Leslie Boyd answers phones Thursday afternoon at KDLL-FM during one of the station's fund-drives. In addition to government support, the station seeks cash from listeners underwriting from the business community.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
A central Kenai Peninsula public radio station and its Homer affiliate are breathing a sigh of relief after the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday rejected a recommendation to cut state funding for public radio stations by 24 percent.
The cut would have severely impacted public radio stations throughout Alaska, already weakened by major state funding cuts over the last 10 to 15 years, they say.
“We don’t have any fat left to cut,” said Allen Auxier, station manager for KDLL-FM in Kenai.
The cuts would have translated into a loss of $6,000 for KDLL and $32,000 for KBBI-FM in Homer and would have crippled KDLL just as it is beginning to blossom, said Dave Anderson, general manager for KDLL and KBBI.
In the last three decades, KDLL has slowly grown from its origins as a repeater station a station broadcasting the programming of another station in 1977 to a station that produces original programming in 1997 to a station with its own production studio in 2006. With the production studio, it now can report in the field, drawing more local news to the airwaves.
If the 24 percent proposed budget cut had moved forward, however, KDLL’s growth would have been stunted.
“There’s not a whole lot in the budget we can cut without an impact,” Anderson said.
The few paid staff members at KDLL are critical to keeping the station up and running and bills for electricity and transmitter fees must be paid, he said.
Although disappointed that the Senate Finance Committee did not restore Gov. Frank Murkowski’s recommendation to provide the Alaska Public Broadcast Commission with $125,000 to help public radio stations handle rising costs, such as utilities, Anderson said he was relieved to hear the 25 percent cut had been removed from the bargaining table.
Bracing for potential budget cuts has become an annual tradition at KDLL and other public radio stations in Alaska, Auxier said.
“This is one of those things we go through every year,” he said.
Allen Auxier, station manager for KDLL-FM, faced a 24 percent cut in government funding earlier this week.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
But not all local public broadcasters dread state funding cut recommendations.
Kasilof-based public radio station KWJG would welcome a cut in state funding for public radio stations, said Bill Glynn, general manager of KWJG and KMJG, a station licensed to Homer.
Glynn said the cuts help level the playing field between public stations receiving government money and those relying solely on donations and underwriting, such as KWJG and KMJG.
He said government funds give some stations an unfair advantage in promoting themselves and competing with other public radio stations for donations.
“We would like to see no funding at all,” Glynn said.
With government funds comes government tampering with station programming, an influence that could be eliminated if government funding were entirely cut, he said.
Glynn, who has spent more than 30 years working in public radio, including government-funded stations, said his experience with government-funded stations has made him weary of government money.
When he worked for a government-funded station in Kodiak, for example, a member of the Alaska Public Broadcast Commission would attend the station’s meetings and inevitably influenced the station’s programming, he said.
If the Kasilof- or Homer-licensed stations applied for government funding, they would have to affiliate with a larger station and surrender much of their independence, he said.
“We wouldn’t have that much say over our signal,” he said. “We didn’t build a station to let someone else program it. We built it to program it for our listeners.”
Glynn placed the responsibility for maintaining public broadcasting squarely in the lap of communities.
“If the community can support a radio station then they deserve it, if they can’t, then they don’t,” he said.
Auxier, however, said broadcasting laws protect the independence of government-funded stations.
Bill Glynn, general manager of KWJG-FM and KMJG-FM, does not seek government funding for his stations.
Clarion file photo by M. Scott M
“He’s entitled to his opinion, but he’s incorrect,” Auxier said.
The Public Broadcasting Act, signed in 1967, prevents the government from meddling in public radio station programming, he said.
“The way that it was written, there is a firewall between the funding sources and programming,” he said. “They can’t tell us what to play or what not to play.”
Anderson said Glynn is entitled to his opinion, but concurred with Allen and said KBBI and KDLL spend their money how it will best serve the community and that both breeds of community radio are valuable to listeners.
“I think there’s plenty of room on the dial for all of us,” he said.
Although the budget has yet to be finalized, an amendment to cut state funding for public radio now is unlikely.
“We have full funding for radio right now,” said Lucky Schultz, a staff aid to Sen. Fred Dyson, R-Eagle River, chair of the financial subcommittee that recommended the cut. “(And) I just can’t imagine anyone reducing that. Its possible, but I just don’t see it happening.”
The subcommittee’s recommendation resulted from a prioritization of funding, but the public radio funding shortfall was resolved Thursday when the committee found other departments they could pull money from, Schultz said.
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