Two days after producing a televised Gubernatorial debate that drew national attention and negative reviews, Georgia Public Broadcasting’s state audit for Fiscal Year 2018 was released showing continued losses in radio.
While GPB’s overall net position rose for the first time in four years, that seems attributable to a windfall from an FCC spectrum auction and capital improvement bonds.
A Statement of Activities by Corporation for Public Broadcasting Grantee shows its Columbus station WJSP, through which its operations on 88.5 in Atlanta are accounted, has lost millions.
The partnership between GPB and Georgia State University giving the state network daytime control of iconic college radio station 88.5 WRAS was made without student input and announced during finals week.
The move sparked a large public backlash and protests on social media plus concerns it was related to GPB’s hiring of the state’s Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers upon the urging of Gov. Nathan Deal.
Moreover, GPB on 88.5 brought it into direct competition with Public Broadcasting Atlanta’s longtime NPR affiliate WABE, which receives no state funding.
A later appeal by students outlined GSU officials’ secret negotiations with GPB while asking students to fund an expensive new digital transmitter. GSU never disclosed that a non-student third party would be using it during peak daytime hours.
The appeal, to Georgia’s politically-appointed Board of Regents, was denied not on its merits but for having not been filed in time.
Since the competition began both PBA and GPB have engaged in an extensive billboard and branding campaigns surpassing those of most commercial radio stations in Atlanta. This is despite NPR’s own efforts to reorganize affiliates into regional hubs and increase their cooperation.
In recent months, GPB and PBA have also stepped up their television competition with each asserting itself as Atlanta’s PBS affiliate.
Gov. Deal continues to exert control over GPB having recently made late-term appointments of 7 members to its 9 member board.
My attempts over the years to get PBS and NPR to investigate and publicly comment on Gov. Deal’s interference with GPB and how that affects their news coverage of the state have mostly been fruitless.
Now the race for his successor is extremely close.
Deal has endorsed Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp who has refused calls to step down from his job as election watchdog while seeking higher office.
With the growing national interest in the race between Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, news outlets from Politico to the Associated Press, and newer digital news organizations like the non-profit Who What Why have been breaking stories about voter suppression and election integrity. Often these are stories the state’s legacy outlets either missed or sat on.
For their part, NPR and PBS’s silence on GPB’s scandals despite Gov. Deal’s direct involvement and the role the his successor will play in running their largest Southeastern affiliate has been deafening.