MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Legislature’s finance committee inserted language into the state budget Thursday that creates a $10 million endowment for the state’s C-SPAN-style public affairs network.
The Joint Finance Committee voted unanimously to place the money in a fund for WisconsinEye, a nonprofit that broadcasts gavel-to-gavel coverage of legislative sessions, hearings, news conferences and other government-focused activities in Madison.
The network began broadcasting in 2007. It relies heavily on private fundraising and revenue generated by a paywall that protects archived footage. The network’s website says it employs seven people full time, and its budget is about $1.2 million annually. The finance committee gave the network $450,000 in the last state budget, marking the first time the network sought taxpayer support.
The committee on Thursday inserted language into the 2023-2025 state budget that calls for placing the $10 million into a fund for WisconsinEye. The network would have to match every dollar it requests from the fund. The endowment would dissolve on June 30, 2025. The network also would have to do away with its archive paywall.
Brandon Scholz, a member of the network’s board, said in a telephone interview that the fund doesn’t equate to free money because of the matching requirement. But its existence could help motivate donors because their contributions will unlock more money from the state, Scholz said.
The finance committee is expected to spend at least several more weeks revising the budget before forwarding it to the full Assembly and Senate for approval. From there it will go to Gov. Tony Evers, who can use his partial veto powers to rewrite the document.