Minnesota Public Radio survived state Senate conservatives’ push to eliminate its general-fund appropriation. In the end, MPR took a 20 percent cut in this week’s shutdown deal, according to MPR lobbyist Lisa Radzak. However, far more money — $2.65 million from the Legacy Fund — is up in the air pending a new competitive bidding process.
MPR will get $380,000 from the general fund in the 2012-13 biennium, down $96,000 from the previous two years. The money goes for capital expenses such as the state transmitter network; $154,000 will be spent on a federally mandated emergency alert upgrade, Radzak estimates.
As for Legacy monies, lawmakers held the public-radio appropriation flat. However, they decided to throw MPR into the octagon with AMPERS, a coalition of smaller state public stations including KFAI, KMOJ, KBEM and KUOM.
Like MPR, AMPERS had received a dedicated $2.65 million per biennium. The new law pools the entire $5.3 million and directs the state Department of Administration to set up a bidding process. Radzak and AMPERS executive director Joel Glaser say it’s too soon to know what to expect from that.
Is AMPERS worried that MPR’s organizational muscle might elbow its small-station coalition out of funds? Glaser ducked the question, also declining to say whether AMPERS might pursue more than its current 50 percent.
For her part, MPR’s Radzak sounded a diplomatic note, saying, “We want to have anything we ask for substantiated, and we appreciate the service AMPERS does.”
What does each group do with the money? Among other things, MPR funds local classical music broadcasts, The Current’s “Local Show,” the State of the Arts blog and the Minnesota Today calendar. AMPERS funds over 1,600 arts and culture programs, including 90-second Minnesota history tutorials, documentaries, performances, and an online database of state artists and organizations.
Perhaps recognizing that AMPERS stations operate closer to the bone, lawmakers cut the group’s general fund appropriation less than MPR’s. The 5 percent reduction amounts to $32,000 for the biennium.