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Paying for the Play

During KRCL’s Spring Radiothon, listeners sing for their supper.



The DJ’s outta sight and his heart is so courageous

And he loves every song that he’s puttin’ on for the free and brave

So how far do we have to go to hear that Pirate Radio?

One song that could steal our hearts

Before they turn into silver and gold

(John Hiatt, “Pirate Radio”)

Granted, KRCL 90.9 FM isn’t pirate radio, but the philosophy expressed in these lyrics is analogous. The station exists, to the delight and salvation of many Utahns, as an alternative to prosaic, advertiser-funded corporate interest radio. KRCL listeners benefit from a blend of alternative (not in the MTV sense) sounds and subjects without commercial interruption; PBS for the ears, if you will. Still, the station incurs expenses like any other, and has to extend a hopeful hand.

During its 22-year existence, KRCL has been funded largely by contributions from the community it serves. Twice yearly, in spring and fall, the station preempts its regular schedule for a weeklong telethon-style fundraising campaign called Radiothon. Station staffers and volunteers stage special programming (shows dedicated to a particular artist or genre) and solicit contributions.

“The idea of Radiothon goes back to the origins of public and community radio,” says KRCL Operations Manager Troy Mumm. “On-air fundraising is the most effective way for public radio to raise the funds they need to stay on the air—and it’s the most straightforward. It is listeners directly supporting radio that they find important and valuable. It’s always a leap of faith to plan the budget each year with Radiothon contributions in there, but the listeners have come through for us every six months for the past 22 years. They’re the greatest!”

Ask any listener, and they’ll say the feeling is mutual and Radiothon is more an opportunity than annoyance; giving is a pleasure. After all, whether it’s a music program (Sunday afternoon’s Bluegrass Express, Saturday night’s three-hour indie rock spotlight Kickin’ Judy), political segments (Free Speech Radio News, Democracy Now) or minority forums (Concerning Gays and Lesbians, the hugely popular Native American show Living the Circle of Life), KRCL’s programming feeds a need.

“We’re guided by our mission, not by money,” says Mumm. “Corporate radio has become homogenized and stale, with less of a local presence. We stand out as a local, live radio station, with real people programming real music and playing music for no other reason than they think it’s good. The theme for the 2002 Spring Radiothon, ‘Real Live Radio,’ is meant to emphasize that fact.”

Anytime is a good time to check out KRCL, but Spring Radiothon is close to perfect. It begins April 6 and runs through April 14 and will feature programs dedicated to Lucinda Williams, Roomful of Blues/Duke Robillard, “Women Who Rock,” “Men With Bad Voices” and the “Classic Sound of New York City.” As with every Radiothon, the station is offering thank-you gifts for donations, including concert tickets, organic cotton T-shirts and the KRCL Live! CD, a compilation of exclusive in-studio performances by local and national acts including Guy Forsyth, the Trigger Locks, Dar Williams, Melissa Warner and Michelle Shocked.

“We are here when they get tired of the same songs over and over, when they are ready to learn about a new kind of music, when they want to experience a bit of another culture. When they want to be able to call the real live person and ask, ‘what was that song?’”

Be sure to show your support for the jewel on the dial, and check out