Erika Engle

In the meantime,
lean times force
cutbacks at PBS Hawaii

PBS Hawaii is cutting four jobs and the shadowy, grim-reaper figure known as "The Economy" is getting the blame.

Two executive producers, a communications specialist and a graphic artist will serve their last day at KHET Friday.

"Staff reductions, even in the best of times, are always difficult, and it's even harder today with both the state and national economies being what they are," Chief Executive Officer Mike McCartney said in a statement.

The job cuts were described as part of a restructuring that followed other cost-cutting measures, such as salary cuts for management and elimination of travel to conferences.

"Last year's operating budget was $5.3 million. Next year, we're looking at an operating budget of $4.8 million. That's why we've had to do all these things," said Kalowena Komeiji, director of community relations. The station's income from one year funds operations for the next, she said.

Membership in the private nonprofit organization has increased, the station said, but other sources of income have decreased or are flat.

The news was troubling to former Hawaii Public Television top executive Don Robbs.

During most of his eight-year tenure the station was a state agency that received state funding as well as funding from private sources, such as members and corporations.

"The reason we decided to go private was that the state was taking our money away. We felt we had a better chance of survival as a private nonprofit foundation," he said.

There were also job cuts during Robbs' tenure, with the employee count dropping to 40 from about 75, he said. "But that was during a time that other state agencies were also getting cut back and laying off people."

Following the conversion to private nonprofit status there were 32 full-time employees; the new cuts will leave PBS Hawaii with 28, Komeiji said.

"I really believe in public television and their mission," Robbs said. "I hope they can find a way to succeed."

The next viewer pledge drive begins June 10 with a rerun of "Lawrence Welk and God Bless America," Komeiji said.

The first of two live pledge events will be June 19 when the station will air the 30th anniversary of "Great Performances." The second live pledge on June 23 will feature Simon and Garfunkel. The special programming will air from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. both nights.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin.
Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle,
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210,
Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached


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