KRZA founding members John Schwartz, Angela Montoya, Frances Valdez, Shirley Ortega, Yolanda Lujan and Becky Jiron
By Stan Moyer
SAN LUIS VALLEY — KRZA is interested in hearing from their listeners as they try to better represent the community and expand transmission capacity.
They would like to know what community members think, which direction programming should go and have listeners, who the station’s own research has found to be largely ignored in recent years, express their opinions to the station.
They would also like to encourage people to host shows, allowing individuals to be an increasingly large part of community programming. The station is also taking steps to increase transmission capacity so listeners in South Fork and other towns, presently experiencing weak or nonexistent reception on conventional radios, will be able to receive a clear, strong signal.
KRZA plans to host luncheons in the near future in Alamosa, Saguache, San Luis, Del Norte, and Conejos County.
Participants will be asked to complete a survey and participate “in a discussion about how they interact with the media and why,” according to KRZA General Manager Holly Y. Felmlee.
The station would like to respond to and serve listenership better as they had intended to when the station was first organized.
In a 1985 column, Sylvia Lobato, former Valley Courier copy editor and retired Valley Publishing managing editor wrote, “My memory went back to the early 1970s when a few people met in the United Mexican-Americans office at Adams State and discussed the lack— or relative lack— of Spanish language broadcasting in the San Luis Valley.”
Lobato outlined the foundation of the station, “A baby takes nine months from conception to birth; KRZA took nine years, and its ‘parents’ have turned it over to the community for care and nurturing.”
The parents referred to were primarily five Hispanic women: Shirley Ortega, Yolanda Lujan, Becky Jiron, Angela Montoya and Frances Valdez. Research by the present staff of KRZA found that Hispanic women and their families are important and large parts of Del Norte, Monte Vista, La Jara, Antonito, San Luis and all of Conejos County. Felmlee believes that the station is no longer serving a very large percentage of people who are Hispanic, females or their families in the desired manner.
By obtaining a grant to change this, she feels the listening population will grow, especially in parts of the Valley with a large Hispanic population (identified as 51 percent).
Felmlee would like to include, “Music programming will include a weekly music show featuring female artists and composers and hosted by Hispanic females.” She said they would also “create a monthly program to be hosted by a local Hispanic female.”
The recent grant application pointed out, “This community is underrepresented at our station, yet our station was set up in 1980 (it went on the air in 1985) to provide media access for Hispanic women.” The application detailed the following facts:
• Fourteen female on-air volunteers host music shows, out of 39, which is approximately 33 percent.
• Of the females who host shows, only three are Hispanic and two of these are staff, making the percentage of female hosts less than one percent.
• Ten females host locally produced issues shows -- including health, children, spiritual places, community, and spoken word -- out of 18, which is 55 percent.
• However, of the females who host locally produced show(s), none are Hispanic.
• Out of four headline readers, none are Hispanic females.
The application summarizes: “These numbers show we have little or no Hispanic women’s voices on our station, yet 51 percent of our citizens are Hispanic.”
Another obstacle dealt with at the board meeting was the need for repairs to the KRZA antenna on the tower. Last fall the tower was raised from 76 to 151 feet. Listeners in South Fork and other towns have been unable to listen on conventional radios. Their only option is to listen through the KRZA.org website.
This has also been a stumbling block in progressing toward a larger goal, to reach, by normal transmission, Santa Fe and Los Alamos. The change would increase both listening audience and create a greater means of support through contributions.
Radio engineer Dirk Perratt reported that the present transmission level is 40 percent of maximum, up from 33 percent in the worst weather conditions in January. Due to the need to use some heavy equipment, repairs are unlikely to be completed before the snow melt in May or June. The antenna is located near the top of San Antonio Mountain, a 10,908 ft. peak a few miles into northern New Mexico, west of U.S. Highway 285.