Last updated: May 23, 2011 - 8:53am
Public television executives trying to fashion a plan to keep public television programming on the air in Orlando (FL) after June 30, when WMFE — the city’s major public broadcaster — ends its contract with PBS. The station is being taken over by the founders of a religious programmer, Daystar Television. WMFE announced in April that it was selling its TV station (it will keep an NPR-affiliated public radio station) because it was unable to pay its PBS dues of just under $1 million annually. José A. Fajardo, the station’s president, said that the public television model was no longer viable because of decreased donations, including a 34 percent drop in pledge contributions from viewers. And WMFE is not alone.
In this financially troubled time, some PBS stations are questioning whether they can continue to find a way to make the PBS business model work. In Chicago, as in Los Angeles and Orlando, one crucial issue is that there are simply too many places to see PBS programs; each of those cities has more than one PBS station. The biggest station pays the highest amount of PBS dues and gets rights to all of PBS’s marquee shows, like “Masterpiece Theater” and “PBS NewsHour”; smaller stations pay less but can still broadcast some of the most popular shows, as long as they wait eight days.
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