Ignacio-based KSUT announced on Friday that its on-air service to Montezuma County will resume in a few weeks at 106.3 FM after its on-air lease in Cortez and Dolores had been terminated by the Southwest Colorado Television Translator Association.
In the meantime, listeners can hear KSUT online at ksut.org.
According to the translator association, the public radio station’s programming conflicted with that of KSJD’s in Cortez. Both public radio stations are associated with National Public Radio.
“In order to not have an appearance of conflict with a local station carrying duplicate programming,” the association said, “we can no longer carry KSUT on our translator system. Thank you to KSUT for providing programming to our broadcast area for our time of association.”
KSUT’s signals in Cortez and Dolores – 100.1 FM and 91.9 FM – have been taken off the air. Four Corners Public Radio also serves communities including Durango, Silverton, Cortez and Pagosa Springs; Aztec, Bloomfield and Farmington, New Mexico; Bluff, Utah; and northeast Arizona.
Southwest Colorado Television Translator Association maintains TV translators in Montezuma County, as well as the western parts of La Plata and Dolores counties, according to the association’s website.
A July 8 report on KSUT’s website said the organization chose to “abruptly terminate” broadcasting the station in Montezuma County. But SCTTA Administrator Wayne Johnson said Friday it wasn’t a sudden decision. He said the association made KSUT aware of the coming change as early as six months ago.
Johnson said the SCTTA has carried KSUT for 29 years.
“It’s been a good relationship,” he said. “It’s a good company and a great organization.”
The SCTTA board meets on the first Tuesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the Cortez office, 2395 E. Hawkins St. Meetings are open to the public, but agendas and minutes are not available on the association’s website.
Amid the surprising turn of events, KSUT will soon get a new executive director. Tami Graham starts her job at KSUT on Monday, July 18. She replaces Sheila Nanaeto, who has served as interim executive director since Feb. 10, 2016.
Graham said on Friday that the station is grateful to SCTTA for providing them with service over the past 29 years. An unfortunate set of circumstances led to the dead air, as both KSUT and SCTTA were making management changes and some administrative duties got lost in the fray, she said.
“We would have appreciated more notice, but we don’t want to point any fingers,” she said. “We could all have handled the situation a little differently and avoided being off the air.”
KSUT is working with SCTTA to find a tower on Caviness Mountain from which to broadcast the station at the new frequency, 106.3 FM, said Graham, who lives in Mancos. The new frequency will broadcast a stronger signal than the former stations, but will not broadcast to Dolores, she said. They’re also working with the translator association to get coverage back to Dolores, she added.
“We’re moving forward,” Graham said. “It will just be a short window until we’re back on with a better frequency.”
Graham served as station manager at KDUR, Fort Lewis College’s community radio station, from 1990 to 1997. She was also the longtime co-host of Good Dirt Radio, which aired for a decade on a variety of public radio stations, including KSUT.
KSJD executive director Jeff Pope declined to comment publicly on any disagreement between SCTTA, KSUT and KSJD. He said Friday that there was no dispute between the two stations, and KSJD had no part in the SCTTA board’s decision to drop KSUT.
KSUT broadcasts over seven other stations in the region, and they own each, Graham said. She said KSUT staffers were surprised to find the station off the air in Montezuma County on Tuesday.
Since 2013, Graham has served as KSUT’s capital campaign coordinator.
KSUT’s roots lie with the Southern Ute Tribe, which put the station on the air on June 14, 1976 as a service for members of the tribe. Its early programming offered Ute language and cultural programs as well as Native American and popular music and community news.
In 1984, KSUT expanded its broadcast area and became a National Public Radio and American Public Radio affiliate, offering programming that would attracting listeners and support off the reservation.
In June 1998, KSUT started Southern Ute Tribal Radio, a second radio operation that reflected an attempt to return KSUT to its roots.