CMC, CDOT compete for spot

Groups want to broadcast own programming on radio

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— A state agency and a local college are battling to secure the same free frequency on Steamboat's FM dial.

Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs wants to start a community radio station but is being challenged by the Colorado Department of Transportation, which wants to use the same station to broadcast 24-hour road and weather updates. CDOT is also challenging a Minturn public radio station for control of a spot on the dial and is seeking 10 other similar licenses in western Colorado.

Local radio supporters are hoping they can start a new low-powered station at CMC that offers residents community-oriented information and some music programming. But their efforts to secure a free federally sponsored broadcast license from the Federal Communications Commission may be for naught if CDOT gets the signal instead.

The 100-watt station would have only about a 10-mile broadcast radius but could put local community meetings and concerts on the air for local listeners, said CMC Dean Robert Ritschel.

The stations could also broadcast weather information that could help CDOT achieve its goals, supporters say. But while those road and weather broadcasts could give CDOT a voice, they would probably not be available 24 hours a day every day.

Nonetheless, Ritschel said he thinks CDOT should pull its application.

"When CDOT got in on this, they basically pulled the rug out from under us," Ritschel said.

A Minturn group is also trying to get CDOT to withdraw its application. That group of residents has been attempting to get a broadcast license for about two years, said Liz Campbell, a spokeswoman for Minturn Public Radio.

"Road and weather conditions are a part of our everyday lives here," Campbell said. "But do we need to hear a continuous loop of it? I don't think so."

Dan Hopkins, a CDOT spokesman, said the state organization did not want to sidetrack community efforts to broadcast information and events locally. He said CDOT is now applying to the FCC to try to find a way to accommodate both stations, though Hopkins could not explain how that might work.

CDOT applied for the licenses because it is hoping to expand its services to truckers and other drivers who have asked for better access to road and weather information in the western part of the state, Hopkins said. Drivers in eastern Colorado can access information on an AM station.

"Our goal is to try to provide a uniform frequency of low-power stations on the FM dial for people on the Western Slope," Hopkins said.

AM stations unlike FM stations do not carry well in the mountains because they need to connect to the listener more directly and can be interrupted by objects in the way of the signal, Hopkins said. That's why they are competing for the FM stations.

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