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WNEG-TV at UGA granted one month of funding
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The WNEG-TV station at the University of Georgia campus has at least one more month of life.

The board managers of University of Georgia Research Foundation Media Holdings decided to give $71,390 to help WNEG's operating needs through the end of September. The entire board meets Sept. 23 to determine the fate of the station.

"This discussion and amendment process is a continuation of the approach that we have been taking at the end of the fiscal year to extend the operations of the station," said Tom Landrum, senior vice president for external affairs. "We're pursuing with a consultant the ways to address the need of the station and keep it sustainable and viable. We'll report more as more is known."

The UGARF executive committee met at the end of June to make an amendment to the budget, just days before fiscal year 2011 began. The committee approved a resolution that called for a $49,340 addition to fiscal 2010 to wrap up the station's needs and requested $340,000 for fiscal 2011 to make it through the next two months.

The station has faced financial problems since
construction started in the basement of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication last fall and opened its door in January. Station operators have proposed a variety of options, from maintaining status quo to shutting off programming and possibly even selling the station.

"In September, we'll be prepared to talk more specifics as we continue the evaluation of the various options with our consultant to figure out what best meets our needs," said Tim Burgess, senior vice president for finance and administration. "It feels like we're closing in on a best option. When you study hard, you get a better feel. A year ago, we weren't studying it, we were implementing a business plan, but three or four months ago we began re-assessing that business plan."

The fiscal 2010 operating expenses for WNEG was $1.8 million, and with a projected annual revenue of $800,000 - covering the $786,000 in staffing salaries - the station took on a $1 million deficit. Of the five-year, $5 million grant given in 2008 to buy the station and fund operations, about $111,000 remains uncommitted after Wednesday's decision.

In other business, station manager Michael Castengera introduced the idea of moving the station's transmitter to Pendergrass.

"It would improve the signal over our area, especially within the Atlanta part of the market," he said. "It's a preemptive move on the part of the (Federal Communications Commission) to protect any future moves or actions on behalf of the station."

Landrum, who has worked with the consultants proposing the move, said it could help if competitors try to marginalize their coverage in the future.

"This isn't a commitment to make any move, but it holds the place in the event that we would like to do it," Landrum said. "There's only so much air space out there in the world, and the FCC may decide they may not accept any more" stations as parts of the broadcast spectrum is increasingly used for broadband.

The group decided to move forward with the permit, which will allow a three-year construction window once the application process is completed.


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