2004-06/Jun Bethany Kohoutek's Growing Pains, Bullhorn Article

Published in the Rocky Mountain Bullhorn in June 2004:

Growing Pains
KRFC prepares for major changes to its broadcasting schedule.
By Bethany Kohoutek

Less than two months after KRFC FM underwent a shift in top-level management, some leaders at the one-and-a-half-year-old grassroots radio station are seeking to implement even more sweeping changes.

Although nothing is set in stone, says Interim Station Manager Beth Flowers, the adjustments stand to affect every level of KRFCs organization, from marketing to programming to scheduling.

Most noticeable to regular listeners will be the overhauled show schedule. The most recent schedule draft is designed to replace the syndicated news programs that currently inhabit the airwaves on weekday mornings with a music mix.

"Looking at national trends, we do know that morning drive-time is the number one radio time across the board", Flowers says.

The changes are mainly in response to a largely unsuccessful spring fundraising drive. Noncommercial radio outlets rely on such events to lure in new members and retain old ones, and with them, much-needed cash. However, nearly 70 percent of donating listeners failed to renew their memberships, and the station came nowhere near the amount of money it had hoped to raise in May.

"Under the working draft, local news programming will maintain the same total number of hours, while public-affairs broadcasting stands to lose an hour and a half of airtime per week", Flowers says.

Currently, KRFC blends about 85 percent music with 15 percent news and public affairs, which includes locally produced weekly specialty shows (including The Senior Show, The Long Hour sports show, The Bullhorn Talkshow, produced by the Rocky Mountain Bullhorn) syndicated news programs (Democracy Now, Free Speech Radio News, Counterspin) and daily local news (News on the Range).

Although the process began less than six weeks ago, Flowers says a schedule will be approved and in place by August 1 in order to familiarize listeners with the new format in time for the September fund drive. A majority of those who work at the station are supportive, according to Flowers.

Yet a number of station volunteers are questioning the scope of and reasoning behind the widespread changes and breakneck speed at which they are being made. They believe one lagging fund drive does not justify "dropping a bomb on the schedule", as KRFC founding member and newscaster Paul Bame put it at a recent Public Affairs Committee meeting.

He and other members of that group say more listener feedback is necessary before making any conclusive decisions regarding what those listeners want to hear. Without that information, they say, the process itself is tainted. Indeed, no definitive or scientific survey of KRFCs membership (which totals 1,300) has been conducted, and KRFC enjoyed three successful fund drives last year under the current schedule, they pointed out.

"We don't have a respectable, responsible process in place to make changes", Bame added.

Along with several others who did not want their names printed in this story, Programming Committee member Kevin Foskin says he, too, is uncomfortable with the course discussions have been taking. "Recently, the decisions at the radio station have been made in a less democratic spirit than I am comfortable with. For some reason, it seems to be more a function of an urgency on the part of the management, and I am unsure as to what is actually motivating the urgency".

Kath Davis, a member of KRFCs news team, believes the changes will ultimately be healthy for the station but questions the impetus behind them. "The programming wasn't entirely the problem with the fund drive", she says. "It was just too soon [after the previous fundraiser]. There was not enough time for the audience to recover, and there was not enough time for the announcers to get excited about it -- we were still tired from last time."

Flowers agrees that a more accurate picture of what listeners wan't would be beneficial, but says its a luxury the station cant afford, time- or money-wise. "Given the bleeding membership base", she says, "we need to get the schedule changed as fast as we can in order to have some staying power".

Thats why the incredibly fast timing. Its not ideal, there's no question about that. The proposed schedule remains a work in progress, and has yet to be approved by the Programming Committee or the Board of Directors. A full staff and volunteer meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. July 10 at A Place for Peace, 1605 W. Mulberry, to discuss it and other plans.