PTFP’s last annual grant round came toward the end of fiscal year 2010, and the agency later began soliciting applications for FY 2011, but the lingering recession and budget stalemate took down the grant program early in 2011. In fall 2011 the Commerce Department agency National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced $20.45 million in PTFP grants for 126 projects. Nearly half the money, $9.9 million, went to replace old equipment at existing stations;
$5.1 million went to extend or start 30 radio services and 1 TV service;
$4.1 million helped TV stations with conversion to digital operation, a major expense during PTFP’s last years. A handful of other grants went to four emergency repair projects during the year, digital radio upgrades, facilities planning by future applicants, a radio reading service for the blind, a distance learning project and the perennial grantee PEACESAT. 2010 PTFP Awards
AlabamaAlabama Educational Television Commission
A project to assist the Alabama Educational Television Commission, Birmingham, AL, with the acquisition and installation of a Flywheel UPS unit and a 3,000 gallon diesel fuel tank for WIIQ-TV, Demopolis, AL.
KCPW in Salt Lake City is less than two weeks from a loan default that could put it off the air. The new nonprofit licensee celebrated its purchase of KCPW frequency to maintain the news/talk station in 2008, but it’s now struggling to make payments on loans that financed the $2.4 million purchase. Wasatch Public Media has until Oct. 31  to pay off a $250,000 loan from National Cooperative Bank, and if it fails, the bank will call in a separate $1.8 million loan. A rescue package put together last week by Salt Lake’s Redevelopment Agency fell through over the weekend.
The author is president of Western Reserve Public Media (WNEO/ WEAO), which serves Akron, Youngstown and Kent in northeast Ohio. Right after I finished reading Barbara Cochran’s paper for the Knight Commission, “Rethinking Public Media: More Local, More Inclusive, More Interactive,” the phone rang. The 1990s called, and they want their White Paper back. Public television has been local, inclusive and interactive since its inception. No doubt there is always room to be “more,” but getting there by building up staff and tinkering with governance structure is a repeat of the past and will lead to more reliance on taxpayer support from state and federal sources that cannot or will not provide it.
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.
Paula Kerger wants public TV stations to know that the combination of flat station dues, dwindling resources and balanced budgets may be slowly strangling PBS’s ability to fund new-media innovation. “We can’t continue to go down this path,” the network president told her board March 26 . PBS’s member stations are strangling, too, and the network probably can’t count on them to contribute more in dues for fiscal year 2011, which starts in July. The board endorsed a balanced budget — to be sent to stations for comment — that relies on no increases in assessments for member services, program services or fundraising programming.The board also capped at 5 percent any dues increase or decrease levied on an individual station. Fiscal 2011 will be PBS’s second year in a row without an increase in station support.
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.