Towering hopes for local public radio

by Lynn Burton
Post Independent Staff

Community public radio stations KDNK and KAJX hope Sept. 30 will be the first day of the rest of their broadcast lives.

That’s when the stations, based in Carbondale and Aspen, learn whether the federal Department of Commerce has approved a grant to fund half the cost of a new $500,000 broadcast tower on Sunlight Peak.

The tower will be jointly owned by KDNK, KAJX and Denver-based Colorado Public Radio. All three stations expect the new tower to solve long-standing conflicts that two years ago threatened to cut into KDNK and KAJX’s broadcast radius.

“This will be a really nice set-up for KDNK,” said station manager Mary Suma.

KAJX executive director Brent Gardner-Smith said the new tower will be “very positive” for the Roaring Fork Valley, and give listeners as far as Rifle three programming formats from which to choose.

The three stations formed a nonprofit, limited liability partnership to apply for the grant, which Suma said she is confident they will receive.

With money and broadcast tower in hand, Colorado Public Radio will be able to achieve a long-held desire to beam one of its two signals into the Roaring Fork Valley.

KDNK and KAJX will be able to nail down their FM broadcast frequencies, and not worry about Colorado Public Radio bumping them off the air in parts of the Roaring Fork Valley.

If the $250,000 grant comes through, Colorado Public Radio will pay $157,000 for the new tower, KAJX $60,000, and KDNK $33,000, Smith said.

Colorado Public Radio shook up the valley in 2001 when it received a Federal Communications Commission license to broadcast locally at 88.1 FM. Due to FCC broadcast regulations, KDNK would have lost its 88.3 signal, and KAJX would have lost its 88.9 signal.

Suma said the signal loss would have affected 75 percent of KDNK’s listenership.

After two years of negotiations, KDNK and Colorado Public Radio swapped their primary signals, which also opened the airwaves for KAJX to remain on the air from Aspen to Glenwood Springs.

Smith said when construction on the new tower is complete next August, KAJX listeners will be able to pick up the station at 88.9 from Rifle to Glenwood Springs to Aspen without changing the dial like they must now. Within Aspen, the signal will remain at 91.5.

Suma said KDNK’s broadcast power will increase four-fold, from 230 watts to 1,200 watts, and most listeners will pick up the station at its new primary location at 88.1 FM. Listeners outside Carbondale will receive the station at 88.5 FM.

Colorado Public Radio will broadcast at KDNK’s current primary signal at 90.5.

Suma said her station hopes to land other grants and large gifts to fund the $33,000 it needs to pay for its part of the broadcast tower. She also hopes the nonprofit station won’t have to siphon off money from its other fund-raisers to pay for the tower.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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