The Chronicle’s View: KUTE is about students, not financial success

Why should student organizations ever have the obligation to be profitable?

That’s the question members of KUTE have been asking ever since its inception as a student group under the umbrella of the Associated Students of the University of Utah. While student government and administrators have been unanimous in denouncing KUTE as a “failure,” the station’s existence was never intended to be conditional in the first place.

Before the task force on student media (deployed by the administration) even released its results, ASUU legislators dissolved what remains of KUTE by striking its guaranteed allotment from Redbook, the student constitution, and retracting the $15,000 the station had in its coffers. The stated intent was to stimulate action from the administration (as though its conscience would be hurt).

The thing is, the bill was probably prompted by advice from administrators. Whether or not they chose to take care of U students interested in broadcast media remains up to them–as it always has been.

One option discussed by the task force is to create an all-encompassing “Student Media Council” instead of the current Publications Council governing The Daily Utah Chronicle. That makes perfect sense, but no matter who hosts it, KUTE won’t be rid of its many, many ills.

In order to find a decent signal that can reach a broad audience, KUTE may have to merge into KUER, a university-owned FM signal. But it’s unlikely that KUTE will receive access to this parent signal (even though much of it is currently unused). Instead, KUTE will get a streaming signal on KUER’s sub-channels “B” or “C,” and those opportunities will be limited to specific time slots. In addition, KUTE will no longer have independent status–the U will have the power to censor its content (unlike The Chronicle). KUTE will have to reconcile itself with reporting to the Board of Regents and to KUER station officials.

If any higher-ups expect KUTE to generate the type of private funding The Chronicle does, they’re crazy. Thanks to last week’s bill, student radio doesn’t even have any money for a fresh advertising campaign or re-startup costs. It’s a catch-22: Without those assets, how will KUTE be able to get the advertising it needs to reach enough people in order to attract advertisors?

Another potential task force recommendation could be to hire leadership that is familiar with the dynamics of college radio to head a new KUTE station, instead of relying on a bunch of student workers to fill a bunch of unfamiliar roles on sheer will and intuition. It might be hard to justify the cost based on KUTE’s current merits, but there’s simply no other realistic way for the station to succeed as a private enterprise.

The most important thing is that KUTE continues to exist–in some form–so that interested students have the chance to learn about a new career or hobby.

It is, after all, supposed to be about the students.