WCQS board members listening a report from the finance committee at a recent board meeting. Photo by Bill Rhodes
It seems the dark days for Asheville’s public radio station may be getting a little lighter. A recent board meeting of the station highlighted some results from the efforts of the current executive director, Jody Evans. “Our ratings,” Evans says, “even though that is not what public radio is chasing, since we don’t have advertisers, are up. And that shows what we are doing works for our listeners. And that is what we do in public radio.”
Their books are showing more black these days too, and the accountants who have examined them are quite satisfied the numbers are sound. It is no secret that WCQS struggled, as did many non-profits during the past couple of lean years, especially arts-based organizations. WCQS encountered a perfect storm with a change in leadership at the height of the great recession, some long-term financial issues, and some changes in programming which some did not like. A group calling itself the Ad Hoc Committee for Responsive Public Radio went so far as to challange the licence renewal for WCQS on the basis of a number of allegations of wrongdoing which go back further than the current leadership of the station.
Their complaint to the FCC has forced the station to hire a Washington, DC-based attorney who specializes in cases before the FCC, which are federal court cases. The FCC has acknowledged the complaint and both sides are awaiting a hearing date. The Ad Hoc Committee for Responsive Public Radio has demanded the station respond to them, but under advice of council, the station is not in a position to do so. The station actually owns three licenses, two of which have been renewed by the FCC — the repeaters — only the main WCQS license has not yet been renewed.
The audience data from Arbitron shows a clear upward trend for the station. Along with the number two spot in the public radio per-capita sector (one higher than Evan’s previous station, Vermont Public Radio) the station holds a strong number two position in local radio ratings behind only KISS-FM.
Evans also announced a new community-based programming intuitive already underway with 5th grade students at Issac Dickson Elementary School, This I believe. The station plans to expand that effort.