A last-minute appeal has saved college radio station KCR-AM/FM from going off the air, at least through June.
Ever since San Diego State University's campus radio station first went on the air in 1969, most of its funding--in recent years, $4,500 a semester--has come from the council (governing board) of the school's Associated Students.
But on Monday, the council's finance committee recommended that funding be cut off completely, effective two days later, "because the station has consistently overprojected (advertising sales) revenues and gone over budget estimations," said finance committee member Michael Delaroche.
That decision spurred a flurry of activity at the KCR offices to get the council to vote down the recommendation.
Under the auspices of general manager Susan Drummet, 30 KCR staffers passed around petitions supporting the station's request for continued financing. By Wednesday, they had gathered more than 3,800 signatures.
In addition, Drummet said, the station received more than 20 letters of support from SDSU alumni and teachers, local radio and music business professionals, and several San Diego bands whose records have been played on the station in recent months. And a local attorney, Lionel Orderica, sent the station a check for $4,000--enough to cover its operating costs through this semester.
Eventually, all that work paid off. Before a roomful of KCR supporters, the council Wednesday voted to disregard the finance committee's recommendation and continue funding the station, which is broadcast throughout the campus at 550 AM and elsewhere in the city at 98.9 FM on Cox Cable and 96.5 FM on Southwestern Cable.
"Right now, I feel very relieved," Drummet said shortly after the vote. "When I first heard of the finance committee's recommendation, I was stunned--for the first hour, I walked around dumbly, not knowing what to do.
"But then I decided I had to do something about it, and I had to act quickly--so I began the campaign to save KCR."
Drummet added that, in spite of KCR's victory, she agrees with the Associated Students council stipulation that continued funding rests on significant changes in the way the station is run.
Last semester, the council formed an ad hoc committee to investigate KCR and its continuing failure to earn revenue to meet expenses. In that time, Drummet said, KCR's advertising sales amounted to only $1,500, far short of the projected figure of $4,000.
And according to the ad hoc committee's report, Drummet added, the problems stemmed mostly from the rapid turnover of KCR staff and the lack of a consistent sales force.
"After we got the report in early January, we immediately began making changes," Drummet said. "We upped our advertising rates, and at the same time we set about developing a stronger sales force than we ever had before.
"That's why the finance committee's recommendation came as such a shock; even though we've made tremendous strides since January, it's only been two months--and that's not long enough for anybody to really determine how successful we can be."
During Wednesday's meeting, Drummet and several other KCR backers made that point clear in their pleas for continued funding, also citing KCR's importance to the university as a whole.
"KCR operates yearly at a fraction of the cost of other college radio stations around the country," Drummet told the council, "and in spite of that, the station is the leading college radio station in San Diego--we're No. 1.
"We also open the airwaves to the students to promote all sorts of campus functions, and we also provide students with a valuable training opportunity in broadcasting."
"I owe my entire career to KCR, from radio to television to public relations," added Gayle Falkenthal, a KCR alumnus now working for state Assemblywoman Sunny Mojonnier (R-Encinitas). "And I can't emphasize enough that for the small sum KCR is asking, it gives a lot back to the students in terms of preparing them for careers in the field of communications."
Taking the opposing view was Mark Delaroche, speaking in support of the finance committee recommendation to slash funding.
"Their management has consistently demonstrated a lack of professionalism," Delaroche said, to scattered catcalls from the largely pro-KCR audience. "Their sales force changes every semester, so even longtime clients are rarely called back.
"On top of that, we recently conducted a survey of students and we found that, of 498 students, only 18 of them listened to KCR. KCR is supposed to be a radio station, but a radio station is supposed to have listeners.
"And we have to deal with the question of whether it's really worth funding a radio station with such a low percentage of listenership."
While KCR claimed victory in the end, Delaroche's comments--and the ad hoc committee's findings--were not ignored.
The council voted to continue financing the station for the full amount, but only if KCR management cooperates with a council committee to solve its lingering financial problems. A report on that cooperation will be aired at a council meeting May 7.