Public TV, Radio Station funding faces uncertain future

MARQUETTE — The Learning Resources Center on the campus of Northern Michigan University is home to WNMU–TV and WNMU–FM.



The educational and cultural programming both entities provide could change if President Trump’s budget proposal passes as is. The radio and TV stations would be out of a combined $850,000 in federal funding.

General Manager Eric Smith says the stations are funded by the university, public donations and the federal government.

“If you think of it like a three–legged stool, remove any one of the legs and the rest of the unit becomes inoperable. It would just fall over,” said Smith.

Both public broadcasting stations have been providing content to the U.P. for over 40 years. Money from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) makes up 38% of the TV station’s funding and 16% of the radio station.

“The money that we get from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in keeping the station’s operational,” said Smith. “So if we lost that, we have a real problem to deal with.”

Smith says both stations have downsized in the last 10 years in order to provide the best services at the lowest possible cost. The CPB received $445 million in federal funding last year, which makes up approximately 0.1% of the entire congressional budget.

“We think the residents of the Upper Peninsula deserve to have these cultural and educational opportunities,” said Smith. “Rural America has long relied on public broadcasting for cultural and educational content.”

The proposed budget cut would affect more than just the people who watch programming like Sesame Street and listen to NPR. Students at the university could also see programs and opportunities disappear.

“We think that the students that come here deserve to have this kind of experience and hopefully when we combine all of these funding sources together, the experience is comprehensive and it launches students who have great careers,” said Smith. “The University Board of Trustees who holds the licenses for the stations would be the ultimate deciders. They would weigh in on what they think would be best for the stations.”

Smith said the university is discussing what their options would be going forward if that funding is ultimately cut. You can watch WNMU–TV on Channel 13 and listen to WNMU–FM on 90.9 on your radio dial.