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W.Va. Public Broadcasting moving to local focus

By Phil Kabler, Staff writer

West Virginia Public Broadcasting needs to shift its focus to more locally produced programming and websites in order to survive, Executive Director Scott Finn said Wednesday.

In an era of multiple media platforms, state Public Broadcasting cannot continue to function primarily as a delivery service for national PBS and NPR programming, Finn said.

“It’s like we were UPS for PBS,” he told the Educational Broadcasting Authority on Wednesday. “If that’s all we are, we’re going to be in trouble, because you can watch ‘Downton Abbey’ on Netflix.”

Likewise, Finn said, there are smart-phone applications to listen to NPR programming, and households with satellite dishes either receive a national PBS feed or multiple PBS stations, including some from neighboring states.

He said WVPB needs to move from being primarily a distributor of national programming to being an “indispensable resource” for education and community programming.

Finn said WVPB is taking steps in that direction with the launch of the new educational websites West Virginia LearningMedia and West Virginia STEAM.

He said plans also are in the works to digitize past “Mountain Stage” performances, to create a video archive accessible from the WVPB website.

Also at Wednesday’s EBA meeting:

| Finn said there has been huge interest in the “Antiques Roadshow” visit to Charleston on Aug. 16.

He said the show’s producers gave WVPB 500 tickets for the roadshow taping at the Charleston Civic Center, and said about 400 tickets have been given out as premiums for fund-raising pledges.

“It’s been a huge success. It’s a reason our membership dollars are doing really, really well right now,” Finn said.

In addition to three one-hour segments from Charleston that will be broadcast nationally, WVPB will have crews videotaping the day’s event for a special that will air statewide.

There also will be a fundraising reception that Friday evening at the Culture Center featuring “Antiques Roadshow” host Mark Walberg and the on-air appraisers.

| At the request of Education and the Arts Secretary Kay Goodwin, the authority postponed action to approve an agreement to allow a low-power radio station to have its FM transmitter located on WVPB’s Charleston tower.

Roots Town Radio, a nonprofit low-power station to be operated by FOOTMAD of Charleston, had a tentative agreement to lease transmitter space on the tower.

As part of the agreement, the station — whose signal would reach slightly beyond Charleston’s city limits — will carry “Mountain Stage” broadcasts, Finn said.

EBA’s next meeting is in June.

| About two years after the demise of the monthly Pubcaster program guide, WVPB will resume publication of a scaled-down magazine to be published six times a year.

The new publication will feature previews of upcoming programs but will not have programming schedules, as the Pubcaster had.

“This is a way to restart a print publication,” Finn said.

He said WVPB mails out about 250 printouts of programming schedules each month to viewers who do not have Internet access.

| The long-running “Doctors On Call” program, featuring doctors from the West Virginia University Healthcare system, will cease to be a weekly TV program at the end of the month, Finn said.

The live, half-hour telecast will be replaced with a series of one-hour specials featuring pre-recorded segments on specific health-care issues, along with a live, call-in segment.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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