Near the east side of the BC parking garage is a small, one-story house with a very tall antenna reaching into the air. This is the home of KBCS 93.1 FM. On the air for 40 years, KBCS started when a group of students staged a sit-in protest in the president’s office with the aim of starting a student radio station. Their request was granted, and KBCS started broadcasting.
According to Director of Underwriting Sales and Marketing Patrick Whalen, “When they first started, it was, at the time, what they would call freeform radio, playing mostly rock music and [it] gradually shifted organically. […] In the ‘80s, it moved to what they call a ‘community radio model’ […] featuring mostly volunteer programmers from the community that we trained here at the station […] with a professional general manager, and this transition was masterminded by the college.”
After the transition, the station grew, with more professional staff, capacity, and programming being added. “We model public radio best practices,” Whalen said. “We’ve become a leader in the community radio model nationally for our market share, size of our audience in the kind of market that we’re in, and our performance in fundraising and in the way we manage our business.”
KBCS now airs a mix of programming, with popular programs including “our Hawaiian music program on Saturdays at noon, our Grateful Dead program on Sundays at seven, the Thom Hartmann program airs at noon on week-days, and an eclectic music program that airs weekdays, starting at nine. We also have a music and news features interviews program called ‘Music and Ideas’ that balances music with short interviews and features that goes from three to five weekdays.”
Currently, KBCS is holding its annual fall fundraiser, with a goal of $80,000. 75 percent of the station’s funding comes from listeners with the remainder covered by business sponsorships and grants. The fundraiser reaches out to listeners, explained Whalen: “We do a number of fundraisers on air every year. The one in the fall is the biggest one, and it goes for 10 days, which is [the] typical length of time. It goes for mostly during the daylight hours actively. Because listeners are the primary source of funding, the key audience is listeners, so we’re really talking to people who are listening to the station, who value it and are willing to fund it.”
Being part of BC, the station has student involvement as well, students interested in radio broadcasting can take volunteer or paid positions at the station. “We oftentimes have student workers on staff and it’s really depending on the interest level of the student, in every capacity from production to marketing and sales to news. Frequently its production board operation and sales marketing, helping the program department,” Whalen elaborated. Open positions are currently available, students interested can contact the station or go to bellevuecollege.edu/jobs.