After five and a half months of fundraising the fundraiser is going to end soon. Thursday March 23rd at noon we will end the fundraiser- successful or not.
There are so many people pulling for us, so many people missing Jazz and community radio and all that can mean. It has been an honor to be on this journey with you and a very tiring one. I will look forward, as you will, to stopping all the fundraising. The reality is though- we have just begun.
We started with "The Pittsburgh Jazz Channel" in 2011, an internet only service, and we knew that we needed to so much more. After WDUQ ended we were left with nothing but our broken dreams and our strong belief in all we did at WDUQ. So we had to start small. We did. After a year we started the plan to acquire the 88.1 signal out of Bethany WV, from Bethany College. It's signal, even for the Ohio Valley it primarily serves, was limited. It also had a damaged transmitter that could barely keep operating. We replaced it and that has helped tremendously.
We applied for, and received permission for a power increase from the FCC. We began to fundraise but the response was not strong enough to make the goal. So we began to look at ways of getting a signal into Pittsburgh as Pittsburgh combined with the Ohio Valley signal would be financially strong enough. We discovered WZUM AM 1550 was for sale, and knowing the FCC was about to open the opportunity for stations like WZUM to get FM signals we seized upon the opportunity. It was a magical moment.
After negotiations we made the deal and were approved by the FCC to get the station license and took over in May of 2016. We immediately started the process of looking for an FM signal to purchase.
The FCC had come up with an odd process that in order to get an FM license you had to buy one from another community within 250 air miles from the AM station.
FM prices skyrocketed and facilities that were once selling for $10,000 were now selling for $100,000. That was a deal breaker and we felt that all was lost. Then we had a miracle. A broadcaster friend who understood our situation and all we had been through partnered with a public broadcasting entity to make us a deal. It wouldn't be free, but at a cost of $50,000 it was dramatically less than any other option.
We made a deal, selected a frequency and applied with the FCC. We got approved.
The only rub was we needed to fundraise for the rest of the money, but people did not know we were on the air. People had to find us. Social media, word of mouth were all we had. We were fundraising but not getting much because we were unknown. We had to keep at it. We could not ask the Ohio valley listeners to pay for a station they perhaps could not hear, after all- we needed to improve that signal as well.
In September 2016 more people were listening. So we turned up the heat. The worlds longest fundraiser, a term coined by Phat Man Dee, was on. We had until the end of the year to get the money in for the license.
We fundraised hard but it was going too slow. We risked not making it.
As we approached the middle of December we realized the holidays were going to interfere with community giving. We had a panic. We just had to make it.
We went to the FCC and asked for special dispensation to extend another 90 days. We went to the seller and asked for another 90 days.
Both agreed. Wow.
Now we are just days away from the end of the extension and the outpouring of support has been unbelievable. The fundraiser itself has turned out to be spreading the word of our project. A week ago we were less than $5000 to go. A donor from Wellsburg WV decided to donate for a dollar for dollar match to push us to the end. That support has been terrific.
Now we have a fund drive finishing challenge of $5000 along side the Wellsburg Challenge. But this new challenge, The Cannonsburg Challenge, is an all or nothing. That means we get the $5000 only of we get an additional $5000 from donors from it's start on March 14, 2017 to the end of the drive. Yes, that means going over the goal. That is the point. People want to make absolutely sure we make it. That there will be no doubt that we will get there.
I am confident that we will.