Feb 2, 2012

WTVI-TV in Charlotte could partner with local community college

Community licensee WTVI-TV in Charlotte, N.C., is in early merger talks with Central Piedmont Community College to keep the pubcaster on the air, reports the Charlotte Observer. WTVI President Elsie Garner and CPCC President Tony Zeiss met with Mecklenburg County Manager Harry Jones last week to see if the county would underwrite transition costs for a merger, the paper said. But Commissioner Bill James referred to the plans as "a little PBSkull-duggery," and added: "We have defunded our PBS affiliate. Ever since then, they've been trying to figure out a way to get back on the government dole."

Last June, Garner asked Mecklenburg County to restore a total of $1 million in funding that was cut in recent years, saying that the station wasn't in immediate danger of shutting down but "if you keep bleeding money, after awhile, yeah that's the logical thing." Last year WTVI ran a deficit of about $300,000 on a budget of $3.2 million, and at the midpoint of this fiscal year fundraising is off by several hundred thousand dollars, Garner told the paper.

Garner said talks with CPCC were in preliminary stages. "We've had conversations with other organizations and educational institutions," she said. "We're still looking for the perfect 'ah-ha' moment.'"

James said WTVI is not financially viable because Charlotte audiences already receive two other PBS member stations, UNC-TV in Chapel Hill and SCETV in Columbia.

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