If CPB is defunded, 130 stations are ‘at high risk,’ Booz report finds

What if Congress stopped allocating federal aid to pubcasting? The latest bleak financial analysis from CPB, released last week, adds some specifics about how service would be affected in dozens of congressional districts across the land. Fifty-four public TV licensees in 19 states and 76 public radio operators in 38 states would be “at high risk of no longer being able to sustain operations” if federal aid ends, CPB asserts in a report backed by Booz & Co. and delivered to the appropriation committees June 20. Congress asked CPB for a report on the field’s economic options when lawmakers approved the most recent advance appropriation in December.

CPB to equip 2 pubTV facilities as multistation master controls

By having two or three big master-control facilities oversee the digital assembly and transmission of broadcast schedules for all of the nation’s public TV stations, the field could save tens of millions of dollars a year, according to Mark Erstling, CPB senior v.p., system development and media strategy. CPB will cover a big part of the costs of public TV’s first two “centralcasting” setups this year, Erstling says. On Sept. 19, the CPB Board approved a $6.6 million grant to equip a centralcasting facility in Syracuse, N.Y., for all nine pubTV stations in New York State plus New Jersey’s four-station network. The grant covers about 90 percent of the cost of the project, to be located in the new home of WCNY-FM/TV in downtown Syracuse.

George Hall, advocate for educational TV institutions, 82

George Leigh Hall, 82, a public television leader in North Carolina, Illinois and Virginia, died June 5 at a retirement home in Fuquay-Varina, N.C.

His wife of 60 years, Katherine Waddington Hall, had died six months earlier. After starting in radio during the 1940s in his hometown of Reidsville, N.C., north of Raleigh, Hall joined Capitol Broadcasting Company’s WRAL-AM in Raleigh and advanced to program manager; helped the company acquire a television license and served as the TV station’s first program manager. In 1960, Hall became g.m. of North Carolina State University’s Raleigh studios of the state educational TV network, UNC-TV. Later he headed the telecommunications department at the University of Delaware at Newark. In Illinois, he served as president of Convocom, a three-station confederation of stations in Springfield, Macomb and Quincy.

N.Y., Philly stations to pick up NJN’s pieces

For 40 years New Jersey has justified having its own public broadcasting network by pointing to the limited reporting on its area by the Philadelphia and New York media. Now the state is moving to dismantle the New Jersey Network and entrust that reporting and its broadcast channels to public TV and radio stations in those two adjoining cities. The state has notified the NJN staff of about 120 that their jobs will disappear at the end of June, and observers doubt that a majority of the legislature will stop the process for more discussion as it did last summer. Republican Gov. Chris Christie, an emphatic budget-cutting former prosecutor, announced the new operators of NJN’s channels June 6, four months after the state asked for proposals:

NJN’s four full-power TV stations and three lower-power translators will be operated by Manhattan-based WNET under a five-year contract, with the state retaining ownership. Four NJN radio channels in northern and central areas, including one in coastal Toms River, will be sold to New York Public Radio (WNYC/WQXR).

CPB survives, but not the facilities program

This year, St. Patrick’s Day was the deadline for pubcasters to ask Uncle Sam for help replacing their ancient, failing transmitters, or for a broadcast starter-set to put a new station on the air. It was also one of those days when Congress lurched toward its budget compromise — and took back the offer. Gone is the 49-year-old Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, a $20-million line item in the Department of Commerce, which had been saved year after year by supporters in Congress. This time they were too busy saving PTFP’s younger and bigger sibling, CPB.

Panel to weigh state spinoff of NJN

The governor says the state can’t afford New Jersey Network anymore. NJN’s leaders say it would do better as a nonprofit anyway. But the NJN employees’ union predicts that a spun-off nonprofit NJN inevitably would fade away, its valuable assets and New Jersey news lost forever. Looks like the ideal time for a Legislative Task Force on Public Broadcasting, lawmakers decided June 29.