Proposed state budget cuts will likely leave WNCW with about $200,000 less — and facing staff cuts — in the coming year. The popular area radio station is launching a major fund drive next weekend to try and make up some of the loss.
“This is going to be a really painful blow. The station has never been through anything like this where funding is concerned,” General Manager Dana Whitehair told Xpress. “I don’t begrudge the state — they’ve had to make some really hard decisions. Now we’re in a situation where I have to make some hard choices and the staff of WNCW has to make some hard choices and our members and our listeners who have never been members have to make some choices about supporting us.”
The radio station, whose license is held by Isothermal Community College in Spindale, was one of three community college radio stations to still receive funds from the state. Legislators, however, facing tight times, put the funds on the chopping block. WNCW’s coverage reaches throughout the region.
Whitehair said that most of the money goes to fund full-time staff.
“That’s where it’s going to hurt,” he said. “I have almost no question we’re going to lose staff temporarily.”
Next weekend’s fundraiser will have the goal of “replacing as much of that $201,000 as possible, but my larger goal is to try to use this unfortunate situation to retool station’s development efforts to sustain replacing that $201,000. Being able to replace it for a year will be a challenge. Replacing it for years to come will be a greater challenge.”
To that end, Whitehair said that WNCW will look at expanding business underwriting.
“We’ve had a very loyal base, but it’s been a very small number,” he noted. “It used to be much larger. Over the years it’s dwindled a bit, but we’re trying to build that back up. We’re targeting businesses both large and small to be in this for the long haul.”
What he says isn’t an option, however, is losing what he sees as WNCW’s independence and level of quality.
“Even with that $201,000 it was an extraordinary challenge,” Whitehair said. “I’ve worked in public radio stations for 30 years. WNCW is a priceless gem, most major cities don’t have anything like this. I can’t count the times I’ve heard people wish they had something like it in their town. This is an extraordinary station. No matter how this falls out, what the funding situation is, I see it my job to keep that gem alive.”
—David Forbes, staff writer