Joint Operating Agreement Explored for Public Broadcasting

The NMU Board of Trustees at its April 30 meeting authorized Fred Joyal (Academic Affairs) to begin negotiations with Michigan Public Media regarding the potential for a joint operating agreement to run the public broadcasting stations. Joyal will update the board in August. At the request of the trustees, he will also present budget scenarios of what would be required to operate radio and TV independently. The stations had previously been factored together in the university's annual base budget allocation.

An outside consultant had evaluated three options for public broadcasting at NMU: solicit a noncommercial buyer for the operating licenses and some portion of the operating assets; identify a partner that would operate the stations on behalf of the university in a joint operating agreement; and continue directly operating the two stations with no more than the current $250,000 in annual university funding for both stations.

Joyal recommended a combination of the last two options. He said Michigan Public Media (MPM), based at the University of Michigan, was the only entity to issue a formal response to Northern's search for a partner.

"The advantages of such an agreement would include the potential to lower costs while continuing to provide public broadcasting in the region two of the goals identified at the beginning of this process," Joyal said. "There would also be the potential to extend NMU marketing into southern portions of the state. Michigan Public Media indicated that its network has the ability to reach 80 percent of state residents."

Joyal added that because the signal would be a one-way transmission from Ann Arbor, full-time positions at the two campus stations would be further impacted. Public Radio 90 would also have to change its current mix of news and jazz/classical music, as Michigan Public Radio features an all-news format.

Joyal said the university would be more limited in its ability to achieve the goal of providing hands-on educational experiences for students, but he would seek student internships and other learning opportunities during the negotiation process. While formal discussions are just beginning, Joyal said MPM indicated that everything could be up and running by September.

The board also received an update on the U.S. Olympic Education Center’s budget reductions to date and continuing efforts to secure external funding sources. Trustees previously agreed to provide limited university funding to keep the center running through June 30, 2005. The $80,000 in annual support represents the value of net tuition revenue that would be lost if the center ceased to operate and the athletes were no longer enrolled at NMU.

In other action at the April 30 meeting, the board:

•accepted Interim President Mike Roy’s recommendation that the university continue to operate under the 2003-04 budget and implement the $3.3 million in budget reductions previously identified by the Budget Alternatives Committee and President’s Council. A decision on tuition and fees will be made by June 30;

•approved 2004-05 housing and dining services rates. The cost of a standard double-occupancy room and the Constant Meal Pass program will be $6,012 beginning this fall, an increase of $288 from 2003-04. The supplement for a single room assignment will remain the same, at $1,000;

•voted to accept a budget-reduction proposal to eliminate the College of Technology and Applied Sciences and transfer its two departments – engineering technology and technology and occupational sciences – to the College of Professional Studies, effective July 1;

agreed to proceed with a plan to rent the Industrial Piping building on the university's recently purchased Wright Street property to Northern Initiatives at a cost of $1 per year, with one year's notice to vacate if NMU needs the building or site;


•voted to delete the culinary arts certificate program;


•voted to grant Trustee Emeritus status to Daniel DeVos, who served on the board from April 1995 to December 2003;   


•accepted $18,066 in gifts and more than $1.2 million in external grant funding on behalf of the university; and

•approved naming the new recital hall in the renovated gymnasium of the C.B. Hedgcock Fieldhouse the Reynolds Recital Hall in recognition of a gift from Phyllis and Max Reynolds Jr., longtime friends of the university.




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Updated: May 4, 2004