KUNV and NVPR: The Remix?

Photo courtesy of KUNV

Photo courtesy of KUNV

There were quite a few shakeups at UNLV in 2015: A new president, a medical school, a push for Tier I status. But one last change may hit before the calendar flips, as UNLV looks into partnering with Nevada Public Radio on their KUNV radio station.

Under the agreement, NVPR would take on management and financial responsibility for the KUNV FM broadcast station in exchange for programming rights. “Our hope and goal is that, with KNPR, our students will have even more experience,” says Gerry Bomotti, UNLV’s Vice-President for finance and business. He explains that KNPR will fund four student internships and “the hope is that, over time, it even grows beyond that. He adds, “the savings from this contract with KNPR would allow the college to reinvest … in other high priority academic programs.”

It’s stipulated in the proposal that UNLV will still be permitted a certain number of broadcasts for sporting events, campus lectures, the “Our Metropolis” radio show (totaling 70-80 hours per year) and a series of promo spots. The student HD2 channel program will continue unchanged. Students currently doing news broadcasts or radio shows on FM will be switched back to HD2. “The kids basically break in on HD2. When they achieve the skills, we move them over to broadcast,” says John Nasshan, a radio host at KUNV and student mentor. “We currently have 60 or 70 kids involved with the radio program.”

KUNV general manager Frank Mueller says online-only radio may not appeal to some journalism students. “Some students look at it from a career perspective … it’s more attractive to be on an FM station than an HD side channel.” He notes that there are concerns about the number of KNPR internships available. “The number of internships is significantly less than currently offered in radio,” he says, “they will be very competitive.”

But there will be different prospects, according to Flo Rogers, President and CEO of NVPR, who says the HD2 program will be her “talent pipeline.” She says that if the new KUNV can “make a format that people will pledge for and corporate supporters will support, then all of the student opportunities—we can fund way, way more than what’s specified in that agreement.”

If approved by the Regents, the revamped KUNV plans a March 1, 2016 launch date with a “music discovery” format. Rogers stresses that she will be “gathering input from everybody,” but she believes that “It’s possible to create a public radio station that has the appeal of a college radio station, but is actually sustainable and delivered with all of the best practices and best knowledge … That means digital, video, social media, it means the whole nine yards as well as broadcast.”

Many say that the NVPR/UNLV proposal has come without warning but it has actually been brewing for several years. “I was surprised that the college, faculty, staff and students didn’t know a lot more about this,” says UNLV’s Bomotti, “I assumed [they] were fully informed about these discussions and they were being addressed. I don’t know quite what happened there.”

Students, faculty and other community members will get a final chance to express their views when the UNLV Board of Regents meets this week at the UNLV Student Union on December 4-5. The discussion about the KUNV/KNPR proposal is expected to take place on Friday, December 5 at 2:30 p.m.