Monday, February 11, 2008

Utah Community Radio Station To Replace some Volunteers with Paid DJs to Increase Listenership and Preserve Funding from CPB

An article from yesterday's Salt Lake City Tribune points out why the acceptance of funding from corporations like Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) can come with a high price. Utah community radio station KRCL 90.9 FM gets huge grants/financial benefits from CPB, but in exchange they expect that the station will work hard to increase their listenership. In this case, this means pressure from CPB to cut volunteer DJs, change the music format (to possibly adult album alternative or AAA) and hire paid DJs in order to attract more listeners (donors?).

From the article:

"...Salt Lake City community-radio station KRCL (90.9 FM)... announced last month it will streamline its eclectic weekday music programming by replacing 18 volunteer on-air hosts with three paid disc jockeys."

"Managers say the changes were prompted by a letter KRCL received two years ago from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the largest single source of funding for public radio and TV. The letter warned that the CPB's annual grant to KRCL - about one-eighth of the station's $850,000 operating budget - would be in jeopardy unless KRCL increased its sagging listenership."

This pressure from "public" funding sources happens at college radio stations as well and it's a shame that in order to maintain a high level of financial support a station must scrap volunteers and spend money to pay DJs. I didn't realize that companies like CPB also provided administrative support to stations in respect to music licensing. The article states that,

"...the CPB also negotiates complex music-licensing agreements for KRCL - an invaluable service for a noncommercial station with seven full-time staffers... So last year the station applied for and received an additional $195,000 grant from the CPB. Under the conditions of the grant, KRCL agreed to hire the three DJs, including a music director."

Staff and fans of the station are distressed by these developments, yet the station claims that it will still retain its independent mission. "'The reports of our corporate takeover have been greatly exaggerated,'" said Troy Williams, producer of 'RadioActive.' 'KRCL is absolutely going to remain independent and commercial-free. We're still dedicated to the core progressive values that have always defined the station.'"

According to their website, "The purpose of KRCL is to provide media exposure for music, ideas and viewpoints that are under-represented in mainstream commercial media. KRCL airs 56 different music programs and 27 public affairs programs each week." I wonder how this lineup changes with the firing of the volunteer DJs? We'll see in a few months.
The station posted a letter to listeners explaining the changes and promises that volunteers will still be a vital part of KRCL. I'm sure there will be some tension there in the coming months!


Anonymous said...

Your information is inaccurate. NPR does not fund public radio stations. NPR is an independent program producer/distributor and, in fact, stations pay NPR program fees. CPB is the agency that distributes federal funding to public radio and public TV stations for a percentage of their operating expenses. NPR has no affiliation whatsoever with CPB. I'd appreciate correction of your comments.
Andi Sporkin, NPR

Jennifer Waits said...

Thanks for the clarification.