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Public Broadcasting Atlanta (WABE, PBA30) gets $502K gift, launching podcasts

Posted by Thursday, November 30, 2017 by RODNEY HO/ on his myAJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Public Broadcasting Atlanta, which owns 90.1/WABE-FM and PBA30, recently received a $502,000 gift from a listener. This bolsters the organization's financial situation, which is in good shape.

Jane Nicol, a long-time donor, passed away and bequested a half-million dollar gift to PBA, according to Tina Arbes, chief financial officer, during the bi-monthly board meeting Thursday morning at PBA headquarters. The monies will be placed in a board-restricted fund.

"We're just very fortunate we were part of her insurance policies," Arbes said. "It really paid off wonderfully for our balance sheet."

Revenue is up five percent year over year so far. (PBA's financial year ends June 30 so the organization is five months into FY 2018.) Nearly 90 percent of its revenue come from individual giving, grants underwriting. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting provides most of the remaining 10 percent of the annual budget.

Individual giving is up two percent ahead of budget and seven percent more than a year ago. The company has about 44,000 individual members, up from 39,221 in 2016, and in FY 2017, individuals gave $7.8 million. Donor retention has increased as well, up 21 percentage points since 2013. New donors jumped sharply in 2017.

"We had a great radio pledge," Arbes said, referencing the most recent fall pledge drive, which drew $857,896, up from $739,679 a year ago. (Those dollars do not include existing sustainer donors, who provide automated donations each month.)

But she said TV pledges are struggling.

Indeed, PBA30 has seen active donors drop 20 percent year over ear. "It's what keeps me up at night," said Amanda La Kier, vice president for individual giving and donor relations.

Overall underwriting revenue is four percent over budget and up seven percent from the same period a year ago.

Since WABE dropped classical music on weekdays in 2015 for all news/talk, ratings and listeners have grown, said Jared Blass, director of underwriting. About 500,000 unique listeners catch the station each week, including 100,000 millennials, according to Nielsen Media numbers.

"The last three years have been unbelievable," Blass said. "It has changed how people perceive us. It has made our audience more diverse and younger." He noted that the station reaches more college-educated 25-54 year olds than any other station in town.

The station now produces more than 23 hours a week of original programming, far more than it did a few years ago before Wonya Lucas took over.

He noted that the greater use of devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, more people are listening to audio at home.

Blass also said the revamped WABE website and app is focused more on on-demand content.

WABE is debuting its first podcast hosted by morning host Denis O'Hayer called "Political Breakfast" focused on (by the nature of its name) politics. It is set to launch in mid December.

It's also launching a second podcast in March, 2018 led by Pulitzer-Prize winning author and journalist Hank Klibanoff called "Buried Truths." It focuses on cold cases of old civil rights crimes. Klibanoff, a former managing editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for history for his book "The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation."

The TV station will begin airing "Independent Lens" programming every Thursday. An original program called "Made in ATL" will debut next year focused on Atlanta entertainers and entrepreneurs. And music program "Austin City Limits" will start airing on Saturdays during prime time in 2018.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.