KUAT prepares for gov't funding decrease

By Keith Allen

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The future of public television after phasing out government funding was discussed yesterday at the KUAT Public Advisory Board meeting.

Don Burgess, general manager of KUAT, said a phaseout of current federal public television funds could happen within the next five to eight years, but that figure is not solid at this time.

The "ball park" phaseout date is 2002, but Burgess said it could be as early as 1998.

Congress had threatened to cut funding, but has appropriated $285 million for public television for 1995, $275 million for 1996 and $260 million for 1997, Burgess said.

"We (public television) came out better then NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) and NEH (National Endowment for the Humanities)," Burgess said. "It comes from great support."

KUAT receives approximately $860,000 in federal funding for both its radio and television entities, Burgess said.

Burgess said that while he was in Washington D.C. this summer, Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller said that the phaseout will occur.

"We need to be prepared for any eventuality," said Marcia King of the KUAT Public Advisory Board.

Burgess said that the problem with losing the funding is trying to find a way to supplement a $4 million trust fund.

Public television is looking into "Advanced Television," Burgess said.

ATV, as Burgess referred to it, would give a 1,000 lines (channels) to public television, instead of the approximately 500 lines it now has, Burgess said. He said that the idea is to assign one ATV per city, and then lease the leftover channels to provide funds for the trust fund.

"Without it (ATV), there is no other mechanism to fund a $4 billion trust fund," Burgess said. He said that there isn't a set system yet.

Without ATV, public television would have to run commercials, Burgess said.

"It would change the nature of programming," Burgess said. To go commercial could mean a loss of support, according to Burgess.

Jessica Lazarus, a public advisory board member, said that if such a change was going to take place, companies could use KUAT's non-profit status because it would have cheaper rates on advertisements.

"It could be the death of public broadcasting," King said.

Also presented at the meeting was the preview for the program called "Tucson Memories," said KUAT television programming director Olivia Smith.

Smith said the program was produced in Tucson and is a history of the city. She said the program premieres Dec. 2.

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