Interviewee: Richard Lehner
Interviewer: Bill Breeze
Date: January 9, 1988
B: What is the total budget specifically for WUFT TV, if you can break that down?
L: The WUFT-TV budget for FY88 [fiscal year 1988] is nearly $2.2 million.
B: How much of the budget comes for state funding and how much does WUFT
have to raise?
L: Our state funding amounts to twenty-five percent from the University of Florida
and twenty-eight percent from a state Department of Education grant. Around
nineteen percent comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the
station has to raise roughly twenty-eight percent.
B: Why does not the state totally fund WUFT?
L: It is my opinion that the state does not have enough money to totally fund all of
the public broadcasting stations in the state, so they choose to do partial funding
of the stations.
B: If programs such as Nova and others have corporate sponsorship, why do these
programs cost public television stations money? Why are they totally paid for by
the corporations that are sponsoring them?
L: Well, you really have to ask the corporations about that. In the past we have not
had any luck in getting a lot of the programs totally funded, primarily because of
the cost of the programming. An episode of Nova costs around $3 million, and it
is difficult to expect that corporate support would cover the entire amount.
B: In the state legislature Board of Regents there is authorization for WUFT. The
education program that was specified in the WUFT original FCC [Federal
Communications Commission] license application said sixty-six percent [of the
programming] goes to education, five percent children, four percent agricultural,
and twelve percent news and discussion. Why has this changed currently to
where there are no educational programs other than informative programing, and
no agricultural program? The entire concept of programs has changed. What
was the reason for that change in the past?
L: I think you would have to really look at what the station was actually doing when
it went on the air whether or not it was meeting the original FCC license
application-stated program percentages. Most of the time there is a difference
between what you tell the FCC you are going to do in a license application and
what actually happens. I do not know what they where actually running when we
first went on the air, if it was in fact these percentages. I can tell you now that the
change took place because of the difference in what was needed for the
community in 1957 and what is needed for the community now. There are, in
fact, educational programs on channel five. Our breakdown shows that if you
include programs like Nova in July of 1987 we ran about eleven percent nature
and science programming, about seventeen percent pure educational
programming, about twenty-eight percent children's programming, nearly four
percent cultural programming, and nearly eleven percent public affairs and news.
I would venture to say that all of those programs are educational to some extent.
B: So basically you are following to a good percentage the original FCC license
application as far as percentages go. You said that you are seventeen percent
pure educational. Can you define what WUFT runs as pure educational
L: We do college credit courses for the community colleges. We are currently
working with Central Florida Community College, and we run two tele courses a
week for them. We are also running programs that where funded and produced
by the Annenburg Project, CBP [Corporation for Public Broadcasting]. We are
running a series called French In Action which teaches people how to speak
French and, if you worked through a degree-granting institution, could allow you
to get college credit for that. There are a number of programs that are informal
education, like This Old House and the cooking programs. There is just a wide
variety of different informal educational programs that we run. That is some of
what the community colleges are doing with their adult education programs and
their community education program. At Santa Fe [Community] College here, for
instance, you can take classes in a variety of different things ranging from
cooking to auto machines to whatever. We are doing that on public television, as
B: Was the change to public television and away from educational programming
due to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting the reason that the majority of the
original education programming dropped the college credit courses?
L: It all came about as part of the Communications Act of 1967. That is when the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting was established as a pass-through funding
mechanism for the stations, as well as for the public broadcasting services as a
distribution arm of public television. I think that the actual change from
instructional programming, where you had a professor or a teacher in a
classroom and you where recording that or airing that live to different sights, took
place before that. I think that public television evolved because that type of
programming was no longer needed or wanted by the communities. The ACT67,
NCPB [National Corporation for Public Broadcasting] and PBS [Public
Broadcasting System] all evolved as a part of that trend. I am not sure here what
actually happened with K trough twelve [kindergarten through twelfth grade]
programming with the schools; that had stopped before I even got here in 1977.
It is my understanding that the schools just did not want to do that any more, so
there was no longer a need for channel five to participate in that type of
instructional delivery. I am not sure what was going on with the University of
Florida and any college credit courses; I know nothing about that history. I know
we are back. What has happened now is that the delivery system for K through
twelve programming is changed and is no longer over-the-air broadcast; they are
using different technology. Marion County Schools has a very sophisticated
ITFS system; they are bringing programming in by satellite, for which they pay
through us, the Public Broadcasting Service, for those programs. They are, in
fact, offering a K through twelve service to their schools by direct delivery,
microwave delivery, ITFS delivery.
B: Do you think that WUFT is meeting the present needs of the citizens of the state?
L: Well, I think they are meeting the present needs of this community. I think that is
quite evident by the fact that WUFT is being watched more now than it has been
in the past. At least we are able to measure that. They are not watching just our
pure entertainment programming. You mentioned in your paper the BBC [British
Broadcasting Corporation] product that we air, the "Brit-coms." They are not just
watching those programs; our highest numbers of people watching the programs
are for things like the Nova, the National Geographics specials, Washington
Week, Wall Street Week, Masterpiece Theater, and programming that is more
traditional public television programing.
B: Part of the original authorization was for WUFT to produce educational programs
for state-wide distribution. Why is this no longer being done? Is there a demand
for programs of that sort now?
L: I do not think there is. There appears to be a lot of programming available that is
better produced than we could do here or that probably a majority of the stations
in the state could do. It is available, and I think when the station was established
in 1957 that simply was not the case. The local stations had to produce there
own [programs] or they did not have anything to air. That is why I believe the
original intent was to have state-wide programming produced by the individual
stations or consortium of stations. Our state-wide efforts right now consist of
the Today in the Legislature programs that run during the session. I think those
are serving a great need of providing information about what is happening in the
legislature and actually educating the citizens as to what is going on in
Tallahassee in their legislature during a session. Parts of those programs
instruct people on how a bill becomes law and how certain things are happening
in Tallahassee. That is one way that the stations band together to produce
state-wide programming. Another way is through Florida Public Broadcasting
Service, which was established in the mid 1970s. We fund programming that is
produced by individual stations for airing on other stations in the state. The intent
of the grants for those programs is that the programming is of singficant interest
to the citizens of Florida and residents of Florida. That is a major consideration
when we are awarding the grants. I believe that all the public stations in the state
at one time or another have had program grants of that type. I think this year we
have a grant for two documentary programs.
B: The Board of Regents in 1987 placed emphasis on a program that would allow
adult learners to obtain a college degree through probably Regents Continual
Education. Did you see a place in this program for WUFT and in the state's
public TV stations to either produce or carry more programming in the way of
credit courses? Also, do you think the VCR [video cassette recorder] and time
shifting will help in this idea?
L: Well, it depends on what you are talking about. As far as credit courses, I think
that we can offer some of the Annenberg programs that could contribute to a
degree; we would look for opportunity to do that if there where significant interest.
We have had some difficulty in the past working with the University and their
continuing education division on offering credit courses, simply because they are
doing things differently and do not view television as a component of their
continuing education efforts, at least at this point. I am not sure whether that is
the fault of the leadership of the continuing education division, or simply because
they have difficulty convincing the University faculty that that would be a good
thing to do.
B: Former University of Florida president J. Wayne Reitz [1955-67] said that the
commission might be needed to study public TV to see if, among other things, it
is meeting the needs of the state. Do you agree that such a study might be
needed or useful?
L: We are going through a program audit right now by the state auditors to see just
what public television state-wide is doing. I think out of that will come some
recommendations or some general consensus that we are either performing the
function that we should be performing, or not. That should be completed in
B: The key question is what do you see as the future of public television in Florida?
L: I think we will continue to attract audiences for what I view as our educational
programming and our culturally enriching programming. I think the funding
state-wide will remain fairly constant, and I think that we will have to rely on other
means of fund-raising to continue to grow in Florida. Federal funding is probably
going to remain fairly constant or increase at an inflationary rate, so I think that
as I see it right know we are going to have to rely more and more on the people
who watch us and on local businesses to support public television. I do not think
that we will ever see public television going to a point where they would run
commercials. I do not think that is a viable means of funding public television. I
would like to see the state fund at a greater level than it is now, but I am not
really sure that is going to happen. I think our programming is going continue to
get better. I think as we become more adept at promoting ourselves and what
we have to offer that we will continue to be able to attract audiences. I think
cable is probably going to hurt us in the short run, simply because there are more
options for the viewers. But I think once that settles down and we become more
partners with cable systems in program production nationally and in ways like
that we will continue to grow.
B: Are there college credit courses being offered by broadcast educational stations
in the state now?
L: Yes, there are. I know for a fact that Jacksonville and Orlando are both running
college credit courses; I believe it is in the early evening. I am almost certain that
Tallahassee is doing that, and I know that the University of South Florida, WUSF,
is heavily in to college credit courses. Most with them.
B: How much local programming is WUFT doing?
L: We do the nightly news program, which is a half hour a day. We also do a
half-hour public affairs program weekly, a half hour on minority affairs program,
and a variety of special programs and documentaries and things like that. Our
level of production for our budget size [was tremendous]. Among institutional
licensees with the budget size of between $2 million and $5 million dollars
annually, the average general distribution broadcast production in 1986 was
eighty-five-and-a-half hours annually. Our station produced 245 hours.
According to that survey we spent $872,000 in the production of those programs,
and the average production budget for stations in our budget size was around
$475,000. We are spending twice as much as other stations of our size and
producing about four times as much programming.
[End of the interview.]