Helping Hands: Not your average public radio organization |

Helping Hands: Not your average public radio organization

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Summit Daily/Alex Miller

What’s in a name? Quite a bit, apparently, for Summit Public Radio and TV, a local nonprofit broadcasting group often confused with National Public Radio.

In its last fundraising drive, SPR received several replies chastizing it for firing former NPR correspondent Juan Williams. But SPR is not affiliated with NPR beyond rebroadcasting some its stations, and the tiny local nonprofit certainly had no input on the firing of Williams.

SPR is not in the business of creating content. Rather, the organization rebroadcasts television and radio stations from outside the area to Summit County from its translators on Baldy Mountain. Thanks to SPR, Summit County residents have access to an additional seven radio stations and three over-the-air TV stations with more stations on their way.

In the 1950s, a group of enterprising Summit County residents realized no television signals were reaching the area, so they planted a translator on Baldy Mountain to receive, interpret and rebroadcast signals to Summit County. After 40 years of informal operation, Summit Public Radio and TV was officially formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group in 1989, and the organization took ownership of the equipment at that time.

From those humble beginnings, the Baldy Mountain site has grown to include a variety of translators, including the seven radio and three television translators owned by SPR. Ham radio operators and the Civil Air Patrol wing of the US Air Force have equipment on Baldy as well.

SPR’s translators pick up radio and television signals from the Front Range and the Western Slope, and rebroadcasts them through Summit County, providing the only free, over-the-air access to the major networks: ABC, NBC and CBS. The organization also broadcasts a mix of public and commercial radio stations, including Summit County’s only Spanish-speaking station in KQSE, La Nueva Mix. The station not only provides a mix of music from Latin countries, it also issues news and emergency updates for Spanish-speaking residents of Summit County. La Nueva Mix nearly went off the air in September, but SPR President Sue Green and the rest of the SPR board convinced NRC Broadcasting Group to keep the station running due to its value as a public service to the Spanish-speaking community in Summit County.

More stations could be on the way, including one of the two PBS stations out of Denver, according to SPR vice president of engineering Gary Peterson. Eventually Peterson hopes to replace the remaining two analog translators with digital translators. Not only will this provide a higher-quality signal to Summit County, it will expand the number of possible channels from six to 12.

The primary funding source for SPR is membership, which can be attained by making any amount of donation to the organization via the website or by mailing a check (see box for contact info).

Unlike National Public Radio, SPR does not receive Public Broadcasting Corporation grants. The only assistance SPR receives from the government are grants from the towns of Frisco and Breckenridge, which amount to a small fraction of the overall operating budget. Other grants come by way of the Summit Foundation and other organizations, and grant money always goes toward a specific capital improvement project, Green said.

Green and the SPR board of directors want to change the name of Summit Public Radio to avoid confusion about the organization’s ties and function, Green said. She is concerned, though, about throwing away the value of the Summit Public Radio moniker after the organization spent the past two decades marketing its name.

“I’d like to know what people thing, and I’m open to ideas,” said Green. Ideas for a new name for Summit Public Radio can be submitted to

SDN reporter Drew Andersen can be contacted at (970) 668-4633 or

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