Western Illinois University, licensee of Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, will cut all funding to the station in March 2019.
Tri States Public Radio will lose about half its annual operating budget, according to GM Jonathan Ahl. The budget totals about $1 million in cash with more from in-kind contributions.
University President Jack Thomas discussed cutbacks across the university in a state of the university speech Thursday. State funding for the university has declined over almost two decades, he said. Thomas mentioned plans for an “academic realignment” and said, “We must only spend our resources for essential operating needs.”
Thomas told station News Director Rich Egger in an interview later Thursday that the university “just looked at those things that are not as part of the nucleus of the education. We know that everything is important to us. But when we get to a situation we have to make those tough decisions.”
When Egger pressed for details about the impact on Tri States, Thomas said, “Rich, you are directly affected by this, and I don’t want to continue this discussion. Because it’s getting personal.”
University spokesperson Darcie Shinberger told Egger Thursday that the licensee will provide nonprofit status for Tri States Public Radio. “The radio station will become a self-funded department within the University structure and will be responsible for generating its revenue needs, including personnel expenditures, effective March 1, 2019,” Shinberger wrote.
Ahl said that College of Fine Arts and Communication Dean Billy Clow told him Friday that “cuts were coming” and that details would follow “in an official, written notification.” But Shinberger’s statement “is the only written communication or details we have received at this point,” Ahl said.
The station’s friends organization and other groups are launching a series of community forums Wednesday night at Macomb City Hall.
“I am 100 percent convinced our audience that has supported us for decades will do everything they can to help us face this challenge,” Ahl said. “What TSPR looks like in the near future is unclear, but all of us involved are committed to making the service vibrant and viable for the long term, and to raise as much money and resources available to do that.”
The station serves listeners in west central Illinois, southeast Iowa and northeast Missouri. It also provides an Audio Information Service for listeners with visual disabilities.
The university also licenses PBS member station WQPT, which is a financially self-supporting department.
Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly said that WQPT is a financially independent nonprofit. It is a financially self-supporting department of the university. The post also incorrectly said that Rich Egger interviewed Jack Thomas Friday and that Shinberger contacted Egger Friday. Both events occurred Thursday. And the post incorrectly said that Tri States will become an independent nonprofit. As Shinberger said, it will become “a self-funded department within the University structure.”