Radio station fights for fees

The fees committee recommended $47,000 less than what Radio K had requested.

Bryce Haugen

Dozens of Radio K supporters spent much of last week lobbying the Student Services Fees Administrative Units Committee. They were attempting to persuade the committee to reverse its recommended cuts to the station.

Radio K requested $147,000 in fees, but in its initial recommendations in February, the five-member panel recommended giving the station $100,000. The committee will release its final recommendations Tuesday or Wednesday, following public deliberations today.

Several dozen station volunteers, staff members and listeners packed the fees committee public hearing Wednesday to object to the initial recommendation for Radio K.

Steve Nelson, program director at 89.3 The Current – Radio K’s main competitor – attended the two-hour hearing, but it ended before he could speak. Nelson, a University alumnus who helped found Radio K, wrote an e-mail to the fees committee on the station’s behalf.

“It’s a treasure,” Nelson wrote. “The University is a better place because Radio K exists, and it deserves your support.”

On Friday, five station employees addressed the committee in a supplemental public hearing.

Office for Student Affairs regulations allow groups to ask for more public hearing time if the fees committee agrees.

This year, three groups asked for more time, and the committee accommodated them, said Dan Levin, the Administrative Units Committee chairman.

At the Friday meeting, Andy Marlow, the Radio K station manager, said that because Radio K is trying to expand its audience by getting on the FM dial, “this is the absolute worst time to cut funding.”

Marlow said a fees cut would force the station to fire some of its staff.

“We’ll have to regress,” he said.

Fees make up 20 percent of the station’s budget. The rest comes from grants, fund raising and the University administration.

In its report, the fees committee said it was alarmed at the station’s decreasing audience, which represented a “correlation of greater funding and a shrinking audience.”

Mark LaCroix, a station program director, said the survey the committee used to determine audience size is outdated by two years.

“It’s unfair,” he said. “I’m not going to tell you that in 2004 numbers skyrocketed, but please don’t cut our funding based on numbers that don’t exist.”

The fees committee also recommended “reaching out to a broader cross-section of the student population” through diversified programming, including talk radio.

LaCroix said the radio station, not the fees committee, should make programming decisions.

“I think that even skirts the rules of the fees process,” he said.

Levin said the committee’s report included suggestions, not decrees.

Radio K development coach Stuart Sanders said the station is deeply connected to the University community through its student volunteers, who decide what goes on the air.

“We live and die with volunteers,” he said. “The students make the radio station. They make radio.”

Approximately 130 volunteers and 23 student employees work at Radio K, Marlow said.

One student employee, art history sophomore Emily Hietpas, handed out Radio K buttons before Wednesday’s public hearing.

Hietpas said she hopes public outcry convinces the fees committee to reverse its decision.

“(Radio K has) been the best part of my experience here,” she said. “I’m here to ensure that other students that come to the ‘U’ can participate.”

Marlow said he was pleased with the attendance at Wednesday’s hearing and with community support for the station.

“We like to think that we’re doing something good here that people appreciate, and you don’t always know,” he said. “We found out.”

Levin said the committee has received more than 71 pages of e-mails in response to all its recommendations and that it takes those comments seriously. The public hearing process was a success, he said.

“Get all the information possible,” he said. “That’s the only way to be an effective committee.”