July 23, 2004 – The territory's public broadcasting television station has just added some new local programming and is promising more — if the local community is willing to provide the monetary support needed to make it possible.
WTJX-TV premiered its latest home-grown program on Friday night "X Fact-Or," a half-hour variety show with a sports segment hosted by Rashidi Clenance. A few weeks ago, the station unveiled "V.I. Week in Review," a Saturday evening look back at the week's local news hosted by Iris Kern.
Another recent addition to the local lineup is "Talk Around Town," which airs on Tuesday and Saturday nights The program, which has no host, offers five minutes on air to anyone who has anything to say and is willing to make an appointment and show up in the studio in either district to say it before a camera.
Well, not quite. "There are two restrictions," station development officer Yvette deLaubanque says. "You can't sell anything, and you cannot be abusive of anyone." And soon to be implemented will be one more, she adds: "Politicians are welcome until the day they file to run for election." Think of the show as a couple weeks' worth of "Sound-Offs" with video.
On Aug. 21, WTJX will introduce "School Days, Happy Days," an hour-long Sunday afternoon show comprising segments captured by camera crews sent into the schools in search of positive news.
These join the relatively new "Both Sides with Natalie," a half-hour debate-format program hosted by Natalie Tang-How on Tuesday nights, and a couple of shows that have been around for a while — the hour-long "Topics" hosted by Marise James on Thursday nights and "Behind the Headlines," now hosted by Sam Topp, who took over after original host Osbert Potter was named general manager of WTJX. And, of course, the oldies "Face to Face" with Addie Ottley for an hour on Wednesday nights and the national award-winning "Graffiti Street" weekly show produced by, with and for local high school students.
When school resumes, "The Teacher Is In," a live homework-assistance show aired three afternoons a week, will be back.
In June, the station began airing half-hour excerpts on Monday nights from the annual "STARfest" talent revue at the Reichhold Center for the Arts. And Reichhold director David Edgecombe had scheduled auditions this month for a new show that was to be a spinoff, a talent-elimination reality show called "What It Takes." But the project, a collaborative effort with WTJX, has been put on hold for lack of funding.
Nonetheless, according to a letter sent out to news media by deLaubanque on Friday, "We have at last 12 new local programs planned. We are appealing to the corporate community for underwriters."
Coming Up: Six Months of Solicitation
Funding is key to all programming. The way things work for a local PBS affiliate, deLaubanque said, is "we've got certain hours allocated for local programming, but we have to purchase the time — which is why we always need underwriters."
Underwriters are to public programming what sponsors are to the for-profit broadcast media, except that instead of commercials they get acknowledgments and tax writeoffs as allowed by law.
DeLaubanque said WTJX is embarking on "a major fund-raising campaign" over the next six months, although the "pool of donors and contributors is considerably smaller in the Virgin Islands" than in mainland station markets.
But that's just one phase of the fund-raising.
The station has revived its "Friends of WTJX" support group. Membership is $100, and so far 24 folks have signed on.
In August, it will begin selling tickets for the raffle of an SUV.
In September, it will be kicking off a "Give Twelve Campaign," asking that each member of the community served by the station make a donation at least 12 cents from each child, $12 from each adult, $120 from each small business and $1,200 from each large company.
In October, it will host a scramble-format golf tournament, replete with "celebrity putters," at Carambola on St. Croix. Fees are $125 for an individual golfer and $1,000 for a four-member corporate team. WTJX will tape portions of the tourney for later broadcast. Sponsors are being sought.
In December, it will host a "Twelve Days of Christmas" gala at the Estate St. Peter Great House on St. Thomas that will include a silent auction and the raffle drawing for the SUV. Admission will be $120 per person, or $1,800 for a table of 12.
There also are opportunities to support the station with traditional advertising in the monthly Take Twelve viewing guide, deLaubanque noted. Subscriptions to the guide are $15 a year.
And at some point before the end of the year, WTJX will revive its telethon, which hasn't been seen since before Hurricane Marilyn. "The telethon is nationally driven," deLaubanque explained, occurring in the pledge month designated by PBS. "That month, they provide time in their programming for the local stations to solicit pledges." The 2004 month has yet to be announced, she said.
One of the things on WTJX's "To Do" list in addition to coming up with underwriting for programming is finding larger production facilities on St. Croix. The station has long maintained a mini-studio in Gallows Bay while most of its programming has come out of the St. Thomas headquarters atop Haypiece Hill. But Clenance, James and Tang-How all do their shows live from St. Croix, deLaubanque noted. "We're looking for new space," she said. "We've pretty much outgrown the space in Gallows Bay."
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