Public television budget cuts having little effect on KUAT

By Lisa Heller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 25, 1996

Nicholas Valenzuela
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Don Burgess, KUAT's station manager, has faced Congress's budget cuts but since then has seen overwhelming support from the community.


Congressional budget cuts that have decreased funding for public television programming appear to be increasing local support to keep KUAT alive.

Between 12 and 18 months ago, Congress threatened to completely cut off all federal funding to public broadcasting, said Don Burgess, station manager for KUAT, the public television channel at the University of Arizona.

"The threat of the cut spurred a very good response of local support," he said.

Originally, Congress threatened to cut off all support to public broadcasting immediately. Now, Burgess said, funding will be decreased over a period of time.

Because of careful planning, he said KUAT will not lose any of its 73 full-time and 25 part-time employees due to the cutback.

The federal government actually started its budget cuts last year, Burgess said. Each PBS station has a two-year window period to use its allotted money. Some stations choose to use their money during the first year, but KUAT decided to use it the second year.

"This is the first year that we feel the cut here," Burgess said.

Last year, the federal government gave $606,000 to KUAT, which was 15.5 percent of the station's annual support. This year, the government decreased support to $580,000. KUAT operates on a $4 million annual budget; 39 percent of which comes from the state , the UA and direct support.

Burgess said KUAT will rely more on donations, membership and underwriting to make up for money lost by the gradual decrease of federal support.

KUAT raised $157,907 during its last pledge drive held Aug. 17-25, said Abby Aguilar, an administrative secretary for the station. The donations came from 1,844 members.

KUAT has also received assistance from other Tucson television stations.

In mid-February, KVOA Channel 4 donated three studio cameras to KUAT. Burgess said the gift was unusual because of the magnitude.

"This was a very big gift. They could've sold the cameras out on the open market but they knew we needed the cameras," Burgess said.

He added, "We have a good relationship with them because many of their employees went through the UA."

Jon Ruby, president and general manager of KVOA, said KUAT was a ready and worthy recipient.

"We know they were in need of cameras, and we wanted them to go somewhere where they would be used," he said.

KUAT Channel 6 first went on the air in March 1959, and was the first non-commercial public station in Arizona.