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Nevada Public Radio teetered on bankruptcy’s edge, interim CEO said

Financial woes facing Nevada Public Radio took the station close to the edge of bankruptcy, its interim chief executive said this week.

“We were really pretty close when the board stepped in back in August,” KNPR interim CEO Jerry Nadal said Thursday. “I think we stepped back from that, (but) we still have a long way to go to get ourselves where we need to be.”

It came as a surprise for many listeners last month when the National Public Radio member station released a statement describing “severe cash flow issues” and that then-KNPR CEO Florence “Flo” Rogers would immediately step down.

The station’s board of directors appointed Nadal, the former board chairman, to fill the interim CEO role. Nadal, who began his role last week, also serves as senior vice president of resident shows division for Cirque du Soleil.

Nadal said it’s too soon to say what led to the station’s financial issues as the board is still investigating and poring over financial statements from past years. He did say that part of the reason was the purchase of a Reno station, which was shuttered last month, resulting in the layoff of its four-person team.

“We knew that we would probably lose money for a year or year and a half, but we were never able to get enough membership to make it sustainable,” he said of the Reno station. “We were losing money on that consistently, and it became a drag on the organization.”

Nevada Public Radio bought the station in 2017 from Open Sky Media in Reno, making it into a music discovery radio program. Nadal said the purchase made sense at the time.

“We wanted to expand our reach into the northern part of the state but not compete with KUNR,” he said. “That’s why we liked the idea of an alternative music format, but it just didn’t work and we couldn’t make it work.”

Nevada Public Radio is looking to sell the Reno radio station, Nadal said, while adding that it has no current plans to sell other assets such as KSGU in St. George, Utah, as those stations are sustainable.

KNPR plans to reduce the monthly Desert Companion magazine to eight issues, including two bonus issues, starting in January with 50,000 copies printed each month.

Board Chairman Anthony Pearl, who serves a general counsel and chief compliance officer for The Cosmopolitan, emphasized the need to reduce expenses during the board’s Wednesday meeting.

“We’re being very strategic about those, but we’re looking at everything, it’s fair to say,” Pearl said.

Transparent campaign

KNPR has 11,609 active and contributing members, according to the President’s Report presented at the meeting.

It broke the 10,000-member mark in 2013. This suggests member growth has been slow over the past five years although the station is ranked No. 4 in Southern Nevada and has a six-month average of 155,500 weekly listeners as of August.

The station’s fall membership campaign kicked off this week, with a goal of reaching a 15,000-member benchmark. Nearly three days into the membership drive, KNPR has signed up 300 new members and raised about $75,000, Nadal said.

One way the station hopes to achieve that goal is through a New Member Matching Fund, instead of its former Sustaining Member Matching Fund, the report said, noting the Member Matching Fund aims to give listeners more incentive to donate.

“Like any organization, you can’t cut your way to profitability or to break even in this case,” Nadal said. “I think it’s a combination of cost cutting … but more importantly it’s on the fundraising.”

As of Sept. 23, KNPR broadcast revenue reached about $1.2 million, short of its budget goal of $1.4 million. It also “represents a substantial drop from our FY17-18 performance of $1,324,119,” according to its report. Its corporate challenge missed its budget of $201,000 by almost $35,000.

Meanwhile, other segments of the business saw an increase such as digital, whose revenue totaled just over $93,000 against a budget of nearly $85,000. It plans to invigorate its digital offerings by offering refreshed online newsletters and event communications.

Nadal said the station is trying to be more transparent about its operations and plans for the future and also wants to have more listener input.

“I think if you’re asking for support you have to ask for input,” he said. “I want it to be a little bit more of a two-way street. We can’t do everything people want, but we need to be more transparent.”

Contact Subrina Hudson at shudson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @SubrinaH on Twitter.

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