PBS FY14 draft budget has $11M content hike, no dues increase, thanks to income influx

PBS’s year-to-date financial results show a net income of $22 million instead of the estimated $100,000 net loss anticipated in its fiscal year 2013 budget, the PBS Board of Directors heard at their meeting April 9 at headquarters in Arlington, Va. “I may never get to say this again, but that’s pretty impressive,” said Molly Corbett Broad, finance committee chair. Thanks to the influx, PBS’s FY14 budget contains an increase of $11 million for National Program Service content without a hike in dues for member stations. The draft budget, unanimously approved by the finance committee and full board, will arrive at public television stations in the coming weeks for comment. Total member assessment is $185.5 million, the same as FY13.

PBS proposes 2% dues increase, okays common-carriage extension

PBS is seeking a 2 percent increase in membership fees in its draft budget for fiscal 2013. Although still subject to review by station execs and formal approval by the PBS Board, the proposed dues hike would be the first since fiscal 2009. “A key focus of this budget is the performance of critical maintenance on PBS’s technology infrastructure that is necessary to maintain reliable distribution of content to stations,” PBS spokesperson Jan McNamara told Current in a statement. “The majority of station dues [are] dedicated to content. This will continue to be the case in the coming fiscal year.

PBS dropping 21 staff positions, including veteran screeners

Thirteen current staff positions and eight vacant positions are being eliminated at PBS headquarters in Arlington, Va., and six “new or restructured” positions will be added, PBS President Paula Kerger said in a letter to the system July 13. Kerger blamed the “ongoing economic challenges faced by our system” and said PBS made the changes “to focus efforts in areas with the greatest value to the public media system in a time of budgetary constraints.”

PBS declined to verify individual departures or say what departments are affected. Several changes center on programming, which is “a key priority of the FY12 Strategic Plan,” Kerger’s letter said, “and part of a multiyear effort to transform PBS’ primetime lineup in order to grow audience and increase the amount of time viewers watch PBS programs.”

The programming community was surprised to hear that Steven Gray and two other top program screeners are gone. Gray, who had been v.p. of program development and editorial management since 1990, oversaw a staff of nine and reported directly to John Wilson, chief programming exec. Both of Gray’s senior directors of programming, Sandy Heberer and Allison Winshell, also left.

Making the most of what PBS can do

PBS’s budget for next year reflects a harsh reality: Revenues from member stations are flat for a third straight year, and scant other income opportunities lie ahead. The all-important annual program budget, as projected for fiscal year 2012, will remain at about $200 million, where it’s been stalled for a decade. For the first time in the past five years, there will be no new children’s series. The News and Public Affairs Initiative is on hold. PBS is retooling its primetime schedule to attract more viewers and underwriters and negotiating to push down program production costs per hour.

Fiscal year-end layoffs include 10% of PBS staff

Swamped by the recession tsunami as they prepared for the new fiscal year, public broadcasters at PBS headquarters; WQLN in Erie, Pa.; two Wisconsin stations and Colorado Public Radio cut budgets to keep their noses above the red ink.Falling by the wayside are established services, including the weeknightly newscast for Delaware viewers broadcast for 46 years by Philadelphia-based WHYY-TV and the local reports on the radio reading service for the blind operated for 16 years by WMFE-FM in Orlando, Fla.Troubled stations typically reported revenues that were down across the board, in underwriting, corporate donations, membership and state government support. With no higher ground for refuge, PBS officials told staffers June 11 that 45 positions, including some vacancies, would be eliminated. That’s about 10 percent of the network’s staff. PBS is struggling to close a $3.4 million deficit anticipated for fiscal year 2010. Spokeswoman Jan McNamara said the job cuts and other measures already adopted will eliminate about half of that shortfall.