cause.
"It's one of the radio stations that has responded to Steamboat as a community," Lindenmayer said. "For us to lose the northern Colorado personality would be a true shame. We'd be absorbed by metro Denver."
A group of Routt County residents called more than 500 former and current members of KUNC to get them to pledge, Fisher said.
Best said he has been spending much of his off-time and vacation hours lobbying for the station. The station has not been able to solicit donations on the air or work to save it during working hours. The "grass-roots" effort has depended primarily on word of mouth.