PBS member WTVI may close if takeover by community college fails

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Elsie Garner, president of WTVI, tells the Charlotte Observer that there’s a “dire possibility” the station may have to close down — perhaps as soon as June — if a planned takeover by Central Piedmont Community College can’t go forward. Under that plan, the college would use WTVI as a new base for journalism and videography courses, and to develop a digital media curriculum. But to do that, the college says, it needs $357,000 from Mecklenburg County to cover the merger and around $800,000 over the next four years to replace equipment.

County Manager Harry Jones said in a memo to commissioners last week: “I consider this proposal to be a government-funded bailout of a failed business model, and believe county taxpayers should not pay. As regrettable as it may be that WTVI would cease operation, it is important to remember that WTVI has had multiple years to redesign and reshape its business model to reflect the new normal.”

The paper notes that WTVI “has tried to find a niche” between overlap stations UNC-TV and SCETV by offering “alternative — and lower cost — public broadcasting shows and providing local programming.”

“It seems to me to be excessively simple to create something like this of such value to the community so we could continue uninterrupted,” Garner said. “With CPCC’s help, we would have a lot more resources to create local programs.”

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