NVPR and KUNV’s Proposed Partnership Stalls

Frank Mueller hosts the Jazz Lounge on KUNV.

Frank Mueller hosts the Jazz Lounge on KUNV.

There were quite a few changes at UNLV in 2015: a new president, a medical school, plans for a major land purchase. But one development that’s been put on hold is a partnership between UNLV and Nevada Public Radio to run the college’s KUNV radio station.

The motion was set for approval at the December 4 meeting of the UNLV Board of Regents. But, when the matter was raised, university President Len Jessup asked for a delay. He cited “considerable public comment” and requested time to further study the plan, as well as “several other alternative suggestions, different ideas and approaches on how to take the station to the next level.”

Those who have expressed misgivings about the KNPR/KUNV deal cite concerns about the fate of community programming and the amount of student opportunities. Many stakeholders also felt they hadn’t been fully informed about the proposal. “I was surprised that the college, faculty, staff and students didn’t know a lot more about this,” says Gerry Bomotti, UNLV’s senior vice president for finance and business. He says that many of those who commented “had some concerns about change in the status quo, some supported the proposal, and some suggested more time was needed to consider alternatives to bring the community together to better support the station.”

Currently, days and evenings on KUNV are for jazz and community programming (mostly news and talk shows). “From 9 p.m. until 3 a.m., it’s all students,” John Nasshan, a daytime radio host at KUNV and student mentor, says. “On the weekends, it’s all culturally diverse and ethnically diverse programming—Hawaiian music, Spanish music, Latin, reggae, soul, blues.” He adds that “we currently have 60 or 70 kids involved with the radio program.” Running the station costs UNLV about $200,000 a year, which also includes two HD radio channels, but Nasshan notes that “our fundraising has increased by 25 percent in the last year alone.”

Under the proposed agreement, NVPR would take on management and financial responsibility for the KUNV FM broadcast station in exchange for programming rights. 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 will continue to function independently of KNPR, and students currently doing news broadcasts or radio shows on FM will be switched to HD2. There will also be one graduate and several undergraduate student internships at NVPR for UNLV students.

“The number of internships is significantly less than currently offered in radio,” says KUNV general manager Frank Mueller. “They will be very competitive.” He also points out that online-only experience 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.”

But there will be other opportunities, according to president and CEO of NVPR Flo Rogers, who says the HD2 program will be her “talent pipeline.” She is optimistic that a new KUNV can draw enough listener and corporate sponsorship to offer more “student opportunities—we can fund way, way more than what’s specified in that agreement.” Rogers adds that a new station would be more than just radio and could eventually offer students experience in “digital, video, social media … the whole nine yards as well as broadcast.”

“It’s very evident that [our proposal] is a win for students, listeners and the university,” says Rogers, but she acknowledges that “if there are other ways to make KUNV sustainable, I know the university and the regents will evaluate them to make the best decision.”

Jessup’s office has stated that “no alternatives [to the KNPR plan] have been formally vetted at this point,” but says that he “felt the need to continue discussions on this topic after listening to comments and options by students, volunteers and alumni.” If you know what you want to listen to on KUNV, this may be your last chance to be heard.

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