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WTGB Is ‘Green’ Pioneer for CBS

CBS Radio is looking to put a cap on its carbon output in the nation’s capital by launching a radio station that is environmentally friendly both on and off the air.

(click thumbnail)‘The Globe’ is using an alternative energy hybrid vehicle for station promotional appearances.SILVER SPRING, Md. CBS Radio is looking to put a cap on its carbon output in the nation’s capital by launching a radio station that is environmentally friendly both on and off the air.

It will use renewable energy to supply its 50,000 watt signal and has an overhauled on-air sound branded as “Go Green With the Globe.”

If the effort is successful, some of the other 143 CBS Radio stations might go green, those involved say.

The station, 94.7(FM) The Globe, eventually will use only hybrid station vehicles and promote eco-friendly events.

It plays music like the Dave Matthews Band and Red Hot Chili Peppers, but CBS Radio managers say what happens between the songs and behind the scenes is just as important. The nation’s increased concern about the environment is leading the broadcaster to do right by it, managers say; and hopefully they can capitalize on the movement with potentially higher ratings as well.

“This is a chance to do something that is very relevant with our target audience that coincides with the need to do something about global warming and promoting environmental responsibility,” said Michael Hughes, vice president and GM for WTGB(FM) in Washington.

Phasing out Styrofoam

Hughes is careful to point out that “The Globe” is not green yet, but is “going green” and learning to operate in a more environmentally efficient manner.

“Some things have been easy, like replacing our lighting fixtures with more efficient fluorescent where we can. We are even phasing out Styrofoam cups from the break room and recycling everything we can,” Hughes said.

The station, formerly classic rock WARW(FM), is now Triple-A. In February it transitioned to its new image and began focusing on ways to encourage people to embrace an eco-friendly lifestyle.

The station also is taking steps to shrink its own carbon footprint, a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide a company’s energy consumption places in the environment through everyday operations. WTGB is in a program offered by Pepco Energy Services in the Washington area that measures a customer’s power consumption and then, in turn, purchases the equal amount of wind power instead of coal-fired electricity.

The broadcaster is using energy from the program to power its 50,000-watt transmitter in Bethesda, Md., and paying a slightly higher electrical rate for the privilege to do so, said Jeff Loughridge, engineering market manager for CBS Radio.

“We pay a premium. The electricity we use may not come directly from a wind farm, but an equal amount is coming onto the grid each month from a non-carbon source,” said Loughridge. “So we are using a mix from the grid.”

Pepco offers residential and business customers a Green Energy program that uses electricity generated from renewable resources, such as wind, sunlight, water, reclaimed landfill gas and the burning of waste materials. According to the company’s Web site, customers can choose from a variety of electricity products, ranging from “a mix of electricity that is 10 percent generated from the burning of landfill gas to electricity that is 100 percent generated from wind farms.” It’s unclear how much more Green Energy subscribers pay to participate.

A comparison of residential rates reported by The Washington Post shows that Pepco charges $0.1008 per kilowatt hour for coal-fired electricity and $0.1234 per kilowatt hour for wind-generated power. Pepco would not release the terms of its contract with WARW, according to the account.

The station also is using an alternative energy hybrid vehicle for station promotional appearances and has another one on order, Hughes said. The station plans to build a performance studio within the next year, to be called the Globe Greenhouse. The studio will be constructed at least partly from recycled materials with low-voltage lighting. “Sort of construction with a conscience,” Hughes added.

Cutting energy consumption

Loughridge said the station has put some of its office equipment on timers and has directed employees to turn off all computers at night. It is looking at the possibility of using motion detectors for lighting certain areas of the leased facility in Silver Spring, Md., a Washington suburb.

“We are looking at every single way we consume energy and trying to incorporate changes to help cut back on the sum total. Even those little things will add up,” he said.

Hughes says “The Globe” is hoping to turn its green focus into higher ratings and revenue for the station. In the latest Arbitron ratings released in early March, the former WARW(FM) had a 1.7 (12+) share in the nation’s eighth-largest radio market, he said.

WARW ranked No. 17 among all listeners in the Arbitron Fall 2006 Metro report. The station’s poor ratings factored into the decision to change formats, Hughes said.

“This is a responsible concept that we think will work in this market and ultimately improve our ratings. The rock music fits with the green messaging we are doing,” said Hughes, who said the station would sponsor an annual Earth Day concert and create other promotions to encourage recycling, tree planting and the use of green products. The overall production of the station will reflect the environmentally responsible concept of The Globe, he added.

Other CBS Radio stations are watching the experiment, Hughes said.

“I know corporate is excited about what we are doing. They’ll look at it and see if it can be applied elsewhere,” Hughes added.

Hughes would not speculate how long corporate is willing to give The Globe to see ratings success. He saidCBS Radio has long stood on the principle of giving back to its station communities.

A few other broadcasters have jumped on the green-colored bandwagon looking for ways to be fiscally and environmentally responsible. Entercom has been especially aggressive in its efforts to limit its carbon footprint (RW, Dec. 20, 2006). Officials for Citadel Broadcasting, Cox Radio and Cumulus Media have said they are closely monitoring energy consumption and practice conservation where possible.

What is your station doing differently to save energy consumption and costs? Write to [email protected].