Monday, February 28, 2011

Bad news for Public Radio in Virginia. . .

Martha note:  This morning I posted a memo from State Senator Mark Obenshain enumerating what was and wasn't to be funded in Virginia's budget. Initially, little cockeyed optimist that I am, I thought public radio's funding was left pretty much in place. But that balloon just popped, thanks to the following from Tom Duval.
Thought you would want to know what's really going on as well.
Here's Tom's note. . .
State funding for public radio will drop by 50% in the coming fiscal year.  The General Assembly reported that it had restored 90% of funding for public broadcasting, but that figure is misleading.   
I'll try to make this brief but clear... 
The Assembly restored all of the money, more than $1 million, that Governor McDonnell had proposed cutting from the Instructional Television Service (ITS) grants to public television stations.  Then the Assembly added almost $550,000 more to those grants.  The grants are used to produce and distribute instructional programming and materials to schools, not for broadcast programming. 
The Governor also proposed cutting 50% of the Community Service Grants (CSG) that public radio and television stations use for broadcast programming.  Although the Senate countered with a smaller, 20% cut, the House-Senate conference committee finally settled on the 50% figure. 
Because the ITS grants increased so much, the Assembly was able to say that the overall cut to public broadcasting was only 10%.

However, for WMRA, we still get hit with a 50% reduction - about $43,000. 
Additionally, we are losing $10,000 that originally was budgeted for us to air messages supporting the Virginia tourism.  So our total reduction in state funding this July will be $53,000.  We expect that the remaining $43,000 will be gone in July, 2012.


  1. It's hard for me to appreciate what these cuts mean for WMRA. Is $53k a drop in the bucket or more detrimental? What will this budget reduction mean for the listening community? More fundraiser drives? A reduction in operations? Less original programming?

  2. Tom DuVal, WMRA General ManagerFebruary 28, 2011 at 5:55 PM

    Josh (and everyone!) - that's about 4% of our budget. Not devastating, but since we've already pared our expenses to the bone, left several staff positions unfilled, and are still trying to make up a projected deficit this fiscal year, $53,000 is a significant bump in the road ahead. And the Governor's stated intention is to eliminate the other $43,000 in July, 2012.

    On top of that, the House of Representatives voted recently to eliminate all federal funding (for us, $215,000) by October 2013. The Senate takes that up as part of the budget bill this week.

    We will do everything we can to protect the programming. We will do our best to build up our community support so that we can replace government funding in a sustainable manner.

    Yes, we will most likely spend more time fundraising on the air. $53,000 usually takes 3-4 days of fundraising.

    And we will work to cultivate the generosity of listeners who have the capacity to make larger gifts, who view public radio as a community asset worthy of their philanthropy.

    Thanks for asking, Josh.


  3. I'm confused. Do the ITS grants fund all those tv shows that air overnight on WVPT and its brethren? (schedule here: ).

    I saw half of those shows when I was in elementary school twenty-five years ago. As much as I like the folks at WVPT, I'm not sure how taking up classtime with reruns of Slim Goodbody and "Great Campaigns of the Civil War" helps the public out more than Morning Edition.

  4. Tom DuVal, WMRA General ManagerMarch 1, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    Dan - From the little I've heard in conversations with other station managers, I think there's more to the ITS than just that, but I don't know specifics. I believe there's some element of teacher training, too.

  5. Tom DuVal, WMRA General ManagerMarch 1, 2011 at 9:08 AM

    By the way, in my post above, I mistakenly said that we could lose federal funding by October 2013. Should have been October 2012 (FY 2013)!