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Grant sets stage for third public radio station

Aspen Times Staff Report

A major federal grant for a new radio tower on Sunlight Peak in Glenwood Springs and related radio station equipment has been awarded this week.

The tower is a joint venture between three public radio organizations, KDNK in Carbondale, KAJX-Aspen Public Radio and Colorado Public Radio.

The $244,442 grant and tower project will help secure for the long term critical broadcasting assets used by KDNK and KAJX, according to a press release.

Both KDNK and KAJX currently lease the sites where the transmitters that broadcast their signals are located. The property under the new tower will be equally owned and controlled by each of the three organizations that make up Sunlight Peak LLC.

The new tower will also allow Colorado Public Radio to provide its full-time classical music service in the area.

KDNK’s new home signal will shift from 90.5 FM to 88.1 FM, and its strength will increase from 220 to 1,200 watts. The tower will also provide greater protection for the string of translators that currently send the signal on 88.3 FM around the valley.

The string of translators, currently heard on 88.3 FM, which allows KDNK to be heard in all corners of the Roaring Fork Valley, will be less susceptible to reallocation by the FCC, according to the press release. The station will be available on three frequencies once the new tower is built, 88.1, 88.3 and 88.5.

For KAJX, the grant will help provide a new 4,000-watt signal at 88.9 FM from Sunlight Peak, allowing KAJX to expand its audience west from Glenwood Springs toward Rifle.

The Sunlight Peak site will be the second transmission site for KAJX; the station will retain its original 400-watt transmitter on Smuggler Mountain overlooking Aspen.

The grant will also help Colorado Public Radio establish a local broadcasting signal on 90.5 FM in the Roaring Fork Valley. CPR is a statewide public radio network that broadcasts two 24-hour services across the state, one classical music, the other in-depth news. As part of CPR’s negotiations with KDNK and KAJX, it agreed to offer only classical music in the valley.

The grant is the result of a joint application by the three stations to the Public Telecommunications Facility Program (PTFP), which is a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The grant was the largest awarded by PTFP in the 2003 grant cycle, according to the press release.

The three public radio entities began working together to build a joint broadcasting tower on Sunlight Peak after signing an agreement in June 2001 to ensure that both KDNK and KAJX had the ability to retain and expand their audiences and that Colorado Public Radio was able to broadcast in the Roaring Fork Valley.

The agreement allows for a cost-sharing arrangement in which CPR will pay for the tower and its installation, while KDNK and KAJX will pay for their own transmitters and related equipment.

Under the arrangement, and after the grant proceeds are applied to the project, CPR will pay approximately $150,000, KDNK will pay approximately $35,000, and KAJX will pay approximately $65,000.

“If someone walked into the station today and said we could secure the station’s long-term future in the way we’re doing this, and it would cost $35,000, we would do it in a heartbeat,” said Mary Suma, KDNK general manager.

She said the key benefits are ownership of the transmission facility, locking in frequencies and increasing the broadcast signal strength.

“You’ll be able to hear KDNK better, on more convenient frequencies, and you’ll be able to hear it on those frequencies forever. This is taking us from a vulnerable position to a solid position in terms of KDNK’s most critical assets.”

Pending approval of a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service, construction on the project is expected to begin in June 2004, and all three entities are expected to be on the air from Sunlight Peak by September.


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