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Saturday, 31 March 2007
The wages of public broadcasting
Topic: media criticism

With this year’s fundraising auction on the horizon, WXXI’s relentless not-for-profiteers are out fishing for donations. But if you’re an artist thinking about throwing a pot or painting their way – or if you’re just anybody who might write a check – consider the following.

After some emails about salaries at the station landed in my inbox, I went straight to and checked last year’s IRS 990 form. The latter indicates that in 2005, WXXI CEO Norm Silverstein walked away with roughly $345,000 – including about $237,800 in straight salary, more than $50,000 as a "one-time payment of deferred compensation, and more than $47,000 in benefits. (If I remember right, when I covered this business six or seven years ago, Silverstein was getting "only" about $160,000 in salary.)

According to the 990 for 2005, Chief Operating Officer Susan Rogers got about $139,400 in salary plus $33,900 worth of benefits. Even lowly Jeanne Fisher, who often totes the begging-bowl during the station's endless membership drives, got well over $80,000 total. And the guy who hosts WXXI’s "Second Opinion" show, an New York City-based independent contractor named Dr. Peter Salgo, got $72,000 for his occasional services. (On the other hand, considering we're talking here about a mainstream MD, maybe the station is getting a deal.)

I could list a dozen donation-killer problems with WXXI programming – like Bob Smith's regular stroking of rightwing guests from the Israeli Consulate, to the exclusion of sane voices from Israel/Palestine; or the station’s persistent disinformation campaign aimed at Amy Goodman and Democracy Now!; or practically anything done by the supremely irritating Curt Smith. But the station’s outrageous compensation packages for its top dogs are enough reason to keep your hands in your lap when the auction begins. Your money would be much better spent on DN!, Pacifica, Indymedia, Free Speech TV, and other actually independent media.

Posted by jackbradiganspula at 13:09 EDT
Updated: Saturday, 31 March 2007 13:20 EDT
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