It's time to act on Delmarva Public Radio
The initial optimism expressed by all parties over the fate of public interest broadcasting on Delmarva Public Radio has faded. The good-will expectation that the matter could be quietly resolved by business-like negotiations between Salisbury University (and its associated Salisbury University Foundation) has all but evaporated. There is no longer evident progress or promise in such quiet engagement.
The time for more public engagement has arrived.
The university president, Dr. Janet Dudley-Eschbach, has stonewalled public involvement and conducted a totally non-transparent process. This may well violate the open meetings requirement of the state of Maryland and the Federal Communications Act.
More substantively, it defies the reality that the university is the minority stakeholder in the radio stations and cannot unilaterally decide their fate in some dark, non-public process. Because the majority investment in the stations is held by the community and taxpayers, we need the sunlight of open, public meetings at play here.
The state of Delaware, the state of Maryland, and the federal government have invested, over the past 25 years, hundreds of thousands of dollars in public interest broadcasting on Delmarva because it is a valuable educational, cultural and economic development asset.
The community is also heavily invested. Over the 25-year history of public interest broadcasting on Delmarva, the university has invested some $2.4 million in cash in its operation as part of its community education mission (and without complaint until the arrival of the current university president).
Over the same period, local businesses and cultural arts organizations have invested over $4 million in its operation, and listener contributors have added $7.1 million - all figures provided by the Salisbury University Foundation itself.
Thus, the Delmarva community has provided over $11.1 million cash (with, according to financial records, about one-third of it from the Lewes-Rehoboth area alone) compared to the university’s $2.4 million cash.
Yet, the university has provided, to date, no voice to the community regarding the future of this considerable community investment. The university has a due diligence and fiduciary obligation to do so.
It is time for elected leaders of both states to step into this process to insist that the process become transparent to the public and press to ensure that the public interest in public broadcasting is protected.
This will be the topic of discussion at the community meeting sponsored by the Lewes-Rehoboth Friends of Delmarva Public Radio that will take place at the Lewes Public Library, at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 29.