State Employee Grant Program

“…in the public interest” 1998


I.  Executive Summary
III. Qualitative Research Findings

A Report on Service to our Communities from
the Broadcasters of Washington state - February 1998

I. Executive Summary

"…in the public interest." Those words, added to the Communications Act by Washington's own United States Senator C. C. Dill, form the common commitment of community service among Washington' free, over-the-air broadcasters, whether they are radio or television stations, large or small, commercial or public, Eastern or Western Washington.

Washington's broadcasters play a vital and active role in the lives of every Washington community every day. And we are proud of the good work we do for our neighbors.

The Washington State Association of Broadcasters wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some information and stories about our service to our communities of which we are very proud. We hope that you, too, will be proud of the extraordinary efforts which Washington broadcasters perform every day.

WSAB conducted a quantitative survey of television and radio stations in Washington to determine the extent of station engagement in public service and community activities during November, 1997, using a 33-question survey. All 18, or 100%, of the commercial TV stations in Washington, participated in the survey; of the 69 commercial radio station groups, representing nearly 200 individual radio stations, 63 groups, or 91% replied. The overall response rate for radio and TV combines was 93%.

Radio and television stations across Washington raised more than $15.5 Million from the Fall of 1996 through the Fall of 1997 for charities, charitable causes or needy individuals, according to the quantitative survey conducted by WSAB. The survey also found that stations donated nearly $17 Million in airtime for Public Service Announcements on topics ranging from drug abuse prevention to the importance of voting.

If Washington state were typical (it is not because its smaller number of TV and radio stations puts it in the lower middle third of states), that $15.5 Million could be extrapolated to represent the nationwide raising of more than $¾ of a Billion for charities, charitable causes and the needy.

Other highlights of the survey results include:

  • 88% of Washington television stations and 91% of radio stations say they helped charities, charitable causes or needy individuals through fund-raising and other types of support.

  • TV stations in Washington typically broadcast approximately 95 Public Service Announcements each week; radio stations broadcast approximately 100 PSAs in a typical week.

  • 2/3 of Washington radio and television stations were involved in either on-air campaigns - either through local news broadcasts, PSAs or public affairs programming - or off-air activities to aid victims of a disaster.

  • The leading topics of Public Service Campaigns conducted by Washington broadcasters included: 1) Charitable events/donation drives ("Walk 'n' Knock Food Drive," "Project Santa," "Northwest Harvest Food Drive"); 2) Local community events ("Spokane Lilac Festival," "Yakima Greenway") and awareness campaigns (child abuse prevention, seat belts, drunk driving); 3) Promotion of Service Clubs (Boys/Girls Clubs, Jr. Achievement).

  • 94% of TV stations and 85% of radio stations ran PSAs addressing alcohol abuse; 94% of TV stations and 91% of radio stations ran PSAs addressing drunk driving.

  • Almost all stations (94% of TV and 100% of radio) appealed to their audiences to vote, either through PSAs, public affairs programming or the news.

  • Seven of 10 TV stations and 39% of radio stations ran special programming segments profiling candidates and/or their stands on the issues.

Statistics alone cannot tell the whole story of how Washington broadcasters contribute to the quality of life in their communities. The second part of WSAB's research program was a series of qualitative interviews with the General Managers and Community Relations Directors of 10 television and 25 radio stations around the state. The creativity and imagination stations show in responding to the needs of their communities is astonishing. For instance:

  • We heard about the Spokane news anchors that began wearing blue ribbons to honor those who died in the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing and ended up raising over $100,000 for the Red Cross.

  • We learned about the Seattle radio and TV stations that joined forces to collect more than 40,000 gifts for 8,532 foster children who would otherwise have had a very bleak Christmas.

  • We found a station that chooses a "charity of the month" to which the station donates its entire month's proceeds from the sale of all of the station's "logo" merchandise at its remote broadcasts and special events.

  • And, of course, we heard countless stories of sacrifice, dedication and heroism as Washington broadcasters responded to ice storms in Western and Eastern Washington and the firestorms in Spokane and Chelan County.

The stations have also heard from their viewers and listeners. We found dozens of compelling, heart-warming accounts of how a radio or television station had touch the life of an individual, from saving a life through CPR learned from a station's public service spot to teaching an 8 year-old a fire safety lesson that could save her life.

Collecting these stories made it clearer than ever that those who live and work in the community truly know best how to serve their communities. Local broadcasters' public service to their communities is an outstanding example of the old adage that teaches us that if something's not broken, there's no need to fix it.

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III. Qualitative Research Findings:

"Stories of the Extraordinary Service Washington
Broadcasters Give to their Communities"

As impressive as the public service statistics are, numbers can't always tell the full story. To get the full flavor and depth of the impact that Washington radio and television stations have on the quality of life in their local communities every day, WSAB also conducted in-depth interviews with stations across the state. The result was literally hundreds of stories about how different stations in different communities devote enormous resources - financial and otherwise - to serve the unique needs of their audience. Each community's local needs and circumstances drive Washington broadcasters' public service efforts.

Broadcasters' public service is broad and diverse, and much of what they do never makes it onto the airwaves. Their activities range from helping to provide the most basic human services, such as collecting clothing and canned food for needy families, to keeping kids in school and raising funding for a community greenbelt project.

In between, stations help collect coats and subsistence materials for the homeless, raise money for hundreds of worthy causes and are involved in countless other endeavors, both on and off-the-air. Although the variety of services provided is staggering, and there is no way to catalogue each and every one in something less than an encyclopedic publication, there is a handful of consistent themes that deserve highlighting.


KGMI-AM/KISM-FM in Bellingham focuses its major public service effort in January, February and March each year on children. Their campaign, "KGMI 4 KIDS," selects three organizations that direct their energies toward children and provide those organizations with $30,000 worth of airtime, plus production and studio time to make effective, high quality public service announcements. One of the 1997 beneficiaries of "KGMI 4 KIDS" "Foster Families," a campaign that doubled the number of foster families in Whatcom County last year. In the past three years, KGMI 4 KIDS has benefited the Whatcom Children's Museum, The Royal Family Kids Camp for Abused Children, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Computers for Kids, and the 4-H Club of Whatcom County.

KXLY-TV in Spokane created "MISS SCHOOL, MISS OUT," a school attendance incentives program, in response to an alarming truancy rate at Spokane middle schools. In the beginning, some schools had an absentee rate of more than 15%, more than twice the normal rate. One principal said that fewer than 5 of his students would qualify for an attendance award. In the first year of the program, that same principal had 125 students qualify for an award. The program ran in 22 schools and affected some 3,500 students.

KIRO Radio and KIRO-TV, Seattle, partnered to produce the "FOSTER CHILD HOLIDAY MAGIC" campaign. In five days, the stations raised more than $30,000 in cash and collected more than 40,000 gifts that helped 8,532 foster children have a bright Christmas.

KPLZ-FM, Star 101.5, in Seattle, created the STARLIGHT FOUNDATION to serve the needs of kids with life-threatening illnesses. They make wishes come true. It all started with a concert donated by Kenny G, a golf tournament and an auction. In the last 5 years, the STARLIGHT FOUNDATION has raised over $1 Million. But, more importantly, a lot of kids have found out that life is not so short that dreams can't come true.

Donation Drives

Flooding in Centralia and Chehalis not only left many residents homeless, but when a fire destroyed the local RED CROSS office, KELA-AM/KMNT-FM rallied to the rescue. The stations organized the community and produced an extensive 8-week campaign that raised approximately $25,000 and enabled the RED CROSS to continue operation in a new facility.

"KOZI Bags Groceries" for the local FOOD BANK in Chelan. How do you get the community involved? Get involved in the community. What's more fun than watching your favorite d. j. bagging groceries and taking them out to the car? Maybe watching the police chief, the hospital administrator or the FOOD BANK director. KOZI got everyone involved with a remote broadcast that collected more than $1,500 and hundreds of pounds of food at Christmastime.

A listener, a social worker, contacted KMPS in Seattle. He knew of a single mother of four whom he felt was really trying to keep her family together, but was having problems with some maintenance on her home, which might cause her to have to split up the family. The station featured the story, interviewed the woman and arranged for other listeners, a plumber and an electrician, to bring her home up to code, as the city had demanded. Other listeners donated toys and clothing for the family.

Every year, KOMO-TV and KOMO Radio in Seattle collect donations for "FOOD LIFELINE. Since the program began eight years ago, listeners and viewers have donated more than 4 Million pounds of food and more than $500,000 to help feed hungry people in Western Washington.

There's nothing so heart-wrenching than a child shivering in cold grip of winter. Spokane's KXLY takes advantage of its radio/TV combination to collect, clean and distribute nearly 9,000 coats to needy children every year. The station produces and broadcasts a kick-off blitz of public service announcements in September that promotes the collection of the coats, and another early in October promoting distribution of the coats. The station itself organizes and mobilizes more than 200 volunteers who collect the coats at many locations throughout Spokane, see that they are professionally cleaned, and staff every one of the distribution points to help parents when they come looking for protection from the cold for their youngsters.

Enhancing the Quality of Life in Our Communities

In Seattle, the hometown baseball team's slogan was "Refuse to Lose." KIRO-TV recognized the wealth of public service information for victims of domestic violence, so they decided to target the abusers in an attempt to change their behavior. The station joined with the Seattle Mariners to produce an anti-domestic violence campaign called "REFUSE TO ABUSE." The station produced educational public service announcements featuring several Seattle Mariner star players, and broadcast them heavily throughout their schedule, in addition to placing them in Mariner baseball broadcasts. The team also showed the spots during home games on the Diamond-Vision screen in the Kingdome.

KHQ-TV, Spokane felt so strongly that the United Way project, "SUCCESS BY 6" had made a huge impact in other communities, that the station bought the rights to SUCCESS BY 6 and donated it to the citizens of Spokane. Spokane's SUCCESS BY 6 on KHQ-TV focuses on getting children ready to learn by the time they're six years old. They've created Book Banks that are located in community centers throughout Spokane and every new mother in Spokane County gets a "Parent-Baby Reading Kit" to encourage reading to kids. KHQ-TV has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the acquisition of the project, producing and broadcasting public service announcements promoting SUCCESS BY 6 events, book drives, donation requests and supplying brass bookmarks supporting the entire effort.

The citizens of Yakima wanted a beautiful greenbelt where they could walk, bike, picnic and enjoy the Yakima River in its natural setting. When it was time to raise money to build the GREENWAY, they turned to KAPP-TV and KFFM Radio to spearhead the funding drive. KAPP-TV went to work as the exclusive sponsor of the Rotary Club Duck Race that benefits the GREENWAY, raising more than $125,000 in the past 8 years. KFFM Radio's fundraiser for the GREENWAY is sponsorship and promotion of the "Gap to Gap Relay." They don't just promote the event; they broadcast live all-day and field a team of listeners to compete for prizes. The GREENWAY benefits so many people. It's important; it's a big deal for the people of Yakima.

Not every public service provided by a station involves life and death situations. Dick Pust, morning host and station manager of KGY-AM/FM, Olympia, has been helping his listeners develop and maintain their own sense of community for more than 31 years. Almost every single morning, Dick has community leaders and regular listeners on his show talking about public service or community activities that need tending to. The local Sweet Adelines plug their annual benefit show and sing a song live; the community gets to know the princesses from Olympia's Lakefair civic celebration, one princess a day, all morning long; Police Officer Ken Carlson talks about traffic, the location of the police speed radar for the day and gives a safety tip; local African-American ministers celebrate Black History Month. Dick says that it's not something he promotes; people just seem to know, if you want to get the word out or need help, he's available and so is his radio station.

In Time of Crisis

By August 25, 1994, the second largest fire disaster in the history of Washington State had scorched more than 135,000 acres of Chelan County. KOZI-AM/FM, Chelan, expanded its coverage as the month-long emergency worsened. At its peak, the station stayed on the air 24 hours a day for 14 straight days, staffed by all 15 full and part-time employees, bolstered by 10 former employees. In addition to broadcasting the news and advisories in both English and Spanish, the station was the news source, fire spotter, community bulletin board, and relief effort coordinator. At one point, 200 servings of food walked in the door at the Red Cross Center, and hundreds of plastic jugs of drinking water for firefighters appeared along South Shore Road, after the station put out the word.

In the midst of the worst ice storm of the century, KXLY-AM found itself the only conduit for news and information in Spokane in November, 1996. Newspapers could neither publish nor deliver and power outages kept nearly all of the other radio and TV stations off-the-air. KXLY Radio threw out all regular programming and provided continuous news, safety tips, and information. The station acted as lifeline for more than 100,000 people without power who needed supplies or had to reach someone in an emergency. Often, the station connected people with the resources they needed over the air.

Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

KING-TV in Seattle worked with the University of Washington School of Medicine to produce a series of spots promoting CPR CLASSES. Thousands of viewers called to sign up for the classes, but one man did not. He was fishing and saw a fallen senior citizen surrounded by onlookers. He responded by giving the man CPR and saved the man's life. But he had never had any CPR training; he had learned what to do from the KING-TV PSA!

No organization is more in need of a good, persuasive sales piece than a charity. KAPP-TV in Yakima did not support UNITED WAY by only producing local spots and broadcasting a heavy schedule of UNITED WAY PSAs on-the-air. The station also produced a presentation video for UNITED WAY'S volunteers to take with them on solicitation calls to Yakima businesses. It provided UNITED WAY with the key tool to reach its annual fundraising goal.

When the news anchors at KHQ-TV saw their counterparts at the Oklahoma City NBC station wearing blue ribbons to express their sympathy for the victims of the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing, they decided to do the same. Beginning with the 4:30 p.m. newscast, they told their Spokane viewers why. Immediately, the station's phone lines were jammed with viewers wanting to know where they, too, could get a blue ribbon. At 5 o'clock the station began handing out blue ribbons to every person who donated $1 to the RED CROSS. In less than a day and a half, the station had raised more than $100,000 for the RED CROSS relief efforts in Oklahoma City (and they had cleaned out the blue ribbon supply in Spokane).

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