KPRL is a small AM radio station in Paso Robles. They pride themselves in broadcasting news, talk and sports across the northern part of San Luis Obispo County. And for about 50 years, KPRL broadcast football games for the Paso Robles High School Bearcats.
“There's something about a high school football game that you know involves a lot of people in the community,” KPRL News Director Dick Mason, said. “And radio is part of that whole production.”
Over the summer, he received a new contract from the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District.
“Radio stations would have to pay the school district $100 per game to broadcast the Bearcat football game,” the contract said.
This didn’t sit well with Mason. He says the station never had to pay to broadcast any games in the decades they’ve been airing Bearcat games.
“One person commented, you know, this is not the Olympics,” Mason said. “This is a high school football we’re talking about. Quite frankly it's not really a money making thing. You know if a station breaks even on this then you know they feel good about it. It's a way to connect with the community.”
Paso Robles District Superintendent Chris Williams said the new contract came about because in the past two years, two stations, KPRL and KJUG, broadcast the games. And they both wanted space in their broadcast booth atop the grandstands.
“The opportunity was to have guaranteed rights to the broadcast booth during the football season,” Williams.
Williams said the contract gives the district a chance to ensure the stations have insurance. And it would give the district a way to involve students in the broadcasting of the games. Williams also questioned whether or not the stations that did broadcast actually make profit on the games.
“Actually, although I don’t speak for KPRL,” Williams said, “There are numerous rates they charge to advertise that goes directly to the radio station and not to the district. Do you have any comment on that?”
Dave Goren is the Executive Director of the National Sports Media Association. He said guaranteed rights for broadcasting booths is not common for high school sports.
“For major college and professional, there’s usually rights fees associated with broadcasting games. So that would be very common,” Goren said. “Extremely rare on the high school level, with the exception being some tournament games and championship games.”
Goren said most high schools should be thankful for the coverage.
“High schools typically do not get coverage, and certainly do not get it to extent that major colleges and professionals do,” Goren said.
As of this school year, both KPRL and KJUG have stopped broadcasting Bearcat football games. They’ve both moved on to broadcasting other local high school football games.
The Voice of Paso, an internet-only radio station in Paso Robles, agreed to the terms of the new contract.
In an email to KCBX, Steve Martin from the Voice of Paso said he saw KPRL’s announcement on Facebook it would no longer be airing the games. So he contacted District Superintendent Williams about the possibility of carrying them on Voice of Paso.
Martin said the Voice of Paso agreed to the payment because it seemed reasonable, and he was confident he could find advertisers to cover the cost the district now charges for the broadcast booth.
The Bearcats’ next game is on Friday against the Sierra Canyon High School Trailblazers. The Voice of Paso will broadcast the away game from Chatsworth at its website, voiceofpaso.com.