Rychard Withers, executive director of the Fresno Free College Foundation behind local Pacifica Radio station KFCF (88.1 FM), is preparing for the worst. That’s because the mother ship of Pacifica Radio in Berkeley is facing serious financial problems.
“I just don’t see how they can keep going another year,” Withers says. “I have had a lot of sleepless nights trying to decide what to do if Pacifica is dissolved.”
A big part of Withers’ plan is to have new programming either on the air or ready to be broadcast should the local radio station not have access to the programming provided by Pacifica. The local station’s current lineup includes 80 percent to 85 percent programming provided through Pacifica. Loss of those radio programs would mean Withers would have to fill 140 more hours every week.
He’s already added the investigative reporting program “Reveal” and “This American Life.” Withers is also looking at what kind of local programming could be produced to fill the schedule. Between local ideas and the number of syndicated radio shows available, the KFCF boss isn’t worried about having dead air if Pacifica goes away.
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In fact, if you have an idea for a radio show, there will be an opportunity to pitch your program. The Fresno Free College Foundation is hosting an event that’s open to the public that will feature a chance to chat with staff members about the future of Pacifica and KPFA while sharing a few snacks.
The event will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at the home of the Mike Beevers, Fresno Free College president, 4887 N. Jackson Ave. There is a suggested donation of $20 to attend.
“We’ve had a lot of great events this past year, Richard Wolff, Amy Goodman, the annual banquet, some concerts, so it’ll be nice to get a chance to talk and visit with our friends. We appreciate all the support from our listeners and friends,” Withers says.
Should KFCF have to start producing more programs, it will take some real juggling at the station’s home in the Tower District. The studio is a converted doctor’s office that is only big enough for one control room and one studio. The control room doubles as a production office when the station is broadcasting the satellite feed from Pacifica.
“I am trying to figure out how to squeeze another production room out of the space we have,” Withers says.
Money is another issue that Withers will have to deal with should the connection to Pacifica end. Currently, local KFCF listeners make donations through the Berkeley-based Pacifica, then that money is sent back to Fresno, minus a few fees.
Direct donations to Fresno would eliminate the fees, but it also would stop the kind of giveaways used by Pacifica – such as free movie tickets – to those who donate higher amounts.
So far, the money raised through the radio station has been coming in from Pacifica, but at a slower pace than in past years.
There’s always a chance major benefactors could step up and save Pacifica. That would be a plus for all parties. But, Withers can’t bank on that happening. That’s why he’s making sure there is a backup plan in place.
Withers could move forward and drop the connection to Pacifica at this time. He knows such a move would create a massive mutiny by local fans of programming that includes “Upfront,” “Democracy Now!” and “Flashpoints.” If Pacifica ends, then he will be seen as a savior for the station by having programming that will keep the free speech format on the air.
It looks like, if the future of KFCF is going to be changing as soon as Withers believes, it’s no longer a matter of if the connection to Pacifica ends, but when. Withers is working hard to be ready.
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