Round-Up: The State of Local Radio

June 2009

It seems the same disease that's killing off newspapers has now spread to the radio business. Commercial and public radio stations in Colorado are struggling and cutting back to save money, as people increasingly use their computers and mobile phones for information and entertainment. Yesterday, Colorado Public Radio announced it would cut its employees' salaries by 3 percent and freeze them at that level for one year, reports the Denver Business Journal, an effort meant to prevent layoffs. "Both radio advertising and charitable contributions nationally are down substantially," CPR's president says via press release. The move comes after National Public Radio announced two rounds of layoffs and forced vacations in recent months to address a two-year, $15 million budget gap. Westword media critic Michael Roberts points out that the cuts come in spite of CPR meeting its $1.6 million "Drive to Thrive" campaign goal.

Earlier this week, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that local classical station KCME (88.7 FM) and local news and music station KRCC (91.5 FM) have resorted to special fundraisers to earn money for cash-strapped stations. And although Denver's commercial stations pull in a bulk of 2.1 million listeners each week, people are listening for shorter periods and the stations are making a lot less money these days. "I've been doing this for 50 years and I've never seen anything like this," Clear Channel's Lee Larsen tells The Denver Post. Clear Channel, a chain that controls many channels in Denver, has cut its staff by 9 percent this year.