Proposed state budget cuts will probably slash about $200,000 from WNCW's budget for the coming year, leaving the station facing staff cuts. The popular local public-radio station is launching a major fund drive to try to 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."
WNCW, whose license is held by Isothermal Community College in Spindale, was one of three community-college radio stations still receiving funds from the state. Facing tight times, however, legislators put that money on the chopping block. WNCW's coverage extends throughout the mountain region.
Most of the money, said Whitehair, pays for full-time staff. "That's where it's going to hurt," he noted. "I have almost no question we're going to lose staff temporarily."
The upcoming 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 the station's development efforts to sustain replacing that $201,000," said Whitehair. "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, he said, WNCW will look at expanding business underwriting.
"We've had a very loyal base, but it's been a very small number," he said. "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 isn't an option, however, is losing the station's independence and level of quality, said Whitehair. "Even with that $201,000, it was an extraordinary challenge. 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."