Times Staff Writer

UC Irvine's tiny radio station KUCI-FM is in danger of going off the air soon if the station's student operators are unable to raise more than $4,000 to replace its aging antenna.

KUCI General Manager Robin Snyder said the antenna problem has been developing for several years but reached a critical stage recently because "we found out that the parts aren't made any more. What we are up against is that once these tubes blow, they are out and that could happen any time." She estimated the antenna is about 40 years old.

So far, the non-commercial, multiformat station has less than $1,500 in its new antenna fund, while Snyder said a replacement antenna will cost an estimated $5,400.

The issue will be of only passing concern to most of Orange County, since the 24-watt station's signal can be picked up only within a few miles of the Irvine campus. But to local bands for whom any radio exposure is vital, the loss of air play and interviews given local bands on KUCI (88.9) would be significant.

KUCI receives its annual budget--almost $30,000 for 1986-87--primarily from the university's Associated Students group, channeled through an independent media board, with $2,000 from other funds. Snyder charged this week that the group's officials are not supporting the station's attempt to remain on the air by approving emergency funding for a new antenna.

But Lance MacLean, Associated Students director of program services, said, "It's a problem they've made for themselves."

At the heart of the dispute are stipulations made by the Associated Students board last June when KUCI's present budget was approved.

MacLean said the KUCI operators were asked over the last three years to conduct an audience survey to determine the station's listenership and to install signal boosters to reach more of what university officials call "the UCI community."

"We told them that if some progress wasn't made by December, they would not receive the remainder of the funding," MacLean said. "When December came, they'd made no appreciable progress. But I should point out that the funding hasn't been withdrawn yet.

"No one wants to see it die," MacLean said. "But at the same time we don't want to continue funding it unless they show some fiscal responsibility and that they are serving the student community and reaching an audience a little better."

In the past, KUCI officials considered applying to the Federal Communications Commission for a new frequency that would permit a boost in power, but no frequencies are available in the crowded Los Angeles-Orange County radio market.

MacLean said Associated Students wants to see the station pare down its eclectic offerings, which range from jazz and classical to punk and heavy metal shows, to a more stable format featuring one or two types of music to provide better continuity. "Or at least keep the shows on at the same time each quarter instead of changing them depending on the disc jockey's schedule," MacLean said.

"We are not trying to be dictators. We don't care what format they pick, as long as they pick one," he said. "There's nothing wrong with underground music, but it's tough when you don't know when they are playing the underground music."

He also said KUCI personnel have not done as much independent fund-raising as station officials indicated in their budget projections.

Associated Students, however, has had no direct control over operations at the radio station, other than budget approval, since last summer when UCI's newspapers, publications and the radio station were placed under the jurisdiction of an independent media board.

KUCI is run totally by university students, many of whom draw nominal salaries out of the overall budget, although the station does not serve as a lab because the university offers no radio classes, MacLean said.

Snyder said that without money from the Associated Students, station officials will direct fund-raising efforts toward the public. While KUCI has sponsored numerous benefit concerts at Orange County clubs in recent years, Snyder said the only fund-raising event scheduled is an April 25 raffle, for which prizes are being donated by local businesses and individuals.

LIVE ACTION: X will play Cal State Fullerton's Titan Gym on April 3. . . . Agent Orange will perform at Goodies in Fullerton on March 29. . . . John Anello Jr. will give a free concert on March 29 at the Sunset Pub in Sunset Beach. . . . China Crisis will play the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano on April 18. . . . The Shorty Rogers Big Band will be in concert at Orange Coast College on March 27.

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