An Update On The Pandemic’s Effect On WBHM


We don’t often turn the spotlight on ourselves, but the last four months at WBHM have been unlike any other time in the station’s history. Like many organizations, most staff have been working remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. The station has not been immune from the outbreak’s financial impacts either. In advance of WBHM’s one-day fund drive on Thursday, WBHM’s Andrew Yeager spoke with the station’s executive director Chuck Holmes for an update on how COVID-19 has affected WBHM.

How the station’s finances have been impacted:

WBHM, like a lot of nonprofits and businesses, we are feeling the pinch. The recession caused by the pandemic has hurt a lot of businesses. We depend on corporate underwriting for part of our revenue and, of course, membership. People are hurting and feeling pain out there and we’re seeing some decline in membership as well. The big issue for us was we canceled our planned pledge drive in April. We did that because, one, we wanted to keep bringing people the news that they needed to have. And two, when we do these week-long, eight-day-long pledge drives, it involves a lot of people. We just felt we couldn’t do that in terms of the pandemic, the health risks involved.

We have had to furlough staff and we have open positions that we have not filled. Not having that drive in April has deprived our budget of a fair amount of revenue. About half of our revenues come from membership.

The reason for a one-day drive:

We’re really kind of taking our cue from some other public radio stations out there who have done this and done it successfully. [It’s] one day primarily because we want to limit the amount of time we’re on the air asking people for money. We’re living in such extraordinary times of the pandemic and a recession and all that’s gone on since the death of George Floyd and the reckoning with racial injustice in America. It’s an election year, let’s not forget. There’s just so much news out there and we felt like if we could try and do it one day and appeal to people to step up and support a public radio station that they love, let’s see if we can do it. We’re kind of in a race to finish our fiscal year, which ends September 30, and we want to try and do it with a balanced budget.

The goal of the drive:

Based on our current budget projections we’re down about $200,000, which is what we need to raise between now and the end of September. If we can knock it all out of the park in this one-day drive, wow, wouldn’t that be great? If we have to come back in September and make more appeals, we’ll certainly do that as well.

More Arts and Culture Coverage

Alabama Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Legislation

Lawmakers had a change of heart after decades of debate on the issue.

UAB Closes Three COVID-19 Mass Vaccination Sites While Alabama’s Vaccination Rate Remains Below 50%

UAB announced this week it's closing the majority of its public COVID-19 vaccination sites because of a decline in participation. Meanwhile, Alabama remains at the bottom nationally for the number of adults that have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

‘When Buses Were A-Comin’: Remembering The Freedom Riders 60 Years On

A group of young civil rights activists began their journey to the South to challenge segregation on interstate buses in May 1961. The riders were taunted and beaten by white mobs – and jailed. Participants of the movement share what their fight means now.

Using Pastors And Pints, Gulf States Try To Boost COVID Vaccination Rates In White Communities

Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama have the lowest vaccination rates nationally, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Health officials are considering creative incentives to get the numbers up from church events to possible beer giveaways.

As Demand Drops, Health Officials Look For Ways To Encourage Vaccinations

Health officials say at first they were focused on vaccinating elderly and at-risk people in Alabama. Now the focus is shifting to people who are skeptical or apathetic about the vaccine.

Will The Gulf Coast Amtrak Line Ever Leave The Station?

Plans for a passenger line connecting New Orleans with Mobile are underway, but opposition from the freight train industry could derail the service – and possibly President Joe Biden’s vision for an Amtrak resurgence.

More Arts and Culture Coverage