Monday, February 16, 2009

Week In Review 02.16

Well, it's time for another week in review - this is a tad extended, since I haven't much to review thanks to the WXPN winter Fund Drive.

From February 3 until the lucky date of Friday, February 13, WXPN put aside its normal business in order to raise money to stay solvent. This is the bane of public broadcasting - to be supported by the public. The public that has been trained to believe that all television and radio programs are free for the taking; for TV all one needs is electricity and a television set. For radio, a pair of AA batteries and a transistor radio is all it takes to get the service into your ears.

What many people sorta know, but perhaps don't quite truly appreciate, is that in commercial radio the sacrifice for that 'free' entertainment service is that you are bombarded with commercials - up to 20 minutes of ads per hour on some stations! Even the king of Philly radio (KYW 1060) now tells you the time by saying "it's 7:30am, time to get a cup of coffee and danish at Dunkin Donuts". Everything is for sale at a commercial station - that's the nature of the beast.

At a public radio station - we rely on the support of those that listen. Statistically, only one in 10 actually give something to a public radio station. Basically, what that means is that almost 90% of those listening, don't support. Grant it - some simply cannot. I get that. But, after 20 years of working in public broadcasting, I am baffled by how many people listen daily - but never even THINK of giving.

A year membership to WXPN is $50, less than a buck a week. For some reason it just doesn't sink in how important that gift is to the lifeblood of the station they listen to daily. If everyone listening pledged just that one gift, we wouldn't even need to be begging for dollars all the time - the support would be constant.

Now some don't give for personal reasons; be they political or programming or perhaps old grudges around past formats. I respect that to a degree - but chances are those that are 'pissed' at the station, probably aren't listening to it. However I think the majority of those that don't give, feel that their gift - no matter the amount - just isn't important.

I believe that because the fund drive shows it.

The drive is quite encompassing of a production; not only on a technical basis, but an emotional one as well. You have hosts talking for days on end - basically repeating the same message over and over and over and you have the staff and production that it takes to produce a drive. The army of volunteers to take the pledges, the network of restaurants that donate food to feed said army and the team of production that has to staff the control boards, so that the hosts can be in the phone room pitching for support.

The station basically interrupts its normal format to beg for dollars - and slowly; one call at a time; people call in to support. What is that process? What makes someone finally pick up the phone and call? There were hours when the phones were far quieter than we would have liked - and then a host would say something and BAM! The phones would light up!

What did they say? They said the same thing that they have been saying since the start. That unique process to get into people's mind and make them understand that their 'simple' gift to XPN is vital to our survival is a process that - even after 20 years of fund drives - I still don't quite get. It's a technique that is draining for all parties and one I wish we could avoid.

I've talked to personal friends that go on-and-on about how much they 'love' XPN, and love my program etc - but yet, when asked, they sheepishly admit that they are not a member of the station; figuring (wrongly) that it was either too expensive or that their donation wasn't really needed.

Have you ever been one of those listeners - one that hadn't given but all of the sudden did? I'm curious to know that process that led you to call your station and support it.

I suppose I wish that there was a simple way to reach out to those listeners of XPN that aren't members and explain to them - just one time - that, now more than ever, their membership gift is vital to our mission.

Anyway - that was the brunt of my week+ in review ... I did get a chance to see a show - which I will post about seperately.

Happy President's Day!

(BTW - if interested, to support WXPN, follow this secure link)

1 comment:

brandy101 said...

Hi -

I hope the fundraiser went well.

Since I am still out here, I donate each year to my alma mater*s college station - the one that was a huge part of my life for 4 years, and to which I still listen and learn.

I recall RUNNING the fundraiser - also a phone-athon - back in my day. Our big production part was to get donations of free food to feed the call takers for each shift.

I am not a member of our local NPR station, but *I* don't listen to it often, whereas hubby is devoted to it (drivetime commutes, mostly). I think maybe I will get him a membership for his birthday this year!