In his budget presentation before the Legislature’s Finance Committee on Wednesday, Public Television System of the Virgin Islands Chief Executive Officer Osbert Potter asked for at least $216,000 in addition to the regular budget to get an FM radio station operational.
“It’s our major goal to get the FM station on the air,” Potter told the senators at the Earle B. Ottley Legislative Hall.
Potter later said that the FM station would take more money to continue operating, but the $216,000 would get it started.
He said the Federal Communications Commission gave the Public Television System a permit on Jan. 6, 2012, to construct the system. He said it has until three years from that date to start broadcasting or it will lose the opportunity. He said that once the FM station is fully operational, he doesn’t think it will become a “burden” on the Public Television System.
According to Potter, the radio station will become a major educational tool for the territory.
While Potter’s wish list includes an $8 million budget, he requested $3.9 million from the general fund – plus a $500,000 capital budget – to upgrade equipment as well as get the FM radio station operational.
In discussing the accomplishments of the station, which broadcasts as WTJX, Potter said it has completed documentaries with accompanying websites about the late Gov. Alexander Farrelly and the late Gov. Cyril E. King. The station has another program in the works about the late Gov. Melvin Evans and expects to create similar projects about the late Gov. Juan F. Luis and former Gov. Roy L. Schneider.
Sen. Kenneth Gittens urged Potter interview living former governors before they die, and to remember to include former Gov. Charles Turnbull.
Potter said that he places a heavy emphasis on local programming at WTJX, but said that if the station had more money, it could hire more staff and do more local programming. He said that the magazine news program Newsline 340 fell victim to the cuts in staff that happened a couple of years ago in the first round of government personnel cuts.
Following remarks from Sens. Judi Buckley and Clifford Graham, Potter explained that people don’t need to subscribe to cable television to receive the WTJX signal. An over-the-air antenna will suffice provided the person doesn’t reside in an area where the signal is blocked by the terrain.
As for fundraising, Potter said the Public Television System will shortly bring on board a new development director to restructure fundraising efforts. Last year, Public Television System raised $100,000 through fundraising efforts.
He also mentioned the station’s effort to let the public know that the GED test in its current format will expire at the end of the year. He said that anyone now studying for the test will have to take it before the end of the year or start the process all over.
He also noted that a WTJX production called “Pastel Painting” was picked up by a public television station in Fargo, N.D. He said it provided an opportunity to showcase the territory to potential visitors.
In addition to Graham, Buckley and Payne, committee member Sen. Donald Cole attended the meeting. Sens. Terrence “Positive” Nelson and Nereida Rivera-O’Reilly sent word they were stuck on St. Croix because of the inclement weather. Gittens is not a member of the committee.