The United States has authorized the radio business to develop mainly on its own as it lacks a formal government-run system. Irrespective of whether they are aimed at making profit or not, it is anticipated that all the radio stations keep the interest of the public at heart. How well the radio stations serve their communities is determined by the response of the listeners, as well as the Federal Communications Commission. This paper aims at comparing a commercial and non-commercial radio station in Chicago with reference to funding. The two stations compared are WNUR 89.3 FM (non-commercial) and WMVP (1000 AM) (commercial).

Commercial and Non-Commercial Radio Stations in Chicago

A non-commercial radio station is defined by a number of distinct qualities. To begin with, it has an immense music library. In comparison, the commercial radio stations contain fewer songs than the non-commercial radio stations. Studies indicate that it is possible for a listener listening to a song from a non-commercial radio station never to hear the same song again. This explains how vast their music library is. Secondly, both the commercial and non-commercial radio stations have a varying content of the music. Evidently, the commercial radio stations have a tendency of playing the popular mainstream music to attract a wide range of listeners, whilst their counterpart plays the unknown and underground music. Lastly, the two radio stations operate on a different point of view. The commercial radio stations are money oriented, while the non-commercials are not. The non-commercial radio stations hardly air commercials for the profit, rather, they play them with an aim of helping the community. On the other hand, commercial radio stations air commercials for the profit.

The WNUR 89.3 FM of Chicago is a non-commercial type of radio station. It is listener-supported, and it broadcasts from the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston (WNUR, n.d.). WNUR 89.3 FM serves an audience of close to three million in the land of Chicago alone. Its format aims at presenting a forum for underrepresented notions and music, as emphasized in its mission statement. WNUR 89.3 FM is not afraid to take on the challenging and controversial issues. The radio station plays a vital role in voicing out politics, public affair issues and news. The search by the station of artistic and cultural aspects of the radio reflects on the under-promoted artists, as well as the musical genres that can hardly be located on any other station within Chicago (WNUR, n.d.).

Though WNUR 89.3 FM can carry out advertising, it ensures that it is unobtrusive, widely spread, and it is not its main source of funding. The flexibility of non-commercial radio stations comes from the fact that its funding is not reliant on advertising. Notwithstanding they need listener numbers to maintain their sovereign sources of funding, they do not need to compete with the ratings offered by commercial radio stations to persuade their audience to spend more money with them.

The streaming audio on WNUR 89.3 FM is made possible by the Vice President of Information Technologies at Northwestern University, Dr. Mort Rahimi, who gave them a generous grant. The stations news, music and sports are operated with an annual operating grant given by the Dean of Northwestern Universitys School of Communication, Barbara OKeefe. The stations programming is supported by the grants from the E.F. Harris Foundation. WNUR 89.3 FM also thanks Bob Taylor for computing personnel and facilities support. Besides, WNUR 89.3 FM also gets funding from the domestic organizations and companies, a fund commonly referred to as a corporate or business sponsorship, listener contributions, direct sponsorship from the university, grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, major gifts, state and local governments.

Local institutions, businesses and listeners, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) are the main sources of funding for the non-commercial radios in the United States. These institutions contribute almost equally to the sustenance of the non- commercial radio, bearing in mind that it does not depend entirely on money obtained from advertising. Federal laws do not permit advertising for non-commercial radio; thus, the support that is obtained from local businesses is not interpreted as the advertising income. Every year, the United States Federal government supports most non-commercial radios through the CPB funding. The Community Service Grants program supports financially radio stations that are situated in regions, lacking a public broadcasting, as well as the marginal radio stations.

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An example of a commercial radio station is Chicagos WMVP (1000 AM). The station, whose transmitter is situated in Downers Grove, is owned by ABC. The station airs live discussions on sports both nationally and locally (WMVP (WCFL) 1000, Chicago, 2008). Day-to-day programming comprises of local and national talk shows. Some of the shows encompass Mike and Mike that is broadcasted in the morning, as well as Scott Van Pelt, Carmen Jurko and Harry, Waddle and Silvy. The latter two shows generally focus on Chicago sports. Presently, WMVP (1000 AM) is the leading radio station airing Chicago Bulls (WMVP (WCFL) 1000, Chicago, 2008).

In order to sustain itself, the WMVP (1000 AM) radio station needs some sort of funding. The station requires a program as well as the operational funding in order to sustain itself. Unlike non-commercial radios, such as Chicagos WNUR, commercial radios (WMVP) engage in advertising in order to raise funds to support the station (WMVP (WCFL) 1000, Chicago, 2008). The radio station has numerous commercial breaks between programs to allow for advertising, as it is the main source of its budget. According to research, commercial radios derive their operating budget by selling advertising or radio commercials. The income obtained from advertising is used to pay incurred expenses, whilst the remainder is termed as business profits.

In order to raise more funds, the WMVP (1000 AM) radio station is aware that it has to attract more advertisements from clients (WMVP (WCFL) 1000, Chicago, 2008). This means that it has to broadcast the best programs that would attract more listeners, thus, more advertisers. More listeners imply a better commercial on the WMVP (1000 AM) station. People advertise depending on how a station is rated, and the advertisement rates charged by the station directly link to the rating.

Comparing the Chicagos WMVP (1000 AM) commercial radio station with the WNUR non-commercial radio station, it is obvious that their sources of funding differ. Being a commercial radio station, WMVP has been established for businesses purposes. This implies that the station has to engage in advertising in order to raise money to support its program broadcasting, in addition to meeting its operational expenses. The station broadcasts the best programs in order to attract a large listener base, and obtain high ratings; the two factors that contribute to its financial base to a considerable degree. Advertisers end to put ads on the radio stations that are rated high as they are sure that the intended information will have a wider reach. On the other hand, WNUR is a non-commercial radio that is supported by its listeners as well as donors. In the United States, federal laws do not permit non-commercial radios to engage in advertising. Other sources of funding to support the WNUR program broadcasting include grants from local businesses and corporations, grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, as well as the support from the University.

In a nutshell, the main difference between commercial and non-commercial stations are profits obtained from advertising. A domestically-ran radio network is not provided for in the United States. This leaves commercial stations to incorporate commercials as the principal approach. On the contrary, non-commercial stations run an unpaid advertising, requiring sponsors to support them.

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