Charity Check: Connecticut Public Broadcasting

by Categorized: Charity Check, Education, Media, Non-profits, UConn Date:

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.

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10 thoughts on “Charity Check: Connecticut Public Broadcasting

  1. Mitch

    Check the directors at the YMCA too! This si only part of the problem, the other problem is what are Civil Servants get paid, i.e. Government Workers!

  2. Oneinside

    Let’s not forget the incestuous relationship with some board members. Jerry is on the “executive Compensation Committee” of People’s Bank and their CEO is on the same committee at CPTV, setting Jerry’s salary. Gee, I wonder what could go wrong there. Upper management is still too heavy, This ia a company of less than 75 employees and 7 VPs or senior managers. Guess where the biggest cuts in salary could be made, but aren’t?

  3. Oneinside

    The 331 thousand quoted for Franklin’s salary also omits deferred compensation, monthly travel and entertainment expenses, use of a luxury car and his 200 thousand dollar stipend for serving on People’s Bank board. He pulls in well over a half a million annually. Nice non-profit work if you can get it.

  4. Frank Spencer-Molloy

    A longtime issue. From the Hartford Courant, 1993:

    S ince the recession started causing financial problems for Connecticut Public Broadcasting in 1989, the organization has cut about 30 jobs by layoff and attrition. Regular employees have received annual raises of about 5 percent, but also have had to take two weeks of unpaid furloughs.

    Meanwhile, the salary of the nonprofit corporation’s highest-paid employee — its president, Jerry Franklin — rose from $99,202 to $148,131 between 1989 and 1992, public records show.

    Franklin’s current base pay is $160,000, and if he earns bonuses under an incentive plan for his position, he could make an additional $16,000, the chairman of the broadcasting organization’s trustees said Friday.

    Franklin’s paycheck has attracted attention inside the organization recently because of a contract dispute with 30 unionized engineering and production employees — who perform tasks from video editing and equipment operation to lighting. The employees have been working without a contract since June 7, and repeatedly have rejected company offers for a two-year pact that includes 3.5 percent annual raises with a possible 2 percent incentive hike.

    Several workers and their union said in interviews last week that they believe management, headed by Franklin, is nickel-and-diming them and other rank-and-file workers on pay, while a different standard is applied at the top.

    “He’s quite comfortable accepting large increases for himself” while trying to cut costs elsewhere in the budget, said Fletcher Fischer, business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 42, in Manchester. “We’re concerned that he’s lost touch with the employees and the technology. … We’ve lost confidence in him as a manager.”

    Franklin denied that he’s out of touch. He said he stays current with employees’ concerns and said nonunion workers would back him up.

    Franklin said that his pay is in line with national public-television standards and that he is paid far less than he would be in an equivalent position at a commercial station. He also said the offer to the engineering employees is very fair.

    Meanwhile, the chairman of Connecticut Public Broadcasting’s board of trustees, Bruce Prouty — who is managing partner of Arthur Andersen & Co. in Hartford — said in a telephone interview Friday he has full confidence in Franklin.

    Prouty defended Franklin’s salary, saying he is respected nationally and the board wants to keep him here. Despite economic times in which fund-raising is difficult, Prouty said Franklin has built an “impressive team” that has produced national programs for PBS, and has won many awards.

    The contract dispute with the engineering and production unit was unresolved last week — with a number of complex questions at issue, including who has jurisdiction over the new technology of computer-assisted video editing. But the subject of widest interest to come out of it, clearly, is executive compensation.

    Money is a subject that public-broadcasting officials everywhere talk about during televised pledge breaks, in which pleas are made for membership donations to sustain quality programming. But money in the form of the top executive salaries is rarely, if ever, mentioned on the air.

    The salary figures, however, are included in nonprofit federal tax returns, copies of which are filed with the state. They show:

    In the 1988-89 fiscal year (the 12 months ending June 30, 1989), Franklin received $99,202 in wages, $22,615 in health and pension benefits, and $47,173 in expenses.

    In 1989-90, he received $125,050 in wages, $16,465 in benefits and $30,869 in expenses.

    In 1990-91, he received $154,663 in wages, $18,587 in benefits and $33,743 in expenses.

    In 1991-92 (the last 12-month period for which a report has been filed), he received $148,131 in wages, $19,895 in benefits and $17,604 in expenses.

    During those same years, the unionized engineering employees received raises of 6 percent, 6 percent, 4.2 percent and 5 percent in their wages, which now range from $15.82 an hour to $21.55 an hour, Fischer said. That amounts to an annual base pay ranging from $32,000 to $44,000, although with heavy overtime low-end workers can make $40,000 and top-end workers $50,000 or more.

    Prouty said Franklin’s pay has varied in past years on the basis of performance bonuses tied to financial and nonfinancial (or “qualitative”) goals set by a committee of trustees.

    Franklin runs an organization with 100 full-time employees and a $20 million annual budget. Connecticut Public Broadcasting encompasses Connecticut Public Television, with its five-station network, as well as Connecticut Public Radio.

    It’s a long way down to the next tier of executive salaries. For 1991-92, the next highest-paid employees in the organization were Lawrence Rifkin, vice president for programming, at $79,140 in wages and $11,090 in benefits; and Noreen McGill, chief financial officer, at $78,422 in wages with $8,540 in benefits. The next three salaries in rank were $74,883, $65,900 and $64,923.

    None of the other executives had expense accounts. Health and dental benefits are the same for all full-time employees, from Franklin down, McGill said.

    Franklin said his own expenses — which are paid on a reimbursement basis — were high because he had been holding leadership roles on major national public-television committees and he traveled a lot. The corporation’s disclosure forms also indicated large parts of Franklin’s expense-account sums were incurred in fund-raising and community activities.

    Franklin said his expenses have decreased recently because he cut back national committee roles.

    Franklin is the only executive with a company car, a 1992 Pontiac Bonneville that he said has about 70,000 miles on it.

    McGill said Franklin received a sizable bonus after the organization rebounded from a $1.7 million loss for the 1989 fiscal year to a $90,000 gain a year later. The bonus was paid in 1990-91, which is why his pay rose to $154,663 that year and then fell to $148,131, McGill said. (Franklin took all the unpaid furlough days, too, McGill said.)

    To effect the one-year turnaround between 1989 and 1990, jobs were eliminated and revenue was raised by “beating the bushes night and day,” Franklin said.

    The executive committee of Connecticut Public Broadcasting’s unpaid board of trustees is composed of about 25 prominent people from private business, higher education and government. Near the end of each fiscal year, the committee, which has about a dozen members, forms a smaller compensation committee to set Franklin’s pay and incentive bonuses, McGill said.

    About a year ago, he said, “I turned down a commercial job in a similar market. They would have given me a $60,000 raise, plus stock options and bonuses. … The money is dramatically higher at a commercial station at my level.”

    He said his board of trustees, in setting salary, seeks “to keep me at the bottom of the top 10 highest-paid managers in the {PBS} system. That’s where they’ve determined through their research {that} Connecticut Public Television fits into the PBS framework.”

    Prouty said he consults a New York personnel recruiter who deals with public-TV stations nationwide on appropriate pay for Franklin.

    Franklin said he also sets the pay of his department heads, supervisors and managers “pretty much in the bottom of the top 10” among national public-broadcasting organizations.

    There is no easily obtained national listing of public-broadcasting executives’ salaries. Two years ago the Pittsburgh Press did a survey of the largest public-TV organizations’ executive salaries for 1989-90 and found, for example, that the president of KCET in Los Angeles made $220,470; WNET’s top executive in New York made $204,356; and the president of WTTW in Chicago made $151,106.

    As for his own pay, Franklin says the trustees “take a great deal of pride in what they pay me. They don’t want me to leave. They want me to stay here. It’s a dilemma that we, in a nonprofit {group}, face every day. People expect the non-profit managers to almost be second-class, in pay and perhaps performance.

    “But we’re not second-class here. We think we’re pretty darn good, and my board wants to keep competitive people, and the best people in the business, running the place.


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