Listeners asked to support DPR
Recently, Salisbury University President Janet Dudley-Eshbach proposed to the Public Radio Committee of the SU Foundation Inc. and to members of its full board that the licenses of Delmarva Public Radio be transferred from the foundation to the university. With the proposed license transfer came a very generous offer from the president to relocate the stations to new space on East Campus, and to replace their outdated equipment, transmitters and tower.
The committee and the foundation have enthusiastically accepted her proposal. This will remove any physical impediment to keeping the stations operating after their current studios in Caruthers Hall close, when the site of that building is cleared for construction of a new Academic Commons and library.
Such a commitment by the president is valued between $500,000 and $1 million. In addition, she has pledged $250,000 for the next fiscal year for annual operations. These numbers are remarkable for several reasons: Some universities across the country, including those with resources greater than SU’s, are selling their public radio stations because of financial pressures. SU is experiencing these same pressures. According to the Maryland Fiscal Year 2013 Budget, Salisbury ranks at the bottom of University System of Maryland campuses in combined revenues from state funds and tuition and fees per full time equivalent student. Yet, over the last quarter century, SU has been the largest single donor to DPR, giving $5 million in direct and indirect support.
Dr. Dudley-Eshbach has been committed to community outreach throughout her presidency. She and others hope that by linking the stations more closely to academic programs and campus cultural offerings, DPR can play a greater role in the education of students and, at the same time, attract even more listeners. I believe she deserves the thanks and support of the community for making such a commitment. A classical music lover and a trained musician, she has long been a public radio supporter, only asking, as any responsible executive would, that the stations be fiscally accountable.
Operating a public radio station is not cheap. DPR’s annual expenses equal roughly $1 million, with NPR programming accounting for about a quarter of that.
Increasingly, public radio stations nationwide are confronted with a difficult media marketplace. At one time there were only two area public radio stations broadcasting; now, according to NPR, there are nine located on the Eastern Shore, and another 10 that can be heard on Delmarva. New technologies, including the Internet, have made music and news from around the globe readily available. Such developments have seriously impacted DPR listenership. According to Arbitron ratings, in 2009 the DPR stations had some 50,000 listeners. By 2011, the number had dropped to some 27,000.
Throughout the years, regardless of ratings, SU Foundation board members have been generous supporters of DPR. These men and women have shown a remarkable concern for the stations and for university students. In the past year, members of the Public Radio Committee and the university have been meeting with experts and holding public discussions as to the most responsible course to follow, while remaining fair to all. For so many years, foundation members, particularly those on the Public Radio Committee, have been tireless in their efforts, not only in dealing with current challenges, but in their advocacy and leadership on behalf of DPR. These volunteers are unsung heroes and also deserve our thanks.
Neither they nor the university, however, can guarantee the future of DPR. If it is to survive, a downward slide in listenership must reverse and support from the greater community must expand, in deed as well as word. The stations must be fiscally solid. Those of us who say DPR is important to the community need to demonstrate our commitment by writing checks, volunteering and encouraging our friends and family to listen. Now is the moment of truth for DPR listeners.
If DPR is to continue, please consider a donation today by visiting www.publicradiodelmarva.net and contributing to its upcoming fund drive. The futures of the radio stations depend upon it.
W. Richard Holloway Jr.
chair, Delmarva Public Radio Committee
Salisbury University Foundation Inc.