Dan Skinner, Director of Kansas Public Radio (KPR), sees a bright future for the station, even though funding has changed significantly in the last few years. The effects of State and University budget cuts have trickled down to KPR, with the University defunding the Audio-Reader Network and cutting $200,000 in direct funding to the station.
Since coming on the air as KANU in 1952, the station has received 17 “Station of the Year” awards and now operates across eight different frequencies. 72% of KPR’s current funding comes from individual donors and underwriters. Skinner shared that “sound fiscal management has given a sound operating reserve.” This is especially important as the station may need to “pull on reserves over the next couple of years to raise more money.”
KPR is part of the Kansas News Service, which is a collaboration between multiple news resources, ensuring that efforts and resources aren’t duplicated across the state. Skinner projects that over 100,000 listeners tune into KPR per week.
Skinner addressed the fact that some people think of public radio as being one sided. “It really depends where you are on the political spectrum.” He says he hears people say that the station is to conservative and others say it’s too liberal. That’s perfect, he joked. “We want to be a source of civil conversation where you can hear divergent ideas.”
With the changes in funding, Skinner is most concerned about the Audio-Reader Network, which has been giving the “gift of sight through sound” since 1971. The program has over 400 volunteers who read newspapers, magazines and books, as well as over 1,600 hours of specifically requested materials each year. The program is the second oldest in the nation, and one of the largest programs of its kind. The program is free to clients, who receive a radio receiver for the subcarrier frequency. Clients can also access programming through the telephone reader service.