KGPR-FM is community licensee in Great Falls, Montana – a city of around 80,000 folks near the foothills of the northern Rockies. KGPR has been serving the Great Falls area for around 30 years. For about 12 hours a day, KGPR simulcasts Montana Public Radio originating from Missoula. This is their source for Morning Edition and ATC. The rest of the day KGPR airs local music shows from Great Falls.
New CPB rules require stations like KGPR to have $100,000 of Non Federal Funding Support (“NFFS”) or loose funding. This seems like a sensible rule to me.
But, it has put KGPR’s management in dilemma: Change station programming so it will attract enough listener support to reach the $100k NFFS minimum, or loose almost $97,000 in CPB support – 58% of the station’s operating budget.
According to an article in the Great Falls Tribune, Tim Hodges, president of the KGPR Board, says current local programming must be preserved:
What we are talking about here is the preservation and expansion of locally produced programing,” said Tim Hodges, president of KGPR’s board of directors. “It’s up to this community over the next few years to decide whether it wants to have a presence on public radio.
Hodges seems to be implying KGPR’s current local programming is the only way the community will have "a presence on public radio." But the problem is that current local programming looks like it repels listeners.
KGPR breaks away from NPR programming from Montana Public Radio’s whenever it wants to: rock and pop some days from 10:55am to 12:30pm; classical and jazz on various days; a local “open phones” show on Tuesdays from 3:00pm to 3:30pm. This is the programming Hodges says must be preserved.
Plus KGPR has a screwy deal with Montana Public Radio. They provide national programming in exchange for around $32,000 a year in cash AND Montana Public Radio can keep all the pledge revenue from the city except one zip code. Money from that zip code goes to KGPR after it pays processing fees to Montana Public Radio.
Tim Hodges, president of the KGPR Board prepared PowerPoint slides for a town hall meeting to rally local support for the station. Here is his agenda for the meeting:
Do you see anything about assessing KGPR’s current local programming at the meeting? No way, even though Hodges has scheduled ample time for “leg stretching.”
The future of KGPR? According to Hodge’s presentation slides there aren't many choices:
KEN’S ADVICE: Somebody at Montana Public Radio can do a major favor for public radio listeners in Great Falls by offering to absorb KGPR. I know I am 30,000 feet from the problem and I don’t know the details on the ground. But even at this distance, I can smell the stink of the current situation.