Madison's community access TV station, WYOU, is laying off all its paid staff, leaving the station's future in question.
A state franchise law, passed in 2007, eliminated the requirement that cable companies collect a fee to support public, educational and government channels from subscribers. At the end of this year, the fee will no longer be collected, ending a major source of income for community access channels. WYOU received $150,000 from the fee.
A news release sent out Thursday night by WYOU announced it will lay off its three paid employees at the end of December, and lamented: "It could be that residents of the city of Madison will no longer have a place to learn television production, check-out equipment, and make their own television shows."
Madison City Channel faced a similar loss of funding, and will eliminate one and a half positions, but was saved by being absorbed into Madison's information technology department. Ald. Satya Rhodes-Conway attempted to restore some funding to WYOU this fall in the city's budget, but failed.
In the news release, WYOU announced it hopes to soldier on with an all-volunteer staff, "What rises from the ashes will need to be staffed by volunteers, at least in the near term." And it will look for new sources of income.
"The station will continue to accept programs from producers and schedule them on the channel," according to the release. "However, while the station works on a way to integrate volunteers into a new WYOU, a process likely to take through January, the station's editing bays, equipment checkout, and studio will not be open." Also, only qualified people will be able to use the station's studio.
The changes are to be formally announced at the station's volunteer holiday party tonight by Board Chairman Rick Richards.