On September 3rd, 2015 the Board that controls KUSP hired Public Media Company (PMC) to assess the dire situation at the station and make recommendations for the future. The results of the assessment were released in a stark report by PMC on September 25th. PMC’s conclusion is: Get real or go out of business.
Over my years in the biz I have read many station assessments and even written a few myself. The PMC document has clearest and most actionable plan I have ever seen. I urge folks involved in public media to download and read the entire PMC report, which is available at the KUSP website [link].
PMC’s recommendations include:
• Drop the current schedule of NPR News and Pacifica programs and change the programming to 24/7 professional Triple A [aka Progressive Rock] music by November.
• Bring in Lee Farraro to be interim manager and let him run the place unhindered by local idealogical flack. [Farraro in now on the job at KUSP, replacing Terry Green.]
• Make immediate reductions in paid staff and develop a plan to pay off KUSP’s deep debts.
• Raise $350,000 before the end of 2015 to keep the lights on while the Triple A format establishes itself.
• If the above can NOT be accomplished in the next few months, sell the license.
THE CURRENT SITUATION IS WORSE THAN WAS PREVIOUSLY KNOWN
According to the PMC report KUSP’s debts are now over $860,000 and continue to grow every day. KUSP has run out of money [quoting from the report]:
KUSP is financially broke. As of September 28, 2015, the unrestricted cash was zero. This is despite two substantial donations in the last fiscal year that totaled over $250,000.
To pay off the station’s debts, KUSP needs to raise $1.1 million over the next three years, including $350,000 as soon as possible.
PMC says KUSP should act immediately and not rehash past turf wars. The report cautions:
At this point, the history of the Station’s financial crises is not relevant. It is a fact that must be dealt with.
The grownups have arrived.
ENTER LEE FARRARO
KUSP and WYEP both began as “apple seeds” of Lorenzo Milam. KUSP signed on in 1972 and WYEP began in 1974. Like KUSP, WYEP had a dysfunctional governance system. It aired a hodge-podge of advocacy programs plus music only Milam could love: harps, kazoos and Tibetan Bells. They didn’t make it – WYEP went off the air in 1985 because they couldn’t pay the bills.
Ferraro convinced local foundations and WYEP’s creditors that he could revive WYEP by focusing on serving a sustainable mass of listeners with broader-appeal programs. It worked.
During a 1994 capital campaign Farraro described WYEP's transition this way:
“The old model failed. In the mid-‘80s…we moved from serving the individual disc jockey’s interests to serving the broader community. Our numbers skyrocketed – listeners, volunteers, contributors, corporate partners. Our focus became serving the broader community.”
This is exactly what KUSP needs now.
PUTTING THE PLAN IN MOTION
The PMC report urged immediate actions, some of which have already happened:
• Assess current on-air staff for potential music hosting and voice tracking.
• Purchase music scheduling software i.e. Music Master in use at many Triple-A stations. Train staff to use the software.
• A music library donation has been secured by Lee Ferraro.
• Work out all the technical logistics of installing the music server and getting it to "talk" with KUSP’s ENCO automation system.
• Conduct a final news and information membership drive in October that appeals to listeners and encourages them to help pay programming costs to date and use airtime to preview the new Triple-A format. [This is not something I would recommend.]
I HOPE THE PLAN WORKS
This is what I hoped would happen at KUSP. I hope they have the time and money to make it happen. I began covering KUSP in May [link]. In that column I urged them to switch to 24/7 professional Triple A music. At the time, I put it this way:
Create KUSP 2.0: THE ROCK OF MONTEREY BAY.
To Lee and everyone at KUSP: Best wishes for success. Make all of us working in public media proud of your accomplishments!