WUSF to face future budget cuts

With recent cuts from the U.S. House of Representatives, many media outlets, including WUSF, will have to find new sources of funding.

WUSF, the University’s public media network, currently operates at a budget of around $9.3 million, 20 percent of which comes from federal funds, according to JoAnn Urofsky, general manager at WUSF.

After the House voted Feb. 19 to reduce the federal deficit, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which funds national and local outlets for public radio, television and online content through stations and affiliates of PBS and NPR, has lost all of its federal funding, effective 2013.

Urofsky said the station will have to start looking at layoffs and staff cutbacks.

“(We will have to) eliminate programs,” she said. “There are so many things we do that are not necessarily things that you see on our TV or radio stations, and we would not be able to afford that.”

Urofsky said WUSF sponsors campus events as well as reading programs in lower-income schools in the area, which would have to be cut back.

Kristina Crane, a sophomore majoring in business administration who said she takes advantage of public media outlets occasionally, doesn’t believe that the federal funding cuts should be a concern.

“Government funding is a very small percentage (of what public media receives),” she said. “Private donors make up quite a bit (of their contributions).”

Aside from federal funds, WUSF receives 30 percent of its funding from memberships, 22 percent from corporate funding, 10 percent from the University, 7 percent from donations of $1,000 or more, 6 percent from the state of Florida and the rest comes in the form of grants from national and local organizations.

Rep. Kathy Castor of Florida’s 11th District said in an e-mail statement to The Oracle that she recognizes the value of public broadcasting in the community.

“Public broadcasting provides my neighbors with access to educational, informative programming while supporting jobs in our region,” she said. “We must tackle the federal deficit, but the extreme Republican plan that includes cuts to public broadcasting will cost jobs and not truly address the national debt in a meaningful way.”

Castor signed a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last month urging them to support the CPB.

“Public television is often referred to as ‘America’s classroom,’ and I couldn’t agree more,” she said.

Yet while many students may not listen to NPR or continue to watch PBS as they grow older, many of the institutions of their childhood are at stake with the loss of funding.

“Most young people grew up with this,” Urofsky said. “Children are very familiar with (public televion) characters and they learn to read with them. (The children’s programs) have very positive effects. At some point, do you want your kids to grow up with these (familiar shows)?”

Warren Bradford, a junior majoring in medical technologies, listens to NPR for a few hours every day during his commute.

“I would be very angry (if programming were to be cut),” he said. “On one hand, they have a lot of valuable cultural programs, and they’re one of the few stations that deliver in-depth news coverage without putting a bias spin on things usually. That’s something we can’t really afford to lose. But unfortunately, on the other hand, not too many people tune in to those programs. So even though WUSF and NPR contribute a lot to society, the low viewership means that it doesn’t make much of an impact. In my opinion, the Legislature has a tough question. Should they fund a valuable program even if not too many people take advantage of it?”

Station Research Group, a media station analysis group, published a report stating that more than 170 million Americans, or half of the U.S. population, utilize public media sponsored by the CPB at least once a month.

Urofsky said the costs spread across the number of people impacted by public media are minimal.

“The cost out of the government is $1.30 per American (to continue funding),” she said. “If you can’t afford cable or satellite, (at least) your kids can still watch these shows.”

She said she believes that in an age of digitalization, retaining integrity in news is important.

“NPR has someone in Libya, someone in Egypt,” she said. “These are places in the world where governments are changing and people have a whole new way of having their voices heard. The thing that NPR provides is analysis that Facebook and Twitter can’t provide. We all want to know things immediately, but NPR provides you with a perspective so you can decide for yourself what’s important.”

Urofsky said that despite the changes in the CPB budget, the need for public media has not changed.

“Knowing and understanding news and analysis is very empowering,” she said.