College Seeks Community Partnership to Take Over WBTN 1370-AM Radio Station

February 8, 2008

(BENNINGTON, Vt.) -- Citing a fresh focus on new academic programs, the Southern Vermont College Board of Trustees concluded last week that the College can no longer underwrite the losses at WBTN 1370-AM, the local commercial radio station that the College has owned since 2001. As a result, the College is now considering a series of options for the venerable community station that include sale or lease, as well as sale of a majority interest while retaining a minority stake.

“The College must focus on its main mission and must concentrate its efforts and resources on educating students with exciting new academic initiatives,” explained Trustee Jon Goodrich. “Unfortunately, we cannot continue to subsidize a commercial radio station. If in some way we can partner with a radio entrepreneur and help further the education of our students, it is a win-win.”

“We very much hope someone will come forward to keep the station in operation,” agreed Trustee Merritt Hewitt.

Among the new programs the College is introducing is “Build the Enterprise,” a cross-disciplinary initiative wherein teams of students plan, implement and manage their own businesses. The student-created businesses will be able to tap into a $100,000 Venture Fund for capitalization. In addition, this spring the College is inaugurating a “roving professor” faculty position which would initially provide instructional expertise in the field of pharmacology for a variety of courses but eventually will be expanded to instruction in the areas of communications, visual arts and sustainability across different academic divisions.

The College is also planning to expand its popular Nursing and Radiologic Technology programs with a new health care leadership major.

In September, the Trustees began to examine whether, in face mounting losses at WBTN, the College should retain the radio station, donated to the College by Trustee Robert Howe, and what other options for station ownership there might be. The Board of Trustees determined that the College should eliminate the losses generated by the station by the end of the spring term in May.

In the meantime, the College is eager to entertain proposals from community groups and others to take over station operations. The College is also considering the retention of the broadcast license for future use as a College and community nonprofit station.

“We take seriously and respect the role we have played in maintaining a community radio station as stewards of a broadcasting license,” Board Chairman Wallace W. Altes said. “Whatever the configuration of WBTN’s ownership in the future, we would hope that it would maintain its commitment to true community programming as well as affording our communications students and members of the community the opportunity to produce local broadcast content, as it does now. An ideal outcome might be for a local group to take over this local media resource with whom we could partner.”

Should an operator not come forth, the College might consider moving the station to the SVC campus, while using the existing WBTN facilities for other academic programs, Altes added.

Founded in 1926, Southern Vermont College offers a career-enhancing liberal arts education with 19 academic degree programs for approximately 450 students. Southern Vermont College recognizes the importance of educating students for the workplace of the twenty-first century and for lives as successful leaders in their communities. The College is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.