Latest cutback: WHTJ chops office, not shows
Fewer than two years ago, WHTJ hosted a splashy kick-off party for its Terri Allard-hosted program, Charlottesville Inside-Out. Today, the public broadcasting station licensed for Charlottesville still has Allard, but the rest of its local programming has gone dormant–- along with its local office space.
One of the hard-hit Community Idea Stations out of Richmond, WHTJ–- which once had five employees–- recently closed its office at 528 East Maint Street, across from City Hall. The payroll has shrunk to two, and they both work from home. Former general manager D.J. Crotteau left the station June 5 for a new job.
At least the local station did not experience the bloodbath that took place at the mother station. In January, Richmond-based WCVE eliminated 10 jobs.
But the stations are still broadcasting.
"There was no interruption and change in service that viewers will notice," reassures spokeswoman Lynne McCarthy-Jones.
She also wants dispel any notion that WHTJ no longer broadcasts local programming, even though Charlottesville Inside-Out with Allard currently is WHTJ's sole offering of local programming until more underwriters turn up.
"We don't really need a studio for that," says McCarthy-Jones. "We don't need to do that in-house."
"You really don't need the infrastructure you used to," concurs former GM Crotteau.
Charlottesville has long had two out-of-town stations claiming to be the local PBS station. Besides WHTJ at Channel 7 on Comcast cable, the other is WVPT at Channel 11.
Over in Harrisonburg, from whence WVPT broadcasts, the viewer-supported scene doesn't seem as dire as at the Community Idea Stations. Although WVPT also has no office here and a work-from-home sales rep, it had no layoffs.
"We finished the fiscal year with a balanced budget," says Dave Mullins, WVPT's general manager in Harrisonburg. "We've survived as well as can be expected for a nonprofit in these circumstances."
The reduction in funding from the state has affected all public broadcasters, says Mullins. And there's one other force with which the PBS stations must contend.
"With Hulu.com," says Crotteau, "you can watch Sesame Street any time you want."