Public TV, radio on the chopping block in Richmond
A surprise move by the House Appropriations Committee has put local public-broadcast programs like “Virginia Insight” and “Virginia Farming” up on the chopping block.
The Appropriations Committee in the Republican-majority House of Delegates voted to slash $3.2 million from funding to public television and radio stations. The impact to local public-TV station WVPT would come in around $500,000, and local public-radio station WMRA would take an estimated $115,000 hit if the cuts were to come to fruition.
“Our problem is compounded by the fact that next fiscal year’s budget already had a shortfall. I’ve been trying to figure out how to deal with that, and then if we add another $115,000, or even half of that, if the Senate and the House compromise, and we lose 50 percent, that’s another $60,000, on top of the well over $100,000 that I’m already trying to deal with,” said Tom DuVal, the general manager at the Harrisonburg-based WMRA.
“The Community Services Grant that is provided by the Commonwealth for public broadcasting stations is a significant part of our budget picture and our operational budget that allows us to produce, broadcast and bring programs that are educational in nature and entertaining to our viewers. It will also impact down the road if not immediately the services that we’re able to provide through our educational services department,” said David Mullins, the president and general manager at Harrisonburg-based WVPT.
The point from Mullins is an important one. The committee vote in Richmond is supposedly aimed at state grants that are not directly tied to educational efforts, but for WVPT and WMRA and other stations that will have to balance their budgets with whatever they get from the state and from local viewers, it’s not quite as simple as just ramping things back in one area or another.
“What we’re looking at if this goes through is staff reductions, and that’s going to mean local programming,” DuVal said. “So much of our budget goes for staff and for ‘Morning Edition’ and ‘All Things Considered.’ And we’re not going to drop ‘Morning Edition’ and ‘All Things Considered.’ If we drop those programs, we might as well just turn out the lights and go home because we’re not going to have any listeners left. So what’s the next thing?” DuVal said.
The thing for now is “wait and see,” Mullins said. “We are ever-hopeful that as the negotiations take place between the House and the Senate over the next days that some resolution can come to that that will be a better bit of news for us,” Mullins said.
– Story by Chris Graham