Devastated by Katrina, WYES can’t get FEMA funding to rebuild

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New Orleans public TV station WYES’s “ordeal with FEMA is a Frontline episode in itself,” writes Dave Walker, Times-Picayune TV columnist. The station’s building was mostly destroyed by Katrina, and although the broadcast signal was restored in December 2005, most of the staff is working out of leased space in Metairie. WYES is able to use its old studio for pledge and several local programs, with temporary utilities and temporary approval from the city to operate there. FEMA declined to provide the station with recovery money, says g.m. Randy Feldman, because, in FEMA’s eyes, it is not an educational institution or arts organization and doesn’t provide emergency communications services–even though WYES provides a slew of educational and arts programming and is part of the Emergency Broadcast System. The station has exhausted its two appeals with the government and intervention by Louisiana’s congressional delegation has failed. “The next gambit to restore the station is direct congressional appropriation,” writes Walker. “One plan is to rebuild WYES piecemeal as budget permits.” [See Current‘s coverage of stations affected by Katrina here.]