County commissioners appear split on supporting WTVI merger to save station

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The fate of 47-year-old PBS member station WTVI-TV in Charlotte, N.C., could be decided by Mecklenburg County commissioners next Tuesday (March 20), reports the Charlotte Observer. Commissioners “appear to be split” on support the station needs for a merger with Central Piedmont Community College.

At this week’s meeting, commissioner Bill James said he felt WTVI has no chance to succeed, as public broadcasters UNC-TV and SCETV also serve Mecklenburg. Commissioner Karen Bentley said Charlotte is a tough market to support three stations. “I don’t think bringing WTVI to CPCC is going to change that,” she said.

Elsie Garner, WTVI executive director, said the station has “by far” more viewers in Mecklenburg than the other two stations, little overlap in programs, and 75 percent of WTVI’s programs are locally produced. “Without WTVI there’d be no local education outreach,” she said. “The other two stations won’t support our nonprofits. We’ve promoted and celebrated the work of local independent producers.”

Board Chair Harold Cogdell supports Charlotte having its own public TV station. “It allows some local entity to tell Charlotte’s story,” he said. “They’ve (WTVI) done a good job over the years of doing that. If we can help with the transition and CPCC can raise private sector money … I believe we ought to consider it.”