Nick Alford–The Corsair
A bill has been introduced to the Florida Legislature that could take funding from PJC’s own WSRE, along with the other 13 PBS stations in the state of Florida.
The bill, dubbed HB 175 to the House and SB 472 to the Senate, is an amendment to the Florida statute that allows for funding to all educational and public broadcasting stations. It adds a new stipulation in the language of the statute, including “nondenominational television stations licensed by the FCC as full-power educational broadcast stations” in the funding that comes from the State Board of Education.
Before this proposed amendment, the statute only allows for stations that fall under the umbrella of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to receive funds.
“What this bill would do is open it up to a larger group of licensees,” WSRE General Manager, Sandra Ceseretti said. “It could be community or perhaps religious licensees that are nondenominational. It would take the current infrastructure and grow it, perhaps to another 200 new licensees.”
That could translate the amount of funding be substantially diluted to over 200 new stations in Florida and could result in big problems for WSRE, which has already had to make drastic cutbacks and layoffs as a result of the massive deficit last year.
This bill, according to Ceseretti, would create a considerable strain on the already tight budget the station has to work with.
But according to Dr. Phyllis Schiffer-Simon, Director of The Broward Education Communications Network (Becon), that’s not necessarily the case.
“We’ve done a bill analysis very thoroughly, and we would be the only other station that would be eligible,” Schiffer-Simon said. “We are a full-power, educational broadcast station that reaches over five million people, and we provide both local and student educational programming.”
Dr. Schiffer-Simon believes the talk that this bill will “open the flood gates” to hundreds of other stations is only a myth.
“The language of the bill is very tight, and according to the FCC register, there would be no other entities that would qualify unless they go through what we have”
Democratic Senator Eleanor Sobel feels the same way about the bill, and is very confident that it will pass. Becon has been working closely with Senator Sobel, who not only sponsored the bill, but was also a member of the Broward County School Board. The Broward County School Board owns and operates Becon TV.
“They’ve been trying to get this passed since before my time, at least a decade or so,” Sobel said. “This bill is just about giving Becon the same rights as a public broadcast station.”
The Florida Legislature will meet in March to put it to a vote, and according to Sobel, if it fails, they will most definitely keep trying again until it becomes law.