Sequester the ‘tipping point’ in MPBN’s jobs, programming cuts

Posted April 05, 2013, at 5:44 p.m.
Mark Vogelzang
Courtesy photo
Mark Vogelzang

LEWISTON, Maine — The Maine Public Broadcasting Network said Friday it will be laying off staff and placing one of its public affairs television shows on hiatus because of reductions in federal and state funding, and worries about anticipated levels of philanthropic giving.

MPBN is projecting a $400,000 shortfall during its current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2013, according to a news release from the nonprofit organization. It said approximately $260,000 of that amount is from a decline in its appropriation from the state. Federally mandated cuts, known as sequestration, will account for an additional $100,000, along with about $40,000 from anticipated reductions in philanthropic giving, which MBPN attributed to a slow economic recovery.

The organization was already aware of the reduction in its state appropriation and was tightening its belt, Mark Vogelzang, MPBN’s president and CEO, said in the release. However, he called the sequester “the tipping point.”

MPBN will lay off 10 employees in its in-house video production department and place its public affairs television show, Maine Watch, on hiatus through the summer. MPBN said its other programing, both radio and television, including its new show, Maine Capitol Connection, and high school basketball coverage will not be affected.

This isn’t the first year MPBN has had financial trouble. In its last fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2012, the organization posted nearly $11.6 million in revenue, but lost $142,000, according to its federal tax form. In 2011, it had a surplus of nearly $57,000.

Its largest expense last year, nearly $5.8 million, was salaries, compensation and employee benefits. Jim Dowe, who retired as CEO at the end of 2012, made nearly $213,000 that year.

Approximately $2.3 million of MPBN’s revenue last year came from federal and state allocations, while nearly $4 million came from membership dues, and another $4.7 million from other grants and gifts, according to its tax form.

“We explored a number of cost reduction options and concluded that this path will achieve the necessary savings while retaining the programming we need to have for a more stable future,” Vogelzang said in the statement. “The severity of our cuts in funding — especially the federal funding piece — really tied our hands. These cuts are incredibly difficult for our organization and for those directly affected. We are losing some good professional people, and we will do everything we can to soften their landing and help them find employment.”

MPBN operates five television transmitters and seven radio transmitters throughout the state, as well as its website, www.mpbn.net.

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