AUSTIN EDITION Override of veto gives KSMQ-TV new hope
By Lenora Chu
Overturning the governor's veto, the state legislature Tuesday passed a critical funding measure to help public television stations like Austin's KSMQ-TV meet a federally-mandated conversion to digital signals.
With a 53-5 vote Tuesday the Senate joined the House, which voted 113-20 Monday, to successfully override Gov. Jesse Ventura's veto of a $7.8 million public television funding bill. The governor refused to sign the bill in late March, because of his objections to the bill's funding methods and the idea of spending during a budget deficit.
The override has given new hope to stations like KSMQ-TV, which would be ineligible to leverage federal matching funds without the state aid. The digital conversion must be completed by May 2003 according to the 1997 Federal Telecommunications Act.
"I'm so relieved," said Jude Andrews, KSMQ-TV's general manager. "I'm so glad that common sense prevailed and that people who valued educational television went up to the plate and voted in favor of it." Andrews said she had designed a contingency plan to lay off all, but essential employees in the event that the state aid did not come through and the station could not complete the conversion.
KSMQ-TV, the smallest of Minnesota's public television stations, serves about 600,000 viewers in southeastern Minnesota and northern Iowa.
KSMQ-TV is slated to receive $886,000 of the bill's $7.8 million appropriation to Minnesota's 10 public television stations. Andrews expects an additional $500,000 to $700,000 to come from the federal government, and plans to raise the remainder of the estimated $1.8 million conversion cost through fundraising efforts and other grants.
With the state share of the money now secured, Andrews said she can now begin ordering the equipment needed for the station's digital conversion.
She also has her eye on another goal -- raising money for the design and construction of a new studio for KSMQ-TV. The move accompanies the station's plan to expand its programs to four different channels and offer new services like video-on-demand.
Currently housed in a 4,500 square-foot space at Riverland Community College, the station would benefit from a larger, more efficient space, Andrews said. She plans to raise $500,000 of the construction cost and rely on about $500,000 in donated labor and materials to finish up the job.