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‘Antiques Roadshow’ visit boosts W.Va. tourism

By Phil Kabler, Staff writer
F. BRIAN FERGUSON | Gazette
Thousands of people attended the “Antiques Roadshow” taping at the Charleston Civic Center last month. Many of those people were from other states, and they provided an economic boost to the area, members of the West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority were told Wednesday.

With indications that the majority of the nearly 5,000 participants at last month’s taping of “Antiques Roadshow” were from other states, the event provided the unexpected benefit of boosting Charleston tourism, West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority members learned Wednesday.

Scott Finn, executive director of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, said Charleston hotels and restaurants were filled throughout the weekend of the Aug. 16 taping. Finn said he talked to visitors who had come from as far away as Maine and Minnesota to take part.

“We consider it a huge success,” he said. “This is community development. This is the same thing Mountain Stage does when it brings in people from out of state.”

WVPB marketing director Marilyn DiVita told EBA members that the show’s producer, WGBH-TV in Boston, has agreed to provide a mailing list of ticket-holders for the Aug. 16 taping for use by WVPB and the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, in hopes of encouraging Roadshow participants to make return visits to Charleston and West Virginia.

Finn said WVPB should get word by the end of this month on the airdates for the three “Antiques Roadshow” episodes taped in Charleston, with the programs likely to be broadcast sometime between January and March.

A reception and premiere of one of the episodes will be held at the Culture Center before the first showing.

Ted Armbrecht, chairman of the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Foundation, was one of 150 volunteers for the taping, and said the event was a great opportunity to showcase Charleston.

“We were on our feet from 6:30 in the morning until 7:15 at night,” he said. “It was a most exciting thing.”

Finn said “Antiques Roadshow” producers have been generally reluctant to come to cities as small as Charleston over concerns of potential low turnout. He said the success of the Aug. 16 taping could help encourage other PBS productions to visit Charleston.

Also at Wednesday’s EBA meeting:

| Board members authorized Finn to hire an education director to oversee WVPB educational programming and online initiatives.

Currently, only 2½ full-time employees out of a staff of 75 employees work entirely on education matters, he said.

| For the first time in its history, less than half of WVPB’s $9.58 million operating budget comes from state appropriations, Finn said. Also, he said, the fiscal 2014-15 budget is about half of the 1995-96 budget, the peak year for WVPB funding.

“We’ve slashed our funding, and we’re doing more with less,” he said.

| WVPB news director Beth Vorhees briefed authority members on the round-the-clock coverage of the Jan. 9 Elk River chemical leak that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians in nine counties.

She noted that the immediate updates on Public Radio and on the WVPB website, as well as coverage on public television, were in stark contrast to the 2012 derecho, when prior management opted not to have special coverage of the storm’s aftermath, and WVPB did not report on the Friday evening storm until regularly scheduled news programming the following Monday morning.

| Authority members opted not to participate in a campaign to require cell phone service providers to activate the FM chip in most smartphones and mobile devices.

Finn said most phones and mobile devices contain the chip, which allow the phones to function as over-the-air FM radio receivers, but said major cellphone carriers in the U.S. have opted not to activate the feature, presumably because it would reduce demand for online music apps, as well as data use.

Finn said he has concerns that advocating for the FM chip would cross the line into lobbying by the EBA.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.


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