Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

U-M to discontinue operation of WFUM-TV

U-M plans to discontinue operating Michigan Television (WFUM-TV/Flint) because of shortfalls in revenue since 2005 and the need to control the university’s costs in the face of the continuing economic downturn.

Member contributions from viewers, along with support from area businesses and foundations, have traditionally provided the largest source of funding for Michigan Television.

Over the past two years, the station has experienced a 28-percent decline in member support and business underwriting revenue. The station also has been obligated to make significant capital expenditures over the past several years related to the federally mandated conversion to digital television, which the station completed in November.

A careful review of future revenue prospects showed that shortfalls likely were to continue, leading to sustained operational losses.

The university hopes to transition operation of the station to another entity, and currently is in discussions with other parties on the possibility of assuming operation and/or ownership. There are no immediate changes planned in the station's program schedule.

“We have been grateful for the support of our viewers and donors, and the dedication of our staff, but unfortunately WFUM has not been able to sustain itself financially, like many other businesses in this tough economy,” says David Lampe, vice president for communications. “And over the last several years, the university has been under growing pressure to reduce costs wherever it can in order to maintain its core commitment to the quality and accessibility of a U-M education. Under these circumstances, we decided it was best to withdraw from the public television business.”

As part of its ongoing fiscal management process, the university recently has announced several measures intended to cut costs, including restructuring the University Press, decreasing is share of employee health benefit costs, consolidating its central IT operations and cutting back on non-patient care positions in the Health System.

“This is a painful decision and we understand how it will affect our staff as well as the supportive Flint community, but we didn’t see any way to make it work,” Lampe says.

WFUM-TV first began broadcasting in August 1980, and has offices and studios on the UM-Flint campus. Michigan Television broadcasts over digital channel 28, and is available on cable systems throughout mid and southeastern Michigan. The station has an estimated viewing audience of approximately 200,000 viewers per week.

Michigan Television is operated by Michigan Public Media, which also operates Michigan Radio, an NPR News Station; Michigan Channel, a cable channel featuring programming from U-M and other research universities; and Michigan Productions, a video production unit. Operations of those units are not expected to be affected by this decision.

For a list of frequently asked questions, go to www.ns.umich.edu/htdocs/releases/story.php?id=7113.