Every few months we highlight a different department of Asheville FM. Check out our last post, which spotlighted the Music Department.
If you’re a listener of Asheville FM, then you’ve experienced firsthand the efforts of our Underwriting (UW) Department. Underwriting spots are announcements made on air about a particular business (in exchange for funding from that business) that are technical and informative (and, by definition, not persuasive). As a community radio station, we like to help other independent and local businesses in the community—that’s why you’re not going to hear an announcement about McDonald’s. This department is one of three pillars of the station’s financial support (along with listener donations and twice-yearly fund drives).
As a side note, we dig this post by Allegiance Software that explains this kind of works and some of the requirements. If you’re unfamiliar with the term underwriting, it’s a super useful guide.
A Team Effort
Gypsy Flores and Ben Herring (pictured here) make up the Underwriting Department, but they often work with others at the station to ensure smooth operations, such as P Funk and his volunteers in the production team, and Juliet the Traffic Coordinator who maintains logs and schedules when the UW scripts are read.
Gypsy writes the underwriting copy and makes sure it is FCC compliant. “I am also in contact with our underwriters to make sure certain content is approved by them,” she adds. Gypsy—who was involved with community radio in Santa Cruz, California for 15 years—moved to Asheville in June 2009.
“We had underwriters throughout the whole Monterey Bay area and of course on my show I had to read the announcements,” she says. “When the idea of adding underwriters to our fundraising efforts at Asheville FM came up, I volunteered to write the copy for the announcements. I contacted the underwriting department at KUSP and they gave me the criterion for FCC rules and regulations, which I still follow. I worked closely with Kim Roney at the beginning, who was essentially our underwriting director (and station manager).”
Ben holds the position of Underwriting Representative, which is a part-time position paid through commissions. His duties include signing on new underwriters, continuing the relationships with underwriters, and invoicing and collecting payments.
How It Actually Works
We asked Ben to walk us through the process of how a business becomes an underwriter.
- Ben gets in touch with a business (by phone, email, or face to face). Referrals from volunteers are always a great way for him to get his foot in the door.
- He meets with the business owner. When they decide to become an underwriter, they’ll sign a contract and agree to a payment plan. Some businesses sign on for one month; some have signed on for two to three years.
- Once the paperwork is done, Ben puts the underwriter in touch with Gypsy. She handles working out the language for the underwriting (UW) message that will be read on air.
- New UWs go into a rotation of messages to be read. Ben says that Juliet is the mad scientist that rotates all of the messages week after week to ensure that different UW messages are read on different days and different times week to week, which provides the most benefit to the supporting businesses.
So, What Are PSAs?
Local nonprofits can submit public service announcements (PSAs). Each DJ reads one UW and one PSA per hour. Ben says, “PSAs are free of charge. However, there is no guarantee how many times per week a PSA will be read and we do not limit the number of PSAs in rotation. We guarantee our UWs that their messages will be read at least three times per week. We do have nonprofits as underwriters as well. Whether a nonprofit submits a PSA or becomes an underwriter depends on the message the organization is trying to get across.”
In addition to having their message read on air, UWs also get their badge/link here. Since Asheville FM is a nonprofit station, all underwriting payments are 100% tax deductible. Underwriting costs are $150 per month.
Radio is still a great way to get the word out about your business. It’s also a way for our station to connect with businesses and organizations in the community.
Amanda and Jon Hency, owners of The Mothlight music venue in West Asheville, have been underwriters since around the time they opened their business in 2014. Amanda says, “As a business that has a heavy focus on music we think it’s important to support our community’s artists and musicians and we share that ideology with Asheville FM. Personally I strongly believe that independent media is more important than ever. There is a war on facts happening and being able to express ideas and report truthful information is vital to a democracy.”
Become an Underwriter!
Business owners, have we piqued your interest yet? We’d love to hear from you! Contact Ben at firstname.lastname@example.org.