Channel 8 feels effects of bad economic times

As pledge drives fall short of goals, University PBS station cuts jobs

Published On:
Thursday, October 23, 2008
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Effects of the wounded economy have reached the pocketbooks at KAET, Channel 8.

The ASU-based public broadcasting station has taken several hits recently but is reorganizing and raising funds to stay afloat.

KAET held a pledge drive Saturday night to raise funds that were not collected from the station’s major pledge drive in August, said Virgil Renzulli, ASU vice president of public affairs.

“Had this been two years ago, we would’ve said it was just bad fundraising,” Renzulli said. “Given the nature of the economy … we’re just being cautious.”

Saturday’s pledge drive fell about $4,000 short of the projected $27,000 goal. This came after the August pledge drive missed its mark by a couple hundred thousand dollars, Renzulli said.

“It’s a tough environment for everybody right now,” he said.

The public broadcasting station runs on a $13.9 million annual budget, more than 60 percent of which comes from donations and local membership dues, according to the KAET Web site. The station also receives funding from federal and state tax dollars.

Renzulli said if one revenue stream falls short, the station tries to recuperate the losses in other ways, like Saturday’s pledge drive, but sometimes it must take more extensive measures.

KAET recently laid off several employees because of economic constraints. General Manager Gregory Giczi also resigned Sept. 30 and his position will remain vacant to save money, Renzulli said.

Renzulli and KAET Development and Marketing Director Kelly McCullough will serve as acting general managers until they are able to fill the position.

Renzulli said the station eliminated positions it could afford to in departments such as event planning.

He said the station was disappointed it had to lay off employees.
“We feel terrible,” Renzulli said. “We didn’t feel there was any choice.”

Journalism senior David Gonzalez, a KAET intern, said the layoffs surprised him.

He said station employees have noticed a recent increase in pledge drives but everything else runs as usual.

“Operations-wise, every day it’s the same,” he said. “There hasn’t been much change.”

KAET will not save any money from the layoffs until next summer, Renzulli said, but savings in fiscal year 2010 will be significant.

“If you didn’t do it now, you wouldn’t save it then,” Renzulli said.

He said KAET is looking to launch online merchandising purchases in the near future to bring in more funds and working more closely with ASU to increase savings.

The station plans to merge some departments, such as budgeting, with the University to operate more efficiently, Renzulli said.

He said KAET may also hire more student interns to fill vacant positions at a lower cost.

“You just have to do it. Everywhere you look there are similar things going on,” he said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to fill those spots when we come out of this economy.”

Reporter Jodi Cisman contributed to this story.

Reach the reporter at adam.sneed@asu.edu.