Local. Public. Radio. Chances are if you live in the Northwoods, or are a regular visitor, you've heard one of the many hosts utter that phrase on the Rhinelander-based station. For nearly 34 years, WXPR has given a voice to Northern Wisconsin and Michigan's U.P., but proposed funding cuts say that voice can stand to be diminished.
WXPR funds much of their National Public Radio (NPR) programming (Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Prairie Home Companion) through grants delivered from the Corporation of Public Broadcasting. 20 percent of the community station's funding comes from the CPB, all of which stands to be slashed in the latest federal budget blueprint.
WXPR will live on, though. Propped up by over 100 loyal, dedicated volunteers that do everything from hosting music programs to painting the hallways, station manager Pete Rondello said he's confident their support would fill the void left by the funding cut. Many similar stations which dot the United States may not be so lucky, though - and that's a problem.
Between inadequate broadband and cell coverage and a consolidation of newspapers in rural areas, finding local news and a common point for communities can be a challenge. Local, public radio stations can oftentimes play a major role in providing news coverage, educational programming, and connecting citizens to their place in the larger scope.
"People talk about rural areas without Internet - well, that's right here. There are many areas in Northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula that do not have broadband access," marketing manager and volunteer coordinator Jessie Dick said. "With your radio, you can still get those emergency alerts, the news, music. There are still these dead zones. People that live in cities don't understand why people can't just take out their phone or jump online and get information."
The immediacy of radio comes as a valued resource for those with limited Internet or cell phone access. In addition to morning and afternoon programs that splice nationwide, with local coverage and volunteer hosted music shows, WXPR has the ability to provide breaking coverage should a major happening, or weather event be occurring.
Funding cuts are not a new element to the world of public media. Faced with funding cuts before, Rondello said a plan is in place to prevail. Although, with a $600,000 annual budget, and $120,000 coming from the CPB, that is no small chunk of change. Almost the entirety of funding for the stations comes from business underwriters and WXPR member funds, and if past holds true, those who value the station will step up.
"The station will continue to survive and we hope that we could continue to operate in a fashion that would still be as valuable to our community and our listeners," Rondello said. "It's a big part of our funding, but it's not all of it, or as much as it is for some rural stations across the country."
CPB received $445 million in funding in the last fiscal year. The National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for Humanities - two additional agencies that also stand to be eliminated, received about $145 million each. The three organizations make up less than .02 percent of the U.S. Federal Budget. Each citizen pays roughly $1.35 per year to keep these agencies afloat.
An average public radio station in the U.S. receives 10 percent of their funding from the CPB, but many stations - particularly in rural areas - rely on a percentage much greater. Hesitant to speculate on why the CPB was chosen as a target in the budget blueprint, Rondello said its listeners and supporters have to do the talking.
"Our world is about getting our listeners and the people who believe in the station to advocate for us - to give them information, and facts - so that when they are in touch with their Congresspeople they can have that information and also bring their own sense of what the value of this station, and other stations is," Rondello said. "Having our supporters champion that cause is very powerful."
One group spearheading the cause to help support public media entities in the wake of potential financial hardship is Protect My Public Media. At their website, protectmypublicmedia.org, those interested can sign a petition to ask Congress to continue their investment in public radio and television.
The value that came with public radio was very clear to Jessie Dick. Understanding the integral role it played not only in her life, but in the lives of listeners across the country drew her towards becoming involved. Rondello recalls her saying "I wanted the job so badly, it hurt." Now, she can't imagine life without it.
"In addition to be a long public radio listener, I discovered this whole piece of community radio and how it gives people a voice and an opportunity to get involved," she said. "People who have this love for music, and now they finally have this way to share it. We're so spread out up here, and this station allows us to connect to everyone in the Northwoods and U.P."
WXPR offers opportunities for those interested to get involved through programs like "Open Turntable," which gives a three slot on Sunday evenings to host a music show. Volunteers truly act as the lifeblood for the station, and the small staff of eight values them endlessly.
"We're very blessed. A lot of these people (volunteers) have a very deep experience and knowledge and they come from communities and areas and they bring all of that to this gathering room that is WXPR," Rondello said. "Everyone brings an integral aspect to the table. We couldn't do it without them."
Though the budget proposal stands as a blueprint, and much can change before its final approval, there is potential harm to many agencies that provide the United States with knowledge, creativity, and information. Be considerate of what adds value to your life on a day to day basis.
For those who wish to become a WXPR member or volunteer, you may reach the station at 715-362-6000. In the meantime, you can tune in to WXPR at 91.7 FM, or livestream them at their website, wxpr.org.
Evan Verploegh may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted: Friday, March 31, 2017
Article comment by:
The article reads as if WXPR wrote it. It figures they would leave out the the liberal bias that permeates public radio. Either they are hopelessly naive or outright dishonest. Until recently, figuring I might learn something, or at least better understand leftist positions, I listened to countless snarky interviews of conservative candidates and fawning praise of lib professors and Madison politicians trotted out to support every silly cause. I gave up during the last election cycle because my BS tank was full and my doc directed me to lower my blood pressure.. Without Garrison Keillor, there is little reason left to tune in at any time. I am far from alone in my disappointment and disdain for public radio. Google search "How the heck does public radio get away with claiming to be objective?"