Friends’ group proposes that university continue to subsidize Delmarva Public Radio

By Ben Mook

A group of local boosters looking to take over operations of Delmarva Public Radio’s two public radio stations submitted a bid last week that outlined their proposal to preserve the stations’ existing formats, but the Salisbury University Foundation has postponed any decisions on the future of WSDL in Ocean City, Md., and WSCL in Salisbury.

During its regular quarterly meeting on Dec. 5, directors of the foundation did not discuss or vote on bids submitted by organizations seeking to operate the stations, according to Jason Curtin, interim executive director. The foundation is an affiliate of Salisbury University that holds broadcast licenses for the two stations.

“We are not going to rush into any decisions,” Curtin said. “And, the board felt it’s just not at the point yet to make a decision.”

The proposal from Friends of Delmarva Public Radio, which was not publicly released, calls for the university to continue providing studio space and funding for the stations for the next few years, according to the Salisbury Daily Times.

The friends group and the university would set aside up to $500,000 to move the station’s studios from their present location on campus — in a building  slated for demolition next year, the Daily Times reported. “The university needs to front that money, and we will do everything we can do to pay them back,” said Tom Hehman, head of Friends of Delmarva Public Radio. The group also would provide volunteers to help run the station, but would hire a new general manager. The previous g.m., Michael Dunn,  left in November.

“We appreciate the opportunity to sit down with them,” Curtain said, referring to the friends group, “and we are considering their offer along with others.” He declined to identify other organizations that submitted proposals.

The foundation, which has covered losses at the stations for the past few years, hired consultants from Public Radio Capital earlier this year to study its options for shoring up operations of WSDL, an NPR news/talk station that’s lost audience since Baltimore’s WYPR and Washington’s WAMU extended their signals to Maryland’s Eastern shore. The sister station in Salisbury broadcasts classical music.

PRC recommended that the university negotiate a public service operating agreement with another public broadcaster, an arrangement that would allow the foundation to retain ownership of the stations without having to subsidize them.  PRC also proposed that WSCL drop NPR news programs, a change that prompted local listeners to organize a bid to preserve the locally based NPR news service.

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