CapRadio, North State Public Radio move forward with collaboration

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The licensee of North State Public Radio in Chico, Calif., approved a management agreement Thursday with CapRadio in Sacramento. 

Chico State Enterprises’ Board of Directors approved the agreement after the conclusion of an 18-month study of a possible arrangement, Chico State University announced Friday. The two stations announced the study in July 2019.

CapRadio will be responsible for day-to-day management of NSPR, including personnel, programming, fundraising and broadcast engineering, according to Stephen Cummins, who oversaw the agreement as CSU’s director of public engagement. CSU will continue to hold NSPR’s broadcast license. It will provide administrative support and oversee programming and operations as the station’s licensee, Cummins said.

As CSU and CapRadio began discussions about working together, the university’s goals “were to better serve the news and information needs of our listeners and, secondly, we needed to ensure that the operating model and the service we provide was not only sustainable but could grow,” Cummins said.

The public service operating agreement gives NSPR “a larger pool of resources to draw from,” NSPR GM Phil Wilke told Current in an email. For instance, NSPR’s operations manager and engineer will have backups, and the newsroom can work with CapRadio on regional reporting projects, he said.

The agreement also allows NSPR to keep its “programming autonomy,” said Wilke, who will remain the station’s GM.

The stations received a $550,000 CPB grant to cover “several facets of the integration,” including hiring two reporters that will be based in Chico, Wilke said. The grant began in January and runs through the end of the year, according to CapRadio GM Jun Reina.

“It’s not every day that we’re afforded the opportunity to partner with another organization with which we already have a strong cultural alignment,” Reina said in an email to Current. Reina pointed to past collaborations between the stations on wildfire coverage.

“With the PSOA approved, this deeper partnership with NSPR ensures the continued delivery of relevant news and information to the North State audience and allows the University to step back from day-to-day management and funding of the station,” Reina said.

Reina said both organizations will benefit financially. CapRadio is projecting a $1.3 million increase in its operating income from earned revenue from NSPR’s operations in the first year of the partnership. NSPR’s annual operating expenses are expected to fall by $500,000, even with the additional reporters, Reina said.

Public Media Company, the consultancy based in Boulder, Colo., first suggested the partnership in the spring of 2019, according to President Erin Moran. PMC had worked with CapRadio and “knew they had the capacity to bring their operational strengths to a collaboration of Northern California stations,” Moran said.

“During these unprecedented times of university finances being under such immense pressure because of COVID-19, this collaboration will hopefully serve as a model for other university licensees to consider,” Moran said.

The agreement takes effect Oct. 1.

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