PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger visited Granite Falls over the weekend to help Pioneer Public Television formally unveil their $2.5 million comprehensive capital campaign. The ceremony comes on the heels of nearly three years of discussion and coincides with the opening of the Ron and Diane Fagen broadcasting studio in Granite Falls.
Pioneer (which serves communities in southwestern Minnesota, eastern South Dakota, and northwestern Iowa) will use the “Coming into View” campaign to help grow their programming offering. It will also provide secure financial footing for Pioneer in the years ahead.
Chairwoman for Pioneer TV’s Board of Directors Pat Kubly underscored that the campaign “is about building capacity for the future” during her speech Saturday morning to a large assembly of Pioneer TV staff, volunteers, and community supporters.
“Coming into View” brings together 160 donors, and has already assisted Pioneer TV in raising $1.3 million, according to President and General Manager Les Heen. The Granite Falls Bank has also offered to match future donations dollar-for-dollar up to $200,000. Heen described the transition to this public phase of their campaign as the ‘third-leg’ of a multi-year endeavor.
The new station is also supported by a $1.85 million bond ultimately passed by the State Legislature last year after a yearlong delay.
The campaign will also help support Pioneer TV during their ongoing move from the old Appleton studio to the new Granite Falls location. It was decided to relocate from the Appleton studio after Pioneer TV realized that the facility no longer meet their needs. Ron and Diane Fagen built and donated the new state-of-the art facility, which already hosts several Pioneer TV staffers (though not the entire 25 person staff).
The remaining Appleton staff will relocate to the Granite Falls location at an unspecified date once the remaining production and broadcasting equipment is installed. Kerger highlighted the unique opportunity for greater rural engagement offered by the new location.
According to Heen, Pioneer TV is currently in the process of purchasing new equipment for the station. Among the ‘big ticket items’ as of yet unfinished is the installation of a new relay tower, which once complete will allow the Granite Falls station to communicate with the broadcasting tower in Appleton.
President Kerger delivered a short speech during the ceremony in which she underscored the importance of locally-produced news content. “This is not a top down organization,” she declared, adding that “all of our strength and all of our work comes from the community level.” She elaborated that although each station shared the PBS name, each was “profoundly different” and “focuses on its own community.”
Kerger believes that this community approach gives public broadcasting a leg-up in an increasingly competitive market. “We’re profoundly local at a time of great media consolidation,” she explained. “There are a fewer number of companies that control what we see and and hear, but not public television. We understand that what makes us strong is that we are community-based.”
In this sense, Kerger outlined the importance of local PBS stations like Pioneer TV in creating an archive, rather than simply capturing a specific moment or event, that “will exist in this community for generations to come.”
The “Coming into View” campaign, Kerger elaborated, is a direct extension of this vision for community programing. She praised the “extraordinary building that Ron and Diane [Fagen] helped to create” and outlined all of the resource advantages that Pioneer TV has moving forward. But, she cautioned, “in many ways, that’s the easy part, that’s the structure for the foundation. Where the interesting work now happens is, what do you do with it?”
Kerger expressed her confidence that Pioneer TV and the new Granite Falls station would seize the opportunities at hand. “As we look forward here, I’m really excited to think about all that you have ahead.” Among the assets backing Pioneer TV as it charts this new path forward where the “wonderfully motivated” staff and “extraordinary leaders,” including Chairwoman Kubly and President Heen.
“The only thing that’s missing,” she continued, “is to make sure that the community steps up and recognizes that it’s in your hands. Whatever possibilities are here are all up to you.”