CiCR financial mess

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Warning: Last chance to save Parrsboro radio

Community station has been losing $698 per week

by Bruce Wark

Roger White sat in a small production studio on Tuesday in Amherst as he warned that community radio in Parrsboro needs a lot of help to survive.

“Everybody has got to pull together,” he said, “because, if not, it’s not going to work.”

White, who is the general manager of CKDH, a commercial radio station in Amherst, was expressing his concerns about the future of CiCR, the 50-watt community station that is operated by the Parrsboro Radio Society (PRS).

He attended the tumultuous PRS annual general meeting on Saturday in Parrsboro where there were a number of shouting matches as people, who are pushing for fundamental changes at the radio station, clashed with those who have been running it for the last two years.

Station deeply in debt

The meeting was told that CiCR is thousands of dollars in debt partly because its board of directors spent more than $28,000 fighting a losing court battle against its critics. White maintains that if the radio station is to survive, both sides must bury the hatchet.

“Bygones have to be bygones because there has been a lot of turmoil in the last two years,” he says.

He adds that he would have been worried if only 20 people had showed up on Saturday. Instead, he notes, there were almost 100 people at the meeting.

“One of the good things Parrsboro community radio has is they have a community that loves their radio, they’re passionate about their radio.”

Now, he says, the board needs to move quickly to come up with a business plan to pay off the debt and restore the station’s financial health. He says a committee should be appointed to recruit the volunteers who can produce more live programming.

Bingo not enough

White, who has spent the last couple of decades in media sales and marketing, advocates station fundraising drives as well as a concerted effort to attract more on-air advertising, some of it from businesses in Amherst and Truro.

He notes that, at present, the station focuses heavily on selling cards for its Thursday evening Radio Media Bingo.

“Anybody who’s in business knows that bingos are deteriorating quickly,” he says adding that bingo appeals to older folks and their numbers are declining. Besides that, everyone has less disposable income these days. White says bingo revenues are declining everywhere.

Station priorities wrong

The latest unaudited PRS financial statements seem to confirm White’s pessimism about relying on bingo. The revenue and expense statement (see below) shows that during the last financial year, CiCR raised $124,763 in bingo card sales, 10 times more than the $12,370 it raised selling on-air advertising.

But bingo expenses, including prize payouts, totalled $121,235 leaving a surplus of only $3,528 or an average of about $68 per week. And that tiny profit all but disappears when you include the expense of distributing the cards and paying for the extra phone lines needed on bingo night. The financial statement suggests that, rather than making a profit on bingo, the station barely breaks even in spite of all the effort that goes into it.

On-air advertising, on the other hand, generated average revenues of about $238 per week, more than three times what bingo brought in — yet, little time and energy went into selling advertising.

High overhead also to blame for debt

The latest financial statements show that from April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013, administrative and general expenses contributed more to the CiCR’s growing debt than legal and accounting bills did.

Legal and accounting bills totalled $20,806 or about $400 per week while other administrative expenses came to $31,416 or about $604 per week for a total weekly expense tally of $1,004.

Subtract average weekly advertising revenues of $238 and weekly bingo revenues of $68 — both of which total $306 — and it becomes clear that the station lost an average of $698 every week in the last year.

Parrsboro accountant Skip Johnson, who prepared the financial statements, echoes Roger White when he warns that the station won’t survive unless all sides put their differences aside and work together.

“The station is just holding on by its fingernails,” Johnson says.


4 Responses to CiCR financial mess

  1. Don Geddes says:

    The first step is to fire Ross and move the station. But getting rid of Ross is the first thing to be done, and see how much money they save!!!!

  2. Alex Wentzell says:

    The radio station needs to be moved to a neutral location. Having it in the station manager’s home comes with many issues.

    Having it in a neutral location removes any conflict of interest between the station manager and the landlord (also the station manager). He is essentially writing himself rent checks to go along with his salary and other “fees” (such as storage rent) that find their way into his pockets.

    I’m reading online that people are having a hard time buying bingo tickets (revenue generator for the station) knowing it’s either going into the station manager’s pockets or going to cover the legal costs built up from an ill-advised court battle.

    Another issue with the current location is that it’s in the home of a registered sex offender. How is anyone expected to feel comfortable going to the station to volunteer their time (especially women)? If the station were at another location this should alleviate any concerns people have with going there.

    Ross makes too much money from the station (through wage, rent, and other assorted fees) and he does not appear to be willing to consider moving the station to a neutral location. He stands to lose too much financially from it moving so he will do everything in his power to keep it where it is, even if it means running it into the ground and losing its CRTC licence.

    It’s just one big mess that is tearing such a wonderful town apart. There is more than one thing that needs to be done, but moving to a neutral location is the first step. New manager is step #2. Taking a close look at the BOD (board of directors) is step #3. Even though the biggest cancer in the station is Ross, he is not the only problem. The BOD let him get away with ruining the station for far to long. People need to take a look and find out why. If they went along willingly then they too should be removed. If they were too stupid to see what was happening right under their noses, then they should be removed too. In other words remove them all. A clean slate is needed. All the cancer need to be removed, because even if a little remains it can fester and grow back.

    The town is torn apart, it needs to heal. There are more problems than just the radio station but this is a good first step. Bring the community together to rebuild the station to what it was intended to be.

  3. Donna Babineau says:

    I am bursting with pride in your statements in these articles, Bruce and Alex.
    This is what we are trying to get across to the rest of Parrsboro.
    Saturday night’s AGM showed clearly the need for all of the above comments. Although, some are harder to convince about the BOD and Ross, you make it so clear and precise. God bless!

  4. Guylain Bergeron says:

    Good Article…Mr. White has a grip on the solution; however, it is hard to try and save a sinking boat when the crew is opening the hatches to let the water in and is NOT willing to close them. I sure Mr. White is aware of this situation.

    I am however, perplexed as to why he showed up in the first place. He was more than likely invited by someone. His reasoning was great, but he was stating the obvious. I wished he would’ve taken the time to offer solutions to the problem and made a bold statement in trying to shift the concept from “Rah Rah” to “OK what’s next and how (with his experience) can it be solved”.

    I do believe that Mr. White has a genuine love for radio and has stated so in his intervention. However, my question is: What did his intervention actually accomplish?

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