WEKU seeks help from local businesses

By TJ Caudill - tcaudill@civitasmedia.com

HAZARD— A radio transmitter, which airs WEKH’s 90.9 radio station, and belonging to Richmond’s WEKU needs replaced after a thunderstorm on July 14 caused a power surge to knocked out power to the transmitter. Roger Duvall, General manger and director, of WEKU is asking help from the Hazard community for securing funds for the replacement transmitter fund.

Duvall said that when the thunderstorm rolled through on July 14, he believes, that it was likely a lighting strike that caused the power surge to knock out the power in the transmitter and caused the radio station to go off the air. An engineer attempted to repair the transmitter, but could not get it back on the air. Duvall said that WEKU is waiting on the insurance adjusters to examine the transmitter and figure out if that was in fact a lighting strike that caused the damage. It will cost $200,00 to replace the transmitter and get it back on the air.

Duvall stated that the transmitter was almost 30 years old, and he believes that it’s age probably contributed to the reason why it wasn’t able to get back on the air.

Frank Sundram, Corporate and community relations with WEKU, and Duvall came to the City of Hazard on July 30 to give information and talk with local businesses, foundations, and individuals about getting funds available for the replacement transmitter fund.

Duvall hopes with the help from local businesses and individuals that they could get more information on and out to foundations in the area that they could possibly make a grant appeal to. Corporation of Public Broadcasting has a federal program that could help offset the cost with $10,000 in funds that could be available to WEKU.

Duvall spoke on how businesses and individuals could participate in an underwriting program that could help WEKU raise the funds.

” What we are trying to do is appeal to people for individual contributions…we can’t sell advertising on a non-commercial station, but there is a program called underwriting where if you are a business and say you give us a $1,000 to underwrite our programming, when we go on the air we will say ‘this program is made possible by’… We have seen significant increase in business support with that simple amount of acknowledgement. We’re hopeful that there are some businesses in the area that will want to sign a longer term contract. The idea is to sign a longer term contract and with that they will get more mentions than they normally would, say if you gave us $100 we will give you five mentions for that, but if you are going to do a contract and do $5,000 we will give you many more mentions than we would have gotten with your $100. We are trying to make it attractive for people.” he said.

Currently, the City of Hazard can still listen to 90.9, but only at 500 watts. Duvall said normally the transmitter operated at over 30,000 watts.

Duvall explained the situation on how the low wattage could affect listeners further by saying, “You can go out to your car right now you will probably be able to tune into 90.9 fairly well, but if you have a radio in your house, it might not be able to get it in the house, it depends on where you live. As soon as you get out of Hazard its going to start fading a lot quicker than what it normally would. Because of the terrain here, that’s significant, if you were in the flat area, you would probably be able to reach more people with 500 watts.”

Duvall says when they get the funds secured, and order the transmitter, it would take a month before it would arrive. They would also have to dismantle the old transmitter and use a crane to get it off the mountain.

“I’m hopeful that it is as soon as possible, I want it to get done before the end of the year, but we will see, I don’t know. Six weeks a minimal, six months I want to be the maximum.” said Duvall.

Sundram spoke on the importance of getting the transmitter replaced and how radio plays a vital role in the community.

“This is important for the people of Hazard cause we are a voice of information, we are a voice of culture, we are a voice of emergency information, and we are also a culture tool and a quality of life issue. A lot of people will not come to a town where there is not a public radio station, schools, hospitals, other professions. People won’t come to a town or an area where they can not get public radio. So, we are also in that way we are promoter of commerce as well as quality of life.” he said.

TJ Caudill can be reached at 606-436-5771 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.

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