Story last updated at 3:07 p.m. Thursday, December 12, 2002

Election brings time for healing, reconciliation
Susan Kernes
Point of View

Now that a new board of directors has been selected by KBBI's membership, and with the promise of renewal as the new year approaches, I want to share some of the remarks I made at KBBI's recent annual membership meeting. My main messages were openness and reconciliation along with a plea to end the hostilities being conducted against the station and to stop the personal attacks against me.

I announced a new initiative to increase more public input and feedback regarding programming and policies: I will recommend that the board expand the number of community advisory board members from 7 to 11. I am also asking the public to give KBBI ideas for ways to obtain greater public input. We want you to know that we are listening. It is time for the healing to begin.

As of this time last year, the station earned about $18,000 more in memberships. However, two years ago, we raised only $8,000 more. Although part of the downturn was due to some members' dissatisfaction with KBBI, the staff believes the main reasons fewer people gave were (1) a tight economy, (2) lower charitable giving a year after Sept. 11, and (3) the poisoned atmosphere resulting from a negative campaign immediately after the program changes were announced to KBBI's volunteer committee.

I care deeply about our members and am distressed that some of them withheld their support or chose to give at lower levels. I understand that many of them feel disrespected and emotionally distant, among other reasons, and that they feel the station is abandoning its commitment to the community and to volunteers. They have left our membership rolls for reasons I completely respect. We hope to win them back and hope they get the message that we take their comments seriously.

This fall, we experienced an approximate 10 percent rise in new members, something we hadn't achieved before. New members generally give at lower levels; however, the longer they belong, the more they will give. This provides us hope that KBBI's membership numbers will begin rising again and will eventually surpass previous levels.

I reassured the members that, despite a downturn in local giving, KBBI's bottom line still remains healthy. The mix of state, federal and foundation dollars, in addition to local infusions from underwriting, ticket sales to KBBI-sponsored events, Enhanced Public Service Announcements, cash donations, trade-outs and other activities, keep KBBI financially sound.

This fiscal year, KBBI will attract almost $384,000 in new money <> funds generated outside our listening area. Almost two-thirds of our $600,000 budget is spent locally.

KBBI does not develop its schedule based on which programs raise the most money from underwriters, major givers or other paying groups. That would violate our strongly held noncommercial principles.

There's an adage among public radio program directors: People follow programming. In other words, broadcast excellent programming at appropriate times of day, and people will listen, value it and pay for it. Our goal remains to build the very best public radio station for this community.

Finally, I told the membership a little bit about myself: I am a 23-year community radio professional who believes that the public deserves media free from commercial and corporate interests. My respect for civil and human rights, along with a strong First Amendment belief provide a good fit with public radio's core values.

I agreed to manage KBBI and KDLL four years ago because of my passion for truth-telling and justice, and because of my desire to give our community the kind of radio stations worth listening to and supporting. That is why I hope to sign KBBI-FM on the air by 2004. We will conduct a community survey and will work with the community advisory board to help determine the content of both KBBI AM and FM.

Beginning this week, KBBI is conducting new volunteer training. The station had to suspend its training program until now because the old equipment no longer functioned. Now, we are slowly installing the new equipment and hope to complete the project by the end of January.

I made it a priority to install the gear that allowed us to reinstitute volunteer training as soon as possible. Now that that has been accomplished, we can move forward to continue getting more local voices on the air. Once the project is finished, we will invite our old volunteers to return to KBBI to receive training on this new digital equipment.

In the coming weeks, KBBI's new board of directors will undergo a series of training events designed to teach them the basics of governance, fund raising, and the roles and responsibilities of radio station boards. They will hold their first regular meeting on Jan. 14, and, as always, the public is invited to attend.

Thank you for reading this article and for your good wishes for continued programming excellence. But the station can't succeed without your help <> we need your good will, your membership, your input and your feedback. If the hostilities toward KBBI don't stop, the station will continue to suffer downturns in local giving, thus causing it to grow weak and eventually to fail.

I look forward to hearing from listeners by e-mail at kppm@alaska.net or through the regular mail at 3913 Kachemak Way.

Susan Kernes is the general manager of KBBI-Homer/KDLL-Kenai.

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