The Salt Lake Tribune has taken the Salt Lake City Council to task for making a $250K loan to keep non-commercial KCPW-FM on the air. The loan was unanimously rejected by the city’s Redevelopment Agency loan committee, but that was unanimously overridden by the City Council.
The newspaper editorial denouncing the loan noted that redevelopment agencies are supposed to be about financing capital projects, such as parking structures, big office buildings and basketball arenas. “We didn’t know that they also can bail out public radio stations,” the editorial said.
While the newspaper said KCPW is no doubt an asset to the community, it questioned whether the city needed a second NPR affiliate in the first place, since KUER-FM was already serving the market when Wasatch Public Media bought KCPW in 2008 and took on $1.8 million of debt. So, the newspaper argued, why should the city council be favoring KCPW over KUER by bailing out the station?
KCPW faced an October 31 deadline to make a $250K debt payment. Now it has a six month bridge loan from redevelopment funds at 5% interest – and, the newspaper notes, it may have the interest forgiven by running on-air spots promoting Salt Lake City. KCPW has been increasing its City Hall news coverage, “but it is fair to ask whether the station can fairly cover the City Council to which it owes its financial survival,” the editorial stated.
“Regardless of KCPW’s value to the community, the City Council has strayed far from the purpose of capital redevelopment. RDAs are supposed to use tax-increment financing to invest in building the tax base, not rescue public radio stations,” the Tribune editorial concluded.