Public radio personalities spend day in Waynesville

By Vicki Hyatt | Apr 14, 2017
David Feingold

The Waynesville community had a chance to get all the questions they had about public radio answered last week when officials from WCQS and Blue Ridge Public Radio News spent a day here.

David Feingold, general manager and CEO of the National Public Radio (NPR) affiliates based in Asheville, met with Haywood Chamber of Commerce members for breakfast, held a community advisory board meeting at lunch and spent the early evening visiting with supporters during an event held at the Haywood Regional Arts Theater.

Part of the information concerned the corporation's new, all-news channel, Blue Ridge Public Radio News, which features the same popular news shows offered on WCQS in the early morning and early evening, but offers additional news programming as its sister station switches to classical music. The new station came on the air in early March.

Matt Bush, who formerly worked at a NPR station in Washington, D.C., is the news director, and is joined by veteran local reporters Jeremy Loeb and Helen Chickering, who went from part-time to full-time. In addition to the expanded local news, BPR News features segments from British Broadcasting Corporation and other NPR offerings.

Western North Carolina Public Radio, Inc. operates Blue Ridge Public Radio and its two stations — WCQS and BPR News. The stations are licensed and owned by the community.

The stations' most recent budget was $2.2 million, Feingold said, with and half that amount covered by listeners. Sponsors make up about 30 percent of the budget and a federal grant for $226,000 comprises about 10 percent of the budget

The grant is through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,  a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. President Trump's proposed budget has eliminated funding for the program.

Support for public broadcasting constitutes 1/100th of 1 percent of the federal budget, Feingold said, and 70 percent of the voters approve of the program.

Feingold told Chamber members the fact-based format of public radio has served listeners well through the years.

"Its independent, responsible and serious reporting has made a difference," he said, and has resulted in WCQS becoming  the No. 1 station in the Asheville metropolitan market and a solid No. 2 in the broader region (behind KISS Country) that includes parts of South Carolina.

Nielson Company data showed WCQS had 110,000 listeners a week, Fiengold said, adding BPR News is too new to know how many listeners there are yet.

"NPR has had its best year yet," he said. "People are seeking quality journalism and responsible media organizations that put things in context."

In a later interview, Fiengold said while losing the CPB grant would be hard, it wouldn't cripple the Western North Carolina effort nearly as badly as it would other rural stations around the nation.

Losing the $226,000 Congressional grant would mean the station would have to raise about $391,000 in additional funding annually by the time extra costs that would have to be contributed to the affiliate were counted in, Feingold explained.

"Ten percent of a budget is a lot of money," Feingold said of the proposed cut. "It wouldn't put us out of business, but it would be steady money we could no longer rely on."

Haywood County listeners can pick up WCQS on the FM frequencies 88.1 or 89.7. BPR News can be heard at 98.3.