Mendocino County Public Broadcasting
KZYX 2018 Local Content and Services Report
Submitted to Corporation for Public Broadcasting
15 March 2018
Telling Public Radio's Story
1. Describe your overall goals and approach to address identified community issues, needs, and interests through your station’s vital local services, such as multiplatform long and short-form content, digital and in-person engagement, education services, community information, partnership support, and other activities, and audiences you reached or new audiences you engaged.
In a county as vast and sparsely populated as Mendocino, where many listeners rely on KZYX for much or all of their daily news and other programming with little or no alternative, Mendocino County Public Broadcasting is placing a high priority on understanding and serving the needs of both rural and urban people living in our broadcast footprint. We’ve actively reached out into districts where membership is low, opened a collaborative production studio in the county seat and invested time and resources into a range of technical and programming collaborations with our sole tertiary educational institution, Mendocino Community College, and many community organizations. Our Community Advisory Board has surveyed members and non-member listeners, aiming to spot shortcomings and untapped opportunities in our programming and services. We organize popular concert series that bring quality entertainment to the community and create rich opportunities for engagement. These outreach strategies are central to the station’s vitality, both in audience engagement and membership donations that help ensure financial sustainability. In programming, KZYX ventures far beyond its devoted National Public Radio audiences to seek out hitherto unreached listeners with broad-spectrum public affairs shows that focus on local and national/international issues through the voices of local people. Trends in membership and donations over the years have demonstrated time and again that it’s local programming that grows our audience, while it’s the trusted national/international programming is what keeps them.
2. Describe key initiatives and the variety of partners with whom you collaborated, including other public media outlets, community nonprofits, government agencies, educational institutions, the business community, teachers and parents, etc. This will illustrate the many ways you’re connected across the community and engaged with other important organizations in the area.
Given the challenges of attracting trained news producers and reporters to an expensive California county where salaries don’t keep pace with costs, we are building the county’s first journalism training and production program in which trainees are mentoring with our staff producers and highly experienced community volunteers, reporting real stories in their own communities and feeling the satisfaction of getting professionally edited stories onto airwaves heard across the county and beyond. Our embrace of NPR's digital platform enables us to engage students from Mendocino Community College's Digital Arts & Media, Computer Science, Recording Arts & Technology, Political Science, Communications, Business and other programs to set their hand to radio programming, engineering and multimedia/website development and management. These collaborations are bringing an important younger, geographically and ethnically diverse demographic into our studios, rejuvenating our own operations while attracting unreached communities into our audience and membership. KZYX-trained producers clearly gain a sense of civic duty and community building that encourages them to stay and build lives in a county long blighted by job losses in the fisheries and forestry industries. A new public affairs programs about childhood services and the challenges of rural adolescence is building new support for community nonprofits working with children. Another on entrepreneurship and sustainable enterprise is reaching deep into business and innovation circles that are investing in Mendocino and fostering new jobs and economic prosperity. As we like to say, KZYX is helping to build community, one startup at a time.
3. What impact did your key initiatives and partnerships have in your community? Describe any known measurable impact, such as increased awareness, learning or understanding about particular issues. Describe indicators of success, such as connecting people to needed resources or strengthening conversational ties across diverse neighborhoods. Did a partner see an increase in requests for related resources? Please include direct feedback from a partner(s) or from a person(s) served.
By bringing Mendocino Community College students and faculty into a range of programming and broadcast activities, KZYX is fostering a recognition that the station is a transformative agent of educational development and vocational opportunity, and of civic engagement and community building. The College, which has no journalism program or campus media, is embracing our broadcast journalist training and production collaboration to enrich student civic participation and vocational development while raising community awareness of its own contributions to student empowerment and job training. Several College departments, from Recording Arts and Computer Science to Theater Arts and Music, are joining our broadcast, programming and journalism collaborations, and the College has allocated a large room for a KZYX production studio on campus. Mendocino Community College students are providing professional-quality broadcast and recording services at well-attended community meetings and events that are broadcast on KZYX. These forms of collaboration create a strong sense of local-for-local civic engagement and community links between students and the public, spearheaded by KZYX. Our public affairs program on entrepreneurship and sustainable enterprise, launched in collaboration with the College and Small Business Administration-funded business-coaching non-profit West Company, has spurred demand for services from many local start-ups. In a community with high levels of family trauma and child displacement, our program on childhood services has substantially raised the visibility of many important nonprofits, boosting their capacity to attract support and provide crucial services.
4. Please describe any efforts (e.g. programming, production, engagement activities) you have made to investigate and/or meet the needs of minority and other diverse audiences (including, but not limited to, new immigrants, people for whom English is a second language and illiterate adults) during Fiscal Year 2017, and any plans you have made to meet the needs of these audiences during Fiscal Year 2018. If you regularly broadcast in a language other than English, please note the language broadcast.
Key targets of our broadcast journalism training and production collaborations are young people from the Hispanic and Native American populations, which together comprise nearly one-third of people within the KZYX broadcast footprint. KZYX broadcasts two hours a week of bilingual (English-Spanish) music programming, and focuses more public affairs programming on issues of interest in the Latino community. We've begun producing Spanish-language and bilingual public service announcements in support of childhood services organizations, and are consulting with Mendocino College and several community groups about production of public affairs programming in Spanish for broadcast and presentation on our website. Mendocino County still ranks among the lowest nationwide in broadband internet penetration due to its sparse and far flung population distribution and rugged, heavily forested topography, but urban communities and some tribal communities are gradually increasing broadband services through support of the non-profit Broadband Alliance of Mendocino County, an important KZYX collaborator. Looking into 2018, engaging Latino and Native students in our broadcast training programs and airing Latino and Native affairs programming will enable us to give far greater voice to these communities and sharpen our English-language programming for all listeners.
5. Please assess the impact that your CPB funding had on your ability to serve your community. What were you able to do with your grant that you wouldn't be able to do if you didn't receive it?
Mendocino County ranks among California's largest: 4,000 densely forested and mountainous square miles, comparable in size to Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Yet it claims a population of fewer than 90,000 spread broadly across the vast landscape rather than concentrated in towns. Ukiah, our largest town and county seat, has only 16,000 people. Internet penetration remains low, especially outside of towns. Radio remains the most effective way to reach — and serve — Mendocino’s population, but its rugged, forested topography makes this challenging and expensive. To bring our National Public Radio, local programming and other public radio services to such an inaccessible region, we maintain a network of two high-power transmitters and a coastal translator as well as a network of four farflung broadcast studios (in Philo, Fort Bragg, Willits and Ukiah) at great expense; we keep programming costs in check by relying on more than 100 volunteer programmers. No other broadcaster, public or commercial, covers Mendocino County and neighboring regions as completely as KZYX over our three frequencies. This means that KZYX is not only the first line of emergency broadcast defense; in many parts of our broadcast footprint KZYX is the only emergency broadcast defense. Our importance during disasters was dramatically illustrated during the California wildfires of October 2017, which destroyed thousands of homes and killed 42 people, 12 of them here in Mendocino. KZYX was the ONLY operational channel of communication into the fire zone as the fires raged on 8-9 October. Our CPB grant contributes just over 20% of our operating budget while membership donations provide about 65% and underwriting about 15%. Given our heavy, non-centralized operational expenses, CPB is the only reason we are able to bring National Public Radio, Public Radio International, Democracy Now and other essential national/international news sources into our broadcast area. Without CPB, Mendocino likely would be deprived of these crucial news, information, entertainment and public safety services, leaving the county essentially without any regular source of national/international news content, NPR or otherwise. There is no countywide television, public or commercial, nor is there any newspaper with broad countywide circulation; the handful of small town newspapers have been acquired by out-of-state owners, and are hemorrhaging circulation, advertising and staff. KZYX, with our CPB Community Service Grant and strong community and volunteer support, is determined to invest in Community News production. Loss of our CPB grant would be extremely damaging to our ability to provide essential news and information services to Mendocino County, with no obvious substitute or replacement in sight. With the CPB grant, we muster a dogged optimism that with focused strategic investment we can improve our news, information, educational and cultural programming into a very large region where many listeners simply have no alternative. We are so deeply grateful for CPB investment in our shared mission.
Additional information not included in 15 March 2018 submission to CPB
Our mission declares our programming to "reflect the rich diversity of the county" and that we seek to "foster increased communication among all groups in the county and makes access available to all." These phrases guide us in pursuing our programming goals.
Our programing schedule includes 11 hours of in-house locally produced public affairs programs and 66 hours of locally presented music. In addition we produce a daily 8-10 minute local newscast. We try to cover all issues of importance in the county, with news, regular programs and specials. Our music programming is broad, eclectic and varied. We offer classical, jazz, rock, folk, Americana, world, soul, gospel, reggae, all in generous amounts and curated by local programmers who are experts in their respective genres. This variety is a big part of the cultural component of our mission.
At the national level, we are the only countywide media that broadcasts national election debates, the State of the Union Address, Presidential Inaugurals and Presidential Press Conferences. Internet connections are sparse enough in this rural county that catching these events on a web stream is not practical for a great many residents.
Every Saturday we produce a one-hour show called "Trading Time" that allows callers from all over the area to call in and offer or seek various goods and services. This program functions as a true community center that attracts listeners of all ages and persuasions.
Our website, based on the NPR Digital Services platform since January 2017, carries news from NPR and our local Community News team, and offers blogs from our programmers and archives of our public affairs shows. We spread awareness of our programming through social media, which allows listeners to access important programs outside of the broadcast schedule. We live stream our broadcast at kzyx.org.
We produce local music concerts that benefit KZYX financially while showcasing talent that otherwise would not appear in this county.
During local, state and national elections of 2016, we organized election special programs where all local candidates were interviewed, and others where local experts explained the particulars of the many state ballot initiatives that always appear on California ballots. KZYX was the only broadcast outlet in this county to present these debates and program specials.
We have a close relationship with all parts of the local "safety net", including the county sheriff, local police and fire chiefs and others who frequently appear as guests of our local programs to discuss matters of public safety. All members of the county Board of Supervisors appear regularly as guests on public affairs programs, which gives members of the public opportunities to put questions directly to their elected representatives.
Our regular public affairs programs showcase the activities of numerous local nonprofit social service organizations. Because KZYX is the most ubiquitous local media (there is no countywide TV or newspaper), we are typically the primary channel by which these organizations get their message out to the public. Among those featured over the past year were Project Sanctuary, the Food Bank, First Five, Court Appointed Special Advocates (who supervise foster children and families for family court), Women in Business and many others. Similarly, we interview a wide range of local businesses to showcase efforts that contribute to the quality of life in our county.
Actual measurement is very difficult. It would be dificult to prove, for example, that our voter awareness programming resulted in a larger turnout at the polls. It is safe to assume that our election coverage helps the people in our broadcast footprint make more informed voting choices because no other local media does this work at a countywide level.
General Manager and Executive Director
Mendocino County Public Broadcasting