KCAW and other public broadcasters in Alaska are headed into the fall fundraising season with no state funding — a first in the 37-year history of Raven Radio.
KCAW general manager Becky Meiers outlined the station’s strategy during a presentation to the Sitka Chamber of Commerce this week (10-2-19).
Meiers said that the impact of Gov. Dunleavy’s veto of $2 million in statewide public broadcasting funds will mean a direct loss of $76,000 to Raven Radio — about 12-percent of the entire station budget. But she cautions that the number could increase to as much as 18-percent within a couple of years, as the loss of state funding begins to hit the station’s federal matching funds, grants, and underwriting contracts with other agencies affected by state cuts.
Nevertheless Meiers — who’s been on the job for about a year — said that KCAW remains focused on service. In addition to Sitka, the station broadcasts in Kake, Angoon, Yakutat, Tenakee Springs, Pelican, Elfin Cove, and Port Alexander — communities where KCAW may be the only source of broadcast media. Meiers visited each of these communities over the summer to inventory equipment, and returned with a renewed sense of purpose about KCAW’s role in the region.
“People in Southeast Alaska want to hear about each other. They want to hear — and to be able to communicate — through the radio, having shows that address their specific needs — that we all share — transportation, the economy. All of the issues that we face as community members here in Sitka, everybody else experiences as well. And we have a very unique standpoint that I think having the space to discuss is important.”
Although this is the first time public broadcasting has ever been totally defunded by the state, it’s not the first time there’s been significant budget pressure. About two decades ago, KCAW, along with stations in Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Juneau consolidated administrative and engineering services under a new nonprofit called CoastAlaska, which freed up more station resources for news and programming. Dutch Harbor joined the consortium this year, and other broadcasters contract for services from CoastAlaska.
Meiers said that CoastAlaska again would be critical in charting public radio’s future in Southeast.
“We already deeply collaborate with this group of people,” Meiers told the chamber, “but what we’ll be doing is finding new ways to collaborate more, so we can create more savings. Because, while KCAW has a solid plan to make up for what we lost in state funding, we’re here also as a greater group of broadcasters, working together to help everybody.”
KCAW begins its on-air fall fundraiser on Monday, October 7, with a goal of $100,000.