Mar 9, 2010

Minnesota pubcasters, Georgia's WUGA targeted in state budget battles

“I don’t want to overstate the case, but this could lead to signals going dark,” Allen Harmon, g.m. of WSDE-TV in Duluth, says in this MinnPost report on Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposal to zero-out funding for public broadcasters in the fiscal year beginning July 1. The governor's spending plan would cut more than $2 million in general appropriations support for public broadcasting in fiscal 2011 and beyond. It hits Minnesota's six public TV stations the hardest, eliminating $1.361 million in general-fund appropriations. Community radio stations would lose $387,000; Minnesota Public Radio, $250,000; and, Twin Cities regional cable, $17,000. Pubcasters tell MinnPost media critic David Brauer that the Legacy Amendment funds they're receiving for arts and cultural programming won't make up the difference in lost general support. Meanwhile, the University of Georgia recently threatened to shut down WUGA-FM, a Georgia Public Broadcasting station located on its Athens campus, in a draconian budget-cutting plan unveiled last week. The station is part of the GPB Radio network but cuts away for local classical music and other programming. "It’s one of the signature stations in our network," said Nancy Zintak, GPB spokeswoman. The proposed WUGA shut-off is part of a controversial plan by the University of Georgia's financial planners to cut $600 million in spending. “This is like a death knell for public education, and we’re not going to stand for it,” a student leader tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "There's a little bit of saber-rattling and posturing and people are saying some dramatic things," Zintak told Current. "We have no idea how the legislature is going to come down on this." Zintak referred questions on WUGA funding to the university's press office, which did not respond to a call seeking comment.

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