Cape Gazette
http://capegazette.villagesoup.com/p/964330

Heart and soul of public radio on the line

By Pete Simon | Feb 20, 2013

As it turns out, there are some positive developments for Delmarva Public Radio.

Salisbury University is giving itself three years to figure out what to do with public radio assets. Along with classical music on WSCL, let’s hope that WSDL can hold on to at least some of its local reporting effort, hopefully paving the way to eventually become a showcase for news on Delmarva which can augment what is currently available from other news sources.

Let’s hope there will be great opportunities for student interns, journalists, web designers, marketers, underwriting representatives, and student programming streamed on-line and over an HD-2 or 3 signal (if this requires a partnership between university and student government revenues, so be it; it would increase the sense of ownership and better involvement, all around). It can be a “win-win” for students, and the university’s ability to attract more students and income.

As for contacting the governors of Maryland and Delaware, that doesn’t hurt, but the effort is a bit misplaced and should be headed for Congressional representatives. The three-year window at SU also provides some time for something else to be sorted out: how the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) chooses to deal with the crowded public radio dial on Delmarva. While major market stations WAMU, WYPR, and WHRO have set up shop on Delmarva, the ability for small market stations like WSCL, WSDL, and WESM to compete for support dollars is greatly diminished, unless CPB does something to help the local stations. Congressional inquiry can make that happen. I think the heart and soul of public radio is on the line.

CPB doesn’t have the money to adequately fund all CPB-qualified stations around the country and it has to make a game-changing decision. Do they jettison or dramatically reduce funding to major market stations, with ample business underwriting opportunities and large listener support bases, and direct more funding to smaller market stations with less fundraising potential?

Or, will CPB stay on its current course of funding all stations piecemeal, thus ensuring that smaller market stations will find it harder and harder to survive, paving the way for major market stations to waltz in and take over the smaller stations? Hopefully, the concept of localism and having small market stations thriving to provide a training ground for emerging talent will win out.

SU is showing some good faith with its three-year timeframe. During that time, let’s hope that SU officials will weigh in on CPB funding priorities, and the glut of public stations which exist in the 140th radio market in the country. Such involvement by SU, and the Friends of Delmarva Public Radio, will help set the stage for the CPB system as a whole. The clock is ticking.

Pete Simon
Arvada/Denver, Colo., Delaware native

worked at WSEA/WJWL, Georgetown, and with public radio from 1979 to 2011

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