A proposed state budget that would eliminate support for West Virginia Public Broadcasting is already having an impact on the station.
WVPB estimates it will need to lay off 15 full-time staffers by the end of the month “to keep up with what we think might be coming” in cuts to its state funding, GM Scott Finn told the West Virginia House Finance Committee Wednesday. The reduction would amount to more than 20 percent of WVPB’s workforce. The network will also leave open five vacant positions.
“We know something is coming, and we’re trying to get ahead of it,” Finn told the committee. He added that he hopes some staffers will “voluntarily separate” with the organization.
Finn did not specify which positions will be eliminated but said the layoffs will result in “less reliable” service and more outages.
Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed budget would cut WVPB’s $4.6 million in funding, which accounts for about 45 percent of the network’s total budget.
WVPB would shut down entirely if it lost all state funding, said Finn, who urged lawmakers to make sure that the state had plans for the broadcast license if that happened.
The governor’s budget also cuts a $300,000 direct appropriation to WVPB’s nationally syndicated music show Mountain Stage. The show is the “first thing that I think should be protected, honestly, and what I will work to make sure it is protected first,” Finn said.
“I just don’t see any way, in my opinion, that we can effectively operate without your entity,” said one committee member. “I think you all do a great job selling the state.”
The West Virginia House and Senate have yet to release their budget proposals.
In an interview with West Virginia radio host Howard Monroe, Gov. Justice said he didn’t want to cut public broadcasting’s funding, “but if I had come with no budget cuts I would have heard it till the cows come home.” Justice said he would “try every way in the world” to continue funding WVPB.