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Thursday, December 18, 2014

KUNM celebrates 45 years of eclectic programming

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By Zach Gould / New Mexico Daily Lobo

Elaine Baumgartel has been working at KUNM for the past eight years. She has worked several jobs at the station, from phone operator to radio host. Baumgartel currently hosts the Call-in Show and the local Morning Edition. KUNM marks its 45th anniversary this month.

KUNM celebrates its 45th birthday this fall.

The radio station first broadcast within a three-mile radius from a 10-watt transmitter on top of the SUB in 1966. Today, the station’s alternative news and music reaches half of the state.

According to Arbitron Radio Ratings and Media Research, KUNM now has a listenership of roughly 115,000.

Development director Mary Oishi, who also DJs blues sessions, said KUNM is on the cutting edge of music.

“If you want to get a well-rounded musical education, you listen to KUNM,” she said. “If you want to listen to the same 10 songs over and over again you can turn on any other station.”

Since the 60s KUNM has been an important voice on campus, said Richard Towne, KUNM’s general manager. The station reported alternative music and viewpoints throughout the 60s and 70s before listeners had the option to search the Internet for viewpoints and content that weren’t available through major outlets, he said.

The station broadcast live on NPR during a Vietnam war protest following the Kent State shooting in Ohio. UNM students locked themselves in the SUB to protest Navy ROTC training drills.

KUNM houses the second-largest collection of vinyl in the Southwest, as well as racks of CDs of local and newly released music across all genres.

Towne said KUNM is unique because it is not controlled by national conglomerates or music industry interests.

“It’s an interesting hybrid of a lot of things,” he said. “We play everything from hip-hop to metal to classical, and we are unusual in that we have both very good news and very good music where most stations focus on one or the other. We don’t even have set playlists.”

Towne said KUNM receives very little funding from the University and student fees and has to raise a lot of its own budget.

“We have to raise $1.8 million a year to cover all of our expenses,” he said. “We only get $60,000 from the Student Fee Review Board for funding.”

Towne said 15 percent of funding for KUNM comes from PBS, which could face budget cuts in the next 60-90 days and potentially hurt the organization’s ability to retain programs and keep students employed.

KUNM currently employs 15-20 students per semester and has more than 100 volunteers. Elaine Baumgartel, host of “Morning Edition” and the “Call-In Show” has been working at KUNM for eight years.

She started as a volunteer and has worked on various programs across all of KUNM’s departments.

“I love public radio,” she said. “It’s been really cool to start on the bottom level as a volunteer, and you can come in and get trained and learn and get paid to learn and then get skills that are then useful in the work place, and be able to qualify and be eligible to be hired full time. It’s really an amazing place and an amazing experience.”