JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Gov. Mike Dunleavy has proposed ending state funding for public broadcasting amid efforts to close a projected $1.6 billion budget deficit.
The Republican governor introduced a measure this week to eliminate the Alaska Public Broadcasting Commission, saving the state about $3.6 million annually, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The commission distributes state grants to TV and radio stations and supervises a satellite communications system.
Vicky Thomas, office manager for KZPA-AM, said the only radio station in Fort Yukon won't be able to replace equipment and its survival will be jeopardy without state funding.
In an emergency, the station's messages are used for search-and-rescue and police response. During calmer periods, the station broadcasts local basketball games.
While there are commercial broadcasters in urban areas, public broadcasting is an important information link in many parts of rural Alaska.
Matt Shuckerow, a Dunleavy spokesman, said the proposal is not based on the merits of public broadcasting but is to reduce statewide costs.
When Dunleavy was a state senator, he sought to eliminate state funding for public broadcasting, though funding was included in those budgets.
During his primary campaign for governor, Dunleavy told Ketchikan public radio station KRBD-FM, "We all listen to and all watch public radio and public TV. But some would say that with additional television stations and radio stations, it may not be as vital as it once was to the health and safety of Alaskans."
About 10 percent of the $750,000 budget for "Gavel Alaska," which broadcasts legislative hearings, is paid by the state, said Bill Legere, general manager of KTOO public broadcasting in Juneau.
To receive federal support, public broadcasters must show they have a certain amount of local funding, Legere said. In Alaska, state aid accounts for a significant amount of that local funding for rural stations, he said.
Rep. Sara Hannan, a Juneau Democrat, said it would be "devastating to rural Alaska to take away the only communication system that's available to take weather warnings and emergency alerts."
Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com