The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
Despite experiencing the sort of ongoing financial budget strife commonly faced by college radio stations, faithful listeners to KCSM can expect most of their favorite programming to remain, a district official said.
The College of San Mateo’s jazz radio station, 91.1 FM, lost three on-air personalities in recent months, but such changes are not indicative of larger shifts on the horizon, said Mitchell Bailey, spokesman for the San Mateo County Community College District.
DJs Dave Ramirez, host of “Evening Jazz” on Monday nights, and Jim Bennett, host of “In The Moment” on Thursdays, left the station last month and Michael Burman, who produced and hosted shows periodically, retired at the beginning of the year, said Bailey.
Citing a district personnel policy precluding him for commenting publicly on the nature of Ramirez and Bennett leaving the station, Bailey said the staffing changes are likely the most significant shifts fans of the station can expect.
“There are no plans to change the genre or sell the station and we would expect listeners would continue to enjoy the programming we provide through the station,” he said.
Bailey added changes to the programming lineup are an inevitability to the radio broadcasting industry.
“There are a couple of tweaks to on-air programming, which is not unusual,” he said.
Yet despite a commitment to preserving the radio station, Bailey said the channel for jazz fanatics continues to face significant budget limitations as financing is contingent largely on available underwriting and funding drives seeking listener support.
“We recognize we have to balance expenses with revenue, and you can’t cut your work to greatness, so we will have to look at other opportunities for diversified funding streams,” he said.
First launched in 1964, KCSM is one of the few stations in the nation broadcasting only jazz music. The station has 10 permanent employees, one part-time worker and 14 temporary employees. It operates on about a $1.6 million annual budget without any financial support from the school system’s budget, said Bailey, who notes facilities and utilities are contributed by the district.
He added officials must above all assure space is preserved in the budget for education expenses before offering any support to its auxiliary programming.
“The core business we do, the reason we exist, is offer high quality educational opportunities for the region,” said Bailey. “Everything that doesn’t relate to that core mission, as important as it is, is secondary.”
As for the state of the district’s television channel, Bailey said its future remains up in the air.
The district Board Of Trustees struck a deal in 2013 with LocusPoint Networks to help finance operations of the station while seeking a suitable buyer.
The expected price of the KCSM-TV station is about $10 million to be split between the two agencies, with the school getting 63.5 percent of any eventual sale, officials have said.
“As for KCSM-TV, this is an ongoing process and nothing relating to the status of the station has changed,” he said in an email.
Bailey said there are no similar visions for putting the radio station on the seller’s block though.
“I’m aware of no plans to sell the station or change the format,” he said. “And the reason I’m unaware of them is that there are not any.”
Instead, district officials are interested in working alongside the station to stabilize its funding stream, said Bailey.
“The goal is to balance expenditures with revenue, at least to a break even point,” he said. “That is important for the long-term sustainability of the station.”
In the face of a variety of financial shortcomings, Bailey said the experience of radio audience is unlikely to change much in the foreseeable future.
“We would expect the listeners would continue to enjoy the programming we provide through the station,” he said.