WJHU emerges from financial woes


March 05, 1991|By Steve McKerrow

Radio station WJHU-FM 88.1 has emerged from its financial limbo, following an announcement yesterday by Johns Hopkins University that it no longer is trying to sell the station or otherwise arrange new financing or ownership.

Due largely to a successful fall fund-raising air campaign, which generated more than $165,000 from listeners, said Ross Jones, vice president and secretary at WJHU, the station seems to have generated enough support "to operate on a self-sustaining basis."

He said the university considers the question of the station's future closed as long as it continues to generate listener support. He also said that acting general manager Dennis Kita, who was appointed last March to replace David Creagh, has been named to the job permanently.

WJHU is a public broadcasting outlet, launched by Hopkins in 1986, and it broadcasts classical and jazz music and is also Baltimore's primary source of National Public Radio programming. The station's North Charles Street studios are also home to the American Public Radio documentary program "Soundprint." The station has 13 full-time and eight part-time employees.

Last May, however, after the collapse of efforts toward securing state purchase and control under the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission, the university committed to keeping the station on the air only through fiscal year 1991, which ends in June. The intent was to give the station a chance to become self-supporting.

"This is a station that is both well-loved by its listeners and well-operated by its management," said Jones' statement yesterday.

A fall fund-raising "quiet drive" on the air, targeted to raise $160,000, generated more than $165,000 in pledges. A spring drive is planned to begin March 11. Listener support provides about one-third of the station's budget. Corporation for Public Broadcasting grants amount to another third, and the remainder comes from corporate underwriting and other grants.

"With a renewed commitment from the university, WJHU can see farther down the road to fulfilling its long-term goals," said Kita, who thanked listeners and underwriters "for the loyal support that has ensured the station a permanent place in the greater Baltimore community."

Among the reasons Kita cited for the station's pullout from its financial woes were a strengthened commitment to NPR, shown particularly in the last two months with strong coverage of the Persian Gulf war. He also noted local production of phone-in programs on the war, on AIDS and (once a month) with Mayor Kurt Schmoke, as well as the nightly addition last summer of previously suspended jazz programming.

The most recent radio ratings from the Arbitron service, for the last quarter of 1990, pegged the station's overall audience at about 85,000 listeners, an increase of about 17 percent from the previous year at that time, Kita said.

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