Friday, December 26, 2008

Maine public radio

Maine Public Broadcasting (MPBN) announced that it was shutting down its transmitters in Calais and Fort Kent on account of the economic recession and the ensuing crisis facing the station. This is a betrayal of a public trust.

While it doesn't affect me--I can get the stations from Bangor and Camden clearly enough--it affects two counties the combined size of Massachusetts and Connecticut. That is a pretty large area.

No doubt the folks from Washington and Aroostook counties who contributed their hard earned dollars during MPBN's most recent pledge drive, last summer, where they raised more than $200,000, an amount four times that of the contributions of listeners in Rhode Island, must be wishing they could get their monies back. Fat chance. And fat chance that they will soon contribute again. What is MPBN thinking?

Perhaps they're thinking that the state legislature will step in and give them more money. Fat chance again. The legislature is mandated to drastic budget cuts themselves. Besides, many resent MPBN's firing, last year, of Robert Skoglund, aka The humble Farmer, a state treasure, a Maine humorist who had a show on MPBN Friday nights for more than 30 years, and who did it voluntarily for almost all of that time.

humble was asked to sign a loyalty oath, that he would not inject political humor into his monolgues. Imagine if Mark Twain had been asked to sign such an oath! Or Garrison Keillor? No way. And so humble was fired. And so listeners withheld $180,000 in contributions. No wonder MPBN is hurting.

It's mismanagement of a public trust, plain and simple. Throw the Board of Trustees out. Throw the executive managers out. Bring in a new group that will be responsible to the public trust, re-hire Skoglund, and usher in a new day for Maine public broadcasting. If money needs to be saved, cut back on television.

Yes, television. Public television in Maine is pathetic and has been for decades, increasingly unable to compete with cable channels, losing its audience while radio is gaining.

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