Had you tuned in to 88.1 FM from March 5 to 13, in between the regularly scheduled programming of underground hip-hop and indie rock, you’d have heard the disc jockeys’ voices a little bit more than normal.

As much as KZSC’s DJs like to talk about music news and their views on the latest tracks, for the last nine days they were soliciting listeners not for requests, but for donations.

Three times a year, KZSC, our college radio station, holds a weeklong pledge drive that raises most of its funding. Listeners call in and pledge a certain amount, all of which goes toward the station’s broadcasting budget.

Beginning Thursday, 89.3 FM, or KUSP, will dive headlong into its spring pledge drive, an eight-day marathon in which the station’s employees implore listeners to donate any amount they can to support one of the only public radio stations on the Central Coast.

Their programs include Democracy Now!, nightly classical and jazz shows, and programs pertaining specifically to the local community.

Without listener support, neither of these stations could survive.

And without these stations, the only voices coming through our speakers would be on commercial radio.

Years of privatization have left over 90 percent of mass media outlets under the ownership of five corporations. That’s 90 percent of all newspapers, TV stations, wire services, magazines, and radio.

Not only is the integrity of content called into question by this fact, the homogenization of media outlets excludes artists and news stories that aren’t profitable for these megacorporations.

Terry Green, the program director for KUSP, said that his station has two objectives. The first is to provide “an independent news service not directly influenced by corporate interest.”

The second objective the station strives to achieve is to play music that is artistically important, but not necessarily commercially successful. Presenting all underrepresented sectors of the artistic, social, and political community is one of the cornerstones of public radio.

KZSC is the university’s radio station and broadcasts as far as San Benito County. Here, like KUSP, listeners hear a wide range of music and programming, from spoken-word poetry to death metal to reggae to radio dramas. They also broadcast UCSC events, lectures and anything else worth sending over the airwaves that commercial radio would shun.

Corporate media and pathetic governmental support threaten to drown out independent public radio for good, leaving us with whitewashed, censored and incomplete coverage and biased content.

We need public radio, and independent television and print, to keep us completely informed and thoroughly engaged in the world around us.

At its inception, the intent of radio was to facilitate a dialogue between broadcaster and listener, promoting community and conversation. Green said that while the station does get 55 percent of its funding from its pledge drives, just as important is the feedback volunteers receive when they take pledges from listeners.

One of the beautiful features of public radio is that it is truly open to the public. Not only are stations beholden to the very listeners who give them funding, a constant and relevant dialogue keeps stations providing exactly the kind of programming that listeners want.

KZSC’s purpose is to train UCSC students who want to go on to professional broadcasting. Their dedication in presenting alternative viewpoints and serving the school and community through their varied and independent programs is invaluable.

Pledge time is a flurry of activity, and then it’s over. But the money raised allows these stations to keep broadcasting in the interim until next pledge season comes around.

To preserve these bastions of integrity and public service, support public radio. And after you pledge, stay tuned and stay informed.

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