Clear Channel, Cumulus and their commercial radio brethren are not the only ones facing economic hard times right now. While public radio in general may be doing better, it’s not necessarily the case for individual stations.
The most recent example is Southampton, NY’s WLIU which is being put up for sale by Long Island University (via Current). It seems that the U is tired of ponying up some $1.3 million of the stations total annual budget of $2.4 million.
Admittedly that’s a pretty hefty bill for any university to foot in order to keep a station on air, even if it is valued community resource. But I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t costs that can be cut (besides salaries). Dropping Car Talk alone could save a pretty hefty chunk of change. Apparently LIU attempted to find another local non profit to take over the station and found no takers, so now it’s off to the auction block while the staff try to find a way to raise enough money to buy it.
My biggest concern for when a university or college stations goes up for sale is the strong possibility that it will be snatched up by one of the big Christian broadcasters, which never seem to suffer the same cash flow problems as institutions of higher education. The transfer tends to be accompanied by a quick loss of news and local public service programming, replaced by satellite-fed proselytizing and “family friendly” music that is programmed to sound like Clear Channel-lite.
Perhaps the staff of WLIU will have more luck if they can re-imagine the station as something closer to a community/public hybrid, retaining some core national programing while opening up more airtime to local volunteers. That may be one way to drum up more local financing, especially at a time when local service in radio is otherwise at an all-time low. I wish them luck and I’m hoping that the people of Long Island are able to retain this public service broadcaster.
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