AREA NEWSThe ExaminerThe Northern Westchester ExaminerThe Putnam Examiner

Community Radio Station in Funding Crisis

We are part of The Trust Project
Ossining musician KJ Denhert performing at the WDFH studio.
Ossining musician KJ Denhert performing at the WDFH studio.

By Alex Weisler

WDFH, 90.3 FM — the lower Hudson Valley’s only fully public radio station – is facing a funding crisis that its management warns could shutter the station.

A recent signal expansion project allowed the radio station to reach nearly 400,000 listeners — up from a previous listenership of about 10,000 — but the initiative, which took about seven years to realize, also stripped WDFH of much of its cash reserves, said Melinda Battle, the station’s program director and graphic designer.

“It’s been tight ever since the signal expansion, but it’s recent months that it has been really dire,” Battle said. WDFH was founded by Marc Sophos in 1973 but first went on the air in 1995. The station’s signal is out of Ossining.

It wasn’t until late last year, though, that the station had a physical home for live program production.

And even that’s no glitzy studio, Battle said. “Right now, operating expenses are at the barest of minimums,” she said. “That is one cold studio in the winter, let me tell you.”

If the station’s cash reserve continues to falter, Sophos will be forced to sell WDFH’s frequency — an irreversible move. Battle said Sophos, who serves as the station’s executive director, is currently financing WDFH out of pocket.

Without WDFH, the region will lose an important independent media voice and the frequency will gain another station just “sending out stuff just to fill the airwaves,” Battle said.

“Getting it back again is not a viable option. Once it’s gone, it’s gone and what will replace it is some of that pabulum … just what you need, another boring commercial station spewing the same old stuff you can hear anywhere,” she said. “[WDFH] is not commercial, so what’s nice is that you don’t have anybody dictating your content. You don’t have any advertisers; you don’t have any marketing concerns that tell you that you can’t play this or that.”

Battle said she has high hopes that the lower Hudson Valley community will come out to help the station in its hour of need, as other campaigns to save public radio have been successful nationwide.

“When it’s been threatened, people have raised up en masse to make sure public radio is still available across the country,” she said. “[WDFH] is local so it’s a resource that’s going to have that local perspective that no other radio station around here can give.”

Among WDFH’s programs are: “Eyes on Westchester,” featuring Examiner Media chief operating officer Faith Ann Butcher; “Outcasting,” a youth show focused on LGBTQ issues that is thought to be the first of its kind in public radio; and “Recovery Talk,” which discusses recovery from trauma, illness, domestic violence and other issues.

Battle said the station needs about $100,000 to stay in business and apply for grants and subsidies.

But that cash infusion doesn’t necessarily have to come from huge corporate donations, she said.

“We’re out of money,” she said, sighing. “We’ve had individuals step up and donate which is heartening and wonderful. What we really need is underwriting and funding on a little bit of a larger scale … but if we had 250 people pledge $10 a month; that would do it.”

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.