UA plans five years of funding cuts to AZPM
Radio and television reporters work on stories in the Arizona Public Media newsroom Tuesday. AZPM received budget cuts for the upcoming UA semester and will be losing $400,000 a year for the next five years.
The UA announced it is cutting funds for Arizona Public Media by $2 million over the next five years.
AZPM is the local Public Broadcasting Service and National Public Radio affiliate. It has an annual budget of $11.7 million, a quarter of which is provided by the UA. Starting July 1, the UA’s financial contribution to AZPM will be reduced by $400,000 each fiscal year for the next five years.
UA administration said cuts to AZPM are necessary to deal with budget issues.
“We’ve had a lot of cuts from the state legislature because of economic downturn and it has been significant,” said Chris Sigurdson, senior associate vice president of university relations. “The university got very little additional support this term.”
The UA experienced lower than expected state funding when the state budget was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in April following a battle between the Arizona House of Representatives and the Senate, which reduced new funding for the UA to zero at one point according to Rep. Ethan Orr, District 9.
In the end, the UA received only $5.5 million of the $34.8 million requested by the Arizona Board of Regents. President Ann Weaver Hart expressed disappointment when the budget was approved, saying the lack of funding would negatively affect the UA’s abilities as an economic driver in Arizona.
Sigurdson said much of AZPM’s funding comes from the university’s general fund, which is mostly made up of tax dollars and student tuition dollars.
“The decision was made that it was not right to support public media, which has other sources of revenue, with student tuition,” Sigurdson said.
Sigurdson said the university decided to redirect the money back to the general fund so it could be used for research and educational purposes.
“We’ve got some very ambitious goals for student outcomes and research, and we’re looking for resources to make those goals reality,” he said.
Some AZPM community supporters have criticized the UA’s decision to make such dramatic reductions to one of the country’s most viewed news outlets. In an editorial printed in the Arizona Daily Star on Thursday, Sarah Gassen, an opinions writer, questioned why those cuts weren’t being made to the administration or athletic department instead.
Sigurdson said cutting the AZPM budget was appropriate because most other auxiliaries, like UA Presents and the athletic department, are self-sustaining and generate enough revenue to pay most of their own bills and staff salaries.
He said the UA plans to work with AZPM to identify other sources of revenue.
Jack Gibson, director and general manager of AZPM, said AZPM would be supplementing the lost funds largely in membership support, as well as support from production services, corporation support and community donations.
Gibson said the AZPM budget is balanced for fiscal year 2015 and all jobs and programs are being preserved. The budget cuts will delay some plans for future productions while they focus on raising money, he said.
“The cuts are affecting morale, but my staff is energized and motivated,” Gibson said.
Gibson said the budget cuts would not affect the amount of internships AZPM offers to UA students.
“Even after the cuts have been phased in the university will still be the single largest financial stakeholder for the station,” Sigurdson said. “The station is not going away. It will continue to offer quality television and radio.”