The funding couldn’t come at a better time.
Since early August, Brenau University’s radio station, WBCX-FM, has seen a drastic drop in transmission quality and, consequently, a disappearance in some 90 percent of its listeners.
So, when the station received its first $32,500 semiannual check from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, there was no pondering where to spend first.
The station plans to replace an audio processor, something akin to a stereo equalizer, that station manager Scott Fugate said will instantly improve reception and hopefully have more listeners stopping at 89.1 on their radio dial.
But beyond that fix, the station’s overall future has gotten much brighter because of its new association with CPB. It now qualifies for at least $65,000 in additional yearly funding.
"Getting the grant is huge," said Bill Lightfoot, dean of Brenau University’s School of Business and Mass Communication. "It opens up lots of possibilities to further expand the radio station."
It "allows us to get additional people and ... potentially upgrade the equipment so that the signal will be more consistent and a lot clearer across the region."
The path to the grant began a couple of years ago. The station had to first become CPB "qualified" before it could receive money.As part of a study in applying for the status, the station discovered that "for the reach of our station’s signal and demographic, we are considered as a first-service station by CPB standards," said Ted Garner, media services director for Brenau’s Department of Mass Communication.
Brenau found that it is the primary source of public radio broadcasts for some 80 percent of its listeners, Garner added.
Now, with the money in hand and more on the way, including another $32,500 in the spring, the station will address immediate needs.
"We have had a lot of technical problems and we have not been able to fix them because we did not have the funding," Fugate said.
Stay tuned, Brenau officials say.
Beyond the audio processor, there are plans to replace other pieces of aging equipment.
"When I arrived here five, six years ago, the equipment was already dying," Fugate said. "What I did was I ramp up things 100 percent and went live and local ... and so we put an extra strain on the old equipment."
Garner said the goal in the next two years is to have "all this old equipment completely replaced and to be, as result of the grant, completely and fully digital."
Also, the station will be able to pick up new programming, including offering a news show, and enable some locally produced shows to be picked up by other CPB stations.
WBCX also is looking at creating its own Web site to feature streaming audio.
"As a result of all these upgrades, (the CPB ties have) enabled us to appeal more to the student population," Fugate said. "Being a CPB station enables us to really serve the community more too, as well as the student population — to become more of the station that really we are supposed to be as a college station."