A report from a committee of advisers to struggling community radio station KUSP in Santa Cruz, California, offers an updated overview of the signal’s financial situation.
“There has been a focus in the public discussions on the NPR cost, with the mistaken assumption that the cost of NPR programs was the primary contributor to the KUSP programming costs and the budget deficit,” the Community Leadership Planning Group’s recommendations say. “This is not true.” Around two thirds of the costs “are attributable to programming staff” and the rest to “program acquisition costs.”
The CLPG is something akin to a blue ribbon panel for KUSP, which came close to selling its license not long ago. It includes a former KUSP station manager, the Chair of KUSP’s Board, several members of the group KUSP Forward, a consultant, people from other public radio stations and community groups, and even a Netflix engineer.
It looks like KUSP’s Board will consider the suggestions of the group at this Monday’s meeting at the Community Foundation building in Santa Cruz. Here are some of the planning group’s assessments and recommendations:
• KUSP has debts and liabilities of around $870,000.* The station lost around $213k and $175k in fiscal years 2012/13 and 2013/14. Losses through May were less because of a “one-time bequest” of a little over $150k.
• The station must reduce expenses during a five month interim period lasting from August through December, cutting down paid staff to six positions: a Manager, a Development Director, an Operations Director, an Underwriting Sales person, a part time on-air host, and a part-time bookkeeper. During this interim period, the station should rely on national programming to make up for on-air staff reductions, plus “consider a limited use of volunteers.”
• KUSP’s fundraising goal for the interim period should be between $350,000 to $500,000.
• KUSP’s leadership needs to launch a three year major donor/capital campaign to create an endowment for the station.
“KUSP clearly has strong support in the community,” the report notes. “Many public meetings in the past two months have reflected a strong expression of support for KUSP as a treasured community resource.” The station has also grown its audience. But: “The ability of KUSP to survive will be largely dependent upon cutting operating costs near term, the KUSP board adopting a viable interim operating plan, and then using this interim plan as a basis for a fundraising appeal to major donors.”
* Editor’s note: There appears to be a typo in the report, which cites the number “$870,0003.” I’m assuming one zero too many to the right of the comma. – Matthew