The sun isn’t even up when University College junior Joel Meyer sets out to start his 6 a.m. disc jockey shift at Radio K. But at least he gets paid to wake up early — for now.
Meyer is one of three paid DJs at the University station in danger of going without a paycheck if Gov. Jesse Ventura’s plan to eliminate funding for public radio and television passes in the state Legislature. The other student DJ positions at Radio K are already staffed by volunteers.
The plan, which will affect the Twin Cities’ campus station KUOM (Radio K) and the University of Minnesota-Duluth’s KUMD, along with nine other public radio stations, will wean public radio off state funds completely within the next three years.
The proposed cuts are part of Ventura’s plan to raise funds for education without raising taxes.
“Funding for education is more important. It has to come at the expense of something,” said John Wodele, Ventura’s press secretary. “The amount of money that public radio gets from state funds is only 2 to 3 percent (of their overall operating budgets).”
True, for larger stations like Minnesota Public Radio. But the $60,000 in state funds that each member of the Association of Minnesota Public Educational Radio Stations receives — of which Radio K is a member — represents 12 percent of Radio K’s annual $500,000 budget.
According to Andy Marlow, Radio K station manager, the station also receives $100,000 from both University administration and student services fees, approximately 40 percent of their budget. The remaining amount of Radio K’s budget is covered by memberships, federal grants and underwriting — a restrictive form of advertising.
State funding makes a big difference for stations that, because of Federal Communications Commission regulations, cannot profit from commercial advertising, added Marlow.
“We’re held together with duct tape, unlike those (commercial) stations,” said Marlow.
But Wodele pointed out it could be possible for stations like Radio K and KUMD to gain special status, since they serve the dual purpose of promoting learning and public service.
“The governor might be receptive to alternative plans for educational stations,” Wodele said.
Members of the mainly student-run, mostly volunteer station are putting their heads together to try to change the governor’s mind before the issue goes in front of the Legislature this spring.
“It is important that students do write personal, hand-written letters to the governor, informing him of the situation,” said Meyer, who, besides spinning records, is the training director for Radio K. “I love my job. But for the people who come in at six on a Sunday morning, the fun associated with the job might not be enough.”