ARCHIVED  June 1, 2001

KUNC suitor to acquire Boulder station

BOULDER — Colorado Public Radio has acquired the license and station of KWAB AM-1490, ending an era of locally based AM radio that began in 1947.

KWAB signed a letter of intent May 21 to sell the license for $1.1 million. The deal includes the station’s transmission equipment and signal. All of the station’s 16 employees have been laid off and its remaining assets will be sold.

Staff were notified at the time of the sale and KWAB said good-bye to listeners May 30, after what General Manager Chuck Lontine called a thoughtful chat with Mike Flanagan, host of one of the station’s top shows.

KWAB is now readying the station for CPR to take over. A percentage of the station’s operating revenues will be incorporated into severance packages for staff, and KWAB will continue operations as part of a local management agreement with CPR until the Federal Communications Commission approves transfer of the license, which could take up to 90 days. CPR will sign on once the license transfer is complete.

With KWAB’s 1,000-watt signal, which extends throughout Boulder County, CPR will be able to reach listeners in the Boulder/Longmont area, an audience it had difficulty reaching when it divided its single-channel news and classical-music service into two channels in April.

CPR plans to build a new 132-foot tower at the site at 3085 Bluff St., which will take the station’s signal farther into Northern Colorado. The building, which KWAB once occupied with now defunct Internet radio company GoGaGa.com, will be leased.

CPR president Max Wycisk said the new station will follow a news-and-information format. The noncommercial programming will be the same as CPR’s other news stations, including KCFR AM-1340 in Denver.

CPR made a bid to purchase Greeley station KUNC FM-91.5 a few months ago. CPR offered $2.6 million for the station, which is owned and operated by the University of Northern Colorado. Its bid eventually lost out to the Friends of KUNC, a group that raised $2 million to keep the station locally owned and operated.

KWAB made the decision to seek a buyer late last year if it could not reach its financial goals, Lontine said. The station had talked to several Denver radio groups, including ethnic and religious groups, before sealing a deal with CPR.

“The logical choice was to go to the organization we emulated,” Lontine said.

KWAB received an undisclosed amount of operational funding from its parent company, Working Assets Funding Service, a San Francisco-based credit-card and long-distance company. But Working Assets decided it was unable to provide further financial support.

Working Assets, which could not be reached for comment, gained FCC approval to launch KWAB in March 1999. The company purchased the license for AM-1490 from former owner Dick Blumenhein of Unicorn Productions LLC the previous December for $575,000.

Lontine said Working Assets’ original plan was to build a radio network from Boulder, but high price tags on AM stations around the country changed that strategy. For example, Lontine said, it would have taken $20 million to get an AM station the company was considering in San Francisco up to speed.

Working Assets, which brought a mix of liberal, consumer-oriented and local talk shows into KWAB’s programming, also had set its sights on the profit potential of Internet radio. When the return on this investment failed to meet the company’s expectations, Lontine said KWAB refocused its efforts on the broadcasting side only to find that ad revenues had softened in Boulder.

The future of KWAB’s Web site is still in flux. The site’s address has been changed to workingforchange.com, and Lontine said Working Assets may keep the site alive.

The station first was launched as KBOL-AM radio in 1947 by Russel Shaffer and his wife, Ann. The couple were involved with the station for 45 years. Besides local news, KBOL was popular for broadcasting both local high-school and University of Colorado football games. Shaffer, named to the Boulder County Business Hall of Fame in 1999, also launched KBVL-FM in 1972, operating that station until 1986. He also was the co-founder and president of the Colorado Radio Broadcasters Association and served as president of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce.

Before being sold to Working Assets, the station operated as KBVI under Blumenhein’s ownership. Blumenhein bought the station, formerly KBOL, for $300,000. It initially operated under the call letters KBKS.

Blumenhein and then general manager Glen Gerberg brought the station back to life with a mix of programming and an increasing amount of local content.

KWAB recently had added more local programming, bringing back coverage of high-school sports and adding a noon business show on Wednesdays. KWAB also made contributions to various arts, cultural and environmental causes.

BOULDER — Colorado Public Radio has acquired the license and station of KWAB AM-1490, ending an era of locally based AM radio that began in 1947.

KWAB signed a letter of intent May 21 to sell the license for $1.1 million. The deal includes the station’s transmission equipment and signal. All of the station’s 16 employees have been laid off and its remaining assets will be sold.

Staff were notified at the time of the sale and KWAB said good-bye to listeners May 30, after what General Manager Chuck Lontine called a thoughtful chat with Mike Flanagan, host of one of the…

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