In the middle of its week and a half-long annual pledge drive, the transmission of on-campus radio station KCSB was suddenly cut, requiring station members to lift a replacement radio dish up the side of Storke Tower.
The radio station had been experiencing technical difficulties since early Thursday morning, but was back on the air as of 1:40 a.m. Friday, said Maggie Muldoon, a KCSB employee. Bryan Brown, the radio station’s chief engineer, said the malfunctioning transmitter’s connections were rusted, causing it to fail. The broken dish and other transmission problems come as a major setback to KCSB as it began its annual pledge drive this week, said Ted Coe, KCSB pledge drive coordinator. Money raised in the drive pays for such things as new equipment, executives’ salaries and general supplies. KCSB also receives funding from a quarterly Associated Students lock-in fee of $1.20 per student. The pledge drive started Nov. 8 and will continue until Nov. 17.
Brown and KCSB staff member Danny MacLeith hoisted a new short transmitter link to the apex of Storke Tower with a 400 ft. rope to replace the broken transmitter dish. Several other KCSB staff members held a second rope attached to the transmitter to prevent it from hitting the side of the tower. MacLeith and Brown used the emergency light atop the structure – which used as a structural indication signal for airplanes coming into Santa Barbara Airport – as an anchor.
Despite their attempts, members at the base of the tower lost some control of the rope causing the dish to slightly scrape the side of the tower.
Brown said KCSB hoped to make it through the pledge drive with minimal damage.
“But [going by] Murphy’s Law – everything went wrong this week,” Brown said.
Coe said the station has a staff of around 200 people and hires programmers from the community as well as students, most of who are volunteers. The station has 13 paid staff members.
“We ask for [a] minimum $40 pledge from community members and $25 from students,” General Manager Chris Minerd said. “We accept any kind of donations people give, but we give ‘thank you’ gifts for people who meet those minimum pledges.”
Coe said KCSB made $40,000 in 2003 through their pledge drive, doubling their total from the three previous years. Minerd said he believed the pledge would not increase as much this year because of KCSB’s technical difficulties and other factors such as a stagnant economy.
Brown said getting new equipment is the first priority of KCSB in this pledge drive.
“[Some of the equipment] is about 20 years old, and [the dish] is one piece of KCSB that hasn’t been updated yet,” Brown said.
KCSB is too important to be going off the air, Coe said.
“People really value independent media [sources],” Coe said. “Unfortunately [they are] very small in number.”
Coe also said KCSB supports local events and brings people music and news they would not normally receive on radio stations owned by large corporations, such as Clear Channel Communications, which owns eight radio stations in Santa Barbara.
“We’re the only station in the area where DJs get to pick playlists,” Muldoon said.
Coe said KCSB has helped the community in the past by trying to save local venues such as The Living Room, which was an alcohol and drug-free concert hall located on Fairview Avenue in the Airport Plaza. KCSB is also host to several local events, he said. Minerd said programs from the Arts & Lectures office are included in these events.
“We had Putumayo [perform] last night, [and] one time we had Jawbreaker play in the studio,” he said.
Minerd also said KCSB was planning to have pop-rock band Kissing Tigers play last night during the pledge drive, but the performance has been rescheduled for next Wednesday.
KCSB 91.9 FM transmits as far north as San Luis Obispo and as far south as some parts of Los Angeles County, Minerd said.