Losses and Layoffs At Georgia Public Broadcasting as 2020 Looms

State-run Georgia Public Broadcasting ran an overall deficit of $5,000,000 in Fiscal Year 2019 with extensive losses in its radio operations, according to its annual state audit.

The audit was released Nov. 20th and has so far drawn little attention, despite GPB’s prominence as an intersection of politics and media in the state and Georgia’s national significance in the 2020 elections.

The audit includes a section on Corporation for Public Broadcasting Grant recipients showing over $3 million in losses for both TV and radio.

A negative $10,000,000 Ending Net Position is posted under WJSP-FM, the Columbus radio station through which GPB also accounts for its operations on WRAS in Atlanta.

I’m no accountant, and these numbers are complicated by last year’s changes in accounting methods, increased pension obligations, and a one-time windfall from an FCC spectrum auction.

But most of the spectrum auction funds must go, by mandate, towards repacking GPB’s stations.

And the overall trend since 2014, when GPB first launched its Atlanta station, has been down.

On Nov. 22, The Augusta Chronicle reported GPB was cutting its sole position there and eliminating its physical presence there.

In addition, GPB is facing mandatory state budget cuts of 4% during the current fiscal year and 6% in the next.

GPB receives a mix of funding and stated in 2014 that tax dollars would not be used in its new Atlanta radio operations.

(Public Broadcasting Atlanta’s WABE receives no state funds though it does receive federal CPB grants.)

GPB’s original reduction plan, obtained through an Open Records Request to the Gov.’s Office of Planning and Budget, called for ending its contract with Discovery Education to supply digital textbooks to Georgia students and educators. However, this plan was rejected by the Gov’s office which chose to maintain the contract.

A related Performance Audit is underway which a Dept. of Audits spokesperson stated came at the request of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Its purpose is to “review efforts of GPB’s educational and teacher supports and materials.” The anticipated release date is “the end of the year or early January.”

“The radio station issue is not within the scope of this review.”

A new reduction plan includes cuts to some open positions and early retirements. No news positions are included but as the Augusta Chronicle article indicates, those aren’t funded through appropriations.

An OPB spokesperson notes that “the Governor has until January to finalize recommendations for the Amended Fiscal Year 2019 and Fiscal Year 2020 budgets.”

Elsewhere in the state, newspapers are shrinking or closing outright.

NPR has sought to fill growing news deserts by fostering affiliate collaboration and forming regional hubs in Texas and Ohio.

But in Atlanta, the direct competition continues.

Atlanta writer and comedian. Occasional citizen journalist. Diagnosed with Asperger’s at age 40. No relation to Steve.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store