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Government moves to transfer public broadcasting station to nonprofit operator

The government of Puerto Rico announced its intention of transferring the rights and property of the Puerto Rico Corporation for Public Broadcasting, known as WIPR, to a private nonprofit.

In a statement, Anthony Maceira, the government’s secretary for public affairs stated that a committee has been created to prepare a bill to amend Law 126-1996, to allow the creation of a new private nonprofit as well as the transfer of property rights and WIPR to that entity. 

“The government is committed to continue to adjust its operations and further reduce spending,” he said. “Such reductions will require an adjustment of WIPR’s operations, transform its business model to increase its income and be less dependent on government allocations.”

In a letter addressed to the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico he said the government believes that budget allocations to WIPR, or subsidies to the nonprofit that takes over the station’s property rights, should continue at sustainable levels of so that the services provided to the people of Puerto Rico are not disrupted. 

The creation of the committee comes after the Oversight Board’s suggestion to increase WIPR’s growth opportunities, improve the programming offer and save money for the government. 

The five-member committee includes the Secretary of Public Policy, Philippe Mesa-Pabón; WIPR president Eric Delgado-Santiago; Telecommunications Bureau Chair Sandra Torres-López; and Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, or AAFAF, Executive Director Christian Sobrino. The Oversight Board will choose the fifth member.

The Committee should work with the Federal Communications Commission since the transfer of WIPR’s property rights will likely require its approval. 

WIPR is funded in part by the government and partly by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a nonprofit created by the U.S. Public Broadcasting Act.

WIPR’s budget has been significantly reduced over the last 10 years. For fiscal year 2008-2009, the station’s budget was $24.5 million, while for fiscal year 2018-2019 it was reduced to $14.9 million, which represents a 40% cut.

Government allocations to WIPR from the General Fund have also decreased significantly. For fiscal year 2008-2009, the allocation was $20 million, while for fiscal year 2018-2019 it was reduced to $8.1 million, or a 60% drop.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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