Local company agrees to buy KREZ-TV

Native American Broadcasting LLC, a 1-year-old Durango-based company, has an agreement to buy KREZ-TV, the La Plata County satellite of KRQE-TV in Albuquerque.

The new company, the majority owner of which is a Native American, expects the Federal Communications Commission to approve the sale by LIN Television Corp. this summer.

Native American Broadcasting didn’t release the sale price. But RBR-TVBR, a website that covers broadcast-related trade news, said the price was $2 million cash.

LIN acquired KREZ along with other stations from Emmis in August 2005 for $260 million, RBR-TVBR said.

LIN is the parent company of KRQE. The Albuquerque station and KREZ carry CBS programming.

After the sale, the CBS programming would continue to be available on low-power stations owned by LIN.

An application for a transfer of the KREZ license was made April 19. After 30 days, during which the public can comment on the proposed sale, the FCC takes action, an agency spokeswoman said. The process is routine, often concluded in 45 days, she said.

The application drew the support of Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

“Broadcast television in the United States always has been built on the twin principles of localism and diversity,” Bennet said in a letter to the FCC. “Allowing Native American Broadcasting to assume ownership and control of KREZ is a key way for the commission to further these goals.”

In his letter to the FCC, Bennet took note that both owners live in La Plata County. Thus, they are intimately tied to the community, he said.

If the sale is approved, the new independent station will change its call sign to KSWZ-TV.

Some benefits residents of La Plata and Montezuma counties will notice will be that they will receive Colorado political news and local flood and tornado warnings.

Renée St. Andre from the Sault St. Marie tribe of Chippewea Indians in Michigan owns 51 percent of the company. She was the longtime KREZ sales manager.

“As far as we know, we’re the only commercial television in the United States owned by a Native American,” St. Andre said Friday. “There are a number of nonprofit stations owned by Native Americans.”

St. Andre said she has been working on the purchase of KREZ since January 2010.

“That’s when they laid me off,” St. Andre said. “I can’t say why because I signed a nondisclosure agreement. But it was nothing sinister.”

Laurie Kain, who owns 49 percent of the company, contracted with KREZ for productions. She said the station will be on satellite, cable and over the air.

“We’re not sure right now what all our programming will be, but the target date for our entire lineup is July 30,” Kain said. “But the goal is to provide political news from La Plata and Montezuma counties and agricultural, business and Native American news.

“One possibility is the popular James and Ernie show, a Navajo comedy team,” Kain said.

Unlike before, most of New Mexico will be covered by the station after the sale. KSWZ will try to serve the needs of viewers in New Mexico as well as Colorado, Kain said.

daler@durangoherald.com

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