Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got 'till it's gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
These words from Joni Mitchell’s 1970s hit song Big Yellow Taxi are as true today as they were then. However, when you look at the words from another perspective, Mitchell is saying You Took Me For Granted, Now I am Leaving.
This is certainly the case with WSHA-FM, the historic Raleigh noncom radio station that was sold last week to the Educational Media Foundation (EMF). The sale brought out angst from local press coverage calling it “a heartbreak,” “ a sour note,” “listeners mourn,” and “destroying history.” But, the truth is, WSHA was very poorly operated and served only a handful of people.
Shaw University, the licensee of WSHA, was the nation’s first historically black university to own a CPB-supported public radio station. WSHA signed on in 1968 and became eligible for CPB funds in the late 1980s. Since then the university and the community took the station for granted and it rested on its laurels.
Shaw University announced the sale on Monday 3/25. The amount has not been disclosed. The FCC must approve the sale, which is expected. Shaw officials said the reason for the sale is an ongoing overhaul the school’s Department of Mass Communications to put greater emphasis on training students for jobs involving digital media.
Disappointed WSHA folks are conducting a petition campaign [link] to block the sale or get the university to change its mind. WSHA’s programming will continue on the online. When we last checked, over 2,000 people had signed the petition.
The truth is that WSHA barely had a pulse.
According to a CPB Compliance Report on the station’s website only 9% of WSHA’s revenue came from members in FY 2016.
As you can see in the chart on the left, almost 70% of WSHA’s operating revenue came from the university and rental fees generated by WSHA’s tower.
Shaw University is NOT selling the tower.
|Image courtesy Google Maps|
“ONE HELLUVA TOWER”
Back on the 1990’s Shaw built a new tower near the intersection of two major freeways, a very, very smart move.
Not only did the 500-foot tower on Granite Ridge give WSHA one of the best coverage patterns in the market, because of its location it became a magnet site for cell phone providers.
In a perfect world WSHA’s tower could have been a building block for an exceptional public radio station.
The signal upgrade had little impact on WSHA’s ratings. On the left is Nielsen Audio’s February 2018 PPM numbers.
In the last survey that WSHA bought in November 2017, the station had an AQH share of 0.4% and approximately 30,000 weekly listeners.
Also note in the ratings, the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill market also has a Jazz music station, WNCU, based in Durham.
RHODE ISLAND PUBLIC RADIO WILL NOT BE FORCED TO KEEP LATINO PUBLIC RADIO ON THE AIR
In Providence, after a couple of zigs and zags, Latino Public Radio (LPR) will end broadcasting on WRNI 1290 AM at the end of March. LPR has been involved in a noisy break-up with Rhode Island Public Radio (RIPR). RIPR gave birth to LPR in the early 2000’s and provided support for the station despite heavy financial losses.
When RIPR announced late in 2017 that it could no longer afford to subsidize LPR, they received heavy flack from members of the LPR staff.
One staff member, Reynaldo Almonte, threatened to force RIPR to continue it's largess because of Rhode Island’s unique “Public Radio Conversions Act.”
The Act, passed by the state’s legislature in 2004, prevents the sale of a non-profit public radio station to a private, for-profit or commercial organization.
Use of Act became a moot point when LPR realized it didn’t qualify because:
1. LPR is not a “public radio station,” it is an organization that rented the facility and once had a chance to purchase it.
2. RIPR has owned, and still owns the FCC license for 1290 AM.
3. Rhode Island’s “Public Radio Conversions Act” is likely unconstitutional.
The lesson is that even though people say You can’t sell your business and we will force you to continue operating it at a loss, in reality it can’t be done. LPR had a cozy situation for a long time, but now it should focus it’s attention on successfully operating an online site.