Student fee not the solution for 91.7

There’s no reason to doubt Revolution 91.7-WWHR, Western’s alternative-format campus radio station, needs more than its $7,000 operating budget.

There’s no reason to doubt 91.7 would find legitimate use for the $100,000-plus that a proposed student fee would likely provide, though we’re not sure such a dramatic increase is entirely necessary.

But there’s no reason that each of Western’s students, most of whom couldn’t identify the sixth track of Joseph Arthur’s latest album if it was piped directly onto their ear drums, should be asked to supply 91.7 with $3 per semester.

Dr. Marjorie Yambor, general manager of 91.7, stresses that the “negligible” fee would be non-mandatory. Any student who wants his or her money back can request a refund during the first week of the semester.

That’s the problem. The number of students who would bother to ask for a $3 refund would likely be negligible, as well. Many students will have paid for a service they may never use, and the fact that they could have gotten their money back doesn’t justify the tuition increase.

Revolution 91.7 needs new equipment, furniture and office products, and it must pay for Associated Press news services and trips to national conventions, according to Yambor.

But as a non-commercially licensed station, 91.7 is prohibited from selling advertising in commercial form, the primary method of funding for most media.

Yambor said 91.7 can be underwritten — a bare-bones, distant cousin of commercial advertising — but the pool of potential underwriters and a medium’s monetary intake from underwriting is much lower than that of traditional advertising sales.

With such restrictions, the money-raising task is a daunting one for 91.7. By asking students for a more-or-less optional donation, the station is taking the last available approach to bolstering its budget.


If 91.7 only wants money from the students who wish to donate, then that’s exactly who the station should be soliciting.

Instead of returning money on the back end, why can’t 91.7 collect whatever it can on the front end? Like any non-profit organization, 91.7 is free to raise funds independently through special events or telethon-like programming.

Such an approach would help guarantee some increase in 91.7’s budget, and it wouldn’t alienate potential listeners who had been turned off by a not-quite-mandatory fee.

Otherwise, with the students and Board of Regents yet-to-be-stamped approval, 91.7 risks having its proposal greeted with dead air.

This editorial represents the majority opinion of the Herald’s 10-member board of student editors.