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.