author is the president of the Broadcasters Foundation of America.
radio broadcasters, we are a central part of everything that happens
in our communities. Everyone in town has driven past the radio tower
— that tall spire that transmits essential and relevant information
and entertainment. It’s the engineers who are responsible for the
tower, the receivers, the transmitters and all the equipment that
enables the radio station to broadcast and remain integral to the
community, sometimes with life-saving information.
of radio format, we report on monumental events, and we do what we
can to help our community get through the hard times. We see the joy
that emanates from parents and their teens when the high school
football team wins a home game, and the happiness that radiates from
children when the playground in the town’s park is finally
completed. We also see the sadness that strikes our community when
are an industry that cares, and we use the power of radio to do
something about it.
But what happens
when something tragic occurs to one of us? What about when it’s the
radio engineer, the morning show producer or the afternoon air talent
that falls on hard times? This is when the Broadcasters Foundation of
America steps in.
When the lives of
broadcasters and their families are shattered by unthinkable
circumstances, leaving them unable to work or support themselves, the
Foundation is a lifeline.
For more than 60
years, the Broadcasters Foundation has provided financial assistance
to broadcasters whose lives have been shattered by unthinkable
tragedies. A 501(c)3 public charity, the Foundation is unique in that
we exist solely to help broadcasters. That means that all of our
grant recipients are your colleagues.
dedicated broadcasters who had productive lives and vibrant careers
in engineering, programming, on-air, production, sales, management,
ownership and more, can wind up destitute because of disease,
accidents or advanced age.
Broadcasters Foundation delivers two types of financial assistance:
Monthly and one-time emergency grants. Our monthly recipients
undergo a thorough screening and application process annually to
determine need. Examples of situations where we have provided monthly
aid include a 20-year broadcast veteran who died of a sudden massive
stroke, leaving behind two children and a wife who suffers from
multiple sclerosis; a successful manager paralyzed from the waist
down in a tragic motorcycle accident; and an elderly couple with
stellar broadcasting careers who lost their home and cannot keep up
with exorbitant medical costs.
grants have been disbursed to broadcasters whose lives or homes were
affected by natural catastrophes like Hurricane Sandy in the
Northeast and tornadoes in the Joplin, Mo., area.
Foundation has helped these and other broadcasters who have fallen on
hard times so extreme that it has rendered them destitute, unable to
pay for necessary medications, or even support themselves.
many engineers have weathered a storm to keep their station
broadcasting live? As we all know, when most people are running for
cover, radio broadcasters stay on the air to deliver vital
information that saves lives. The emergency grants from the
Foundation help offset the destruction caused by these disasters.
are some of the thank you notes we have received from radio
broadcasters that the Foundation has helped:
has managed to slow every part of my life to something unimagined …
My new normal contrasts sharply with my old memories of early sales
meetings, days on the road and then back to the office. Thank you for
prayers have been answered through the Broadcasters Foundation of
America … You have restored my faith in God and man. Your
generosity will allow us to find a new apartment and walk away from
our current living conditions, which have unequivocally curtailed my
recovery from the stroke.”
aren’t words enough to tell you what the Broadcasters Foundation of
America means to us. On the first of every month, when we get your
check, I send up a special prayer to God to give the Foundation many
great blessings to keep you going so that you can bless many more
‘old radio’ people like us.”
these stories of these brave broadcasters is a reminder of how much
someone we know might be struggling, and how fortunate we are to be
working in this great business. Our board of directors comprises some
of our profession’s most influential leaders, representing a
variety of radio groups from across the country: Dan Mason from CBS
Radio, Joe Bilotta from Buckley Broadcasting, George Beasley from
Beasley Broadcasting, Jeff Smulyan from Emmis Communications, Jerry
Lee from WBEB and more. In addition, the CEOs of our industry’s
organizations, Erica Farber from RAB and Gordon Smith from NAB, serve
on our board.
board’s goal is that no broadcaster’s cry for help should ever go
unanswered. The requests for aid have more than doubled over the past
few years. Next year, we will disburse $900,000 in financial
assistance, a 100 percent increase from five years ago.
now, there may be a colleague at your station, or even at a station
across town, who needs help but they don’t know where to get it.
Please, make sure every broadcaster you know is aware of the
Foundation and the work that we do. Consider supporting our cause so
that we can help those in our industry who need it most.
membership to the Broadcasters Foundation is only $150 per year, and
a donation can be made to the Guardian Fund in any amount. Please, at
this time of giving, consider making a donation or becoming a member. You can visit our website at www.broadcastersfoundation.org
or call us at (213) 373-8250. We hope you are never in a position to
need charity. But with your support, we will always be there for a
broadcaster who needs help.
Thompson was president of Group W Radio and has served on the boards
of numerous industry organizations. Under his leadership, the
Broadcasters Foundation has doubled the amount of financial aid it
distributes in the past five years from $400,000 annually to a
projected $900,000 next year.