West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has revised his budget proposal to include funding for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.
In a Thursday letter to West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead, Justice revised his proposal to restore $4.6 million in support of WVPB, which he had previously proposed cutting in full. Justice also recommended restoring a direct appropriation to WVPB’s nationally syndicated music show Mountain Stage. WVPB posted the letter on its website Friday with a news story about the change.
The governor made the revisions in light of revised revenue estimates. The letter said WVPB’s funding was restored “to permit the agency to enter into a transition phase with a land-grant institution of higher education.” [Update: A press release Friday said Justice “is working on a deal with West Virginia University to allow Public Broadcasting to become a fully integrated part of WVU in the near future.”] State funding now accounts for 45 percent of the broadcaster’s budget.
WVPB GM Scott Finn told the House Finance Committee March 8 that “if the state wants out of the public broadcasting business,” it should ensure that WVPB has funding to make a transition to ownership by a university or nonprofit. He added that it’s “not my place” to say whether that would be a better outcome.
Finn also said that zeroing out WVPB’s funding would force it off the air and that the broadcaster was moving to cut 20 positions, five of which are currently vacant.
But at a meeting earlier this week of the Educational Broadcasting Authority, the governing body of WVPB, the agency made no decisions regarding layoffs, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported Wednesday.
West Virginia’s House and Senate have yet to release their budget proposals. Earlier this week, the legislature presented a broad budget framework that did not get into the specifics of WVPB’s funding.