A Paltry Sum, Really

Jeff Boudreau provided this link to an article called “Your tax dollars turn on WGBH” by Jessica Heslam on the website of the Boston Herald. In it, Jessica writes that despite ‘GBH protestations that it gains but a pittance from federal largesse in the form of public funding, truth be told, some $80 million found a home at the Boston public media conglomerate.

WGBH honchos acknowledged yesterday they have received another $80 million in federal money for various programming. including:

  • The children’s literacy show “Martha Speaks.”
  • The children’s early science education program “Peep and the Big Wide Word.”
  • “Design Squad,” an engineering program geared to youngsters.
  • “Teachers’ Domain,” a free online resource for teachers and students.
  • And a pair of history programs, “We Shall Remain” and “Freedom Riders.”

“It’s the money that allows us to launch programs, and WGBH is the biggest producer for PBS,” said WGBH spokeswoman Jeanne Hopkins, adding that slashing federal funds would cost people their jobs. “These are all grants that we apply for. They’re competitive.”

The article notes too that the executives at ‘GBH (who, as reported here, are in a pitched battle with the union) are well rewarded for their efforts.

The Herald reported yesterday that more than a dozen WGBH executives are raking in upward of $200,000 while working in their lavishly appointed $85 million Brighton headquarters dubbed the “Taj Mahal” by one critic.

As Jeff pointed out, in this other Jessica Heslam post on the Herald site, a review of WGBH’s 2009 Internal Revenue Service filings showed the following:

  • Four vice presidents and producers pulled in more than $300,000, and another 10 took home more than $200,000 in pay and benefits;
  • 145 of WGBH’s then-950 employees, about 15 percent, earned more than $100,000.
  • Ex-WGBH president Henry Becton Jr., now the station’s vice-chairman, made $160,873 in total compensation for working just 24 hours a week.
  • Top brass pocketed more than $200,000 in bonuses.

In this Heslam post, there’s also mention of how little ‘GBH, as a nonprofit, has contributed towards city services:

Public broadcasting colossus WGBH — which hauled in over $190 million last year — hasn’t paid a dime to the city of Boston for its fair share of services since moving into its tax-exempt Brighton headquarters four years ago.The last time the non-profit station forked over so-called payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) to the city was in 2007, and the total came to a paltry $10,517, online city records show….

There’s no legal requirement for WGBH to make such payments on its $85 million headquarters. But under Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s new PILOT plan, the station’s voluntary contribution could be about $245,000 a year.

Comments on all three articles run the gamut from hot to cold, with a good share of plain Boston vitriol.

These quotes from Jessica Heslam stand in stark contrast to today’s rally to support ‘GBH workers, who may lose all bargaining rights if management has its way. Shades of Wisconsin. As one comment notes, on the Facebook invitation to the rally, “United we bargain, divided we beg!” Solidarność.

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