Miscommunication and the slow-moving bureaucracy of the Budget and Finance Committee (BFC) are threatening to halt the production of WKCO Radio Free Kenyon, the College’s student-run radio station and recording studio.
Both last semester and once again this semester, the BFC voted not to award the studio any funding because they were unsure of the division between radio station and studio spending. To resolve this, money allocated to the radio station was reallocated to the studio. This solution did not last, and what funds were reallocated to the studio are now back in the radio station’s fund.
“We’ve tried to make how we run very transparent, because we really don’t waste money,” Adam Brill ’17, WKCO radio station general manager, said. “It’s been a struggle to get a continuous relationship [with the BFC] going.”
The radio station’s issue with procuring BFC funding stems from its structure: WKCO is an umbrella organization that includes the radio station and a student-run recording studio. When the radio station and the recording studio submit requests for funds at the same time, the BFC receives what appears to be duplicate requests for funding. Other times, the BFC receives differing financial information from the two groups.
In meetings with WKCO, the BFC has repeatedly suggested that the studio collect dues, even after its managers expressed that collecting dues would be antithetical to the organization’s goal of providing a creative space open to the whole community.
“They always tell us that they have recommendations for how we should run and that we are ultimately in charge of how we run,” Brill said, “but if our compliance with their recommendations determines our funding, then that’s much stronger than just a recommendation.”
The $1,500 awarded to the WKCO radio station this semester, in addition to the approximately $1,000 collected in dues, covers the radio station’s costs, according to Brill and Waldow, but is insufficient to cover the collective costs of the radio station and the studio.
“Sometimes, when the two parts, the studio and the radio station, come in, they say different things,” Guillermo García ’17, co-chair of the BFC said. “There’s a communication problem.”
Initially, WKCO, the second-largest student organization at the College, was just a radio station. But high costs incurred by a capella groups recording at off-campus studios inspired the organization to build a full recording studio. Both independently-managed halves are funded by the BFC, and only the broadcast station generates any funding of its own by collecting semesterly dues of $10 from its DJs. The recording studio is free for students to use.
Unlike other student organizations, WKCO is regulated not just by the College, but also by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) because it is a public broadcast. These regulations provide strict guidelines for acceptable equipment and transmission standards, and also require the station to pay a yearly fee to be allowed to legally broadcast. If these standards are not upheld in a timely matter, WKCO faces government fines.
WKCO’s funding ensures that they remain compliant with the FCC, said Julia Waldow ’17, WKCO radio station general manager, who is also an art director at the Collegian. If the station is found in violation of the federal laws, they could be fined. Waldow also said the station pays for subscriptions for various music licenses to avoid being sued for copyright infringement.
The time-sensitive nature of these payments — and the necessary costs to repair and replace aging technology in the studio and station, which have included $380 for streambox, $100 for ethernet upgrade and $400 for a transmitter, among other expenses — means that WKCO frequently faces unexpected costs on top of their predicted, beginning-of-semester expenditures, which compounds the difficulty of translating their financial needs to the BFC. Incidental costs incurred by the radio station are usually covered by the dues collected from DJs, but the studio does not have a safety net like this because it does not charge students to use its space.
“We’ve always felt, and this stands with past general managers, that a lot of managers of the BFC don’t have a proper appreciation for or understanding of the things required to run a radio station,” Brill said. “It feels like we’re being told how to run the radio station by people who don’t have a lot of experience with radio and who don’t know what our requirements and special needs are.”
Kim Blank, associate director of the office of student engagement and advisor to the BFC and WKCO, has offered to mediate discussions between the two groups as a partial intermediary, but has not yet played a role in determining future funding for WKCO.
“I don’t see my position as an advisor to both WKCO and the BFC as a conflict of interest,” Blank said. “They could decide to fully fund WKCO, they could fund them at zero, they could fund them somewhere in between — I don’t have the capacity to change any of that.”
Next steps for WKCO will include meeting with the BFC to ensure the two groups are on the same page to resolve existing issues and prevent future confusion. Because of WKCO’s unique position as a body governed by both College and government regulations, Waldow noted that they do not have the leeway to have their funding stalled or withheld.