Perched on top of the Speech Arts building, 90.7 KFSR’s six-story-tall radio tower looks over Fresno State. It broadcasts to three-quarters of a million people, but preoccupied students hustle by it every day. Many know it for its daily jazz or “Evening Eclectic” programs. However, few know about the organization behind the sound.
The station traces its beginnings back to the 1950s. At that time, the station only broadcasted on a closed circuit within the university. It wasn’t until October of 1982 that the station began broadcasting on FM airwaves and became available to the local community. Operated in conjunction with Fresno State’s TV and broadcasting academic programs, KFSR became the university’s student-run radio station.
In 2005, KFSR became a nonprofit.
Today, just one full-time and two part-time employees staff it. Much of the staffing required to keep the station running 24 hours a day, 365 days a year comes from its team of volunteers.
Despite its relatively small staff, KFSR aspires to large goals. “We’re the musician’s radio station,” says operations and program director Julie Logan. “We’re the creative community’s radio station.”
Weekdays, the station is home to the only jazz programming in Fresno.
“To be able to own a format in a market is almost unheard of in Fresno. The fact that we are the only jazz radio station in Fresno is huge, and it’s very popular,” Logan said.
During weeknights the station breaks from jazz with the “Evening Eclectic.” The title of the program is all the description it needs. It features many obscure tracks, crossing genre and cultural lines.
Associated Students, Inc.’s own program, “Dog Dish” kicks off the weekend on Friday night with a blend of music and interviews with newsworthy people at Fresno State. Saturday and Sunday feature an array of subculture niche programming ranging from gospel, to bluegrass and blues.
The biggest misconception surrounding the station is that it is still operated directly by Fresno State and thereby is a college radio station. While its location inside the campus entwines the two, KFSR has been run as a nonprofit and has seen mostly independent of the college for the last eight years.
“The station operates almost completely independently of the university now. So that’s kind of different; we’re not a college radio station. Most people who come across a radio station that’s on a campus at a university assume that it’s a college radio station and funded by the college. So we’re kind of a hybrid,” Logan said.
Logan said the one thing that ultimately binds KFSR to Fresno State is that the university still owns the license to the radio station.
Separation from the school doesn’t mean that students aren’t involved in the station, however. While it is no longer student run, KFSR carries five student DJs, two student interns and volunteer opportunities for students. “Anybody is welcome,” Logan said.
The biggest challenge for the station couples with the fact that it’s a nonprofit—funding.
“It’s always money. I mean we’re a nonprofit. Ask any nonprofit organization and the answer is going to be money – funding,” said Logan.
She continued, “And we have some very generous benefactors who are very, very good to the radio station. But we have to work diligently to provide funding for the radio station.”
Much of the station’s funding comes from solicited donations. Two noted donors are Spinner’s Records in the Tower District and ASI.
The majority of the remaining funding is raised through fall and spring pledge drives. Bookended by benefit concerts, this year’s fall pledge drive begins Oct. 26 with the Grand Ole Opry and ends Nov. 9 with a Crooners concert.
Despite a budget that may be smaller than that of other commercial radio stations, KFSR is trying to stay ahead with social media to bolster its programs. That station is currently rebuilding its social media sites where it gives away tickets and gets the word out about events and its programming.
“It’s integral. Social media and radio, I mean, they go hand in hand,” says Logan.
However, perhaps the biggest way the station is using technology to greater promote itself is through the ability to stream the radio station live on from the Internet.
“You can pick up KFSR all over the world.” Logan continued, “Honest to goodness, we get emails from all over the world. People listening to a specific show and asking about a song.”
All these tools aren’t for fame or international recognition, though. It’s to further the station’s goal, which as Logan says is best summed up in the motto, “F