A Monthly Message from the President, March 2009

If you’re a new member of WXXI (especially if you joined during our recent radio membership campaign), let me extend a warm welcome to the WXXI family!  You join more than 27,000 others who voluntarily contribute to WXXI to keep our station a strong, independent voice for the Rochester community.  Listenership to our radio services, especially news and public affairs, is stronger than ever.
 
There’s also some good news to share about WXXI television.  The most recent Nielsen ratings show that WXXI-TV viewers are the most loyal in the nation to their public television station, based on time spent viewing.  That means that more people are tuning in and staying with our programming throughout the day.  It’s just one measure of audience success, but an important one.  Our children’s programming continues to attract a wide, diverse audience, as does drama, culture and news and public affairs in the evening. 
 
The WXXI Center for Public Affairs is also being recognized, not just locally, but throughout the state and nation.  The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer recently asked our own Julie Philipp to participate in a special segment on how the economic downturn was affecting different parts of the nation (Julie was one of only four local reporters taking part in the segment).  Also, the 52nd Annual New York Emmy Award Nominations have been announced and Need to Know: Response to Murder has been nominated in the News Special Category.  Response to Murder traced the murder of a young black male in Rochester and the impact it had on the entire community.  It was a hard-hitting program that went beyond the headlines and told the story of a tragedy in our City the way only public television can.
 
We have a great line-up of programming this month, with some specials we’re pleased to present during our March television membership campaign.  One program you won’t want to miss is Great Performances: The Metropolitan Opera Opening Night Gala, since it features Rochester’s own world-renowned soprano, Renee Fleming.  She headlines the opening night of the Met’s 125th anniversary season, featuring excerpts from her favorite operas. Join us for RenĂ©e Fleming on Great Performances, Sunday, March 15 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV (TV 21/cable 11) and WXXI-HD (DT21.1/cable 1011). 
 
By now I’m sure you’ve heard that the federal government extended the deadline for the digital television transition from February 17 to June 12 (as I predicted might happen in my letter last month).  Although some stations have taken the option of signing off early, WXXI will continue to broadcast our analog signal until June.  WXXI was awarded a contract from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to lead the digital education effort in our region.  Being on the air, with educational messages and information, is an important part of our outreach.  Remember, for any questions about the digital transition, call our toll-free help line at 866-348-9994 or visit WXXI.org/dtv.
 
Finally, we’re still extremely concerned about the impact of the proposed 50% reduction in State operating aid for public broadcasting that was included in the Governor’s budget.  In this difficult economic environment, the loss of these dollars will have a serious and negative impact on educational programs and services.  I hope you will take the time to let our local legislators know how you feel about this reduction.  We’re certainly willing to do our part to help reduce the State deficit, but 50% was out of proportion to other cuts in the education budget.
 
In the meantime, thank you again for your membership support.  It’s never been more important than now!
 
Best regards,
 
Norm Silverstein
WXXI President & CEO
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