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Radio Stations, “Licensed to Serve”

Doing good in your community ultimately can help your station’s bottom line

When is the last time you heard about audio giants Pandora, iTunes or Spotify — or any national audio streaming service — doing something to help your local community? I’ll give you a second to think about it.

Hmm, you say. How about … never?

Yep, let’s face it. That’s not their mission, and it likely never will be on their roadmap to profitability.

My question to you: Is helping your local community part of your fiber, or are you content with being just a jukebox or news/talk machine?

For quite some time now I’ve been concerned that actually serving a local community has become an afterthought in today’s auto-license renewal environment. I firmly believe that community service best shows how broadcast radio remains vital. A station’s positive standing in the community can generate loyalty from listeners and, if done correctly, can even generate revenue.

Recently, when I received the National Association of Broadcasters’ “Licensed to Serve” e-newsletter, I was thrilled to read of like-minded station operators that remain in the vanguard of service. Please permit me to recount a few of these stories about industry leaders, with hope that they will encourage many others to re-energize commitment to the local community.

Townsquare Media’s WCYY(FM) in Portland, Maine, raised $50,000 during “The Markathon.” Mark Curdo is shown at left.

iHeartMedia Detroit station WNIC organized a bottled water drive to help hydrate its neighbors in Flint, Mich. Jay Tower, the drive’s organizer, is shown here with some of donated water. Here are just a few highlights:

• After wildfires scorched 500 square miles of grazing area in two Kansas counties, WIBW in Topeka brought 1,100 pounds of milk to a relief center four hours away. Many cows had died in the fire, and their orphaned calves urgently needed milk.

• During its 11th annual radiothon, stations WPRO, WWKX and WWLI in Providence, R.I., raised $436,000 for Hasbro Children’s Hospital. This event has brought in more than $7 million over the years.

• “Coins for Kids” at KONY, KPLD and KZHK in southern Utah raised more than $100,000 to help more than 800 families during the holiday season. This incredible effort has been going on for 17 years.

• “Kans 4 Kids” began with children raising money for their baby cousin who was facing cancer. KHOK in Great Bend, Kan., made it a station priority and brought in $42,000 in its most recent collection efforts.

• KSNX in Heber, Ariz., and its five sister stations produced and aired anti-drug PSAs with high frequency over the cluster for half a year. They raised more than $16,000 for the Arizona Meth Coalition to fight the widespread use of the drug.

• WNIC Detroit morning host Jay Towers organized a water drive for Flint, Mich. Other radio and TV stations helped him collect 240 tons of water.

• KBBO, KDBZ, KFAT and KXLW in Anchorage, Alaska, joined forces to help out a master sergeant in the Air Force, who wondered if they had any extra CDs. Their CD/DVD drive collected more than 1,500 for troops overseas.

• WTMJ afternoon host John Mercure in Milwaukee, Wis., led an effort that raised some $250,000 to fund flights for veterans to take them to memorials in Washington. “Operation Parallel” featured Mercure interviewing veterans telling their stories and what a trip to their war memorial would mean to them.

• Mark Curdo of WCCY, Portland, Maine, stayed live on-air for 102 hours playing requests for people who donated to the Center for Grieving Children. This center helps 4,000 children each year who have lost a family member, who came to the state after experiencing war or witnessing genocide.

• In Hartford, Conn., “The Chaz & AJ Morning Show” on WDRC helped raise nearly $16,000 for a local veteran at risk of foreclosure. The money was raised during one special day that they and their listeners will never forget: Veterans Day.

Congratulations to these stations who are leading by doing. Perhaps their stories will inspire others to do more and provide initial ideas to generate some local brainstorming.

If you’d like to read more and see how you might also be able to partner with TV stations in these efforts, visit the NAB’s specific public service website at

Mark Lapidus is president of Lapidus Media. Contact him at[email protected].