KOTO: A brief history

KOTO: A brief history

Some faces of KOTO

Beyond Telluride’s KOTO, the FM and AM radio dials are crowded with commercial stations, offering not very much worthwhile around the clock, an incessant roar of rock, C & W, lots of “oldies,” inane talk and harsh rap.

Of the or so thousand public radio stations in the nation, only about a handful are like KOTO with no commercials or commercial underwriting whatsoever.

For 34 years, KOTO has been broadcasting 20 hours a day, 365 days a year from a 3,000-watt transmitter located about 200 yards west of the Coonskin lift. Over 2,500 community supporters comprise the membership. There are more than 200 licensed volunteer DJs, half of who are active on-air. A seven-member board, elected annually for two-year terms at KOTO’s July meeting, provides guidance and oversight.

Of the  $350,000 in operating income, just over 20 percent comes from grants, the balance, from community-based initiatives such as the Bluegrass KOTO beer booth and on/off-air drives such as this winter’s fundraising campaign. 

KOTO’s history is the history of Telluride, from love child to respectable citizen. It all began with a longhaired visionary named Jim Bedford.

One day Bedford called his friend, Jerry Greene, then a taxi cab driver in Denver, about his plan. Together they formed the board, which in turn created a non-profit corporation called the San Miguel Educational Fund (SMEF). SMEF did the requisite grunt work resulting in the station’s birth.

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