University licensee trims Arizona Public Media by $2M over five years

By Dru Sefton

Arizona Public Media will lose $2 million in support from its university licensee over the next five years starting July 1.

Over that time, the University of Arizona’s annual cash contribution to AZPM will fall 4 percent a year, from $2.6 million to $600,000. University leadership “is working with us to identify sources of new revenue,” General Manager Jack Gibson told Current.

The university has weathered nearly $200 million in cuts since 2007 due to reduced state appropriations. Administrators “have turned up the heat wherever they could to recover working capital,” Gibson said. “They’ve looked hard at nonacademic units at the university,” including the dual licensee.

The university will still contribute around $2 million a year in in-kind donations such as facilities, utilities and human resources. Gibson said the station’s fiscal 2015 budget is balanced thanks to a bit of belt-tightening. There are no plans for personnel cuts.

Despite the cutbacks, the station remains committed to local productions, he noted. Its flagship weeknight news program, Arizona Illustrated, went on hiatus earlier this month to return as a revamped weekly program in September. The new series will showcase three to five character-driven “mini-documentaries” in each episode, according to a press release, focusing on science, nature, arts, culture and public affairs stories in Southern Arizona.

AZPM also launched Metro Week, a 30-minute Friday evening public-affairs offering.

“Budget cuts are happening to many licensees,” Gibson said. “The situation is disappointing for us, but we get it. We’re moving forward to address the shortfall.”

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