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WFDD goes digital, eyes major gifts

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By Todd Cohen 

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — WFDD, the public radio station at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, has named a new general manager and is converting this month to digital broadcasting.

The station also is launching an effort to secure major gifts, and developing plans for a “center for public media” it hopes to launch, says Denise Franklin, who has been promoted to general manager after serving as senior news host, news director and associate general manager since joining WFDD in 2001.

Jay Banks, who was general manager, has been named director of major giving.

Franklin says Banks’ goal for the fiscal year that began July 1 is to raise roughly $150,000 through major gifts.

“In order for WFDD to remain a viable asset in this community – the Triad and the more than 30 counties we broadcast to – we’ve got to grow,” she says.

With an annual budget of $1.6 million in the current fiscal year, WFDD reaches nearly 100,000 listeners a week.

The station raises nearly two-thirds of its funds from on-air, direct-mail and special events targeted to listeners and members, and just over one-third from underwriting.

The station held on-air “power hour” on Oct. 10 to kick off an on-air fund drive through Oct. 19 that aimed to raise roughly $180,000.

And in partnership with the Carolina Theatre, WFDD will co-sponsor a member event Nov. 2 at the theater that will feature Terry Gross, host of Fresh Air on National Public Radio.

Three years ago, WFDD raised $200,000 in a mini-campaign to open an office and add a reporter in Greensboro, and to build a new translator to strengthen its signal in downtown Greensboro.

The station on Sept. 28 switched on the translator and also will make its broadcasts available in Guilford County on a new frequency, 104.7 FM, for listeners who have difficulty picking up its signal at 88.5.

And with matching grants of $75,000 each from the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, WFDD is completing the installation of a high-definition radio transmitter at a tower site in North Davidson County and has converted its studios to digital technology.

The station will continue broadcasting its current signal and has added digital signal WFDD2, an all-classical music broadcast, and WFDD1, a duplicate broadcast of its current signal.

And in January, it plans to launch a third digital channel, WFDD3, that Franklin says will focus on Americana and blues.

Franklin, who last year received a master’s degree in business administration from the Babcock School of Management at Wake Forest, says the university is considering the station’s proposal for a public-media center based on a business plan she developed with a team of fellow MBA students.

The center would serve as a “space” for community and academic debate and discussion that also could be broadcast on the station’s digital channels, and for student involvement in digital production and interdisciplinary study geared to the digital age, Franklin says.

“Because we’re aligned with this university and have this technology,” she says, “we have a responsibility to teach students ideas about the concepts of information in cyberspace.”

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