MARQUETTE – Northern Michigan University 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 today unanimously approved the measure.

           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 at one time received a combined $1.1 million in university funding. Both 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 both stations demonstrated that they could significantly increase fundraising on a sustained level and reduce operating costs.

            In other action at its Oct. 6 meeting, the NMU Board:

            ▪Approved the university’s five-year master plan and the 2006-07 capital outlay project request, as required by the Michigan Department of Management and Budget;    

            ▪Received a fall enrollment report from President Les Wong that includes a preliminary 3.6 percent increase in total headcount and a 3.1 percent increase in credit hours. Wong also told the board that the third-semester retention rate for baccalaureate new freshmen is 73.3 percent – the highest level ever; 

            ▪Participated in a discussion on state budget and formula-funding issues impacting NMU;

            ▪Accepted more than $366,000 in external gifts, grants and contracts;

            ▪Approved the previously negotiated contractual agreements between NMU and two unions: UAW Local 1950, representing clerical and technical employees; and the NMU Faculty Association, comprised of employees in the School of Technology and Applied Sciences;

            ▪Approved the purchase of property and structure located at 1744 Schaffer Ave., at a cost of $60,000 plus related miscellaneous expenses; and

            ▪Granted emeritus status to Susan Menhennick, who retired as assistant director of human resources-benefits and assistant to the president for Equal Opportunity.

Prepared By
Kristi Evans
News Director