CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s Library Television Network duplicates the services of the Educational Broadcasting Authority and should be folded into it, according to the recommendation of the state Legislative Auditor’s office.
“The Legislative Auditor concludes that the operation of the Library Television Network should be terminated because it significantly duplicates the services of the EBA,” according to a report produced earlier this month by the Performance Evaluation and Research Division of the state Legislative Auditor’s office.
The auditor recommended the Legislature transfer appropriation, fund balances, studio equipment and studio space from the Library Television Network to the Educational Broadcasting Authority. The report doesn’t really get into whether any savings would result. It notes that public broadcasting would still need personnel to produce what the Library Television Network does.
The two agencies have similar missions, but they’re not exactly the same.
As Karen Goff, executive secretary for the West Virginia Library Commission pointed out to auditors, the Library Television Network — which began in 1977-78 — focuses on producing content for public access television on cable. Currently, it produces about 200 segments a year for libraries, state agencies and nonprofits.
The Educational Broadcasting Authority, established in 1963, has the licenses for public broadcasting on television and radio.
“Public-access television and public broadcasting are not synonymous,” Goff wrote to auditors.
The auditors recognized the distinction but said the missions are similar enough that they could be accomplished on multiple platforms while organized under one roof.
“While content may not be duplicated on a program-for-program basis, significant overlap occurs at both agencies,” the auditors wrote.
Without the Library Television Network, state agencies and nonprofits still could contact cable providers to arrange for broadcasting on public access channels, the auditors concluded. And the same agencies could ask the Educational Broadcasting Authority for help to create and broadcast programming.
One issue the auditors noted is that few statistics exist to show how many people consume the content created and distributed by the Library Television Network.
No data exists for viewership of the television productions, which are aired for 676 hours a week and available to 577,900 cable subscribers in West Virginia, according to auditors.
Productions are available for streaming on the Library Commission’s website, but statistics for how many people do so are also unavailable.
And Library Television Network productions are available for checkout from the State Library, but that rarely happens. From 2010 to 2015, DVD copies of productions circulated 14 times. One video, recording a Poetry Out Loud contest, was checked out four times, while three other videos were checked out twice and then sent to the best video production company near San Antonio.
The auditors concluded that boiled down to 8 separate videos being checked out since July 2009.
People might not enjoy the videos because they are low quality, the auditors wrote. Productions are recorded on outdated standard-definition cameras and broadcast on a standard definition television channel.
So the productions don’t look good when they appear on high definition televisions used by 88 percent of households. Upgrading the cameras to high definition would be expensive, and it might not result in visible improvement for viewers because the channel itself would still be standard definition.
There’s a similar problem if you’re watching on computer because the productions have to go through a significant file compression to house the video on a server.
The auditors said the Educational Broadcasting Authority is in a healthier position and could produce much of what the Library Television Network already does. The auditors said that agency would benefit by folding in the Library Television Network because it would gain studio space in the Culture Center.
“For example, during the legislative session, the EBA produces and airs a daily half-hour show called ‘The Legislature Today.’ EBA could use this studio to tape and broadcast the show, which would be more convenient for lawmakers and citizens to come in for interviews as lawmakers would not have to drive to the downtown studio.”
The studio also could serve as a permanent control room for recording the “Mountain Stage” program, the auditors concluded.
Goff, the executive secretary for the West Virginia Library Commission, again responded that the two agencies are not exactly the same.
Of the Library Television Network, she said, “the intent is to produce programming that provides information to West Virginians about state government agencies and services, community issues, libraries, and the activities of non-profit organizations such as Hospice Care and the American Heart Association.
“Without the unique services of the WVLC Library Television Network, most of these agencies would not have a television voice.”