Radio Free 91 KRCL

From Issue 16, April 1990

If you’ve never listened to public radio before, you probably have a lot of misconceptions about it. Or perhaps you don’t know what it is at all. Tune your radio down to 91 and listen—not just one time, but at different hours during the week. It’s not the same thing every day. It’s always unique, always moving forward.

KRCL officially went on the air on December 3, 1979. It had taken the owner the previous seven years to get the license, money, building, and equipment to run a radio station. Out of these, the new FCC licensee began broadcasting in the Salt Lake area.

Donna Land Maldonado is the Program Director of KRCL and she has worked there since July of 1979, before they started broadcasting. Fresh out of college with a Sociology degree, she needed a job to support herself and her family. She had never worked in radio and had never even heard of public radio. A good friend introduced her to KRCL and she immediately fell in love with it. She’s worked there ever since. Community radio is the great passion in her life. “I think it’s all beneficial, allowing people to hear things that they don’t hear anywhere else, to hear different voices, different perceptions, different opinions, ideas, everything,” she says.

KRCL has many voices. There are a wide variety of musical programs ranging from reggae to rockabilly, bluegrass to blues, r&b to r&r, jazz, Latin, punk, industrial—if you like a specific genre of music, they probably play it. Plus there are news programs, women’s programs, book readings and talk shows. Opinions and musical styles may be counter to those on commercial radio stations but that’s one of the benefits of KRCL: giving everyone a chance to voice their feelings. As Donna says, “I think everyone should be allowed to voice their opinion whether it’s right or wrong.” This is the idea behind KRCL and community radio, allowing all to speak for themselves.

Recently KRCL had 48 hours of women’s programming. The event involved 30-35 women from various backgrounds. They were able to express themselves in their own words. They also did all the engineering and production for the weekend’s programs.

All these programs on KRCL are run with the help of volunteers and funded by donations from the listeners. Twice a year KRCL has a radiothon to raise money to keep the station alive. They operate on an incredibly tight budget, barely making it from one fundraiser to the next. That’s why contributing is so important,” says Sandi Terry, Development Director, “because it isn’t for free. We’re always on a shoelace around here. It’s amazing when you go through the budget. It’s bad!” But it’s not bad enough to keep the staff and volunteers from moving forward, regardless of financial strain.

Sandi has been working at KRCL since July of last year. She’s a senior at the U and plans to stay on at KRCL for a few years after she graduates,  “until I make a difference.” Her job consists of promoting KRCL, advertising and promoting concerts. Basically she makes the community aware of what KRCL is and what they do there. They also work at many festivals in the area such as they May Fest at the U, the Living Traditions Festival in May with the Salt Lake City Arts Council and others in Deer Valley and Snowbird.

“It’s a powerful station,” says Sandi. “It broadens people’s minds and if you’re a listener you know that it’s something different from other radio stations. You can turn it on and learn something new. Music’s very political. You can learn something from that.”

The station has helped to educate Sandi. Since joining the staff she has become more open-minded, a more liberal thinker. Radio personnel at KRCL are able to dress as themselves and be themselves. The atmosphere around the station is very relaxed, very warm and inviting. Listeners are always dropping in to visit the station and the staff welcomes them.

In the last year, KRCL has made a mark on the community. They ran the Iran-Contra hearings from gavel to gavel, which took a whole summer. Recently they have been one of only twenty-five radio stations in the country to run the Nicaraguan elections, only because they feel that is important. They have been involved with the rise of the peace movement, with the arts community and with many of the ethnic minority communities. And they hope to become more involved. Donna feels that more people will use KRCL to their advantage as they become more established in the community. KRCL is there to protect everybody’s rights, not just those on the fringes of society—that is their commitment.

“Fortunately for us, there are people who are reaching, always reaching beyond certain boundaries for things,” says Donna.

KRCL is always looking for volunteers. For more info call the station at 363-1818 or stop by and see what’s up at 208 W. 800 S. in Salt Lake.