Monday, August 5, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 161


Budget woes cause KUHT layoffs

By Dionne Victor
The Daily Cougar

In a decision that mirrored the actions of several PBS stations across the country, KUHT-Channel 8 on Wednesday laid off 12 employees and left eight
positions vacant. Because of a budgetary shortfall nearing $1 million, the Houston PBS affiliate housed in the Melcher Center Public Broadcasting has had to reduce of its workforce by 20 percent, joining the ranks of other affiliates in Dallas, Nebraska, Chicago, Philadelphia and Oregon.

The layoffs were made in the production, promotions and communication departments.

As a result of economic shortcomings, KUHT has had to restructure its local programming. John Hesse, station manager, said that the viewer will not see
much difference in the programming. Although there have been budget cuts, viewership should remain stable. Current viewership is just under one million
households a week and is 2.3 million viewers overall.

One of the major changes will be in Weekday, the daily half-hour program on community issues and concerns, which will be changed into a weekly full-hour
program. Programming such as Masterpiece Theatre, American Experience and Nova will remain on the schedule.

"As a result of reducing hours we will have reduced programming," Hesse said. With less money in its actual budget, KUHT has less money to buy
programming. Because of changes in the economy, there has been a reduction in annual donations and other contributions. KUHT has 116 sponsors,
including such corporations as JP Morgan Chase, Reliant Energy and Dynegy.

"Foundation support has reduced and investments from companies have decreased," said Hesse.

PBS receives money from outside corporations. Only 15 percent of its yearly budget comes from the federal government through the Corporations for Public
Broadcasting. Although KUHT is housed on campus, it receives no support from the state or University.

The internal budget cuts is only one of the solutions that the management has initiated. It has also had to use money in their reserves. Hesse said the
challenge now is to put money back into reserves.

"This is a two-fold challenge," he said. "We have to raise money into the budget and have to have money to put back into reserves."

To raise money, the PBS affiliate is looking to its fundraising department, which is fully staffed, to add operational funding. It is also are increasing
telemarketing, direct mail and "use the current database more effectively," Hesse said.

The layoffs at KUHT are part of the continuing cycle of layoffs in PBS. It began in March 2001 when 60 employees at PBS headquarters in Alexandria, Va.,
were laid off because of similar budgetary woes.

In Chicago, WTTW, Channel 11, a PBS affiliate laid off 15 employees because of a $3.4 million dollar budget shortfall. It was one of the only affiliates to offer
early retirement packages.

Closer to home, Dallas' KERA, Channel 13 cut 23 percent of its staff because of $2 million dollar budget shortfall. Twenty-seven workers were laid off, and
nine positions remain unfilled.

Most of the budgetary shortcomings have been a product of a down-turning economy. The first step is to downsize; increases in the budget are not foreseen
for KUHT, but Hesse hopes viewership will grow.

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