From left: WDIY 88.1 FM staff members Alison DelRe, community relations coordinator; Shamus McGroggan, membership and development manager; Wagner Previato, executive producer; Arlene Clendenning, office manager and bookkeeper; and Neil Hever, operations director pose for a photo on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. The station is in the midst of their fall membership drive. The fundraiser began on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (Aminat Ologunebi/B&W Photo)

Lehigh Valley’s NPR station raises funds through annual drive, aims to expand broadcast range

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WDIY 88.1, is Lehigh Valley’s NPR station and is funded by donations through an annual drive that began on Oct. 5 and  will last about 10 days. This year, WDIY is also expanding its broadcast range in the months to come.

WDIY is not just an affiliate with NPR, as it pays full dues and is thus considered an official NPR station. The types of shows broadcasted vary but are primarily in the categories of news, public affairs or music.

The show emphasizes locality and stresses the importance of catering to what the community wants to hear. Discussions can range from a local farmers market, to advice on financials or even guidance on how to take charge of your life. The station is very specific regarding what it chooses to broadcast.

“Details and depth matter and how it affects the listener,” Executive Director Wagner Previato said

Music on WDIY has a spectrum as well including pop, Celtic music, swing dance, blues, jazz, and classical, among others.

The station stresses the importance of the pledge drive, as it is its primary means of income. Public broadcasting survives almost solely from listener’s contributions, as it is free to listen. The station emphasizes their need of contributions on behalf of those who value and listen to what it has to offer.

While a membership costs $60, a contribution of any amount is accepted and appreciated. Those who choose to pledge their support will be given the chance to win tickets to a range of concerts and artists.

WDIY has recently changed its approach to fundraising, making it more meaningful and significant to the community. By partnering with organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank, members know their contributions are going somewhere meaningful instead of receiving a gift such as a hat or mug.

While the drive is an annual event, this year is significant for WDIY as they will be expanding its broadcast range later this year. Following the purchase of a new antenna and transmitter, along with approval from the Federal Communications Commision, WDIY will  have 300 watts of power, creating the potential to reach 135,000 new listeners. This increase is a direct result of regular listeners requesting a larger range in the Western Lehigh Valley, specifically for their commutes to and from work.

Alison DelRe, head of volunteers for WDIY said volunteers are important to the station. Over 100 volunteers help keep the station running and everyone from interns to executives play an integral roll in daily upkeep.

“Our programmers are all members of the community and are volunteers,” DelRe said. “They bring their expertise to our airways.”

While WDIY is becoming increasingly more successful, running a community funded radio station does not come without its difficulties. Communication amongst dozens of volunteers is no easy task and training can be difficult.

“If you are an on-air host for the news program, it is a different set of skills for a jazz or blues program,” Previato said. “You’re talking to a different audience. So there is a continuous training.”

The volunteer program at WDIY has had many people go on to create their own successful radios and magazines. Tom Druckenmiller, host of Singout! Magazine, is an example of a volunteer that has grown from programming at WDIY.

WDIY also highlights their positive relationship with Lehigh. Professors and faculty are continuously top contributors to the pledge drive and they also partner with Zoellner Arts Center on various occasions.

“We have such diverse music, so along with Zoellner Arts, we are a good match to get word out about who is coming to play,” said Neil Hever, operations director of WDIY.

 

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