Now former volunteers and station supporters meet outside of Feuerwerker House after hearing about the elimination of jobs and volunteer positions at KHSU on April 11. | Photo by Thomas Lal

KHSU plans to return to local programming

After getting abruptly cut back, KHSU hopes to once again begin running local shows

After several months of deliberation, Capital Public Radio has taken over managerial control of KHSU and expects to resume hosting local programming and internships.

The move comes two years after KHSU was massively cut back, firing most employees, ending the volunteer program, reverting to national broadcasts, and leaving its future very much up in the air. Since then, KHSU has not had any local programming and has broadcasted national feeds of NPR and BBC.

The initial decision to cut back KHSU came as a surprise to many, particularly the employees of the station itself who were not told ahead of time that most of them would be laid off. The administration had fired all but two of the people working there. They both stepped down soon after.

After briefly running simulcast with NSPR, the station began running entirely national broadcasts and has not done any local programming since, citing NPR and BBC as their most popular broadcasting.

Phil Wilke, general manager of North State Public Radio, says he also was unaware of the decision to cut most of the station, which was made while NSPR and the HSU administration were in talks about a partnership to help produce more content.

“We had been in initial talks with Frank [Whitlatch] and the university administration, with Chico state, and with Cap Radio on a proposed partnership,” Wilke said. “But it hadn’t gotten far beyond the ‘Hey how are you doing, this is great in concept’ phases, so there was no real proposals on the table, we were just getting to know each other.”

With the current deal, Cap Radio and NSPR will provide the managerial resources to run the station while HSU keeps the station’s licensing rights. While not much is set in stone, the station hopes to explore how they can give students a greater role in the kind of on air programming that KHSU will be producing in the future.

According to Frank Whitlatch, HSU’s VP of Advancement, this arrangement is similar to one in other colleges.

“In essence, what the university did is hire Cap Radio to be the general manager and handle some of the staffing for our radio station,” said Whitlatch. “That’s the simplest way of explaining what we’ve done. A sort of similar arrangement is in place with Cap Radio and Chico.”

Currently there is not going to be any classes that have direct student involvement in the KHSU station, but if everything works well, they will begin to bring in volunteers and interns, as they did before, in addition to possibly giving students more of an active role.

Longtime former KHSU volunteer Tim Warner who hosted “The Buck Calhoun Show” for 18 years, heard the plan to move forward with Capital Public Radio but urges the university to consider the link that the station has provided to the community that went away following the sweeping cuts at KHSU in 2019.

“The administration needs to realize what an important bridge the radio station was to the community and to not burn that bridge,” Warner said. “Importance of HSU in this community, and the importance of this community to the college should not be underestimated.”

Warner also stressed the role of having local programming that does reflect the diverse community that Humboldt County embraces.

“I think that changing out a local community point of view to a very generic white liberal NPR-style programming will exclude a lot of student and community voices,” Warner said.

Cap Radio and NSPR intend to begin conducting market research into exactly what kind of content they could start running. In a press release from HSU, Cap Radio’s general manager Jun Reina said that the research will help them provide audiences with stronger programming.

“With the results of this research as our guide, we will evolve KHSU’s on-air and digital programming and will be able to ensure stronger resources to improve audience services,” said Reina. “This includes uninterrupted access to national programming from NPR, BBC and APM.”

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