Salt Lake City public radio station KCPW is soon to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.
What that means for the station’s format is unclear, although there appears to be little chance it will remain a nonprofit, public broadcaster.
According to a notice from media brokerage firm Patrick Communications, the minimum bid for KCPW-FM 88.3 is $350,000, and bids must be submitted by Oct. 4, next Wednesday. If more than one qualified bid is submitted, an auction is scheduled for Oct. 9.
The sale of the station will include its broadcast license, along with other unspecified assets.
Station management could not be reached for comment.
KCPW’s owner, Wasatch Public Media, was formed by local supporters of public radio in 2008 specifically to buy the station. It paid $2.4 million for the radio station, which was about to be sold to a religious broadcaster. It operated out of trailers on the Westminster College campus until moving to studios at the Salt Lake City Main Library.
“I feel fortunate that I was part of the heyday, when the station was building,” said Diane Maggipinto, a former on-air reporter/host there. “It was a really wonderful opportunity to be part of a radio station with a very focused emphasis on city issues and city newsmakers. ... It was a great, great team. Kind of scrappy in those early days.”
KCPW has been through multiple financial crises over the years. In 2011, an anonymous lender came through when then-Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker blocked the city council’s plan to loan the station as default loomed.
In 2013, KCPW was forced to drop National Public Radio programming.
“It was an uphill battle from the beginning — going up against the powerhouse of KUER,” said Maggipinto. (KUER-FM 90.1, owned and operated by the University of Utah, is the state’s primary public radio station, and goes by NPR Utah.) “And then having to let got of all of that NPR programming because they couldn’t afford it.
KCPW now carries programming from American Public Media, the BBC and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, along with several locally produced shows — including “Behind the Headlines,” which features Salt Lake Tribune staffers discussing each week’s top stories.
In 2014, the station came within a day of defaulting on programming fees. After falling six months behind on payments to APM, the station successfully raised $42,000 to pay off that debt and stay on the air.
In 2017, the nonprofit restructured a 2008 loan used to buy the station, eliminating $1.7 million in longterm debt.