WQPT would lose half its budget with funding cut

Posted Online: Oct. 04, 2012, 10:38 pm
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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney's perceived attack on Big Bird was quite the topic of conversation nationwide Thursday, as well as in the WQPT offices in Moline.

"It's something that's part of your childhood. He's so iconic, of course you're going to react," WQPT interim general manager and chief development officer Jamie Lange said of the 8-foot-tall yellow feathered friend from "Sesame Street."

If the Quad-Cities PBS station lost its federal funding, that would be half its $1.2 million annual budget, she said.

"It is a huge impact for us," Ms. Lange said of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting support. Eliminating that funding would hurt WQPT more than many stations in larger cities, since it represents a larger share of the local budget, she said.

"It helps stations provide seed money for projects. All the local things that make us different from New York public TV or Wisconsin public TV would be eliminated first," Ms. Lange said. "Our goal is to have a local program every night on WQPT, and we've made huge strides."

In Wednesday's presidential debate, Mr. Romney said he would defund public broadcasting to help bring down the deficit, but added that he liked Big Bird. Social networks immediately responded, with participants posting spoof photos of Big Bird and other "Sesame Street" characters on Facebook and setting up parody Big Bird Twitter accounts.

Federal funding elimination, on top of state and federal reductions in recent years, especially would be crushing since local fundraising efforts and WQPT membership have been declining, Ms. Lange said. "To lose 50 percent all at once, we really would have to come up with a new funding source or we would be out of business."

The station is owned by Western Illinois University, but the school doesn't help fund its operating expenses. WIU does provide in-kind services such as office space and furnishings, payroll and human resources staffing, Ms. Lange said. WQPT has about 3,400 members, down from 4,000 in recent years.

"It doesn't occur to people. They take public TV for granted," Ms. Lange said. There are about 309,000 households in the Q-C station's viewing area. "If everybody gave us a dollar a year, that'd be a good step in the right direction," she said.

Federal support of PBS is $444 million this fiscal year -- roughly $1.35 for every U.S. citizen -- representing less than one-hundredth of 1 percent of the federal budget. In an official statement Thursday, PBS said Mr. Romney "does not understand the value the American people place on public broadcasting and the outstanding return on investment the system delivers to our nation."

"Elimination of funding would have virtually no impact on the nation's debt. Yet the loss to the American public would be devastating," it said.

In 2011, a national survey by the bipartisan research firms of Hart Research and American Viewpoint found that more than two-thirds of American voters oppose eliminating government funding of public broadcasting, with people across the political spectrum against such a cut.

Earlier this year, a Harris Interactive poll found Americans consider PBS the most trusted public institution and the second most valuable use of public funds, behind only national defense, for the ninth consecutive year.



Local events heading

  Today is Monday, Sept. 22, the 265th day of 2014. There are 100 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: The board of education has granted Thursday as a holiday for the children, with the expectation that parents who desire to have their children attend the Scott County Fair will do so on that day and save irregularity the rest of the week.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The guard fence around the new cement walk at the Harper House has been removed. The blocks are diamond shape, alternating in black and white.
1914 -- 100 years ago: The Rev. R.B. Williams, former pastor of the First Methodist Church, Rock Island, was named superintendent of the Rock Island District.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Abnormally high temperatures and lack of rainfall in Illinois during the past week have speeded maturing of corn and soybean crops.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Installation of a new television system in St. Anthony's Hospital, which includes a closed circuit channel as well as the three regular Quad-Cities channels, has been completed and now is in operation.
1989 -- 25 years ago: When the new Moline High School was built in 1958, along with it were plans to construct a football field in the bowl near 34th Street on the campus. Wednesday afternoon, more than 30 years later, the Moline Board of Education Athletic Board sent the ball rolling toward the possible construction of that field by asking superintendent Richard Hennigan to take to the board of education a proposal to hire a consultant.

(More History)