Delmarva Public Radio gets offer of support

Salisbury University proposes changes
February 27, 2013

Salisbury University’s president is offering Delmarva Public Radio a new home and continued financial support if organizations not affiliated with the school help support stations WSCL-FM and WSDL-FM.

News of the university’s offer came following a Feb. 14 meeting of Salisbury University Foundation’s public radio advisory committee.

The foundation owns licenses for both stations, but under the proposal from University President Janet Dudley-Eshbach, that would change. She is asking the foundation to transfer license ownership to the university. The transfer could take 60 to 90 days to complete.

“This would give campus leadership day-to-day responsibility for DPR operations and, in turn, provide the stations access to more resources and expertise in areas such as management, budgeting and marketing,” Dudley-Eshbach said in a Feb. 14 press release.

The university would explore partnerships that would enable transferring day-to-day operations and costs to another operator while keeping license ownership. “A goal in identifying a partnership will be to keep a portion of local programming content.

Under the proposal, WSCL’s classical music format would continue, and the university would operate WSDL in its news-focused format with local and national coverage.

The university, however, would explore partnerships with other news-oriented public stations as part of plans to lower costs, university’s press release said.

The university is also asking Friends of Delmarva Public Radio, a vocal grassroots advocate of the stations, to contribute at least $250,000 a year to support station operations and to assist with fundraising.

If approved by the foundation board, the proposal calls for relocating the stations near the East Campus Complex outreach facilities such as the Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History and Culture and the Small Business and Technology Development Center.

The move would take place this summer before Delmarva Public Radio’s present location, Caruthers Hall, is demolished to make way for a new library. The teardown, which had been scheduled for May, would be delayed to give the station time to relocate and setup for broadcast.

Tom Hehman, chairman of the board of directors of the Salisbury branch of Friends of Delmarva Public Radio, said he thinks the group will be able to raise $250,000 a year.

But he said in a Feb. 21 interview, “Fundraising is based on having a clear understanding of where the whole enterprise is going before people will support it.”

John Mateyko, a spokesman for the Lewes Friends of Delmarva Public Radio, said the proposal represents

a turnaround by the university. He said $250,000 looks like a manageable sum for the organization to raise. But, he said, it remains unclear how the university’s accounting determined the stations have been losing money for years.

Mateyko said three men who served at various times as Delmarva Public Radio station managers, filed signed documents with the Federal Communication Commission stating the operation had always been in the black.

“That needs to be resolved; the devil is in the details,” he said.

But the university furnished details. According to Salisbury University Foundation audited figures, Delmarva Public Radio lost money for 16 years; it operated 9 years without losses.

Delmarva Public Radio currently owes nearly $300, 000 according to the foundation. Debts include:

$ 83,000 past due to NPR; $ 42,300 due NPR, Friday, March 1; $ 35,600 unrelated to NPR; and a $133,000 loan from Salisbury University Foundation in 2010.

Hehman said he tried to review Delmarva Public Radio’s financial records but found them confusing. “Anyway, finances of the past can be argued about. The university and friends are looking at moving forward,” he said.

It will cost an estimated $400,000 to $555,000 to relocate the station and buy new equipment.

The university proposes to pay up to an estimated $125,000 to erect a temporary tower for WSCL at the new location, while looking for a permanent tower site.

WSCL’s transmitter, in Seaford, and WSDL’s transmitter, in Roxana, would be replaced by the university at an estimated cost of $75,000 to $125,000 each.

The university plans to hire someone with public radio experience to assist it in developing a business plan for the stations and to assist in hiring a station manager.

The station manager would be responsible for assessing performance and would make staffing recommendations for the university to consider. The school would work with the station manager to ensure staffing is within budget including people with expertise to expand fundraising.

The university would be responsible for paying Delmarva Public Radio’s estimated $250,000 annual operating cost.

“WSCL-FM and its new station manager will intentionally partner with Salisbury University’s Communication Arts Department and other academic departments,” the proposal states.

The proposal goes on: “This will allow more of our students to learn the radio business and programming, allow local broadcast of a variety of cultural arts events, lectures, etc., directly from SU, and better align the station with the mission of the university.”

After three years, the status of both stations will be assessed, and if Friends of Delmarva Public Radio has not raised enough money, the university may consider selling the stations.

If you go:

On Wednesday, March 6, Salisbury University Foundation’s public radio committee will meet to formally approve university president Janet Dudley-Eshbach’s proposal to transfer WSCL-FM and WSDL-FM Federal Communication Commission licenses from the foundation to the university.

Also on March 6, the radio committee will present its decision about the proposal at Salisbury University Foundation’s board meeting, and the full foundation board would then vote on it. Voting portions of both meetings are open to the public. The meetings will probably be scheduled back-to-back in late afternoon, however, a time and location had not been established at press time.


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