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Fall fund drive underway at WETS-FM

Robert Houk • Sep 9, 2019 at 6:35 PM

A anonymous benefactor has promised to match up to $100,000 in donations made to WETS-FM during the public radio station’s fall pledge drive.

Wayne Winkler, director of WETS on the campus of East Tennessee State University, hopes to raise $150,000 in contributions from listeners by the time the fundraiser ends on Friday. Doing so will allow the station to put aside the dollar-for-dollar match from the generous donor to begin a capital campaign to replace its aging broadcast tower on top of Holston Mountain.

He said the tower has been in use for 45 years, and has seen structural damage from strong winds and icy weather. Another $100,000 will have to be raised to replace the tower.

“We have looked at replacing the tower for a number of years, but the cost of programming has gone up between 3 and 3.5% every year,” Winkler said. “So it’s been difficult to apply those funds.”

He said the bill for popular National Public Radio shows, such as “Morning Edition,” Fresh Air,” and “All Things Considered,” total $177,000 for this year alone.

“Lot of people believe public broadcasting is paid by federal funds,” Winkler said. “If you eliminate the amount of money going to public radio, it would be microscopic.”

Funding from ETSU covers staff salaries and other infrastructure costs for the radio station, but It’s strictly contributions from listeners that pay for the bulk of the programming. WETS also receives some federal funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

That amount is between 8% to 10% of the station’s total annual budget.

“Listener support is far more important to our budget,” Winkler said.

He said that’s why the public radio station relies on monthly contributions of $10, $20 or more from listeners to pay most of its bills.

“We appreciate contributions from philanthropists, but it’s the average working folks who keep us going,” he said.

Telephone banks are  open this week for the on-air segment of the fundraising drive, with volunteers taking calls from donors between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Contributions can be made by calling 888-895-9387, or going online at wets.org.

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