Teacher pay. Medicaid. These are perhaps the two most contentious spending items in this year’s state budget. But continuing to fly under the radar is taxpayer-funded television programming.
UNC-TV was founded in 1955 when its flagship station in Chapel Hill first went on the air. The system is comprised of 13 stations across the state, with the UNC System holding the license for 12 of them and Central Piedmont Community College holding the license for the other one.
State tax dollars provide about half of the annual revenue for UNC-TV’s operations, and in addition UNC-TV received $78 million in taxpayer dollars for capital expenses from 2000 to 2011, according to news reports.
UNC-TV had been receiving annual operation support of about $12 million per year for several years, until FY 2012-13 when its funding was reduced to about $9 million per year.
For almost 60 years, scarce tax dollars in the state budget have been diverted to a TV station. Every one of those hundreds of millions of dollars throughout the years is one less dollar for teachers and public safety or, most importantly, one additional dollar taken from taxpayers.
Television shows by no means can fit into a sensible person’s definition of “core services” of state government. UNC-TV should be funded by voluntary donors and sponsors, not by tax dollars collected by threat of force. For these reasons, UNC-TV is this week’s Waste of the Week.