By Adrian Bijan White
As president of one of the Los Angeles area’s leading public radio stations, Jennifer Ferro wants to make KCRW, a National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, a community institution and a continuing source of unbiased news.
The UCLA alumna recently spoke about the dynamics of politics and public radio in lecturer Michael Fleming’s Public Policy graduate course “Power, Politics and Philanthropy” at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Fleming is executive director of the Los Angeles-based David Bohnett Foundation, one of the region’s leading funders.
Upon assuming her new role as president, following a number of production roles since 1995 at the radio station, Ferro committed her efforts to establishing KCRW as a community center.
“We had spent the first 30 years creating incredible programming, but we didn’t have a relationship with the people on the other end,” says Ferro. “Our new mission is to concentrate on building relationships with the community.”
Among Ferro’s motivations is to protect the integrity of the radio station which serves the greater Southern California area on a number of FM outlets and sustains its presence online at kcrw.com and via mobile apps.
“It is really about credibility, being human and being striking,” says Ferro, describing the core values of KCRW. “We do not answer to any corporate concern or shareholders. We are dedicated as a community service.”
KCRW receives $1.3 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), created by Congress in 1967 as a private, nonprofit and noncommercial corporation.
“All of our funding comes from individuals, corporations and foundations,” Ferro said. “We have a firewall where programming decisions are disconnected from where the funding comes from.”
Ferro, who graduated from UCLA with a degree in political science and psychology, has made it a priority for KCRW to provide a truly public broadcasting system dedicated to local community engagement, going beyond the radio’s business and funding model. Currently, the radio attracts more than 200,000 people a year to station-sponsored events and concerts. And KCRW is finalizing plans to move the station’s headquarters to the new KCRW Media Center, tripling the company’s current studio, production and meeting space, which will be open to the public.
“We have authors, actors, directors and journalists who come through these studios every day,” she said. “With this space we will have an opportunity to host these as live events, invite the public in to watch us do this and be part of the event.”
The station, currently housed in the basement of the cafeteria on the campus of Santa Monica College, will soon open its doors to the public on an entirely new scale.
“We are much more than a radio station,” Ferro said. “We are part of the culture of Los Angeles and beyond.”