Connecticut Public Television lost its lucrative deal last month to broadcast the UConn women’s basketball games, a gut-punch that left worried employees moping in the hallways, CEO Jerry Franklin told the Connecticut Post. It also has observers wondering about the finances of parent organization Connecticut Public Broadcasting, which operates CPTV along with WNPR, the state’s public-radio station.
Once a blip on the airwaves, CPBN has grown into a $20 million-a-year operation, and the membership dues and corporate sponsorships spawned by the UConn deal were major drivers. That money is now in jeopardy, even as CPBN is moving ahead with some aggressive — and potentially risky — expansion plans. Most notably, the network has a multimillion-dollar deal to develop lab space at its Asylum Hill headquarters for the Hartford school system’s Journalism and Media Academy. While officials believe the partnership will eventually pay off, Franklin has said CPBN may have to take out a bank loan if the network is unable to raise enough upfront money.
The station has also faced the loss of recurring state aid for operating expenses, although it did receive a $1 million state grant for transmission and broadcast equipment last year, and underwriting contracts with the Department of Public Health provided $450,000 more.
And if all that weren’t enough financial plates for Franklin to keep spinning, a union leader and members of the Connecticut Citizens Action Group picketed the station Tuesday in advance of a board meeting, protesting the recent layoff of three television production workers and a fourth employee who worked on the network’s website. The small band of activists held six signs — half of which took direct aim at Franklin’s salary.
Meg Sakellarides, CPBN’s chief financial officer, said the network has requested a meeting with union officials to discuss alternatives to the layoffs. “CPTV has a stronger than ever commitment to local programming. However, funding for much of it is still speculative. It would be irresponsible to maintain fixed costs that cannot be covered by confirmed revenues,” Sakellarides said in a statement. “If the planned layoffs cannot be avoided, CPTV’s collective bargaining agreement allows for workers to be recalled as funding is secured and that would be our hope.”
In the statement, Sakellarides also noted that “cuts and sacrifices are being made across the board with many senior managers doubling up and assuming the responsibilities of managers who have left but have not been replaced.”
To see how Connecticut Public Broadcasting fared in the last fiscal year, click the summary chart below to access our Charity Check report, which provides background on the organization and details on its revenue and expenses.