MPR proposes to operate struggling Pasadena FM station
Originally published in Current, Dec. 7, 1998
By Jacqueline Conciatore
Minnesota Public Radio and Pasadena City College may join in a venture to manage the California college's radio station, KPCC. Both entities late last week announced the potential deal, which could be a model for future public radio partnerships.
MPR's proposal calls for creation of a new nonprofit, perhaps named "Southern California Public Radio." It would have a board of trustees who are all Californians, seven appointed by MPR and six by the college.
The deal would relieve the college of financial liability for KPCC, which is currently recovering from a $170,000 deficit and struggling to meet CPB audience-service grant standards. But the trustees would retain ultimate control over the license, which would revert to the college if the partnership were to unravel.
The arrangement would give a needed boost in KPCC's resources. Says interim General Manager Cindy Young: "We are not fully staffed in areas we should be." Program Director Larry Mantle is doing two full-time jobs, for example, she says; he hosts a four-hour daily program. "We don't have anybody doing major-gift work, writing foundation grants, doing publicity. There's no one on staff focusing full-time on underwriting."
Though a significant part of KPCC's mission is to train students--and they currently have 46 interns--there are only six full-time staff positions. The budget is about $1.2 million. MPR on the other hand, is a relative behemoth--the largest operator of public radio stations by far, with 30 stations, a $23-million budget and a permanent endowment topping $110 million.
MPR says the partnership would retain the college's commitment to students, creating a national academic center for digital training.
MPR would retain the station's news format, says spokesperson Tony Bol.
Los Angeles public TV station KCET and another unidentified organization have also expressed interest in partnering with KPCC.
The model on the table, says Tom Thomas of Station Resource Group, the station association including MPR that's been exploring service-enhancing station collaborations, looks to be a win-win. "The licensee retains long-term control of spectrum, and there's a shot at significantly upgrading the service being delivered. And to the degree that these arrangements can promote economies of scale in programming production, all the better." He believes it's "a terrifically interesting model to watch for the system."
Not everyone is pleased. Says Jennifer Ferro, assistant g.m. of KCRW, not far away in Santa Monica: "We think it's outrageous that someone from another state can come in and annex our market."
MPR and KPCC say they don't know when the college board will makes its final decision.
To Current's home page
Earlier news: KPCC revises its format to build audience and keep its federal aid, 1997.
Later news: Pasadena City College trustees have second thoughts about deal with Minnesota, 1999.
Outside link: KPCC's web site.
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