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Ossining Radio Station Transforming

Hope Machine performs at a benefit concert for WDFH. The station currently is fundraising in hopes of raising at least $100,000 to stay afloat and $400,000 to be financially stable.
Hope Machine performs at a benefit concert for WDFH. The station currently is fundraising in hopes of raising at least $100,000 to stay afloat and $400,000 to be financially stable. Photo Credit: Courtesy WDFH Radio

OSSINING, N.Y. -- Ossining-based WDFH may have ceased broadcasting over the air, but the radio station has not ended its commitment to serving the community.

The venerable public radio station (90.3 FM) stopped broadcasting at the end of July, being sold off to WQXR, a classical musical station operated by New York Public Radio. WDFH is looking to transform itself into a production company to assist nonprofits with establishing themselves.

WDFH also is continuing its popular radio show, "OutCasting," done by LGBT youth and straight allies. WDFH currently is fundraising, hoping to raise at least $100,000 to stay afloat and $400,000 to be financially stable.

“WDFH has spent its entire existence in a financial crisis,” said founder and executive director Mark Sophos said. “This all came to a head 18 months ago when we expanded our signal.”

For most of WDFH’s life, the station was stuck with a signal that limited its listener base. In 2009, the station was finally able to expand its signal, but soon lost its studio, not finding another studio until end of 2010.

“If we had had a decent signal when we first started this, the whole trajectory could've been different,” Sophos said.

Unfortunately for WDFH, its expanded signal came too little, too late. Radio has become a different medium, with analog radios almost extinct. The days of someone finding programming on the dial rather than using presets is long gone.

“People would find us, but not often,” Sophos said. “Even with a new studio and great programming, it just never took off.”

Realizing the end was near, WDFH began putting its license on the market and closed with WQXR July 29.

“It was a very weird feeling,” Sophos said. “It’s the first time in 40 years that I haven’t had a radio station. It was a wrenching decision. We were the only public radio station in Westchester and Rockland.”

WDFH is in the midst of trying to find money, Sophos said, but not having a fundraising department has hurt its attempts to raise money. Sophos said they are working on obtaining foundation grants and are soliciting donations from the public.

Sophos envisioned becoming a production company when it started broadcasting "For The Greater Good," a program that spotlighted area nonprofits. Sophos thought a production company was a way to keep WDFH alive even though it was no longer on the radio.

“I didn’t want to lose FM and go out of business,” Sophos said. “I was up late at night and realized we could do a lot without our FM license. FM signals might be losing their value with all the online content. This production company is phenomenally exciting.”

While working with nonprofits on "For the Greater Good," Sophos realized many nonprofits aren't doing media or aware of how to do media.

“We want to put these nonprofits on the map,” Sophos said.

"OutCasting" is a project near to Sophos’ heart. Sophos for years struggled with being open about his sexuality, not coming out until he was 39. He wanted to open people’s eyes to what it means to be LGBT in today’s society.

“This show is not just for an LGBT audience,” Sophos said. “I want people to see LGBT youth who they really are.”

"OutCasting" has had notable guests, like Dan Savage and Evan Wolfson, the architect of the marriage equality movement. The program also has spotlighted the history of the gay rights movement, noting that people in school learn about Martin Luther King, Jr., but not Harvey Milk.

“If you don’t see your reflected in reality, it will effect the way you see yourself,” Sophos said. “We strive to have people who are highly authoritative about the field they are working on.”

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