"Internet gives Boulder station a bigger voice" by Dusty Saunders

In this era of conglomerate radio, it would be easy to dismiss KWAB-AM (1490) as a voice crying in the broadcast wilderness.

KWAB (formerly KBOL and KBVI) is a 1000-watt station licensed to the Boulder Valley area -- hardly a challenge for Denver radio monopolies like Clear Channel Broadcasting, which operates 50,000-watt KOA, along with KHOW and KTLK on the AM dial.

Yet, the voice of KWAB, owned by Working Assets Broadcasting, is getting stronger, thanks, in part, to the fast-growing world of Internet broadcasting.

On air since Oct. 1, KWAB, during a recent week, got nearly 60,000 hits from Internet users around the country who downloaded to get the audio feed on www.workingassetsradio.com . KWAB is an intriguing radio operation from several perspectives.

It answers at least two "Whatever-happened-to?" broadcasting questions. Gary Tessler, former talk show host on KOA and KNUS, can be heard from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays, while Mike Flanagan, most recently on Colorado Public Radio (KCFR-FM) hosts a 3-7 p.m. show.

KWAB's aim is to offer "alternative talk and discussion," aimed at listeners who contend Denver radio is overpopulated with conservative voices like Rush Limbaugh and Mike Rosen.

"Our station is designed to provide a more liberal perspective about what is happening in the country and around the world," says General Manager Chuck Lontine, former national sales manager for Tribune Broadcasting in Denver.

For example, KWAB provided a full discussion about the recent, contentious World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle, including numerous on-site reports.

"We're not only interested in the political scene per se but with issues dealing with science and the environment," Lontine says.

"I think there's room in local radio and on the Internet for stations which offer more progressive, thoughtful and responsible broadcasting instead of the in-your-face style that is so prevalent in Denver radio and around the country. Internet radio is a platform for such a change."

Lontine also believes the timing is right for a liberal radio voice with the 2000 national elections on the horizon.

Long-range plans of Working Assets, best known for long distance, credit card and Internet services, include setting up a western mini-network with outlets in northern California and Washington.

In addition to Tessler and Flanagan, KWAB offers Laurie Howell (known for The Green Scene, a syndicated environmental show) from 6 to 10 a.m.; Jim Hightower, syndicated talker from Texas (10 a.m. to noon); and Glen Calaich, a university lecturer (7 to 9 p.m.). World music fills in overnight.

KWAB features local news roundups by Leslie Greer, former Chancellor (AM/FM) broadcaster with CNN Radio news providing national and international coverage.

"Perhaps our most current popular program is Flanagan's afternoon drive show," Lontine says." Our surveys show Boulder-area residents commuting from Denver have latched onto Flanagan's talk style."

While much of KWAB's future rests with the power of the Internet, the station has taken steps to widen its AM broadcasting scope by cleaning up its signal and improving its transmitter site.

"Our signal reach is much better, thanks to the upgrading of our equipment," Lontine says. KWAB's AM reach goes north to Fort Collins, west to the foothills and east past the Interstate 25 corridor. The station's southern range extends into Broomfield, Arvada, and parts of Wheat Ridge, Lakewood and North Denver. KWAB sounds extremely professional.

The station has its act together. "A lot of broadcasters are interested in our programming and our Internet work," Lontine says.

"We're part of a new broadcasting world whereby a local station can have an impact nationally and globally."

[Dusty Saunders co-hosts the KHOW Radio Media Show, 10 a.m. to noon Sundays].

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