Humboldt State University today announced major changes and the elimination of seven positions at its public radio station KHSU, including General Manager Peter Fretwell, whose tenure was fraught with controversy after the sudden firing of longtime program and operations director Katie Whiteside in May.
Along with the staff reductions, which the university release states will result in “significant savings,” all volunteer-run programs are under “indefinite suspension,” according to the release.
No administrators are quoted in this morning’s announcement, which states the goal of “reorganizing and streamlining operations” is “preserving quality programming for the North Coast.”
KHSU’s roots date back to the 1930s and one of its iterations — KHSC — became the first licensed non-commercial FM station in the California university and state college systems.
But recent troubles, triggered by Whiteside’s firing and the ensuing fallout, along with what many saw as major incursions into operations by university staff have caused friction at the station and in the community.
Read more about those issues in previous Journal
Meanwhile, according to HSU, the station has continued to hemorrhage money, causing a “negative impact” on the university’s budget in a time of spending cuts.
“For context, over the last year HSU has funded nearly half the cost of KHSU,” the release states. “Listener support provided about 22 percent, corporate underwriting 17 percent, and government grants 12 percent. HSU directly paid more than $265,000 in salary, covered at least $250,000 for space and utilities, and spent at least $80,000 receiving and processing contributions to the station.”
The release also cites a CSU Office of Audit and Advisory Services review of the station’s operations, which can be found here
This is a developing story and will be updated throughout the day.
Read the HSU release below:
Organizational Changes at KHSU
Humboldt State University is reorganizing and streamlining operations at its public radio station, KHSU, with the goal of preserving quality programming for the North Coast.
The changes are intended to address operational challenges at KHSU, prevent further negative impact to the University’s budget, and better align HSU’s financial support with its mission and with opportunities for students.
Station employees were told of the changes earlier today. Because the reorganization and budget reductions include the elimination of positions, a number of individuals will no longer be employed at HSU. The University is working to provide clear information to them, and to ensure they receive any benefits they are entitled to.
The steps taken today include:
Elimination of HSU’s direct payroll support, including the General Manager position and Chief Engineer position, saving the University more than $250,000 annually.
Elimination of five other staff positions, generating significant savings in the portion of KHSU’s budget that comes from government support, underwriting, and listener contributions.
Appointment of an Interim Station Director, to be supported through non-HSU funding.
Consolidating all KHSU operations in Feuerwerker House, reducing the inefficiency of having two separate spaces.
Indefinite suspension of volunteer-run programs. The University will evaluate how students can return to a more substantial on-air role at KHSU.
Actively pursuing collaboration with other public radio stations and seeking CPB funding to support this effort.
The decision to realign the station reflects a comprehensive assessment. Factors included the station’s increasing cost to the University; KHSU’s limited capacity for additional fundraising and underwriting; challenges identified by the CSU Office of Audit and Advisory Services; feedback from listeners and volunteers; the University’s commitment to public service; and the appropriate role of student involvement in station operations and programming.
The report from the CSU Office of Audit and Advisory Services (pdf), which was recently received by HSU, includes an in-depth program review of the station that identified a number of issues with operations and administration. It was initiated at the request of HSU President Lisa Rossbacher, and she shared it yesterday with KHSU’s Community Advisory Board.
In addition to issues identified in the report, there are serious budget issues at the station. KHSU is heavily subsidized by the HSU general fund, and the station’s budget deficits have continued to worsen. At the end of the 2017-18 year, HSU had to cover a budget deficit of nearly $135,000 beyond its regular subsidy, and this year’s projected budget deficit is even larger.
KHSU’s budget challenge largely reflects increases in payroll costs. In addition, community support has been flat or declining, with underwriting revenue down approximately 14 percent for the year and listener support down approximately 17 percent. And while volunteers create a great deal of local programming, their efforts also come at a cost, requiring significant support by paid staff.
The budget challenges at KHSU come as HSU has been working to address an overall structural deficit as well as funding declines related to an enrollment drop. The University has reduced its spending by $9 million over the last two years, and is making nearly $1 million in additional reductions for the coming year.
For context, over the last year HSU has funded nearly half the cost of KHSU. Listener support provided about 22 percent, corporate underwriting 17 percent, and government grants 12 percent. HSU directly paid more than $265,000 in salary, covered at least $250,000 for space and utilities, and spent at least $80,000 receiving and processing contributions to the station.
Even with the changes at KHSU, listeners will continue to have access to high-quality national programming and news. The most recent audience data reaffirm this is, by far, the station’s most popular programming.