by Maggie Boyle Judi
You can see the whole world from Radio Hill
On the top of Radio Hill, a spot overlooking Recapture Reservoir north of Blanding, stands an old radio tower and a low squar-ish, abandoned building. For many years, it was a busy news hub that broadcast the news, weather, sports and music to San Juan County.
KUTA radio, the Voice of the Canyonlands, closed for good in 2002. But for those that spent time working there, it’s legacy continues.
For former disc jockey Todd Blickenstaff, who has created a career in broadcasting, life on Radio Hill began quite early.
Todd’s father Gene, and three of his brothers, worked at the station. So as a six-year-old kid, Todd found himself amidst the microphones, the old AP ticker machine printing out news copy, stacks of 45’s and the sound of news being read along the airwaves.
He remembers, “They would would turn me loose in the production room and set me up with a microphone and I would pretend to be Paul Harvey delivering the news!”
So naturally, at the age of 17, Todd called the radio station and asked George Walton and Earl Stevens for a job. They said, “Well, we don’t have anything right now….”
But the next day, when Todd came home for lunch, his mother Francell had some good news, “the radio station wants you to call them.” Walton and Stevens were hoping to find weekend help to free up their own schedules.
Todd recalls, “So I went up there and they ripped off some copy from the old AP machine that used to just spit out news. It was called a ‘rip and read’.
“They sat me down and said, ‘Ok you do these headlines, do the weather, put it back into music and we’ll see how you do.’
“So it wasn’t a tape that I did (now you submit a tape for a job like that), but they just said, ‘Do this 4 o’clock news break, we’re gonna see what you sound like when the mic comes on.’
“And so I got a couple stories, turned the mic on, read ‘em, did the weather, which was basically looking out the window and saying, ‘Well it’s partly cloudy here, looks like it’s about 67 degrees.’
“When I got done, they said, ‘OK, you’re hired.’”
Todd concludes, “It wasn’t because I was that good, but because they were that desperate to fill the spot.”
Todd spent many hours at the station, doing the PA for the 4th of July parade and hill climb, and his favorite was at the football field calling games with “Uncle” Ken MacDonald.
Todd’s career in broadcasting, television and radio was born. In his words, “I never looked back.”
After an LDS mission, and some time spent at Utah Valley State College, Todd entered school in the communications program at Southern Utah University.
“I loved doing play-by-play and color commentary,” he says. “It was just super fun to describe those games on the radio, and be involved in sports that way.”
Todd’s plan was to become a sportscaster, but a wise professor named Jon Smith could see the potential Todd had in sales, and initiated a conversation to help steer him in a different direction.
Soon, Todd was working as a salesperson for a radio station in Cedar City, selling ad space and experiencing big successes in that realm.
Todd says, “(Jon) took me aside one day and said, ‘You have a nice little Toyota pick-up, you’re doing great in sales, but these reporters, they’ve gotta go around to small markets, they don’t get paid very much….you need to think about that.”
“And you know,” he says recalling the experience with a smile in his voice, “it really kinda made me mad! I thought he was saying I wasn’t a good reporter or something!”
But the conversation got Todd thinking about all he could do within broadcasting. That little talk, he says, “Really helped me kinda turn the corner. I still tease John about that conversation to this day.”
After graduation from SUU, Todd landed a job in sales at a station in Yuma, AZ and quickly worked up the ranks to a job in Las Vegas, NV as the General Sales Manager for Las Vegas ONE, a 24-hour news channel.
Todd became an innovator in his field, taking on many projects. He developed a network for hotel rooms called Visitor Vision. It carried channels like CNN, ESPN, the Weather Channel, TNT, and TBS, and included commercials specially targeted to visitors on the Las Vegas Strip.
That way, Lance Burton, Cirque de Soliel, or Donnie and Marie could buy ad space specifically offered to the people coming to spend money on such shows.
Todd also launched a tourism and convention channel that is available in 80,000 hotel rooms on the Las Vegas Strip. The idea was that trade shows coming to Las Vegas could lease the channel and produce content directed at coventioneers and other visitors.
When the channel wasn’t featuring trade show content, Todd made a deal with A&E to air historical programming about Boulder Dam, Lake Mead, Area 51,and the history of Las Vegas.
Getting a TV powerhouse like A&E to turn over content for Todd to edit, repurpose, and add commercials was a tall order. “They had never released their content to anybody,” he explains. “But I was able to establish a great relationship with them. They agreed to provide Las Vegas and Southern Nevada-related programming to me.”
It seems that Todd’s old SUU professor was right. Todd is a natural when it comes to sales, something he attributes to his parental ancestry.
Todd chuckles when relating a family saying, attributed to his mother, the late Francell Redd Blickenstaff, that “the Redd’s come very highly self-recommended.”
He says of his natural abilities, “I got in trouble all the time for talking too much in school. You couldn’t get me to shut up.
“But you know later, you learn how to have some ability to go in and find common ground with people and get them to trust you and see you as a good guy, someone with integrity, someone they like, and then they are willing to do business with you.”
“I just have a knack for not being afraid to talk to anyone.” That knack, he says, comes from his Dad, Gene Blickenstaff, who loved to talk to people and make them laugh.
“One of the abilities I have inherited from my dad is just making people feel comfortable in any setting, and using humor to resolve conflicts in any situation.”
After the economy suffered a big hit in 2008, the opportunity arose for a change of pace and the ability to spend more time with his family. With the support of his wife Echo, daughters Kelsey and Alexa, and sons Carson and Nate, Todd accepted a job back home in Utah at Brigham Young University.
Todd is selling advertising on a worldwide stage now, with his job using those parental-given abilities as the Director of Corporate support at BYU broadcasting.
BYUtv is in 53 million homes in the United States and BYUtv Global is broadcast all around the world on satellite cable and digital.
“So,” Todd relates, “we are in a lot of countries and continents with our programming.”
BYUtv international also falls under the umbrella of BYU broadcasting and is broadcast in Portuguese, Spanish and English. All of these channels have huge selling points for businesses ranging in size from major corporations to local businesses, to advertise their wares.
Another huge selling point is, of course, BYU sporting events which are broadcast on BYUtv and the insanely-popular comedy sketch show, Studio C.
Both of these shows are helping BYUtv and Todd Blickenstaff to expand their brand even further across the nation.
But perhaps the real selling point for advertisers is Todd himself. His lifetime of experience with the airwaves, learning at his father’s knee how to gain trust, be a good friend and solve conflicts with humor, and his mother’s general love for people all add up to a man with the gumption and hard work to help run a worldwide broadcasting network.
He may even have to change the family saying, for now he comes highly recommended not just by himself, but from around the world!