KWUR appealing for funding to replace decades-old equipment

| News Editor

KWUR may not have come off the air, but its transmitter was functioning at below 10 percent of its original capacity last week when the group hired engineers from the Society of Broadcast Engineers to check up on its equipment.

“They laughed when they saw our transmitter,” senior Robert Ling III, treasurer of KWUR, said.

As students continued to stream KWUR content online, the engineers managed to raise KWUR’s signal strength to just over a watt—but the group is hoping to improve that with additional funding over the coming year.

KWUR, Washington University’s student-run radio station, has appealed for a total of $62,066.66 in block funding from Student Union for 2012 to 2013. The majority of that amount would go to hosting KWUR week and replacing the worn-down equipment that has kept the station running for over three decades.

“This is a crossroads for KWUR right now,” Ling said. “Our transmitters are like 30 years old, and they are just [about] deteriorated to the point of being done.”

“At the very least, to get back up to broadcast capacity, we need to replace our transmitter box,” he added.

This year is not the first time KWUR has tried to replace its old equipment. But Ling believes that the station’s chance of receiving the funding is high due to increased student interest in seeing KWUR expand its broadcast.

KWUR tried to appeal for block funding in the 2008 to 2009 school year, but failed because it was not able to get two-thirds of students to vote in favor of it.

Ling said KWUR has been maximizing its visibility on campus through engagements such as playing music at the DUC and the South Forty House each week. The number of active student DJs has risen to about 150.

If the appeal passes, Ling said the group will not only fix the old equipment but also upgrade the station’s wattage in accordance to the Local Community Radio Act of 2010. The act allows the station to broadcast at a transmission of more than one kilowatt, pending renovations and a formal application process.

“Part of the reason why we are going out for block funding is—though replacing the transmitter is an expensive project we don’t normally budget for—we are also dealing with the potential of buying an even bigger transmitter or even a new antenna,” he said. “Securing the budget for the wattage upgrade would require buying a lot of equipment and hiring lawyers and consultants.”

KWUR’s block funding appeal includes about $15,800 for equipment replacements and upgrades and $35,000 for KWUR week.

Ling said the group chose to budget a large amount for KWUR week because of the limitations created by the block funding process.

“Since we can’t appeal after we get the block funding, we budgeted more for KWUR week because we don’t know how much it is actually going to cost,” Ling said.

Block funding is usually used to cover a group’s expenses for a period of two years, but due to the fact that a large sum of the money goes towards purchasing new equipment, KWUR is asking for all the funding within one year.

“These are costs we’ve never had before, which would only matter for this year because we would be set for another 30 years,” Ling said. “I’m pretty confident about getting the block funding. Everyone I’ve talked to is very supportive of us.”

Voting for block funding will take place in the SU spring elections on March 6 and 7.

  • Robert Ling, III

    Student Life’s Editorial staff endorses us, and so should you!

  • Can’t We Just Get Along?

    For the negative comments.

    In the life you actually live at WashU, there is no possible way funding KWUR could negatively affect you. They’re asking for like $25,000-ish more than they get every year. Compared to the $2.4 Million or so SU has to work with, there’s no way funding KWUR will specifically take away from some hypothetical event you would attend otherwise.

    KWUR’s asking for about $25 grand above the normal budget to replace equipment that’s three decades old; it’s safe to assume they won’t come asking for so much again any time soon.

    Advocating for “no” is essentially advocating for “wow I really want to make the efforts of dozens of my peers futile”. “These people should be less happy, and the thing they care about is a worthless endeavor”. People join the radio because they’re sincere about it and they care about it; everyone involved honestly believes they’re doing something worthwhile. Why would you want to direct your own energies against your fellow WashU humans?

  • ANON

    We are lucky to have our own campus radio station.

    Take time and GOOGLE “WRAS” (the campus radio sation for Georgia State University). Watch their online video and you will see what all KWUR could do if given the chance. We need to get behind KWUR and cast our votes for them to receive the funding they need to succeed. The article that is on the KWUR site explaining the funding request and the needs is very informative. It is obvious that if the funds are allotted to KWUR the changes will be immediate and extreme.
    Give KWUR a chance by voting for their cause. Our campus radio station can benefit WashU students as well as our community if given the means to do so.
    Let’s make sure they get the chance.

    • LetsGetDownToBusiness

      I’m more than happy to give KWUR the chance, but giving them almost twice what they “would strictly need even with our audacious ambitions” (from the block funding statement) is extreme. KWUR should remain a Category I student group and appeal to Student Union when they are in need of emergency/extra funds.

      • Robert Ling, III

        I don’t have the statement in front of me, but I believe either you’re misinterpreting it or I worded it poorly. We have plans for all of the money we’re asking for. Unfortunately, it’s not possible for us to be perfectly specific.

        For example, we can’t move forward with a license upgrade appeal to the FCC unless we know we’re financially secure. It’s not responsible or practical for us to appeal to treasury for new money every step of the process: first for lawyers and FCC filing fees, then for new equipment, then for installation costs, every several weeks or months as the project proceeds.

        KWUR is so very unlike any other student group in Category 1. Even WUTV, which faces many challenges similar to ours, doesn’t answer to the FCC and doesn’t reach off-campus. Most of the other groups that try to throw concerts at the scale we do–like The Gargoyle–fall under Social Programming Board.

        In short, we have plenty of experience as a Category 1 group that appeals for funds beyond our budget, and we don’t believe we can accomplish everything we want to going through that channel. Getting this lump sum from Block Funding will make it possible for KWUR to bring more value to students than ever before.

  • LetsGetDownToBusiness

    KWUR has a lot of money (15K) in their fundraising and gifts accounts. If KWUR really wants their transmitter fixed and all these other supposed problems, then they have two options: (1) spend money from their fundraising/gifts (when KWUR appeals to treasury they always say that those accounts are for “emergency repairs”) or (2) appeal to treasury for the money. In the past, KWUR has appealed from equipment upgrades, and been funded with a strong majority for treasury’s support.
    Rather than block fund KWUR, the students should be asking KWUR where all this money is going toward. In my opinion, this money KWUR is asking for is just tying up the Student Activities Fee so that way more students and student groups can’t benefit from the funds.

    • Robert Ling, III

      I have several comments in this thread explaining that we’re asking for more than all our gifts, fundraising, and general budget put together.

      We always appreciate Treasury’s support, but since we’re going for so many large projects at once we decided to ask the students directly for their support.

  • Robert Ling, III

    This story doesn’t really feature a lot of context about what our budgets are normally. This fiscal year, KWUR received near $35,000 from SU through budgeting and appeals. Our fundraising and gifts combined are near $15,000, so we’re asking for more in the Block Funding appeal than we could feasibly expect next year.

    “iLOVEsu” raises a concern that we won’t be able to appeal for more funds if we secure Block Funding. Rest assured, we’re well aware of that rule and we’ve budgeting enough room in the Block Funding appeal to cover our current needs and deal with all of the one-time projects we’re facing next year. Some more details about where KWUR is can be read here

    I’m also not sure what “Treasury has been handing out money lately, and just because their appeals account is low doesn’t mean that the VP of Finance can’t move money around to give them more funds.” means. The VP of Finance can’t just grant us the thousands of dollars we need. We could potentially achieve everything we need through appeals, but we decided our mandate would be stronger if we went straight to the students that dig our programming.

    For KWUR Week specifically, the shows are going to cost near to $25,000 this year after appeals, collaborations, and our own fundraising contributions.

    • justNO

      woah. i think the student activities fee should not be used to “budgeting enough room in the Block Funding appeal to cover our current needs…”

      the activities fee goes towards programs/events/activities that are actually going to happen, and that will benefit students. it is NOT meant to be used as outlined by your comment above.

      • Robert Ling, III

        I’m not clear on your criticism here. By “current needs” I mean our operating costs we always pay, including licensing fees, phone lines, etc, that student DJs rely on to do their shows. Its not really possible for us to spend money in a way that won’t benefit students, listeners and DJs.

        KWUR will of course continue to “actually happen” with or without block funding for his next year–we remain a Cat 1 group–we’re just trying to make it happen bigger than ever before. I’d like to point out that we’re only asking for this much money as a one-shot for next year, after which our needs will go back down to our standard operating costs.

      • annie mouse

        What? If they don’t budget enough to cover their needs how are they going to fund their activities? If they get block funding they can’t appeal to treasury so I’m not sure what you’re even trying to say.

  • anonymous

    It’s really a shame that KWUR has been broadcasting at less than one watt lately. In the past, KWUR was part of a special group for funding–which I believe included WuTV and other groups that needed a lump sum to function effectively–that has since disappeared. When KWUR was funded in this manner, they were able afford to bring artists like Animal Collective, Of Montreal, and Man Man to campus.

  • What.

    No one listens to or cares about KWUR…except the people in KWUR. This is WAY too much to be asking for!

    • :)

      Block funding would allow KWUR to reach out to more students and boost their presence on campus, not to mention increase their terrestrial signal.

    • Robert Ling, III

      This is untrue and un-founded. If we were able to replace our transmitter, our broadcast radius would reach Brentwood in the west and The Central West End and SLU to the east, which would give us enough coverage that people could listen on commutes.

      • justNO

        SU should be paying for stuff that brings value to campus. Not what is going to benefit the community.

        • Robert Ling, III

          Fostering engagement between students and the surrounding community is valuable for everyone. Plus, if our listenership extends farther into the community, students and groups will have an easier time promoting events–to students and non-students alike. KWUR doesn’t have the broadcast radius to reach neighborhoods where a lot of students live, including Skinker-DeBaliviere and the area just north of The Loop.

        • anonymous

          This is the attitude that makes our university’s relationship with the St. Louis community so terrible. Think outside your WashU bubble.

          • BMT

            The whole “WashU should reach out to the St. Louis community” schtick is stupid. Why should students? We’re here for four years. Obviously we shouldn’t throw beer cans in our neighbors’ yards or challenge them to fights, but I really don’t understand where this focus comes from. What’s the point of having a relationship with the community?

        • annie mouse

          Attitudes like this are the reason we have such a tenuous relationship with the St. Louis community. We need to realize that despite common misconception, we don’t actually live in a bubble.

      • anon

        you saying “What.”s statement is untrue and un-founded is equally untrue and un-founded. I happened to attend the Treasury appeal when KWUR was appealing for KWUR week (congrats on that, btw) and the presenters stood up in front of the room and said that they have no way of measuring how many listeners you all have.

        • Robert Ling, III

          That was me doing the presenting. We don’t have numbers, but we do know anecdotally. Measuring the local community is particularly difficult, but when we were going on trying to get petition signatures we got a lot of support from plenty of non-DJ students.

          We couldn’t have gotten more than a thousand signatures if nobody cared about what we do.

  • iLOVEsu

    I feel that Block Funding KWUR will actually hurt themselves. If they get blockfunding they won’t be able to appeal to SU for extra money. What happens when they need new equipment, but don’t have the funds? Beyond that, I don’t feel comfortable giving any student group free-say over 65K. That’s a lot of money to be giving out to anyone.
    Besides all that, KWUR has a substantial amount of fundraising. Why can’t they use those funds to buy new equipment or appeal to SU for the repair costs? I feel like many student groups have a negative feeling towards Treasury/SU, but it is unfounded. Treasury has been handing out money lately, and just because their appeals account is low doesn’t mean that the VP of Finance can’t move money around to give them more funds.

    • anonymous

      It’s hard to appeal for equipment funding when Treasury isn’t familiar with how to operate a radio station, it’s not a fault on their part, it just doesn’t make sense for them to decide on something that’s so different and more dependent on large-scale equipment than other student groups.

    • Marv

      I agree we should never fund a group more than 65K. Team 31 was allocated $157,000 for spring WILD only. I this makes you as uncomfortable as it does me.

      The “substantial” KWUR fundraising raises roughly $1,000. If you read above, the necessary improvements coast nearly $16,000. And that is why KWUR does not use its substantial fundraising for the repairs.

    • Alice

      KWUR actually has had much of the same equipment for decades, and when something breaks, it is often a matter of going without (such as the current, dire lack of actual radio transmission) or immediately using the hard-earned fundraising cash in the event of a disaster such as a flood (which has happened in the past). A radio station indeed does not function in the same way as any other student group, and has needs not accounted for by the new funding systems.

      One thing to account for is the massive amount of DJs currently running the station, which makes KWUR an especially large student group. If funded for necessary repairs, KWUR will be able to make good on its mission of serving the student body and local area through broadcast.

    • Robert Ling, III

      All of our “substantial” fundraising and gifts, combined with everything we received from SU in budgets and appeals this year is less than what we’re asking for out of Block Funding. We need to address decades-old problems that have been holding us back as a station, and we won’t need this kind of money again for years to come.

      The VP of Finance can’t “just move money around” in the scale that we need. This is our good-faith, transparent effort to ask the students of WashU directly how much they value having a radio station that pumps out the kind of content you can’t hear anywhere else.

      I’d also appreciate a little benefit of the doubt here. I’m well-aware of the no-appeals stipulation to Block Funding, and we’ve budgeted enough room that we won’t conceivably need any appeals for the length of the Block Funding term.

    • Steve Howerton


      Respectfully, the decision to apply for block funding is KWUR’s decision to make on its own. SU’s constitution and statutes provide block funding as an option for student groups to take their request directly to the students. The Treasury funding process and block funding have their benefits and drawbacks, and I know that KWUR has put ample thought into the potential risks of this decision.

      Additionally, while KWUR has worked aggressively to fundraise, the station has always guarded that money carefully to ensure it will be there in the case an emergency occurs. While the SU execs have always been helpful when small emergency repairs must be made (costing somewhere in the $1,000 range), the possibility of a catastrophic equipment malfunction, costing upwards of $10,000, leads the station to always want to keep ample funds in reserve.

  • anonymous

    It definitely makes sense for them to budget 35k for KWUR Week. It cost them like 15k the last few years, and, really, who doesn’t budget for an unexpected 133% increase each year?

    • anonymous

      The appeal KWUR makes to treasury is indeed “like $15k,” but this year the total cost amounts to ~$25k because not all the money is obtained through treasury appeals.

      That’s more like a 40% increase, which is not unreasonable if they want to bring bands that are a little bigger and reach out to the student body that way.

      • Bura

        KWUR is not listened to enough because it does not have the funds to make it legitimate to the general public. The phone lines are shotty, the microphones go in and out all the time, and the radio signal is non-existent. If all those issues were to be resolved with this money which is desperately needed, KWUR could grow. Right now, KWUR is at a stalemate. It cannot appeal to the student body to listen more because the product is not up to snuff. KWUR just needs one opportunity to make itself credible again and if that fails, then KWUR has had its shot. But to write off KWUR as irrelevant is outright ignorant. As they say in “Fie ld of Dreams”: if you build it they will come. So to with KWUR. Give KWUR the money it needs to grow and I promise you the school as a whole will definitely benefit.

    • KWUR DJ

      It’s also difficult, based on how booking bands works, to not have money for funding until after a band is decided upon.

    • anonymous

      KWUR has needed to supplement the money it gets from treasury (the 15k you mentioned) with funds from other sources. The actual costs have been closer to 25-30k.

      They’re probably looking to bring in bigger name acts in the future. The people I know on KWUR are tired of being thought of as elitist, so they probably want to get more money to bring in more popular acts.