Jun 25, 2012

University of Central Florida board okays deal to buy WMFE-TV; sale advances to FCC

Jose Fajardo, president of WMFE in Orlando, Fla., told Current on Monday (June 25) that the University of Central Florida's board approved its purchase of WMFE-TV, so the deal now moves to the FCC for approval. The board of WMFE, a community licensee that also operates a radio station, approved the sale contract at its May meeting.

The former PBS flagship, which had been set for sale to religious broadcasters, announced on June 21 that it will be sold to UCF for $3.3 million.

UCF, also in Orlando, played a role in preserving PBS service to the market last year when WMFE moved to sell its TV operation and focus on its public radio station. UCF partnered with Brevard Community College in Cocoa to convert WBCC, a pubTV station licensed to the community college, into a full-service PBS station broadcasting as WUCF.

The partnership will end when UCF’s purchase of WMFE is approved. The Cocoa station will broadcast non-PBS programs, said Christine Dellert, spokesperson for WUCF.

In April 2011, WMFE President Jose Fajardo announced that his pubcasting operation was casting off its TV station with a sale to Community Educators of Orlando Inc., a local nonprofit affiliated with Texas-based religious broadcaster Daystar Television. That deal, which generated more than 450 comments to the FCC, hit a roadblock at the commission, and WMFE withdrew from the sale in March. The FCC questioned whether the Daystar-affiliated operator met its criteria for localism and educational programming.

WMFE received another bid from Independent Public Media, a group aiming to preserve noncom spectrum by buying struggling pubTV stations, but turned it down last month (Current, May 14).

“WMFE had entertained a number of offers, but believed selling Channel 24 to a local organization already invested in PBS better served the community’s best interests,” the seller and buyer said in a joint statement last week.WMFE’s Channel 24 will broadcast from WUCF TV’s studio at the university with leased master control space in WMFE’s building, about five minutes away from UCF, Dellert said.

Commercial model for pubcasting would result in net loss of funding, report finds

Now on, an analysis of CPB's June 20 report to Congress that explores alternative funding sources for public broadcasting — which includes switching to a commercial advertising model. But that move would result in a net loss for pubcasting, Booz & Co. analysts find. For public TV, ad sales would exceed the present revenues from underwriting, but a partial desertion by individual donors, foundations and underwriters would more than offset that gain. Booz estimates that the system would lose $62 million a year in donations, setbacks of 15 percent to 40 percent in those giving categories.

House fire may have killed Alaska radio g.m.

Fire officials in the small village of Galena, Alaska, believe that a house fire Friday may have killed Terry Fair, g.m. of community radio station KIYU in Galena. The fire occurred at the home of Fair and his wife, Kim, who have not been seen or heard from since. Two bodies were recovered from the fire and are being identified, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Fair’s radio handle is “Shadow Steel,” and the g.m. is known as a “real character” in the area.

An inside look at Pizzato, Howland firings in Alabama

Now on, an in-depth, inside look at the June 12 firings of Alabama Public Television Executive Director Allan Pizzato and his deputy, Pauline Howland, and how the state commission's suggestion that APT run videos from a controversial evangelical historian figured into Pizzato's termination. The Alabama Educational Television Commission's involvement in program decision-making had been so persistent that Pizzato had spoken in recent months with several public TV colleagues about his concerns."Allan told me he was struggling with some influential stakeholders who have a very different understanding of the core mission of public broadcasting and the inherent responsibilities," said one public broadcaster who declined to be identified due to the confidential nature of the conversation. "He was determined to work with them on achieving an understanding." Also at the June 12 meeting, the commission approved a new mission statement for the station; two sources said that was to remove a clause on diversity because it encouraged diversity of sexual orientation.