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AETN Foundation prepares for final weekend of membership drive

The Arkansas Educational Television Network Foundation, the 501 (c)(3) nonprofit fundraising arm of the states only public television broadcaster and statewide network, is entering the final weekend of its March Membership Campaign almost 50 percent behind projections due to the recession and the loss of two transmitters.

The public broadcasting system as a whole public television and public radio is struggling with the economic downturn, AETN Executive Director Allen Weatherly said. There have been cutbacks and layoffs around the country.

Mona Dixon, chief operating officer of the AETN Foundation, says the PBS system is coming up 30 percent short in donations.

Our situation is a little more critical than other PBS stations, Dixon said. We are challenged locally with reception issues due to the federally mandated delay in turning on two of our digital transmitters KETS in Central Arkansas and KETZ in Southeast Arkansas.

Like other public television stations across the country, our audience has been affected by the tremendous downturn in the economy. Arkansas also has the added challenge of last years tornadoes and the recent ice storm which affected many of our loyal viewers.

Last night during a pledge broadcast, singer/songwriter David Foster, actress/singer Renee Olstead and pianist William Joseph traveled to Arkansas, concluding a two-week tour of eastern PBS stations, They performed live and answered viewer questions to entice audiences and drive pledge support.

We all know that the world is kind of tough right now, Foster said. Were all having to hunker down a little bit.

The one thing that we need desperately to keep going is public television. This is the greatest place for you to be entertained but in a quality way. Public television gives you the greatest of the greatest every day for free. Thats why we need your support.

Monies collected during membership campaigns are used to pay for the general audience programming everything from Antiques Roadshow and The Lawrence Welk Show to NOVA and The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer that costs more than $1 million each year.

The majority of the programming budget other than salaries comes from the Foundation, AETN Programming Director Kathy Atkinson said. We receive limited funds for educational programming like Sesame Street and some from grants, but were very dependant on the Foundation for general viewing.

As a state agency, much of the remainder of AETNs budget comes from state and federal funding.

AETN is fortunate to have strong, continuing support from Gov. Mike Beebe and the Arkansas Legislature to help fund part of the networks infrastructure, Weatherly said. Our budget is still in good shape, as is the case with the state's budget.

We anticipate ending this fiscal year in solid shape, but I, like many others, am concerned about next year and beyond. In other parts of the country we are seeing some cutbacks that could, in time, affect some PBS cutbacks we might see in Arkansas.

AETN began broadcasting and serving Arkansans in December 1966. The network was charged with offering lifelong learning opportunities to all the states citizens, supplying instructional programs to schools, providing programming and services that improve and enhance the lives of Arkansans, and illuminating the culture and heritage of Arkansas and the world.

The public television audience is very loyal and committed to our programs and services, Dixon said. In the past, when we have had difficult economic times or budget cuts, our loyal members and viewers have always come to our aid.

AETN is also one of 356 PBS member stations. For the sixth consecutive year, a nonpartisan national GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media survey showed that Americans view PBS as the nations most trusted institution among nationally-known organizations. The same poll showed that Americans considered PBS the best choice for childrens programming, ages 2-8. During an average week, more than 61 million people in over 39 million households watch public television either on air or online, and a majority of American households (55 percent) enjoy PBS content each month.

Public television is and will continue to be strong and vital, despite a decaying economy, Weatherly said. AETN continues to be a national leader in educational programs, services and outreach, and through the important contributions of viewers well be able to maintain and grow that reputation.

Arkansans can do their part to keep public broadcasting by tuning in and pledging during the last weekend of AETNs Membership Campaign, March 13-15.

And while most people consider giving to public broadcasting as simply calling a phone bank and writing a check, the AETN Foundation offers many other ways of becoming a supporter becoming a major gift donor, becoming a corporate sponsor, planned giving, donation matching and vehicle donation, to name a few.

Additionally, the AETN Foundation hosts a number of special events each year that bring the greats of public television to Arkansas for live stage performances, concerts, seminars and more. Already scheduled for 2009 are: Doo Wop in Concert at Robinson Center Music Hall in Little Rock Saturday, April 18, at 7 p.m.; RAIN: A Tribute to the Beatles at the Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville Sunday, May 31, at 7 p.m.; and Celtic Woman Isle of Hope Concert at Alltel Arena in Little Rock Saturday, June 27, at 8 p.m. Tickets may be obtained by calling 800-662-2386 or visiting www.aetnfoundation.org/boxoffice.

A basic membership of $30 ($20 for students and seniors) includes a subscription to the networks monthly magazine that features the program guide, network news, special event information and members only opportunities. The Foundation recently launched an environmentally friendly green membership that delivers all the same benefits via e-mail.

If budgets are just too tight, individuals and groups are always encouraged to volunteer, either during normal business hours or during membership campaigns.

Anyone interested in becoming a member, volunteering, pledging support, attending an event or making a special gift may:

·        Call 800-662-2386.

·        Visit www.aetn.org or www.aetnfoundation.org.

·        E-mail membership@aetn.org.

·        Write AETN Foundation, Membership Services, 350 S. Donaghey, Conway, AR  72034.

The Arkansas Educational Television Network (www.aetn.org) provides lifelong learning opportunities, improves and enhances Arkansans lives and celebrates the unique culture of Arkansas through its programming and services. AETNs digital and analog transmitters and numerous cable system connections give it statewide reach.

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