KWBU in Waco shutting down by June 1

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Citing an impending $400,000 budget shortfall, PBS affiliate KWBU in Waco, Texas, is ending its broadcast at the end of May, according to a statement from Joe Riley, station president.

The move will not affect its NPR broadcast. Riley told Current that it hasn’t yet talked to nearby PBS affiliates to as to the future of its channel.

“The first thing we had to do, was let our staff know,” he said. Ten full-time and four part-time employees are affected, about two-thirds of the staff.

KWBU is a community licensee but associated with Baylor University and housed on campus, Riley said. For about 10 years the university has provided “just under half, but certainly the biggest chunk of support” for the station’s budget. Community support never materialized, and the station began living on a university line of credit. That backing finally ran out this year, “a little sooner than anybody had anticipated,” Riley said.

With a June 1 end of fiscal and no funds to make up its deficit, the station was forced to face what Riley termed “the worst case scenario,” and shut down. Radio is safe, for now.

“Baylor has assured us they will continue funding us at the same level as last year for this year, and freeze any payments and interest on the line of credit,” to keep the FM signal going.

The station started out in 1978 via a translator for KNCT in Killeen. In 1989 it became KCTF, its own station in Waco. In 2000 it changed its call letters to KWBU and KWBU-FM and began broadcasting NPR programming.

Riley said he will be speaking to PBS, CPB and the FCC as the station moves through the shut-down process.

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