WNMU-TV Receives Continued Funding
Northern will continue to provide base-budget support of $200,000 to WNMU-TV, enabling the station to remain on the air. The university’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the measure at its Oct. 6 meeting.
It had previously voted to provide $50,000 in continued base-budget funding to Public Radio 90, but withheld a decision on Public TV13 for several months to obtain more information on the station’s contribution to academics, as well as costs and benefits associated with the advent of digital transmission.
“What really sold me is the academic tie-in to student programs that we heard about at our last meeting, and the desire to explore new initiatives along that same line,” said Chair Karl Weber.
Eric Smith, director of broadcasting and AV services at NMU, said the end of uncertainty about the station’s future signals a new beginning.
“The board has investigated this in depth and come to the conclusion that public broadcasting at NMU has a value that warrants keeping it,” Smith added. “Now we need to move ahead and work with the public and students to develop models that will take advantage of the transition to digital.”
Television stations will be required to complete the digital conversion within about three years. Smith said technology upgrades needed to facilitate the shift at WNMU-TV will total about $2.2 million. He told the board that matching federal funds would likely cover 60 percent, and Northern would have to come up with the remaining 40 percent. More details on the process, along with potential funding options, will be discussed at the December board meeting.
Public TV13 and Public Radio 90 were slated for elimination by July 2005 as part of NMU cost-saving recommendations developed in response to decreased state funding for higher education. The board reconsidered their status, in part because they demonstrated increased and sustained fundraising potential. Smith said the stations have found ways to remain viable while absorbing a significant drop in university financial support. NMU at one time contributed a combined $1.1 million to radio and television, but that figure has dropped to $250,000.
"We have taken steps to cut costs by reducing staff and taking advantage of efficiencies in technology," Smith said. "But we're especially grateful to the listeners, viewers and underwriters who have dramatically increased their support and remained steadfast in the face of uncertainty. That goes a long way in reaffirming the value of what we do."