Jun 3, 2010

WTVI salvages nearly $100,000 from proposed $860,000 county cuts

While state budget woes continue to threaten public broadcasters, WTVI in Charlotte, N.C., is running into county funding problems. Mecklenburg County provides about 23 percent of the station's operating budget, or about $860,000, President Elsie Garner told Current. Garner got a heads-up call from the county manager in March that the funding would be zeroed out under a proposed fiscal 2011 budget. The station geared up for a fight with a "very complex and well-orchestrated" plan of attack, Garner said. The League of Women Voters was instrumental; that group didn't want to lose its televised debates. Thousands of postcards of support poured in to the county. Red and black buttons saying I WATCH WTVI AND I VOTE were spotted all over town. The station's board chair wrote an opinion piece in the June 3 Charlotte Observer. And in a preliminary vote last night (June 3), the county commission decided to give nearly $100,000 to WTVI -- still a big cut, but not nearly as large as proposed. "Being a glass half-full kinda gal, I'll take it," Garner said. One bright spot: The county is still paying WTVI's debt service of $10 million in bonds sold 10 years ago to finance its digital transition. "That's deeply appreciated," Garner said. The new spending plan is set for final approval June 15 and would take effect July 1. CORRECTION: This item originally identified the city as Charlottesville.

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