BENNINGTON — Despite persistent rumors of the station's demise, Ted Hollo, general manager of WBTN-AM 1370, said the station continues to move forward and has no intentions of shutting down.
Hollo is one of only two paid employees left at the station after the previous general manager, Aaron Sawyer, stepped down from that position in March. Hollo had been the station's sales director, a position he continues to hold in addition to his duties as general manager. "It's not how I want it to be, but you do what you've got to do," he said. "We're trying to keep this thing going. We have several people working very hard, wearing a lot of hats, trying to get everything done."
The station's programming is now created entirely by volunteers, and Hollo said the number of on-air shows has grown in recent months, with six new shows debuting on the station since March, including oldies, comedy, and a morning show. "We have a pretty full weekend schedule," he said, "which we haven't had in years."
As the popularity of AM radio decreases across the country, Hollo said WBTN is taking steps to make sure it remains relevant in the face of changing technology. The station is available for streaming online, at wbtnam.org, and has smartphone apps available on the Apple and Android stores. The station also has a volunteer that keeps the station's Facebook page updated with information on currently airing programs. Hollo said people are logging in and listening to the station from around the country and around the world.
WBTN continues to be faced with tight finances, however, and relies on donors and advertisers to keep it afloat. He said unexpected expenses crop up from time to time, and when that happens, the station relies on community donations. For example, he said, the FCC is currently requiring a $500 upgrade to WBTN's Emergency Alert System, and the station is asking community members to donate $13.70 each to help pay for the system. "There are a lot of people who want to see us stay on the air," said Hollo.
The station began operating in 1952, having been started by Belva Keyworth. Its second owner was Vermont Public Radio. In 2000, it was bought by Robert Howe, who two years later donated it to Southern Vermont College, which ran it as a commercial venture. In 2008, SVC sold the station to a non-profit group formed for the purchase, Shires Media Partnership, which retains control of the station to this day.
"The community needs community radio," said Hollo, "We're the only ones here. If it's gone, it's gone forever."
"There's been a lot of negativity in the community, saying we're going to close, but we're still here," he said, "and we're not planning on closing anytime soon."
— Contact Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.