From Afrocentric and student talk shows to classic rock ’n’ roll and world-beat music, programming at the Detroit Public Schools’ WDTR-FM is in limbo as the administration moves to lease the station to an outside operator.
The station’s 12 paid staffers were given “non-renewal notices” last week, and roughly 35 volunteers (the latter comprising virtually all voices on the air) were told they’d no longer be needed after July 1. But by Monday, DPS executive director of communications Mario Morrow, had reconsidered. He says he decided “that it’s probably best to carry it through the summer,” referring to the current format and personnel — except for general manager Kathy Young-Welch.
Morrow said guidelines will be prepared within two weeks for prospective parties to lease the station and turn it from a $750,000 annual expense to a profit-maker, putting “money back into the classrooms.”
As to volunteer community programming, Morrow says, “The component will not be as large as it is now but there will always be community input.”
The volunteer broadcasters say they understand the school system’s plight (DPS is laying off 2,300 workers in all), but think a mistake is being made.
“It’s vital and a means to communicate with the community,” says Saturday jazz host Lopez Loving, a retired IBM manager who’s volunteered for six years at the station, which has 50,000 listeners a week.
Program host Malik Yakini, director of the Nsoroma Institute, a private school in Oak Park, says that, as an administrator himself, he understands DPS’s fiscal bind. But he criticizes the lack of discussion around an important community resource.
“It’s important to have alternative voices heard on the radio,” adds Yakini, host of the Sunday night “Open Forum” talk show. “It’s a tremendous loss to the community for that voice to be silenced.”
Yakini says that he and some other volunteers planned to meet with members of the Keep the Vote-No Takeover Coalition — which opposes having an appointed school board — to seek help in pressing for continued community programming.
Until then, WDTR-FM might just as well stand for We Don’t Think Radio Fans Matter.Contact News Hits at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com