Music to Their Ears: Donations
All-volunteer radio station KKUP-FM (91.5) seeks help with move from Santa Clara
By Devin Banerjee
San Jose Mercury News
July 21, 2009 -- They don't play Michael Jackson, but the all-volunteer staff of KKUP 91.5 FM Radio won't stop 'til they get enough.
After 14 years in its Santa Clara location at Franklin Square, the non-commercial, listener-sponsored station has lost its lease on the intimate offices that now house 20,000 CDs, several thousand LPs and rooms full of furnishings and equipment. To make the move to its new location -- most likely in San Jose, according to Jim Thomas, chair of KKUP's board of directors -- without going off the air, the station set out last month to raise at least $15,000 in donations by Aug. 1.
And as of Monday, KKUP was just $1,000 short of target.
"The response to this has been very good indeed," Thomas said. "It really shows there are people out there who care deeply about the program."
Wall space in the station offices is limited by shelves on top of shelves of music records, but cards posted near the entrance capture the essence of listeners' concerns.
"I am very sorry that I cannot give you more [money]," wrote one listener. "I am a struggling retired old lady on a rather low fixed income."
The station moved to its current location in 1995 and has renewed its lease with this landlord several times. Though KKUP management is on good terms with the landlord, the two parties simply couldn't reach an accord this time around, Thomas said. An official moving date is not yet set in stone, he added.
Started by a group of college students as educational programming in the early 1970s, KKUP now offers music ranging from comical to classical, reggae to barbershop, new age to oldies, world to bluegrass, blues to gospel, current affairs to philosophy and vintage radio to poetry.
With upward of 1,000 subscribers at any time, and some ten times that number of listeners, the non-profit, 600-watt radio station actively separates itself from corporate backing, grants and other funding sources that may place demands on its programming.
Thomas goes as far as to say that KKUP, which runs a $80,000/year budget, is the only 100-percent listener-funded radio station in the country.
"Most [listener-funded] stations take underwriting -- a form of advertising," he said. "We are beholden only to our listeners."
This allows KKUP broadcasters to express their own opinions and give personal advice to distressed listeners.
On a lazy Thursday afternoon last week, for example, a caller phoned in, clearly worried she will not get along with her new housemates. But Ann Roman, seated calmly in the station's sunlight-filled broadcast room, had answers.
"When things are not smooth or not coming easy, it's because we're resisting," Roman said assuringly. "We need to be open to change."
And the KKUP staff are certainly ready for their change of location. With the $15,000 goal in sight, the station hopes to execute a seamless broadcast transition the day of the move.
"It will be a quick switch," Thomas said. "When we turn off in Santa Clara, we turn it on in the new location."
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