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July 15. 2012 6:07PM

NHPTV partners with WGBH, breaks with UNH

DURHAM — New Hampshire Public Television is contracting some business services out to Boston's WGBH, but says its independence and local focus will remain.

Last fall it was reported that NHPTV was looking to partner with other public television stations in the region after a $2.7 million cut in state funding.

It represented all of the funding the station received from the state and one-third of its funding in total. As a result 20 positions, one-third of the staff, were cut.

Since then, manager of communications Grace Lessner said the station has been looking for efficiencies.

As of July 1, WGBH took over some accounting functions that were previously done in-house, Lessner said. She said the people handling those functions found other employment.

“Because we are similar businesses, it makes sense to use their services for that,” Lessner said.

Effective the same date, NHPTV is no longer a wholly owned subsidiary of the University System of New Hampshire, but an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

When the public television station was first licensed in 1959, it was as an educational licensee through the University of New Hampshire. In 2008, the station went from being an entity of UNH to become a wholly owned nonprofit subsidiary of the USNH.

Until last year, state funding was distributed to the state through the USNH.

“Since we lost the state funding … and we weren't receiving any funds from the university system, it made sense for their (USNH's) board of trustees to focus on the university as a whole and for us to operate on our own,” Lessner said.

She said the station will now become community licensed, but said that will not result in any change to NHPTV's mission, goals or programming.

“We are going to continue to be New Hampshire Public Television. There is nothing that is going to change the fact that we are serving New Hampshire and its communities,” Lessner said. “Nothing is going to take away from that independence that we have.”

Brand-wise, viewers might start seeing the station labeled as New Hampshire Public Broadcasting instead of New Hampshire Public Television, but there would otherwise be no change, she said.

She said the station has come through the worst of the problems, which saw popular shows like “Granite State Challenge” , which had aired for 29 years, put on hiatus.

Lessner said the loss in state funding certainly put more pressure on the various ways the station does fundraising, but said supporters were very responsive when they heard of the state cuts.

Lessner said they are planning to start taping new episodes of the high school quiz show again in January.

As far as further collaboration with other public television stations, Lessner said discussions are ongoing.

She said neighboring public televisions have common behind-the-scenes functions, including underwriting, membership departments, engineering and master control, and broadcasting.

“We are looking at ways to collaborate so we can take advantage of that overlap and are not duplicating efforts,” Lessner said. “So those conversations are still underway.”

gretylmacalaster@newstote.com


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