WYOU Moving On . . .

Posted December 18th, 2010 @ 11:20 AM by

This is what has been distracting me all week, (I’m on the board of WYOU as well as being a producer) . . . laying off three very good people and trying to figure out what needs to be done to keep the station running. What the station will become in this new era is up to us! If you want to help, let me know! And, hey, if you can donate, please do. It’s more important than ever! Oh, and also, if you see Mayor Dave, or any of the council members, be sure to thank them for the loss of three jobs they could have prevented with just $70K of money they got from Charter, but refused to give to WYOU. Hmmmm . . . .they had an extra $700,000 per year (In addition to the $1.3M they are already getting), with adjustments for inflation for Overture in perpetuity, because the arts are so important, but for WYOU . . . layoffs, pocketing $70K for themselves and a questionable future. Where are this cities priorities? Where was the concern for the workers? The arts?

Here’s the speech to volunteers and producers last night, from Rick Richards:

Thank you all for coming tonight.
As you know, we have been fighting for two years to maintain funding and staff.

When the state legislature rewrote Wisconsin’s telecommunications act, they included language which defunded public access channels. WYOU and the Wisconsin Association of PEG channels lobbied state and national lawmakers to restore that funding, but the state legislature and the national congress failed to act. The City of Madison compounded the problem by cutting WYOU’s share of funding in half a full year before the state law takes effect – which it does in a few weeks on January 1st. Again, we – and many of you – lobbied the city council to no avail. Satya Rhodes-Conways 2010 budget amendment to restore some of that cut failed to pass and this year, we were unable even to get a council member to propose a 2011 budget amendment to help WYOU.org

We certainly saw this coming and have worked to acquire new revenue sources, with some success. However, replacing almost $150,000 in annual revenue is a huge challenge and we have fallen short. While there are a lot of contributing factors for this, let me be very clear that our staff – Eric, Robert and Barbara – have done an amazing job and bear no fault for the shortfall. Indeed, the amount and quality of the work they have done to raise money while at the same time making WYOU into a well-run and highly respected community organization is astounding.

We have raised money from a variety of new (for us) sources. These include on and off-air fund raisers, partnering with festivals such as Fete de la Marquette, direct mailings, classes, media services for hire, etc. Each of these revenue sources has been growing, but not quite fast enough.

So it is sad and unfair that staff should bear the brunt of the shortfall. But the truth is that beginning January 1st, we won’t have the money to pay their salaries so we will be laying off all three staff.

Does that mean WYOU is going away? No, not yet. There are several things to consider:
1. WYOU currently is in very good condition physically: we have this beautiful new facility in a good location, the business functions are lean and very professional, the station has grown respect and visibility within the Madison Community.

2. Over the next few months your board will be working on options to keep WYOU functioning including possible “restructuring” it as an all-volunteer organization. This will take some time and will require help from you.

3. We are working on acquiring additional funding from the community. There are some big donors to approach, media services for hire and classes may continue on a contract basis, and we have another (final) PEG payment due from Charter the third week of February.

A few final words about what this all means on the practical level.
1. Programs will continue to be updated to play on channel. Producers can continue to drop off new episodes in a new drop box that will be located at the front door to the station. Programs will be loaded into the cablecast system on Mondays and Thursdays between 6p – 8p. If we do not receive a new episode from you in time for your regularly scheduled airtime, we will play the previous week’s episode.

2. Beginning January 1st, we will suspend equipment check outs and access to the editing stations. We will work to get procedures and volunteers in place to restore that service. But for the time being, those will no longer be available EXCEPT to Producers who have regularly scheduled shows and whose membership is current. New procedures will be announced later.

3. Since staff is not available to assist in use of the studio, only shows with crews qualified to run the studio on their own will have access and that access will be limited to hours when we are open, unless you have a key and a crew qualified to run the studio.

4. We will be open two days each week during January and February : Mondays and Thursdays from 9-5.

5. We intend to recruit media services for hire jobs and offer classes. Staff will be hired back as contractors on a case by case basis for these two initiatives. These activities will help bring in the revenue to keep the lights on, serve the community and continue the educational part of our mission.

6. Staff is offering classes tomorrow and Sunday to share their technical knowledge.

(Saturday from 1-3 with Robert: Programming, Automator, Scripting, Archives)
(Sunday from 4-6 with Eric: Studio, editing bays and duplicator)
Additional classes may be offered in the future regarding various production skills.

7. We need your help if we are to continue operations. If you can volunteer to help, talk with board members tonight or email or call the station to leave a message using the contact information on our web site. We will begin in earnest after the holidays.

So, there it is, that’s the temporary plan for the station . . . the longer term plan is being worked on. All ideas, thoughts, hands and, did I say, donations . . . are welcome. Help us keep WYOU alive!

Categories: | Dane | Madison | Media

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