A recent and extensive Federal Communications Commission report reveals that Greeley’s Pirate 104.7 FM is ranked number 4 out of 1,000 radio stations nationwide in its class. Several criteria and measuring mechanisms were used in the study, including official Arbitron ratings.
Pirate Radio is a Low Power FM (LPFM) station and reaches the Greeley and Evans area. The station features a hodgepodge of oldies from every genre and local community programs including frequent interviews with community and city leaders such as police chief Jerry Garner, Greeley Gazette editor Jack Minor, city administrator Roy Otto and Evans Mayor Lyle Achziger.
The FCC established LPFM stations in 2000 as a way for local community programming to compete with the large commercial station conglomerates. LPFM stations are required to be noncommercial educational broadcasting, have a maximum power rating of 100 watts and an approximate maximum broadcast radius of 15 miles.
The FCC conducted the in-depth study because established stations filed multiple complaints claiming low power stations would interfere with their ability to exist. However, the vast majority of LPFM stations were found to have very little impact on their respective radio markets. 104.7, KELS-LP was an exception.
An independent commission examined Greeley residents’ listening habits and learned that Pirate Radio is the most listened to signal coming into, or originating in, the Greeley area, with 22 percent of the total listening audience in all age groups. By contrast, the ratings of Greeley’s KFKA 1310 have been steadily dropping, registering less than 1 percent in the Greeley area this last quarter. About half the staff and a co-owner of KFKA, Justin Sasso, have had to leave the station for jobs elsewhere due to budget problems.
Brett Reese, owner of 104.7 said, “From our sponsors’ feedback, I knew we had a large following, but I was stunned to discover we were number four in America. Credit belongs to Jesus Christ first, the entire air-staff and volunteers; each one fun to tease….I mean, work with.” Reese leads staff prayer every Wednesday morning at the studios and invites the public to attend.
The full-time Pirate crew consists of the popular morning show from 6-9 a.m. Monday through Friday with Matt “The Big Kahuna” Arguello and George Gray, widely known as the Greeley Elvis. The show features a combination of talk and oldies music. Both DJ’s are Greeley natives and often perform sold-out oldies concerts.
Abe Villareal, a Korean War vet and a “musical encyclopedia”, brings listeners ballroom music from the big band era featuring greats such as Glenn Miller and Ertha Kitt. Wrangler Rish, The Dutchman and Bob Bernd take listeners to “Happy Trails” with Saturday’s classic country. J.W. Nelson and 40-year radio pro Dick Williamson take care of Sunday afternoon movie soundtracks and evening old-time radio shows respectively. 84 year-old retired Boulder County District Attorney Stan Johnson is the self-proclaimed patriarch of the station and the target of much fun. He recites poetry and plays his favorites every Tuesday morning. Jay Stevens and Daniel McKenna help with Friday evening bluegrass and request shows. Pirate Radio is also currently in negotiations with John Raeburn for a big band show. Raeburn recently moved to Greeley and is retired and the only news anchor to serve in that capacity on all three Denver networks years ago.
Reese explained why he believes local radio can still beat the iPOD, internet and satellite radio. “Take some risks, be original, and provide listeners with what they can’t hear anywhere else… in Greeley and Ft. Collins, that’s Elvis, The Beatles and Glenn Miller. Find fun people who are a little crazy but with good hearts and it makes a good recipe for ratings, and of course that keeps our sponsors happy.”
Reese’s group also began broadcast operations just months ago at 93.5 FM in Ft. Collins. Immediately, a Ft. Collins station changed its format. He is also now working with a group to build two full power FM radio stations near Sterling. Together with a fifth station in Red Feather Lakes, Pirate will cast a signal over most of Northern Colorado’s population centers. A short, Christian message is always part of the programming. You’ll even hear Christmas songs year round. Reese says his unique audio recipe rests on the music, the technical abilities of his wife, Chris, and the camaraderie between audience and air staff. Reese says of his staff that he “loves every one, including their warts, wooden legs and long pointy ears.”