The Student Services Fees Committee went into the 1997-98 deliberations with the laudable aim of keeping fees down. Their commitment to that goal is evidenced in this year’s initial recommendations, which include only a 2.18 percent fee increase. Many student organizations, notably the cultural centers, were denied any recommended funding increase, while others, like Crisis Point Theatre and The Minnesota Daily, saw their proposed funding cut. Although cuts or lack of increased funding may be difficult for individual organizations, the committee’s response to students’ concerns over rising fees is commendable. Also praiseworthy is the committee’s recommendation, in one case, to grant a substantial increase where especially merited.
Radio K requested a one-time-only Student Services Fees increase of 37.3 percent — from $98,136 to $130,000.
Considering the purpose of the almost $32,000 boost — a unique partnership which will allow the student-run station to broadcast 24 hours a day on the FM spectrum — the request should be granted.
When the University allowed students from WMMR, the dorms-only student station, to take control of the professionally-managed KUOM in 1993, it took a big chance. KUOM, after all, was the first radio signal in the state, and had a long tradition of excellence. But it also suffered poor ratings. The students argued that they could not only draw an audience, but improve the University community and provide training for students as well. Four years later, Radio K has proved an unparalleled success.But despite their hard work and good fortune, the student broadcasters of Radio K have been limited by their FCC license to daylight-only airtime. Although 24-hour broadcasting has been their goal from the beginning, it has long appeared impossible. The last Twin Cities FM station sold for $24 million — the last AM station for more than $1 million. But through a creative and mutually beneficial partnership with St. Louis Park High School, Radio K could broadcast 24 hours, year-round from a new translator atop Middlebrook Hall for only $30,000.
The arrangement would allow students at St. Louis Park, which owns a small FM station, to broadcast from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on school days. Radio K would control the rest of the broadcast day, as well as weekends, breaks, and the entire summer. Radio K would also maintain its current daytime broadcast on 770 AM. The plan not only serves the students who operate or listen to Radio K, but furthers the educational outreach mission of the University by jump-starting St. Louis Park’s broadcast training program.
In this year of financial belt-tightening, Radio K’s fees request represents the largest percentage increase for any organization. But their financial plan is sound, and may save money in the long run. Doubling their broadcast hours will likely bring in more underwriting dollars and listener donations. Furthermore, if the partnership falls through, Radio K has pledged to give the extra funds, earmarked for buying and installing the FM translator, back to the fees committee. Radio K’s plan is a win-win situation for the University, and they deserve our financial and moral support. The committee, when it makes a decision Saturday, should pass its initial recommendation.