The Maryland-based Calvert Foundation and two other organizations unveiled yesterday an investment program to provide help for public radio stations, some of which are financially strapped, as well as money to acquire new ones.
The Public Radio Fund will be the largest capital-raising effort ever attempted for noncommercial radio, said a statement announcing its launch.
Other backers of the fund are New York's Ford Foundation and Public Radio Capital, a nonprofit in Denver.
The Calvert Foundation, which has its headquarters in Bethesda, has primarily focused on helping disadvantaged communities.
Marc Hand, Public Radio Capital's managing director, said in a statement that beginning this fall, the fund "will help public broadcasters all over the U.S. gain access to short-term capital on an affordable basis, and move more quickly and aggressively when an opportunity to compete for a valuable channel comes on the market."
The fund's target for the next six to 12 months is $15 million, starting with $4.5 million in loans already committed; $1.5 million from the Ford Foundation; and $3 million from investors around the country, channeled through the Calvert Foundation.
Tim Freundlich, director of strategic development for the Calvert Foundation, said in a conference call that the fund was being launched to counter "growing concern about over-concentration of media ownership," according to a transcript of his remarks.
"More public radio in more places in the United States is the goal of the Public Radio Fund," Freundlich said.
He called the plan a "first-of-its-kind opportunity for social purpose investors to band together behind grassroots, alternative, independent media."
Freundlich said the fund will "recycle" the investment capital to acquire new public radio stations.
By leveraging the loan fund's assets, he said, Public Radio Capital "will be able to attract tax-exempt bond financing to acquire an even greater number of radio stations."
The initial $15 million will provide financing for five to 10 stations, he said, adding that recycling the loan capital over three to five years could secure financing for 20 to 30 stations.