WUNC expanding

Public-radio station plans $3 million drive for facilities, programming.

By Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — WUNC-FM plans in October to launch the “quiet” phase of a capital drive to raise $3 million over three years to pay for new facilities and programming.

The expansion will include digital technology and new production studios, including a mobile unit that will travel throughout the state.

The station, a service of UNC-Chapel Hill, also is talking with Capitol Broadcasting Co. in Raleigh about opening a satellite production facility at the American Tobacco complex the company is redeveloping in Durham, says Joan Siefert Rose, general manager of WUNC-FM.

The Durham offices, which Capitol Broadcasting would provide rent-free in exchange for on-air acknowledgement, would double and be linked by fiber-optic technology to WUNC-FM’s broadcast-production space at its James F. Goodmon Public Radio Building in Chapel Hill, named for the CEO of Capitol Broadcasting.

Programming could begin originating from the Durham satellite office by the end of the first quarter of 2005, Rose says.

The station also plans to add news bureaus in Greensboro, Wake County and Eastern North Carolina, and create a Southeastern bureau for Marketplace, a daily business report heard on roughly 300 National Public Radio stations.

Also in the works are a new series focusing on the voices and opinions of North Carolinians on issues and events, a project to train the next generation of journalists and air the stories of young people, an oral history project and, possibly, nationally syndicating its long-running “Back Porch Music” folk and blue-grass program.

While WUNC initially wanted to raise money mainly to pay for its conversion to digital technology, and to create an endowment, donors made clear they wanted more public affairs programming, Rose says.

“It was very eye-opening,” she says. “We got the message from donors they want to build new programs now.”

Specifically, donors want more programming that highlights North Carolina “both for our own audience and for a national audience,” she says.

The new Southeastern bureau for Marketplace, which airs weekdays from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. and attracts seven million listeners a week, will feature more business news about the Southeast for WUNC listeners while feeding more business news about North Carolina to a national audience, Rose says.

And new efforts to air the voices of North Carolinians, including young people, will aim to create “a space where civic conversation can occur about important statewide events,” she says.

Half the dollars raised in the drive will fund new facilities and technology, and the remaining half will pay for new programming.

If the deal with Capitol Broadcasting is completed, the station no longer would need 7,000 to 8,000 square feet of production and office space it has been planning to add at its Chapel Hill headquarters, Rose says.

The station is counting on federal matching funds to supplement the dollars it raises in the campaign, and to cover half to three-fourths of its new technology costs.

Rose says the drive, which will kick off its public phase in late 2006, will give WUNC a chance to build stronger long-term relationships with local companies and community leaders.

“This is a great opportunity to do that better and build the capacity of the organization to be a more significant partner in the community,” she says.

WUNC, which raised $1.8 million in the mid-1990s to build its current 10,500-square-foot facility in Chapel Hill, raises $2.3 million a year from individuals, roughly half of which is raised in two on-air fund drives each year, and also raised $1.8 million from corporate contributions and nonprofit sponsorships.

The station’s annual budget has grown to $5.4 million from $3.5 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2001.

And Rose expects the 50-person staff to grow to 70 people in a few years.

Honorary co-chairs of the drive, which is being advised by Durham consultant Carol O’Brien, are Jim Goodmon, CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Co. in Raleigh, and Carl Kasell, a National Public Radio newscaster, graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill and former WUNC student broadcaster.

Co-chairs are Michael Brader-Araje, founder and managing partner of truePilot in Durham; former U.S. Rep. Richardson Preyer of Hillsborough; Chapel Hill author Amy Tiemann; and Raleigh lawyer Fred Hutchison of Hutchison & Mason.

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