Bellevue College’s Interim President Gary Locke has approved a one-time allocation from the president’s discretionary account to 91.3 KBCS-FM, and save the jobs of the News Director and Program Director.
KBCS is affiliated with Bellevue College, and the college’s Board of Trustees holds the broadcast license for the radio station.
Supporters of Yuko Kodama had started an online petition to save her job as News and Public Affairs Director. Her contract was set to expire on June 30.
“I think the decision to terminate this position was particularly hurtful to the community at a time when raw discussions about social inequities are at the fore in our media and on many people’s minds,” Kodama told the Northwest Asian Weekly. “The response to my termination was really overwhelming… It speaks to the importance of KBCS’s decades old commitment to local stories around social justice that amplify the voices of those who aren’t normally included in our media landscape… offering the possibility of another lens on stories that others in the local radio-sphere can’t offer.”
“There is no question that the News Director is a highly respected professional producing stories of great significance and well-received by listeners,” Locke said in a statement. “However, there were many inaccurate facts, statements, and accusations in communications from supporters that must be corrected.”
Locke said KBCS has been operating with deficits for years, and that the college has subsidized approximately $774,000 over the past five years to cover expenses and balance its budget.
“Many supporters of the News Director offered to raise money from the community to cover that position’s salary. While the sentiment is admirable, this would not be a viable option for KBCS. Within public radio, receiving funds for the employment of a specific individual could be considered quid pro quo and raises questions of lack of impartiality and independence,” Locke said.
Moving forward, Locke said KBCS must achieve financial self-sufficiency and balance its budget without subsidies from the college.
“Unless the station can reverse the decline in underwriting revenue, the future of the station is in doubt. To ensure the station is able to keep a News Director and other critical staff in the future, I encourage those groups, who offered to raise funds to retain the News Director, to raise that same amount, but for the station in general—and above and beyond the planned community fundraising goals.”
Kodama is Japanese American and one of very few women and people of color in a leadership news director role in the media industry.
“It was overwhelming to get the support to be reinstated,” said Kodama. “But as a Black Panther matriarch has told me since the decision, ‘the battle begins now…we can’t let up.’ Locke and the administration found other ways to provide KBCS funds as a stopgap in supporting my role and other costs for this fiscal year, but the station has a critical challenge ahead to address the very real fiscal deficit.”
To donate to KBCS, go to kbcs.fm/donate.
*This story updates an earlier version that stated Kodama’s contract would not be renewed.