Tuesday, March 24, 2009

OPB to Take over KMHD....end of KMHD as we know it? Source says YES!

KMHD as we know it will end on July 1, according to a Mt. Hood Community College/ Oregon Public Broadcasting Media release today which said that OPB will be absorbing the station (although not the licence).

A source at KMHD told me that none of the current DJ's or paid KMHD staff will be retained, although that is unconfirmed from OPB.

This has been in the works for quite a while. We KMHD DJ's figured something was up when an email came down a few weeks ago from JoAnn Zahn, who has been caretaker GM since Doug Sweet resigned last year. It said that the search for a new GM had been halted.

What will be retained is jazz programming. What Portland might lose is the variety of music and personalities found on the station right now. That is unconfirmed by OPB, however.

Stay tuned. This has just been announced this morning and things are still developing. I will have more about it as things develop.

Here is the release and the Q&A which came along with it.:

Mt. Hood Community College Proposes Partnership with Oregon Public Broadcasting to Operate Jazz Station KMHD

GRESHAM, Ore.—Facing a significant budget shortfall due to state funding reductions, the Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) District Board of Education will consider a proposal to transfer the operation of Portland’s only all-jazz station, KMHD (89.1 FM), to Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) effective July 1. Under the proposal, MHCC would continue to own the station, while OPB would take over programming, operational and fundraising responsibilities.

MHCC President John J. “Ski” Sygielski said the board of education will give serious consideration at its April 8 meeting to this proposed partnership with OPB. A decision is expected at the May 13 board meeting. “This partnership would give KMHD the best opportunity to thrive in the future,” Sygielski said. “OPB’s intention is to continue to operate KMHD as a jazz station. With a current audience of about 100,000 listeners, we believe that the station can attract an even wider audience through increased promotion and higher visibility to OPB’s 1.5 million viewers and listeners,” said OPB’s president and CEO, Steve Bass. No changes in programming or on-air hosts are planned before July 1. “At this time, we expect to receive at least $4 million less from the state in 2009-10, with further cuts anticipated beyond next year, so transferring KMHD’s operations to OPB is one of the areas where we can reduce costs without compromising a music institution that is important to the College and the community,” Sygielski noted.

Sygielski, who became MHCC’s president in July 2008, has expanded the College’s outreach and visibility.


Why is this happening?
A mutually beneficial partnership between Mt. Hood Community College and Oregon Public Broadcasting is being considered by MHCC’s Board of Education. If the proposal is agreed upon, OPB would begin operating the MHCC jazz radio station KMHD on July 1, 2009. MHCC would continue to own the station and OPB would be responsible for all programming,operating costs and fundraising. This arrangement would preserve KMHD’s unique music service for the benefit of more than 100,000 listeners in the Portland metro area. Arrangements like this are becoming increasingly common between colleges and independently-governed public broadcasting stations.

Why is MHCC considering a partnership with OPB to operate KMHD?
MHCC faces a formidable budget shortfall due to likely cuts in state funding. Because operating a radio station is costly and requires specialized expertise in order to succeed, the partnership will guarantee a brighter future for KMHD, while allowing MHCC to focus its resources on education. No changes would be made in the short term. OPB is committed to the jazz format and to providing the best music service possible to KMHD’s listeners. Finally, OPB and KMHD would promote Mt. Hood Community College and music events in the nearby community of Gresham.

Will KMHD stay a jazz station?
OPB’s intention is to continue to operate KMHD as a jazz station.

Why does OPB want to operate another station in this tough economic climate?
The current economic climate is the driving force for this arrangement. Because of OPB’s expertise in operating public broadcasting stations, OPB will be able to operate KMHD more economically than currently possible. Operating efficiencies will allow OPB to invest more in music programming and community outreach, elements that are essential for a strong public radio station in today’s environment.

Portland is fortunate to have three strong public radio stations with distinctly different formats (OPB offering news, KMHD offering jazz, KBPS offering classical music). This arrangement between OPB and KMHD will maintain and even enhance this strong public service. And because of the economies of scale that OPB already possesses (particularly in fundraising and engineering), KMHD’s current level of revenue will be sufficient to fully support its operation.

How will KMHD be funded?
KMHD will be supported in the same manner as OPB – largely through individual contributions and corporate underwriting. OPB’s operation of KMHD will not require any financial support from Mt Hood Community College. The capital costs for moving KMHD’s operations to OPB are minimal, due in large part to the transition of KOAC operations to OPB (we will be using much of the equipment in Corvallis to operate KMHD).

What changes will OPB make? When will these changes take place?
There will be no changes in KMHD’s programming, on-air hosts or operations prior to July 1 when OPB would begin operating the service. Over the coming months (and provided the MHCC board approves the arrangement), OPB will evaluate KMHD’s programming and on-air sound to determine what, if any, changes would improve the station’s public service.

How will OPB work with the local music community in operating KMHD?
As in our work on opbmusic, we will work collaboratively with local musicians, music venues and presenters in the greater Portland area to support the music and creative community. We anticipate to enhancing partnerships with the local jazz community so as to heighten awareness of Portland’s unique cultural assets.

What will happen to the current KMHD staff and volunteers?
KMHD’s current staff will be offered other employment opportunities within the college. We hope that KMHD volunteers will stay on to continue working with the station during the transition. OPB also expects that many KMHD volunteers will want to continue working for KMHD after the transition to OPB.

Where will KMHD be housed?
We are fortunate to have available studio space in our main building. KMHD will be co-located with opbmusic in the space previously occupied by the Golden Hours radio reading service.

What will happen to KMHD contributors?
From audience research, we know that about one-third of KMHD’s listeners also listen to OPB. Current KMHD members will be granted a membership in OPB for the duration of the time before their renewal date. Anyone who contributed during KMHD’s March on-air fund drive will be considered to be an OPB member from July 1 until March 2010.

How will the station be identified?
The station will continue to be identified as KMHD and its city of license as Gresham. It will be integrated into the OPB brand in some manner (but we haven’t yet determined how).

How will we handle on-air fundraising?
We don’t know yet. There are many issues to be worked out such as the timing of on-air membership campaigns. We haven’t yet determined whether KHMD on-air drives would be simultaneous with current OPB drives or not. Stay tuned.

How will staff be affected?
We anticipate that between 3 and 4 positions will be created to support the operation of KMHD. These positions will be focused on improving programming. We don’t anticipate that staffing will need to be increased in areas such as fundraising, engineering, or administration to support the station.

What is the timeline for the transition?
The MHCC board of directors will discuss this proposed partnership at its next meeting on April 8 and will likely make a decision at the May 13 board meeting. The partnership is only a recommendation of the MHCC Administration unless or until the board of MHCC formally endorses it.

Who’s responsible for making decisions about KMHD?
Please contact Lynne Clendenin, VP of Radio Programming, at. lclendenin@opb.org


  1. Wow. So this won't be confirmed until May 13 but it's probably already a foregone conclusion. At least there is some hope current shows will stay on the air after July 1.

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  3. Mainly, I just want to say how much I enjoy KMHD's unique, NONCOMMERCIAL offerings. There are some really wonderful, unique programs on the station - I know that because I listen A LOT, am a contributing member, and volunteer as engineer and occasional DJ because I want to support what I believe in - good music sans the sales pitch.
    Alas, it is out of our hands and we can only hope for a positive outcome, which is a definite possibility. Change is not necessarily a "bad" thing and perhaps the strongest shows will get the support they deserve and continue.

  4. Joe Woods - As a long-time volunteer programmer at Portland's OTHER non-commercial station, kboo, I hope OPB does not attempt to dilute the unique sound that can only come from programmers who are extremely passionate about the music they play. Since they are volunteers, it's definitely NOT about the money. I'm afraid that OPB will fall for the "safe" sound - smooth jazz that doesn't rock the boat and becomes like audio wallpaper.


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