Money Worries for KCRW
KCRW, the community radio station of Santa Monica College, has for many years stood as a model of original and innovative public broadcasting. With a blend of eclectic, commercial free music, National Public Radio and an assortment of talk radio programs, KCRW has become known for drawing in listeners keen on tuning into programming that stands apart from the vast majority of cookie-cutter commercial stations. Lately KCRW has found itself in a fiscally perilous position due to the proposed federal budget cuts emanating from the Republican-based House of Representatives.
Included in the GOP's sweeping federal budget plan is a legislative bill titled H.R. 68. Introduced by Republican representative Doug Lamborn from Colorado, the bill is designed to amend the Communications Act of 1934, effectively prohibiting the federal government from funding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting after the fiscal year 2013.
This could mean big problems in the future for KCRW if H.R. 68 passes through Congress.
According to an email sent from KCRW General Manager Jennifer Ferro, "Federal funding is one of three main funding sources for KCRW and all other public radio stations. The sources are: membership, underwriting (corporate and other business sponsors) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. CPB funding amounts to 9% of our operating budget -- $1.2 million a year."
If KCRW loses federal funding, they will in essence be forced to find alternative methods to make up that $1.2 million gap in their budget. This is a precarious situation, because if KCRW is unable to secure those funds, it would, according to Ferro, "result in a paring back of our operations."
All of this is further exacerbated by the recent debacle at NPR which resulted in the resignation of NPR's president Vivian Schiller. Schiller stepped down last Wednesday, March 9, after a series of damaging comments made by NPR's senior vice president of fundraising Ron Schiller (no relation).
In a secretly taped meeting in which Ron Schiller was duped into believing he was meeting with potential donors from an American Muslim group, he made disparaging comments about American conservatives and said "It is very clear that we would be better off in the long run without federal funding."
For KCRW, this means that the threat to the station's economic survival is now on two fronts. "One of them is political, no doubt, and is making NPR a target," said Ferro. "The other force is deficit reduction. Even though CPB funding makes up .0001% of the federal budget, many programs will have to justify why they should keep their funding."
And in such dire economic times when federal deficit reduction is the item of the day, justifying KCRW's continued financial support from the CPB could be a daunting task.
"The truth about the NPR issue is that zeroing out the funding for CPB will only hurt public broadcasting stations, not NPR. NPR charges us for programming and will continue to do so regardless of our budget issues," said Ferro. "The real hit will be absorbed by local stations like KCRW who employ local people and have an important relationship with local communities."