WDFH-FM 90.3 soon to be up and running in new studio space
Local Community/Public Radio Station Also Seeking New Volunteers, Funding
WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. (September 13, 2010) - WDFH, the only community/public radio station in the lower Hudson valley, has acquired new studio space in Yonkers. The station, which reaches about 400,000 potential listeners in central and northern Westchester, eastern Rockland, southern Putnam, and far western Connecticut, has been providing mostly pre-recorded programming since 2006 while seeking a new studio location.
“We've been laboring for years under a double challenge,” said Marc Sophos, WDFH's founder and executive director. “For most of our history, very few people could hear our signal. And since we lost our studio space in 2006, our ability to produce new programming has been limited. This combination has made it almost impossible to create a large public following.”
The first part of the challenge was resolved in 2009, when WDFH completed a 7_ year signal expansion project. This project involved moving the transmitter from Ossining to a new tower site high above Mount Pleasant, increasing the station's power, and installing a new antenna. Once the project was completed, the population reached by WDFH's 90.3 FM signal increased 40-fold to about 400,000 people.
And in June, with major support from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous, the station signed a lease for new studio space. Construction has been in progress this summer, and WDFH's new broadcast studio is now nearly ready for use. Mr. Sophos said that when live broadcasting resumes in the near future, it will be the first time that WDFH has ever had a studio and a viable signal at the same time.
WDFH is a community radio station - a type of public radio station that relies on volunteers to do almost all of the day-to-day work of running the station. "Part of the station's current goal," said Vinny Cohan, a WDFH volunteer for more than 10 years, "is to greatly expand the number of volunteers. For the next several months, we will be focusing on creating new local news, public affairs, environmental, social justice, and arts and culture programming, so we need people who are interested in doing that kind of work. Down the road, when we start expanding our music programming, we will also need people who are knowledgeable about rock, folk, blues, and jazz,” he said. “Most importantly, we need people who understand that running a radio station isn't just about programming. There are many things that have to happen behind the scenes, and we are looking for people willing to play a role both on and off the air.”
Despite this new beginning, the road ahead is full of challenges. Because WDFH has never had a studio and a viable signal until now, Mr. Sophos noted, it has been difficult to establish the station in the public eye, and this has limited its success in fundraising.
“As we said several months ago, WDFH is struggling financially,” said Melissa Fogarty, another longtime WDFH volunteer who is working on fundraising. “What's happening right now with the new studio and the expanded signal is giving us a new beginning, and we're very excited about that. But at the same time, our financial position is precarious, and our community is in real danger of losing WDFH as a local resource. We need a significant and quick influx of funding in order to survive even the next several months. We know that there are people in our area who have the ability to make very significant donations, and we hope that they will come forward at this critical juncture.”
Other funding sources the station plans to develop, Mr. Sophos said, are listener contributions, foundations, corporate grants, and underwriting - the public radio term for sponsorships by local businesses. He said that once the station's local fundraising reaches $100,000, WDFH will become eligible to apply for annual grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
It took Mr. Sophos about 20 years to secure the broadcast license for WDFH because, as he explained, the FM dial in the New York City area was already relatively saturated by the time his effort began in 1973. The station went on the air in 1995, but he described the path since then as “bumpy, to say the least.”
“Our very generous donor has given us a tremendous opportunity, and it's essential that other members of the community step forward now with financial support,” he said. “Our donation income is much, much lower than our expenses, and without financial support from others, we're simply going to run out of money almost as soon as we start broadcasting from our new studio. There is almost no possibility that there will ever be a chance for another local public radio station in our area, so if we allow WDFH to slip away, we'll be losing an important asset that can never be replaced.”
Tax-deductible contributions can be sent to WDFH at 21 Brookside Lane, Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. 10522. It is also possible to make contributions online through the station's web site (http://wdfh.org). People interested in joining the station as volunteers should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org .
WDFH is the lower Hudson valley's only community/public radio station. The station's parent organization is Hudson Valley Community Radio, Inc., a local nonprofit organization that is tax exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. WDFH is an affiliate of the Pacifica Radio Network and is the lower Hudson valley's on-air source for Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News. The station can be heard at 90.3 FM and online at http://wdfh.org.