WMU News

Rising NPR program costs send WMUK's fund-raising goal climbing

Oct. 14, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Soaring costs for National Public Radio programs are forcing Western Michigan University radio station WMUK-FM to ask for more money in this year's fall fundraiser.

This year's goal is $220,000, up $20,000 from the $200,000 goal the station has had the past two years. The 10 percent increase comes after NPR programming costs jumped 15 percent above last year's figures.

On-air phone pledging for the drive is set for Oct. 16-22. As in the past, the station is collecting mail-in pledges ahead of time in hopes of reducing the length of the on-air campaign.

"We would have been glad to keep the goal where it has been," says Floyd Pientka, station program director, "but we had to pick up the slack to give people the programming they want." Pientka says NPR has changed its pricing structure, resulting in added costs for the station. Programming costs used to be assessed based on the size of the market WMUK serves, which is one of the smallest markets in the nation.

NPR now is assessing costs based on how many listeners stations actually have and the radio network has become very adept at measuring that number. In particular, the popular program "Car Talk" has become very expensive, Pientka says. The program still costs less overall than "Morning Edition" or "All Things Considered." But it only airs one hour a week, compared to four hours each weekday for "Morning Edition" and two hours each weekday plus two hours each weekend for "All Things Considered."

The result is that "Car Talk" costs nearly three times as much per hour as "Morning Edition" and accounts for 47 percent of the station's non-news program budget.

Mail-in pledges typically account for about 50 percent of money raised in the station's fund drives and already have begun coming in for the fall drive. "We're hoping for strong mail-in pledging because we're going to need it," Pientka says. "We have one week scheduled for phone pledging, but it will stop once we reach the goal."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, 616 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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