Feature C

WUSF Producers Face Challenges

Marissa LaCarrubba and JP League

November 21, 2010


TAMPA- Public broadcasting stations, such as WUSF, face different challenges than commercial networks.  

                 Both styles of broadcasting need to make money, but each goes about it in different ways.

                 Donations primarily fund public stations like WUSF. Jessica Stone, a WUSF executive producer, said: “We get government funding but it is not a lot. We mainly have public funding.”

                  The federal government provides a small amount of economic aid to public broadcasters. In 2000, Adriel Bettelheim wrote in the CQ Researcher, “Public broadcasters were asking Congress for $770 million in government funding.”  

                  Public stations also receive programming from outside sources, which eliminates the cost of producing material. Stone said: “While we have two studios, mainly we receive programming from elsewhere. PBS provides programming over a feed. Also, a company called American Public Television sends out television shows as well. We acquire the rights to the shows and we have the right to air them through a specific date.”

                  Paid advertisements fund private broadcasters in the form of commercials. The more people who see the ad, the more money the private station can charge its customers. For instance, Alan Greenblatt writes in the CQ researcher that televisions executives’ traditional approach to making money is “renting out” millions of viewers at a time to advertisers. 

                  There are some cons to running a public station. All public broadcasters’ incomes are a result of donations. They are a non-profit. 

                  Public stations do not have the purchasing power that private stations have because public stations rely solely on donations.  Stone said: “It is hard to get the latest technologies and other similar things because we receive funding from elsewhere.  We are not a private company that has a lot of money.” 

                  Public stations have to be creative in their fundraising because they do not have any advertisements.  Stone said: “WUSF has pledge drives which gives WUSF more members. WUSF has a goal of how much money it would like to raise during a pledge drive.” 

                  On-air pledge drives raise donations for public broadcasters. Stone said: “During a pledge drive, WUSF will show a marathon of a certain show that asks for money.  In the middle of the show, there is break that has a host asking for donations and pledges.”

                  Private stations receive expected amounts of money with their ads and can plan to manage their operations more efficiently. Greenblatt writes, “Advertisers always pay dearly to run TV commercials during the Super Bowl—$2.6 million for a 30-second spot.”

                   Private stations know roughly how much money they will receive for each commercial. A public station has to do fundraisers. They are depending on viewers’ contributions, which is difficult to know how much money is going to be raised, and how much money the station will have to spend to maintain or improve its operations. Stone said, “WUSF does not have as much money as privately owned companies and that restricts us.”

SEO:  Jessica Stone, WUSF, Public Broadcasting, Private Broadcasting.


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