April 10, 2003
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More bad news for WYSO

The disclosure that WYSO is now facing a large deficit is just more bad news in what has been a troubling year for the locally based radio station. On top of that, it is unclear if station management has a realistic plan to address the shortfall.
Station officials blame the deficit on the slumping economy, which may be partly true. But there is no doubt that community reaction to some of the changes made at the station, as well as the numerous public battles that have arisen around WYSO and the station’s handling of this situation, have had an effect on WYSO’s bottom line.
Over the last year, the WYSO Resource Board, which oversees Antioch University’s public radio station, has ignored warnings that things are not going well at WYSO. One board member in particular, Char Miller, publicly criticized the board for being a passive body and raised concerns about not having access to the station’s financial information. Ms. Miller and another board member eventually resigned in protest after other board members continuously disregarded their concerns. Antioch University’s vice chancellor, Glenn Watts, made those who were asking questions about the running of WYSO look clairvoyant when he announced last summer that WYSO had a $100,000 deficit for its 2001–02 fiscal year.
Now things appear to be even worse. A budget update, which includes figures from July 2002 to February 2003, shows that WYSO’s expenses are exceeding revenue by almost $250,000. This deficit represents more than a quarter of the station’s operating expenses of $853,000.
The deficit can be attributed to a decline in projected revenue and an increase in expenses at WYSO. Membership dollars and underwriting funds are less than expected, while expenses have risen above projected budget numbers. If WYSO was in a better, healthier fiscal position, the deficit might not be so bothersome.
WYSO officials, including General Manager Steve Spencer, say they have a plan to get the station out of its fiscal hole. Their ideas, however, seem to hinge on more fundraisers, including extending this month’s spring fund drive, adding another drive this summer and creating a major-donor program. These tactics rely on listeners to come through for the station. Given the backlash WYSO has received over the last year, asking people for more money seems flawed.
The last year has not been a good one for WYSO. Listeners have been ignored, or alienated. Shows have been unceremoniously canceled. At least one valuable employee, Aileen LeBlanc, the former news director, has quit. Now the budget is a serious issue. While station management said last year that it had a plan to improve WYSO, things don’t appear to be getting any better.


—Robert Mihalek