Florida Governor Vetoes PBS Funding

(NY TIMES)   Just as a deal came together late last week to keep PBS programming on the air in Orlando, Florida’s public broadcasters suffered a financial blow when Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the state’s nearly $4.8 million appropriation for public broadcasting.

That figure had already been reduced by 30 percent from the amount broadcasters received last year. With the cuts, each of 13 public radio stations will lose $87,287 in state funds compared with last year, and each of the 13 public television stations will lose a subsidy of $434,837. Stations receive the same subsidy, regardless of size.

“For me, it is critical; for a small station it might be catastrophic,” said Rick Schneider, president and chief executive of Miami’s WPBT-TV. He said there was “no doubt that people are going to have to look at layoffs” and that he would not be surprised if some stations were shut down. The broadcasters will work to get the funds reinstated, he said.

Orlando’s WMFE-TV had already decided to leave public broadcasting, citing financial strain in its decision to sell itself to a religious broadcaster, which would have left the city without PBS programming on July 1.

But, on Thursday, the University of Central Florida in Orlando said it reached a partnership deal with WBCC, at Brevard Community College in nearby Cocoa. U.C.F. will invest up to $1 million in the college station, which had been the market’s secondary PBS station (and already offered some U.C.F. programming on a digital subchannel) and will now become the primary station, pending PBS approval. It will be renamed WUCF.

Grant J. Heston, the university’s assistant vice president who is in charge of overseeing UCFTV, said that as the university with the nation’s second-largest enrollment, U.C.F. believed it had a base that “will help us generate that community support” needed to operate the station. He said officials had set conservative initial fund-raising goals and would operate “as lean and efficient as possible.”


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