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Local staff get heartburn from KRCC/CPR deal 

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On Jan. 17, NPR member station 91.5 KRCC announced in a press release that Colorado College and Colorado Public Radio have entered into an agreement wherein the award-winning local station will now be affiliated with and operated by a new partnership between the CPR network and the college. The statement also noted that KRCC will remain identified as KRCC, Colorado College will retain the station’s broadcast license, and the station will continue to be staffed in the Springs.
Obviously it’s a big change for the beloved station, with CPR, per a story by Nate Hegyi posted at KRCC.org, set to “oversee KRCC’s newsroom, finances, and [have] a hand in its programming. In Hegyi’s story, KRCC General Manager Kyle Cunningham said the KRCC staff met the announcement with a degree of shock, and indeed, to about half of the station’s staff, the partnership was a complete surprise.

“Myself and the senior staff knew that this agreement was a possibility since about the summer of 2019,” explains Cunningham via telephone. “But it was not a done deal; it was being considered. We found out in November that [CC and CPR] were negotiating to an agreement, and I found out a couple weeks before the actual announcement that the target date was Friday the 17th. But for many of our staff, [that] Friday was the first they had heard about it.”

In a story by Dave Burdick announcing the partnership on CPR News, much of the focus of the partnership centers on the expansion of local news coverage throughout the state, highlighting CPR News’ 2018 hiring of Springs-based reporter Dan Boyce to cover southern Colorado.
Anyone who has lived in Colorado Springs for any length of time should already know that the local music lovers who tune in to KRCC are a passionate bunch, and the upcoming negotiation process to determine KRCC’s future programming schedule presents an inherent ambiguity for their favorite programming and likely a point of concern.

“I have had no hand in the negotiations up to this point,” says Cunningham, “but what I can say about the music is that CPR have said there are no plans right now to change anything about the way KRCC is doing music, and, actually, there’s very little in the way of a concrete plan as to what’s due to change in KRCC’s programming schedule.”
Cunningham adds that CPR also has a music service, 102.3 KVOQ, that’s separate from their main news channel, an approach similar to that of Greeley-based 91.5 KUNC and The Colorado Sound.
The coming months, Cunningham says, will bring program alignment with CPR’s main on-air signal, mostly among weekday news and information programs. Thus, no immediate changes to KRCC’s music programming, and, so far, no commitments on that front either way.

When reached for comment, CPR reaffirmed that there were no immediate plans to alter KRCC programming.

“The weekday national schedule, with the addition of Colorado Matters, will be aligned between KRCC and CPR. KRCC will continue to be locally hosted with news and information focused on the communities it serves, with additional news of statewide interest. This will provide listeners along much of the I-25 corridor a continuous service from northern Colorado into northern New Mexico. Working out the systems to do so is an early task.”

As to the mood of KRCC staff following the surprise announcement, would it be fair to categorize things as anxious but optimistic?

“I’d say that’s probably accurate, depending on who you ask,” says Cunningham, adding that most of the staff is taking a “wait and see” approach.

“There’s a lot that we don’t know, right? A lot still to be worked out; a lot of questions we need answered. Colorado Public Radio has committed to KRCC’s local voice in their local news presence and lifting up the work that we’ve done — and continue to do — at the station, so that’s always good to hear.”

CPR affirmed its commitment to expanding the reach of KRCC’s regional coverage:
“Our focus is to strengthen the local impact, statewide reach and sustainability of KRCC. Investing in news coverage important to Colorado Springs and southern Colorado is a part of this focus and will be guided by its mission and engagement with the communities it serves.”

Whatever the future holds, Cunningham hopes KRCC listeners will remain active throughout this new partnership process.

“Music has been very important on KRCC’s airwaves, and we’re very proud of the product we’ve built at KRCC. And that’s in no small part at all thanks to the generous support of our members and our listeners. I’m fond of saying ‘we can’t do what we do without the support of our members,’ so as we go through this transition and some possible changes at KRCC, my hope is that members will continue to support KRCC, will continue to be engaged, and continue to listen and give us some feedback.”

“We are public radio, so without that public piece,” Cunningham adds with a laugh, “it doesn’t make a lot of sense, right?”

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