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Changes, donations keep KBPS on air

Benson Tech radio station reboots after budget reductions


Last summer, the future of KBPS was uncertain.

The 89-year-old public radio station at Benson Polytechnic High School had just lost its on-site general manager of seven years, Bill Cooper, to budget cuts that eliminated his position.

Cooper warned it would be the end of the radio station as well, since PPS — the station’s sole owner and licensee — would then be out of compliance with the Federal Communications Commission’s staffing requirements, subject to a fine of $7,000 to $10,000 for each offense.

As it happens, that worst-case scenario did not come true.

Enter Kevin Flink, who’s spent 32 years as the primary broadcast instructor at Benson and retired from teaching in 2007.

Flink was hired last August as the station’s half-time operations manager, and Benson Principal Carol Campbell became the station’s full-time general manager.

“We’ve consulted with legal people at the district and in Washington, D.C.,” and everything is by the book, he says. As long as Campbell is the full-time general manager, the station is in compliance.

With that taken care of, Flink says he’s tweaked the format to increase the level of student participation, changing the content to a mix of Top 40 and contemporary music, which students enjoy playing.

“We’re still careful to go over the lyrics,” to make sure it’s appropriate listening for students, Flink says.

He’s also added sportscasting of basketball games twice a week and other Portland Interscholastic League games.

In November, students and alumni did election night coverage on the station for the first time.

And starting next month, he’ll add an after-school program for English Language Learners across the district, to allow them to communicate with their parents in their native tongue.

The response from students and alumni has been fabulous, he says, adding, “It’s been a mix of new and old.”

In fact, Flink has been relying on alumni support to raise funds to hire a supervisor to keep the station running this summer. His contract does not include the summer months.

The station was shut down last summer.

It’ll take $6,000 to $7,000 to fund the summer position, and Flink has already raised half that amount, including a hefty check for $1,983 from the summer class of 1983.

“We’ve had fantastic support,” he says.

This month, he’s hoping to showcase the success of the station and all of Benson’s other programs at the 93rd annual Tech Show, set for Feb. 21 and 22. The show runs 6 to 9 p.m. both nights, and admission is free. All of Benson’s shops and of course KBPS will be open.

Says Flink: “Come see the school that works in the city that works, we like to say.”