Thursday, March 17, 2011

WCBN Fundraiser and the fabled power increase

Dear John, I guess it's been a long time since I last wrote. The thing is, I have something to tell you. It's WCBN's annual on-air fund drive, and they really need money.

You might have heard WCBN talking about increasing its transmitter power. It seems like a long time since they first mentioned that. In fact, it's only been two years, but this is a process that can't happen overnight.

First, the station needed to conduct a feasibility analysis. With only zero full-time paid staff, and a part-time engineer, this was not a job that WCBN could do itself. It had to hire a firm, and that cost a lot of money.

Then, once the study was complete, an application to the FCC had to be submitted. Once again, the firm was called upon to carry out this task. The application might have been submitted sooner, but in the year between the feasibility study and the application, WCBN lost its only paid employee, a half-time engineer. This slowed the station down, impeding its actions, communication with the firm, and appropriation of the necessary fees, but nonetheless, an application was submitted to the FCC for a power increase. This application also cost thousands of dollars in fees.

At this point in the story we have just arrived at 2010. The application was approved, but WCBN was still a long way from seeing permission to effect a power increase transform into the purchase of a 3000 watt transmitter (tens of thousands of dollars), the purchase of a compatible antenna (thousands of dollars) and the construction of a taller tower on the top of U of Michigan's Dennison Building (thousands of dollars, permission to build, god knows what else.)

It is now 2011. The permission slip to increase WCBN's power, if nothing is done, will expire at the end of 2012. We don't plan on doing nothing. We have a new engineer. We are negotiating with U of M for placement of the new tower, transmitter and antenna. It is likely that we will have to move them to a different U of M building, in which case we will have to submit a re-application to the FCC for transmitter relocation. This is likely to be approved, but...have you guessed what I'm going to say next? It's going to cost us more money.

The point of this is to respond to questions some DJs have received from listeners regarding our past discussion of the new transmitter (an oversimplification in terms) and assure the public that we have every intention of following through on our plans to increase our power. However, Rome wasn't built in a day, and this process- without multiple paid professionals working at WCBN full-time- will take us until the deadline. We will have to apply for grants, loans, whatever is available, and in the meantime, we will keep appealing to our listeners for donations.

Our fund-drive raises somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 annually. That's enough for our usual overhead. It will never be enough on its own for the power increase, but that doesn't subtract from WCBN's daily dependence on your generosity for the station's operations. Please stay with us, and help us continue to produce the programming you crave every day for another year.


WCBN Program Director and host of Tight Pants