Centennial, Colo., Dec. 21, 2022 - Colorado Public Radio is celebrating a half century on air, belatedly recognizing 50 years with what it's calling its “50-ish” anniversary. KCFR-FM, the first station that would become Colorado Public Radio, was granted its FCC license in 1970. Plans for a large 50th anniversary celebration in 2020 were upended due to the pandemic.
“The first 50-ish years of CPR’s history have been an amazing journey,” Chief Operating Officer Jenny Gentry, who has been with CPR for 38 years, said. “When I started, we had 17 employees and one station. Now we have multiple services, 10 times the staff and 90% of Coloradans have access to CPR services through our broadcast, plus nearly a million each month through our websites. It has been amazing to see CPR grow from an alternative source of news to the home for news for millions of Coloradans.”
CPR was founded in 1970 at the University of Denver and began broadcasting an eclectic news and music format as KCFR 90.1 FM, which is still the Denver-area news station today. In the 1970s, the station started carrying programming from National Public Radio, including “All Things Considered'' and “Morning Edition,” and in the 1980s, programming expanded to other nationwide favorites, including “Fresh Air” and “Car Talk,” and classical music. KCFR separated from the University of Denver in 1984 and became a community-licensed public radio station, one of the first stations in the country to make such a transformation.
“Colorado Public Radio” officially formed via a 1991 merger between KCFR and KPRN in Grand Junction, bringing news and classical programs to listeners on either side of the state. Throughout the 1990s, the network grew with translators added in Vail, Pueblo and Montrose.
2001 marked the expansion of news and classical music to their own full-time signals and the start of “Colorado Matters,” the interview program from CPR News, which still airs daily. In 2011, CPR launched a new music service, OpenAir, which is now Indie 102.3. There were also significant investments in CPR’s digital offerings, newsroom growth and podcast development during this time. In 2018, CPR’s founding president, Max Wycisk, retired, and Stewart Vanderwilt came on to lead the organization. In 2019, the news site Denverite became part of CPR, and in 2020, CPR partnered with Colorado College to operate KRCC, expanding its network to thousands of listeners in Southern Colorado. Explore CPR’s history in more detail on this timeline.
CPR has grown to become the fifth largest newsroom in public broadcasting, finding its place as the home for news as well as music and podcasts for audiences across Colorado. CPR’s broadcast signals, digital content and on-demand products reach a wide audience in Colorado and nationwide. CPR’s audience has doubled in the past five years across all platforms with the greatest growth in digital.
CPR now has the largest locally owned news operation in the state capital, staffed news bureaus in Colorado Springs and the Western Slope, and it is the only Colorado news organization with a correspondent in Washington, D.C. following the Colorado congressional delegation. CPR is a nonprofit and its services are made possible by donations from individuals, foundations and businesses across Colorado.
“We are humbled by the generosity of audiences and donors who have made the last 52 years possible,” Vanderwilt said. “Their continued support shows us there is a strong desire for fact-based local news, well-curated music, original podcasts and engaging events in our community. We are excited to continue evolving toward our vision of reaching all Coloradans with informative, inspirational and entertaining content.”
Looking to the future, CPR plans to continue delivering additional content to its audience via increased reporting, new podcasts and live events. Learn about career and volunteer opportunities here.
To further commemorate the occasion, CPR is airing a special “Colorado Public Radio Postcard” about the station’s first broadcast. It is also offering exclusive anniversary items for sale in the CPR Shop, including, of course, the ever-popular public radio tote bag.
About Colorado Public Radio
Colorado Public Radio is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization delivering meaningful news, music, and cultural experiences to everyone in Colorado using the power of the human voice in all its forms. Roughly 95 percent of CPR’s funds come from the private support of listeners, businesses and foundations. For more information, visit www.cpr.org.
- CPR News delivers in-depth, insightful and impartial news and information from around the world, across the nation and throughout Colorado, examining its relevance to our state and connecting it to our community.
- CPR Classical takes listeners on an in-depth exploration of thoughtfully curated music – with an emphasis on Colorado’s classical community – providing context to a broad range of meaningful and compelling works from past to present.
- Indie 102.3 takes listeners inside the world of new and independent music – exposing them to up-and-coming artists and highlighting Colorado’s local music scene.
- Denverite is an online news source dedicated to Denver's curious and concerned.
- KRCC is a public radio station in Colorado Springs, Colorado, serving Southern Colorado. KRCC is operated by Colorado Public Radio in partnership with Colorado College.