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Trapper radio goes silent

Lease dispute leads to shutdown of radio tower

Tuning into your favorite program on KNWT 89.1 Trapper Radio may prove to be a challenge for the foreseeable future, as a dispute over a lease has put Northwest College’s campus radio station off the air.

Already in a difficult transition period following the elimination of the school’s Radio/TV Broadcasting program last year, KNWT was dealt a further blow earlier this month, when Legend Towers, LLC — the owner of the radio tower used by KNWT — shut off the broadcast on July 17.

The shutdown comes at an inopportune time for NWC, as the college was working to transfer KNWT’s lease and license to Wyoming Public Media. Those negotiations, however, have been slowed.

As part of budget reductions more than a year ago, NWC leaders decided to cut the college’s radio/television program, but KNWT stayed on air, continuing to incur expenses like the lease of the radio tower lease.

Then, last week, “I received a certified letter from the owner of the radio tower to say we were out of compliance with our lease payments,” said NWC President Stefani Hicswa. “They wanted the lease payments up front, and we had been paying it monthly until we figured out what we’re going to do.”

“That apparently wasn’t acceptable, because they shut us down,” Hicswa said.

Also included in the certified letter was an invoice for the remaining three years of the lease.

“The owner’s interpretation of the lease agreement is that it needed to be paid annually,” Hicswa said. “We interpreted it to mean we could pay monthly.”

She added that, “We believe we are in compliance with the terms of the lease.”

In a Monday letter to the Federal Communications Commission, KNWT General Manager Troy Hunt outlined the station’s dilemma.

“When clarifications regarding our lease and contract with Legend Towers, LLC were asked by college administration, tower company officials powered down our transmitter, locked us out of the building and have trespassed us and all representatives from the property,” Hunt wrote. “Our attorney is examining our legal options regarding this forcible shuttering of the broadcast and seizing of the college’s transmission equipment located at the Cedar Mountain tower site.”

Legend Towers, LLC, is a subsidiary of Legend Communications — the same company that owns the Big Horn Radio Network in Cody (made up of radio stations that include KODI, KZMQ and KTAG) and other radio networks around the state. Larry Patrick, who co-owns Legend Communications with his wife, declined to comment to the Tribune about the situation.

As to what the shutdown means for the future of KNWT Trapper Radio, negotiations are still underway with Wyoming Public Media, according to WPM General Manager Christina Kuzmych.

“We’re moving along and addressing issues as they come up,” Kuzmych said. “This process is nearing completion, but there proved to be a sticking point with the current owner of the site. We are in the process of resolving the issue.”

“However,” she added, “taking KNWT off the air does not serve the public’s interest and punishes people in the community who listen.”

Should WPM acquire the license, the company would bring one of their services to the area, with the Wyoming Sounds Channel emerging as the top contender.

“We already have the main Wyoming Public Radio channel in the area, so a new channel would bring a new experience for listeners and retain the public radio flavor,” Kuzmych said. “Wyoming Sounds is a relatively new service for us, it features Americana repertoire plus a heavy dose of local Wyoming bands and artists.”

Kuzmych went on to say she’d like to see a relationship between WPM and NWC continue in some capacity.

“WPM would work with NWC to identify local talent for whichever service we bring to the Powell/Cody area,” she said. “Working with the local community is a key to successful local and statewide distribution. WPM would also like to keep the KNWT call letters to keep the history intact.”

3 comments

  • posted by Timmy Kennedy

    August 01, 2017 11:38 pm

    Larry Patrick - donate the necessary equipment and tower site to North West College and Wyoming Public Radio. It is good for the communities you claim are your new found home.

  • posted by Jim Davis

    July 28, 2017 11:01 pm

    Corporate greed has no morals,and only serves its self at the expense of the public, who's air waves it uses for its own profit under the guise of public and community service, these are the same folks Who fought tooth and nail for many years against low power FM community radio, community radio scares the Hell out of them, better programming geared to the local audience and lower over head, and a host of volunteer's, who provide local programming compared to the to the automated satellite programming originating out of state with a occasional live DJ .on many commercial stations, many community radio stations are trying to fill the void in community broadcasting left by the exit of local Mom and Pop Am radio stations, who were under cut by the big boys and couldn't survive along with many stations that were bought out and shut down to allow a mega power station to move in and use the frequency, and I agree that corporate greed is alive and well under the guise of Christian radio as well in many cases, just look at the battle between REC and Cesar Guel over his "alleged" rubber stamped applications, ware housing frequencies and applying for licenses for store front Church's who in a number of documented cases did not authorize the radio station application or know any thing about it. There are still some privately owned commercial stations both am & fm that do serve the community but their fate is always subject to the deep pockets of the big boys .who buy them up and shut them down, .look at the former KTBL now KSEV am 700. They had a studio on main st in Tomball,TX and broadcast Friday night high school football games back in the eighties before, they were bought at a fire sale, studio moved to Houston and the only time You hear Tomball mentioned is on the ID.
    Radio used to be exciting and fun and I believe it still can but as Dorothy said were not in kanas any more.

  • posted by Dewey V

    July 28, 2017 8:39 am

    Since 89.1 Trapper Radio is a publically supported , publically paid for resource providing a public service , we the Public should be privvy to the terms of the lease and particularly the dollar value and/or fee paid. In other words, follow the money : How much money were we talking here ?

    There is an isidious aspect to this situation ... namely that a private for profit corporation can skewer a public service so cavalierly and unilaterally . Never mind they did it rather callously, perhaps illegally if they are withholding college property and payments were not actually in full arrears. That's for the lawyers to work thru.

    We the Public can say something, and do something. I say that when corporate radio goes off the Reservation and attacks free radio , it's a moral and ethical transgression if not an actual crime. I recall that a decade ago, a cabal of Wyoming commercial broadcasters put the money squeeze on Wyoming Public Radio by threatening to withhold support for UW football and refuse to broadcast the games , which UW licensed to the stations as broadcast rights. Why did these WAB mebers stronarm UW ?----because WPR was grabbing too much listernership by broadcasting better music and more appealing less abrasive wholesome content. The commercial stations were losing listeners , but it was their own fault by conitnuing to peddle Top 40 , trucker tunes, and formulaic country music ... the same playlists over and over. occasionally , some actual music broke thru the walls of advertising, but when it did it was the old stale repetitive crapola. Wyoming Public Radio was actually a netional leader in providing live DJ spun music of singe-songwiters and new music....stuff you would NEVER hear on the commercial stations. It was fabulous, and Wyoming's commercial broadcasters knew theyw ere being beat at their own game when WPR went the extra mile to produce excellent CONTENT. But UW caved to the broadcasters and forced WPR to cut w-a-a-a-y back on the music variety and hours played, and we lost the best DJ in Wyoming ever, Don Woods. It was a pyrhhic victory for the commercial broadcasters. And today we still endure their terrible programming beamed in by satellite from Kansas City or wherever.
    I think preisely this same thing just happend in Park COunty . Legend Towers killed off KNWT because they could, out of spite. They can't stand being beat at their own game, Why the nerve of that pup college, daring to put actual interesting music on the public's airwaves.

    What can the people Do about this ? Quit listening to Legend Communications radio stations. Boycott the corporate cabal. Ignore them, and of course that means not patronizing their advertisers, either.

    Somebody remind Larry Patrick that being a licensee of the public's airwaves coms with certain implied responsibilities to the public to be a good citizen , and tolerant . For starters.
    Northwest Trapper Radio could not possibly have caused legen Communications any grief on its own. If Legend believes KNWT was hurting their business model, it's because that business model ( read: programming and content ) were lousy and vulnerable to begin with. And it is.

    If any localr adio stations needed to be shuttered, start with a couple Legnd stations for being redundant, and several of the low power FM Christian squawk boxes which to my mind are a total abuse of the airwaves....

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