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Amid Budget Cuts, Radio Station KUAC Strains to Keep APRN Programming

Microphone. Photo: Renée Johnson via Flickr Creative Commons

With up to 15-million dollars in state budget cuts hitting the University of Alaska Fairbanks, radio station KUAC will be forced to drop programming from the Alaska Public Radio Network—but a decision reached Thursday gives the station an extra 3 months to work out a solution.

The Fairbanks-based station faces a cut of 170-thousand dollars—its portion of UAF’s budget gap. It’s broadcast in Nome through a repeater on 93.1 FM, which means it’s the only way listeners in our area can hear programs like “Alaska News Nightly” and “Talk of Alaska” on the radio.

Keith Martin, general manager and director of engineering for KUAC, said that while KUAC will no longer be able to carry packaged shows from APRN, sharing of stories will continue.

“It doesn’t mean that cooperation and collaborative sharing of stories will stop. That’s just not going to happen. That’s not the way we do things,” said Martin. “It just means that at the moment, the annual fee from APRN we can’t afford to pay. “

Martin said it was a decision no one wanted, but one that was forced due to funding.

“Ultimately, no one’s happy about this. The listeners aren’t happy, my news department’s not happy, KUAC’s not happy and APRN’s not happy,” said Martin. “But, quite frankly, when you’re getting a $170,000 cut and you’re looking at more next year and more the year after, from what we’re being told, you just can’t afford to do everything.”

Initially, UAF’s planning and budget committee recommended that KUAC be entirely defunded, but that recommendation failed. The current cut, Martin said, is only the beginning. Additional cuts are pending approval from UAF’s administration.

“Cutting APRN and the reduction of one of our positions to half time doesn’t even get us halfway to where we need to be with the cut this year. So we still have more to go,” said Martin.

But, Martin said, even with across the board cuts, maintaining APRN programming for local listeners is a priority.

“It’s statewide Alaska news. You know, you go down to the lower 48 and you can get several radio stations in a large market and they all think they’re being local and they’re doing content just for their area. You come up to Alaska and the whole concept of local is statewide. With a population of about 700,000—statewide, that’s local—and that’s one of the reasons it’s important to keep it.”

Originally, KUAC was set to lose APRN programming at the end of August. But as of Thursday, the station has reached an agreement with Alaska Public Media to temporarily suspend membership dues and offer programming for an extra three months—through the end of November—as both sides work out a long-term solution.