WJWJ studios close for financial reasons

emoody@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 2, 2012 

The WJWJ tower at the Technical College of the Lowcountry.

JONATHAN DYER, THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

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After about 40 years of serving Beaufort County, the ETV Lowcountry WJWJ 16 office has closed.

The station will still transmit state ETV programming over the airwaves, but it will no longer produce local content. The last two jobs at the office were eliminated Thursday, casualties of lean times for public television, according to South Carolina ETV President Linda O'Bryon.

"We have had other reductions over the past year because of our overall state funding, but there has not been another facility like this that we have closed," O'Bryon said.

The public education network is mainly funded by the state, donations and an endowment. Operations have been cut back for the last several years -- the station's local newscast ceased long ago -- as funding evaporated. Executives chose to close the WJWJ studio because, unlike most of the other locations, it does not create additional revenue from programs such as media classes, O'Bryon said.

"In other locations, we have revenues that are coming in to offset the costs, and in this area we just didn't have the revenues and we had to make some hard decisions," O'Bryon said.

The WJWJ studio at 925 Ribaut Road, on the Technical College of the Lowcountry campus, was built in the 1970s, she said. It costs about $180,000 annually to operate, said Rob Schaller, ETV communications director.

WJWJ transmits over the airwaves on Channel 44, and it will continue to carry ETV programming, O'Bryon said. If opportunities arise for local stories and news, the company will send employees to the area.

The WJWJ employees had been participating in community events and activities and worked with the content team in Columbia on statewide stories, she said. The two remaining employees were Operations Manager Scott Johnson and Mike Milburn, according to WJWJ's website.

S.C. ETV has 11 TV transmitters, eight radio frequencies and a multimedia educational system in more than 2,500 schools, colleges, businesses and governments, according to its website.

The company owns the office in Beaufort and might rent it out, O'Bryon said.

"We very much appreciate working in the Beaufort community, and we hope that we'll be able to find ways to come back in a different way," she said.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/EyeonBeaufort.

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