Another dot got connected in the broadcast television picture. Earlier this week, WMFE-TV in Orlando, Florida, announced that it was to be purchased by a Christian broadcaster based in Dallas, Texas, and would be leaving the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). The viewer-supported station was unable to raise enough in donations to meet the annual PBS membership fee. This is the second major market station to leave PBS this year. In January, KCET-TV in Los Angeles, California, left the network because it could not afford the dues.
Certainly, the PBS network relies on a different business model than the major commercial networks, but these stations could well be the canary in the coal mine for local television broadcasting of all stripes. If they can’t raise revenues, then they’ll have to cut costs. And that will mean paying less for programming. And that means less money for the content providers — including the major Hollywood studios. If the viewer-supported stations can’t make their budgets, how long will it be until the commercial stations follow?
Maybe you can’t imagine a major market without national broadcast networks on the air, but then again, it wasn’t so long ago that we couldn’t imagine a major market without a major daily newspaper, either. How’s that working out?