Alaska PBS Goes Dark During $1.1 Million Upgrade

FAIRBANKS,ALASKA and OWING MILLS, MD.: Public TV stations across the country are under financial pressure, but one northern station is managing a $1.1 upgrade while more job cuts were underway further south. Alaska’s KUAC-TV is upgrading its antenna and transmitter to regain coverage lost in the DTV transition. Maryland Public Television announced a restructuring costing 18 people their jobs.

KUAC, the flagship PBS member station serving Greater Alaska, is off the air for two weeks while systems are being upgraded. The Daily News-Miner said KUAC disappeared for many regular viewers after the June 12 DTV transition. The upgrades are intended to correct the reception situation. KUAC engineers are installing a new antenna, transmitter and other equipment. The station is expected to be off the air until Sept. 25.

The installation will move KUAC from a UHF to a VHF designation, hopefully increasing the signal range. The cost of the upgrade is expected to be around $1.1 million; $400,000 of which KUAC borrowed, the News-Miner said.

MPT said it had to cut 18 jobs, about 10 percent of the workforce, to meet current budget shortfalls.

“The positions are held by employees at all levels of the organization,” MPT said. “Prior to resorting to staff reductions, station officials scrutinized the MPT budget, cut non-essential expenses and froze salaries for FY10 to avoid a shortfall. Additionally, MPT employees will be furloughed in accordance with the state’s recently enacted furlough plan.”

MPT gets one-third of it’s funding from now diminishing state appropriations.

“Positions to be eliminated effective Oct. 6, 2009 include jobs in technology, content, institutional advancement, communications, and administrative units of MPT,” the broadcaster said. “For the individuals who are affected, MPT will provide outplacement assistance to help them identify other posts in the private sector as well as the state system.”

More on PBS cuts:
April 24, 2009:PBS Member Stations Hit by Recession
FLINT, MICH., and PHILADELPHIA: The University of Michigan can no longer run its public TV station, while the Philly PBS affiliate cut staff this week, reports indicate. The UofM said it could no longer operate WFUM-TV, the PBS member station in the Flint market. The donations from individuals and businesses that kept the station alive for almost 30 years decreased by 28 percent since 2007, University officials told news outlets.