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Oversight Board recommends transfer of WIPR to private operator

The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico recommended that the government take the necessary steps to transfer the rights and ownership of the Puerto Rico Public Broadcasting Corp. also known as WIPR, to a private, nonprofit entity.

In a letter to Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, Senate President Thomas Rivera Schatz and House Speaker Carlos J. Méndez-Núñez, the Oversight Board stated its support of the broadcaster’s effort to communicate and provide informative, cultural, public interest programming for the people of Puerto Rico but noted that a transfer of ownership “can provide increased growth opportunities, enhance the programming offering provided to the people of Puerto Rico, and save the government money.”

“The Oversight Board supports public broadcasting but the resources to finance the corporation as a private nonprofit can and should come from outside the government so that the government can prioritize its spending on the services it is uniquely best-positioned to provide,” said Oversight Board Chairman José B. Carrión.

The Oversight Board noted that public broadcasting corporations across the United States are typically owned by private nonprofit entities (such as foundations, membership groups, and public universities) and are funded by federal funds and private donations and recommended that WIPR should similarly be independently owned and operated, while also shielded from political interests.

The Public Broadcasting Corp.’s budget is currently funded by appropriations from the General Fund, federal funds, and other funding.  However, most states provide limited or no funding to public broadcasting corporations, the U.S.-appointed body stated.

States that do provide funding to public broadcasting corporations, provide a significantly lower percentage of the public broadcasting corporation’s total operating budget.

The Oversight Board issued its recommendation on the Public Broadcasting Corp. pursuant to Section 205(a) of PROMESA, which allows it to submit recommendations to the governor or the Legislature on actions the government may take to ensure compliance with the Fiscal Plan or to otherwise promote the financial stability, economic growth, management responsibility and service delivery efficiency of the Government.

Under Section 205(b), the government has 90 days to provide an answer to the Oversight Board’s recommendation.

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