Mission Control: WUIS Program Cuts

Jun 24, 2015

Significant budget cuts are being made at WUIS / Illinois Issues to best steward us through the uncertain state budget process.  WUIS is ending our affiliation with Public Radio International (PRI).  Unfortunately, this means the following programs will not be broadcast by WUIS come July: 

  • Science Friday
  • To the Best of Our Knowledge
  • The Takeaway
  • Riverwalk Jazz

Although the state hasn't finalized a budget, WUIS must enter into contracts by the end of the month to continue most programs.  If we sign these contracts to keep the existing schedule intact, we will have fewer options when the state does finalize the budget.  After reviewing survey results, ratings, savings, and scenarios; failure to act now would put core programs like Fresh Air at risk along with personnel that execute our mission of covering the news of the state.  We'd prefer to have used a scalpel but ending our affiliation results in saving administrative fees that nearly equal the cost of the programs.

The governor has proposed a 31% cut to higher education.  One area of our operating revenue is cash support from UIS.  We've modeled a 20% cut to this funding.  That results in a $70,000 deficit on the broadcast side.  This move will cut the deficit by half.  The rest we'll make up through fundraising and through spending reserve funds. We're told it could be more... or less.  Like most of our nonprofit brethren, its challenging to budget with this uncertainty.  WUIS is healthy and we want to stay that way by not overextending ourselves with purchases we're pretty sure we won't have the income to cover.

Fewer cuts are required because of record listener donations.  The response to the new style of fundraising over the past year has been impressive.  Although we didn't make our $400,000 goal, we did reach $385,000.  T H A N K   Y O U !

A few years ago, long-time WUIS music director and classical host Karl Scroggin notified then general manager Bill Wheelhouse that he was planning to retire.  Public radio stations in other markets had been changing their program schedules to deliver more news.  Had something changed in the audience's radio needs?  Before beginning a search for a successor, WUIS surveyed listeners and conducted focus groups for guidance. It became clear that that the passionate classical fans and good friends of the station had become fewer in number and more convincingly, that there was a wish for more news in the state's capital during the day.  You know how this story ends.  WUIS joined a growing movement of public radio stations filling the vacuum created by the contraction of commercial journalism.  It was hard to disappoint classical listeners but the research pointed in the right direction.  WUIS' ratings and donations have grown over the past three years due to the change to information programming.  Your listening options will change next week but our commitment to keep you informed continues.

The changes also provided focus.  Our mission had been to be many things.  It has emerged to provide you with credible information on how our state is running and how it can become better while continuing to provide context through public radio programs and engagement activities that reflect the quality of life across the state and in relation to the nation and the world.  We explain Illinois.

These changes will keep WUIS on track.  I'll have news for you on replacement programs as we finalize them with providers this week.  We'll also share details from the survey in a future post.  Stay tuned.

P.S.  Please contact me if you care to comment about these changes by clicking here.

Mission Control is my blog exploring nonprofit organizations.  A space aficionado since childhood, I couldn't resist the title's double meaning in exploring the effects management and a focused mission have toward nonprofit success.  If you'd like to share your nonprofit story, click here to contact me.