Tampa Bay area public broadcasters lose about $1 million thanks to Gov. Scott's vetoes
Tea Party favorite Rick Scott is earning lots of scorn for his ham-handed budget vetoes today -- including complaints about opposition voices removed from his public event at The Villages today. But broadcasters statewide are smarting in particular over $4.7 million in funds cut to public media outlets in Florida.
In the Tampa Bay area, local radio and TV stations will lose a combined $1 million in grants, including more than $500,000 to WUSF TV and radio, $435,000 to WEDU-Ch. 3 and $62,000 to Tampa community radio station WMNF-FM.
The GOP-dominated Florida legislature had already budgeted a 30 percent reduction in the funds provided to the state's 26 non-profit public radio and TV stations, forcing organizations scrambling to deal with a long-expected downturn in donations and memberships to conserve further. But Scott's veto zeroes out funding completely, ending a funding arrangement which has stood for 35 years, beginning with the start of the state's fiscal year on July 1.
"It's devastating," said Laura Fage, a spokeswoman for WEDU, which will lose about 5 percent of its $8 million budget. "It certainly will have an effect on our programming and services."
WUSF Public Media would have received the most among local outlets, receiving $435,000 for its television station and about $70,000 for its radio station. General manager JoAnn Urofsky said WUSF would try to cope with the cuts by trying for more grants from other sources, more donations and memberships from the community and reducing expenses -- the same strategies cited by every local station.
No outlet would say whether layoffs might result from the loss of funding, saying such talk was premature. They also had no idea whether legislators would consider challenging the governor's veto, though they expected to encourage viewers and listeners to contact their state representatives to urge such an action.
The news comes as public broadcasting advocates in Orlando narrowly averted losing their PBS affiliate, after officials at WFME-TV decided to sell the station to a religious broadcasting company, citing too-high affiliation fees and too much competition from other area PBS outlets.
The University of Central Florida and Brevard Community College agreed to a partnership allowing WUCF-TV to carry the primary PBS programs after WFME goes dark June 30.