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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

December 10, 2004

Consultant: Consolidate public radio stations

by Anne Krapfl

A consultant hired last summer by the Board of Regents, State of Iowa, will recommend a merger of public radio operations at the three regent universities (Iowa State, University of Iowa and University of Northern Iowa) when the board meets Dec. 15-16 in the Memorial Union.

The proposed "Iowa Public Radio" would be led by an executive director but overseen by an executive council, whose membership would include the executive director, an appointee by each of the regent university presidents and a non-voting member who represents listeners and contributors. The three broadcast sites would provide statewide programming to be shared with the others, but also would develop programming just for their home regions of the state.

The consultant, Ron Bornstein and Associates, Tucson, emphasized in the written report that the primary motive for integrating public radio should be to improve service to Iowa residents -- not to save money. Secondary objectives, the report notes, include improved efficiency, increased private support, and decreased dependence on state of Iowa appropriations.

Bornstein is expected to field questions from the regents Dec. 16.

Bornstein also will recommend that a new, independent and statewide "friends" organization handle gifts of less than $10,000. Each of the university's foundations would handle gifts of more than $10,000 on behalf of Iowa Public Radio.

Bornstein recommends that the stations continue their relationships with the schools. However, the report also recommends a $300,000 total reduction in university support of the stations over the next five years. The radio stations at Northern Iowa and the University of Iowa receive a state appropriation. The WOI Radio Group at Iowa State lost its last state appropriation as part of budget cuts in fall 2003, but receives in-kind support from ISU and $600,000 annually from an endowment set up from the sale of WOI-TV in 1994.

Implementation timeline

If the regents accept the report, Bornstein recommends that changes begin soon. For example, steps to be completed by March 31 would include:

  • Appoint university representatives to the executive council and hire an executive director.
  • HR specialists from the three universities iron out differences in personnel policies and salaries for like positions at the separate stations.
  • Each foundation submits to the executive director a report detailing the public radio assets it holds.

Use of the "Iowa Public Radio" onair identifier would begin sometime next summer (although stations would keep their call letters). As recommended, the fall 2005 fund drive would be conducted by Iowa Public Radio.

The study

In gathering information on which it based its recommendations to the regents, the consultant interviewed 165 stakeholders in Iowa public radio, including the regent board members, university administrators and employees, staff at the three public radio stations and selected representatives from the community and local government. The consultant also interviewed staff or directors from seven public radio groups beyond Iowa that have gone through coordination or consolidation efforts, most in the last decade; analyzed data provided by the three stations and did a two-day retreat with station managers in October.

Regents, university presidents and station general managers have been involved in the process since July.


According to the consultant, the primary motive for integrating the public radio stations should be to improve service to Iowa residents -- not to save money. Secondary objectives include improved efficiency, increased private support and decreased dependence on state of Iowa appropriations.