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Strong Boards Case Study

WGUC, Cincinnati

Governance Overview

Focus on Civic Leadership

Community Advisory Boards – Successful Models

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It’s a common assumption that changes in governance are most often a response to crisis. As SRG has surveyed the territory, however, we find that changes in governance are more often the accumulation of important events over an extended period of time that slowly but surely lead to significant change. Leadership and vision are critical to drive the overall momentum.

The evolution of WGUC, the development of a strong governing board, and the eventual creation of a new organization, are an example of this step-by-step process. The changes were overseen by three different general managers, illustrating the importance of internally institutionalizing the long-term vision. Here are some of the key stages in that story:

  • WGUC is founded in 1960 by a group of citizens to create a radio station devoted to cultural and public affairs programming. The station is licensed to the University of Cincinnati.

  • In the early 1990s, WGUC’s station management looked at other public radio operations that were especially successful. While the most attractive model was a stand-alone non-profit organization, station management was mindful that the University of Cincinnati would be hesitant to relinquish the license. Management pursued the concept of putting a management agreement in place that would vest a group of civic leaders with responsibilities for the station’s overall operations. For several years, discussions continued between the station’s management, interested civic leaders, and the university’s administrative officers as the organizations moved toward codifying a management agreement. In 1994, the University of Cincinnati executed an operating agreement with Cincinnati Classical Public Radio, Inc./CCPR, an Ohio nonprofit corporation.

    WGUC Management Agreement

  • In the late 1990s, CCPR continued to explore a governance structure that would best assure the future of WGUC. It completed an in-depthlong-term strategic plan that included three key recommendations to the University.

    First, pointing to the uncertainty regarding CCPR’s vulnerability to a decision by the university to rescind the UC/CCPR management agreement, CCPR stated that it was in its own best interest “to ensure not only that WGUC continues to be operated efficiently, effectively and as a credit to the University, but also that positive and productive political and institutional ties are maintained and fostered.”

    At the same time, it recommended that “CCPR’s Chairman and CEO will continue and expand our discussions with University administration regarding the possibility of transferring the license of WGUC to CCPR, Inc. and said that if these talks were productive, CCPR would work to facilitate such a transfer.”

    Finally, CCPR expressed its continued commitment to explore the acquisition of a second station to enable a transition of WGUC from a News and Classical station to WGUC as a full-time classical music service with a news and information service on the second station.

    WGUC Strategic Plan

  • April, 2002, the license for WGUC is transferred from the University of Cincinnati to Cincinnati Public Radio, Inc.

  • August, 2005, Xavier University of Cincinnati, Ohio, transfers WVXU to Cincinnati Public Radio. The station provides a news and information service programming, and several music programs. WGUC transitions to a fulltime classical music service. The WGUC/WVXU combination allows Cincinnati Public Radio to provide two full-time services to Ohio’s tri-state area.