After lots of documents, conversations, and negotiations, we will most likely have a closing this week on the sale of our “small frequencies” – 91.3 and 88.7 – and they will cease to broadcast the classical programming that we refer to as WBNI. When you turn the dial to those numbers (we don’t really turn the dial much anymore, do we?) you will hear the programming of the new owners, Star Media. We hope this acquisition helps them achieve their mission in the world. We know some of our listeners are going to be disappointed, but most listeners access classical programming at 94.1 and that frequency will continue to be WBNI.
It’s been a year and a half since we announced that all the frequencies that carry our classical programming would be put up for sale — and if anyone had told me that we’d just now be selling, and only selling two of the frequencies at this point, we might have looked at the whole process differently. It’s the market, primarily, and that couldn’t be predicted. Listeners have enjoyed the classical stations much longer than we predicted, which is a plus for them, it would seem, even while it has created a difficult financial situation for the organization.
The sale to Star will allow us to pay a small chunk on the loan taken out in 2007 to purchase 94.1. We’ve been paying interest on that loan, but not much principal, and this sale will allow us to improve the positioning of that loan with our lender. We’re grateful to be able to do that right now.
We have also been, as you might have noticed, removing all programming from the classical stations that require us to pay fees. Those have been difficult decisions, but armed with the knowledge that one way or another, we will divest ourselves of 94.1 in the near future, we’re cutting all costs associated with the station in order to keep our commitments to our lender and avoid draining more resources from the general operating budget to pay for this capital acquisition.
The most difficult decision, however, is the one to eliminate paid positions in the organization that are associated with WBNI. Janice Furtner, long associated with WBNI’s classical programming will be leaving the station at the end of this week. These are difficult endings, most assuredly for Janice, who has invested a great deal of herself into WBNI and into the community on behalf of WBNI. We’ve been talking about this as an eventuality since we announced the stations would be sold, so it doesn’t come as a surprise, and after a year and a half of uncertainty, it seemed time to make some firm decisions. WBNI will sound different and it’s a significant loss, without a doubt. The volunteers that host programs on WBNI will continue to do so.
It’s always difficult when established staff members leave, whatever the reason, and I’m always so aware that it’s most difficult for the colleague who’s forced to make a change at a time that may not be of their choosing. And I also know that sometimes it looks like management (that would be me, I guess) cares most about the bottom line and in a way, it’s true that we’re forced to care very much about the bottom line and to put the overall health of the organization in front of the interest of any one person. Caring for the bottom line is, in fact, caring for the mission and working to ensure that the organization is able to continue carrying out its work. I don’t even begin to think that it’s consolation to a valued colleague moving on or to listeners who will miss a morning friend, but it is, as we all say, what it is.
Don’t hesitate to contact me directly, any time. I’m here for questions, complaints, and encouragement, if you feel so inclined. My direct line is 918-1099.