Vermont budget squeeze imperils public TV support

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Vermont PBS is awaiting the fate of its state support after legislators in the House recently reduced its budget line item from $271,000 to $1.

State funding accounted for about 4.5 percent of Vermont PBS’ $6 million budget this fiscal year. Republican Gov. Phil Scott recommended level funding for FY18, but the budget approved by the House March 30 cut that to $1.

The Vermont Senate must approve the state budget before it adjourns in May.

“Needs in the state are up, and revenue is down,” Vermont PBS President Holly Groschner said. “And the governor has pledged not to raise taxes.”

“The legislature is a great supporter of public media,” Groschner added. “It just doesn’t have the resources.”

She said that the station is “thrilled” that the House preserved the station’s line item. “That signals they’re interested in continuing the conversation” about public media funding, Groschner said.

Vermont PBS received $56 million in the recent FCC broadcast spectrum auction. “That’s not a complication” in discussions over funding, Groschner said.

Groschner said the station is hiring a consultant to help gather public input about to spend the auction proceeds. She anticipates that process will continue into the fall.