Summit Public Radio & TV looks to improve infrastructure
Summit Public Radio & TV may not be a familiar name to some, but many people in our neck of the Rockies stay connected to entertainment sources through its infrastructure.
Anyone listening to KUNC (NPR), KUVO (jazz/blues), KCME (classical), KBCO (rock and roll), KSKE (country) or KQSE (Spanish language) while in Summit County has SPRTV to thank.
“You wouldn’t be listening to the radio without us,” Sue Greene, former SPRTV board president and current vice president of development, said.
John Mirro, president of the SPRTV board, who is in the midst of a campaign to raise $500,000 in capital funding, made a grant presentation to the Silverthorne Town Council at its meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 14.
“We’ve already raised $153,000,” he told the council.
Incorporated as a nonprofit in 1998, SPRTV operates a broadcast translator at 12,600 feet on top of Bald Mountain. This technology rebroadcasts public and commercial FM radio and over-the-air TV signals into Summit County. With the mountaintops surrounding the county, these signals would otherwise be blocked due to the geography of the area.
“We bring half of the FM stations and 95 percent of free over-the-air TV stations to Summit County,” he said.
In an interview after the presentation, he explained that SPRTV, which operates on a $50,000 yearly budget, needs a new power line run to its facilities on top of Bald Mountain.
“We can’t add another piece of electronics up there without straining the system,” he said.
There are also plans to run a second conduit with fiber-optic cable.
“We would be able to access extremely high-speed Internet,” he said.
Additional power capabilities would allow SPRTV to take advantage of future expansion opportunities, he noted.
Greene said the additional funding would help with developing a different business model.
“We’re looking to hire staff with skills that help us move forward,” she said.
For example, last year, SPRTV contracted with a professional grant writer to help tackle the half-million dollar goal. The group is not paid by any of the stations it rebroadcasts and is managed by an all-volunteer working board.
Although Silverthorne is only donating $5,000, or one percent of the overall goal, he said this is the board’s secondary effort, with larger donors targeted during the first phase.
“We were rejected by a lot of groups for funding,” he said.
In many instances, other causes trumped SPRTV requests.
“We rebroadcast radio stations; if we disappear, no one dies,” he joked.
Summit County and the Summit Foundation were the two large money donors, accounting for $150,000 of the total raised.
Despite the self-effacing humor, Mirro feels SPRTV is of importance for several reasons.
“We do bring a level of culture and diversity of programming in the county,” he said.
He pointed out that KTSE is the only Spanish-language station that reaches (with the help of SPRTV) Summit County and is a principal method for community connectedness.
SPRTV’s $50,000 yearly budget is raised through two principal sources, he explained. About 65 percent is derived from individual donations, with the remainder from rents charged for space at the group’s 3-acre Bald Mountain location.
Although there are nearly 30,000 full-time residents of Summit County, Mirro said barely one percent donate to SPRTV. He said that instead of having 250 people donate an average of $200, perhaps 500 people could donate an average of $100.
Greene said that national statistics estimate about 12 percent of the country has subscription radio, which means that at least 80 percent rely on over the air broadcasts.
“We have always suffered from a lack of public knowledge (about our operation),” he said.
Another challenge is the nature of an all-volunteer working board, Greene explained. Most nonprofits have a hired staff and a board that exercises oversight.
“We are that, and we are the staff,” she said. “We need someone who can spend their time reaching out.”
Mirro said he would like to gain professional assistance to solicit financial support from a broader base.
“We want to contract a professional fund raiser and build memberships by building public awareness,” he said.
A large percentage of SPRTV’s support base is retirees, which raises concerns for Mirro, as he would prefer backing from a more diverse age group.
The board is currently looking for new members with diverse skill sets. Any interested parties can email John Mirro at firstname.lastname@example.org
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