Wednesday, May 13, 2015


I saw this news item on the site Triple A Radio [LINK]:

Denver AAA veteran Keefer Fulgham (KBCO) will join KUNC Greeley-Ft. Collins-Denver as host starting June 1. Keefer comes from mornings at CPR's Open Air (102.3) Denver.....

I don’t know Keefer Fulgham but I do know the stations and some of the folks who operate them. The rivalry between KUNC and Colorado Public Radio [”CPR”], owner and operator of Open Air KVOQ 102.3 is long and deep.

Open Air recently signed on in Denver.  KUNC is a long time dual format station airing NPR News and Triple A. This competition is worth watching. Music listeners will love it.

[Disclosure: I lived and worked in radio in Colorado from 1985 until 1989. I am a friend of Neil Best and other folks at KUNC, Max Wycisk, CEO of Colorado Public Radio, and consultant Mike Henry.]


We reported on the debut Open Air last January [LINK].  It is one of three stations operated by CPR in Denver, also including KCFR (fulltime NPR News) and KVOD (fulltime classical).

Colorado Public Radio is one of the most successful noncom broadcasters in the nation.  Per their IRS 990, CPR’s 2012 revenue topped $14,000,000.  Max Wycisk has run CPR since it was a University of Denver student station.  Back then, KCFR was known as Colorado Free Radio.  Wysick converted it into a community licensee that now has almost statewide reach. Wycisk also ruffled more than a few feathers along the way.


KUNC had a 2012 budget of almost $3,000,000 – above par for a market of its size.

From the 1970s until 2001 KUNC was owned by the
University of Northern Colorado.  For many of those years KUNC was managed by Bill Hurt (not the actor), a wise and forward thinking fellow who secured an awesome transmission site, built an extensive FM translator network and encouraged excellent programming, particularly news.  Neil Best took over after Hurt retired.

In 2001, the university decided to get out of the radio biz and put KUNC up for sale. That was when CPR almost bought KUNC. 

The negotiations between the university and CPR were kept secret from KUNC’s listeners and management. When GM Neil Best heard about the pending sale to CPR, he took action. Best led an effort to raise $2,000,000 in 20 days. The local organization – Community Radio for Northern Colorado – bought KUNC’s license and CPR got egg on its face. Neil Best is one of my radio heroes.


Currently KUNC airs Morning Edition, ATC and the big public radio weekend shows. They duplicate quite a few hours of NPR programming with KCFR, CPR’s all news station. NPR News does very well on KUNC but the blocks of Triple A music are soft and not improving.

Enter Mike Henry.

Mike operates Paragon Media Strategies [LINK], a Denver-based research and consulting firm that has contributed to the success of 89.3 The Current and KXT in Dallas.  KUNC recently hired Mike Henry to consult KUNC.  He is the perfect choice.

Mike is one of the few commercial media people working in public media who totally “gets” noncom radio. Mike’s clients include a variety of formats and platforms such as NPR, American Public Media [”APM”], CBS News, Sony and ESPN.

As I see it, KUNC has two good choices:

1.          Go fulltime Triple A and stop competing with CPR for NPR News.

2.          Keep doing the NPR News & Triple A dual format.  The key is doing Triple A really, really well. They can emulate KCRW in LA and KPLU in Seattle – combining stellar news and world-class music.

Either way, they can win because this is a unique place and time.


• The Front Range is about more than Denver. It is now a METROPLEX that spans a narrow belt along the Rockies from Ft. Collins on the north to Colorado Springs on the south.

It is all a big hometown.  Being from Fort Collins is as cool as being from Denver.

• The Front Range is a sophisticated, well-informed progressive music market.  Album rock has been huge here since the late 1960s when KFML-AM (run by my old friend Bill Goodhope) began the tradition.  Great AOR stations like KBCO, KTCL, KILO (in the Springs) and several others gave listeners an excellent progressive rock music education.  So, Triple A music is deep in the DNA of listeners.

• Marijuana. Legalization of pot for recreational use is a hot magnet for creative types to move to the Front Range. New entrepreneurs will keep coming from around the world for the bud biz buzz. Artists like the freedom and so do their fans.

• The Front Range is Mike Henry’s home.  The success of KUNC is very important to Mike. He will help KUNC shine.


  1. You think KILO in the Springs is a good station? Now I get it. Congratulations on your latest lobotomy. That's what KUNC is now, a basic mainstream commercial station. Mike Henry. That explains it. KUNC used to be a good organic, noncommercial oasis. What a piece of crap they've now constructed - a KBCO clone. What a frik'n nightmare. Good work, Mike.

  2. And what a piece of crap they've constructed. Mike Henry. That explains it. KUNC used to be an organic, noncommercial oasis - important to Colorado. Now it's just a KBCO clone; the same tired hits over and over again. What a nightmare. Congratulations on your latest lobotomy, Ken.

  3. wow, scott is a bit perturbed. i really enjoy kunc - 10,000 times better than kbco. i do tune into OpenAir on 102.3. these two stations are my top two on the dial. thanks and keep up the good work.