Public TV, Private Gain: KNME’s General Manager Rakes It In

By Jim Scarantino on August 30, 2012
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For a non-profit organization dedicated to public service, KNME-TV pays its general manager more than its faithful supporters might imagine.  Polly Anderson, the general manager of New Mexico PBS, receives $165,000 a year, plus benefits. Her non-profit salary is right up there with what for-profit corporations pay managers at far larger television stations.  Though her staff is tiny in comparison, she makes significantly more than the people who manage the huge workforces of the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County.

“I’m offended,” said Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson when he heard of Anderson’s salary. “What does she do?  KNME has become basically a satellite repeater.  They don’t do the level of original production they used to do.  The station once was all about education and what was happening locally.  That’s not what they’re doing now.”

Johnson knows the station’s history.  His mother worked at KNME for fifteen years offering an educational program for children called “Kaleidoscope.”

Johnson compared Anderson’s salary and less demanding responsibilities to the duties of Thomas Zdunek, the Bernalillo County Manager.  At $148,000, he receives the highest salary New Mexico Watchdog has found so far in its survey of the payrolls of local governments.  Albuquerque’s City Manager makes $144,773 for overseeing an even larger City Hall workforce responsible for public health and safety, as well as streets, roads, parks, vast real estate holdings and huge capital projects.

“The Bernalillo County manager oversees 2500 employees,” Johnson said.  KNME employs 49 other than Anderson, according to data obtained from the University of New Mexico’s Sunshine Portal.

Polly Anderson

Anderson’s salary easily eclipses the compensation of her counterparts at the other PBS affiliates in New Mexico, all of which broadcast pretty much the same programs obtained through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. All of the New Mexico PBS affiliates do some amount of their own original programming, but the hours devoted to original offerings are not a large part of the overall schedule.

At KENW-TV, the PBS affiliate in Portales operating out of Eastern New Mexico University, the highest paid employee receives $94,759.  That station has 34 employees.

At KRGW, the Las Cruces PBS affiliate operating out of New Mexico State University, the top salary is $92,855.70.  That station operates with only 19 paid employees, according to the data the station provided to New Mexico Watchdog.

The complete payrolls for each station are provided here:  KNME, , .

New Mexico Watchdog compiled KNME’s payroll from information on UNM’s Sunshine Portal.  The other stations provided the information at our request.

Anderson also leaves all other KNME employees far behind.  Not one besides Anderson makes six figures.  The closest to Anderson still makes $67,000 less.  The highest salary for the people producing KNME’s orginal programming is $56,000.  The median income for KNME employees is $42,000.  Twenty-one employees make under $40,000.  The lowest receives just under $21,000.

We gave Anderson several days to justify her level of compensation, and explain what it is she does that calls for such a generous compensation package.  We asked her if she thought KNME supporters were aware of how much she was being paid, and, if so, what KNME had done to so inform them.  We told her we would print her response in full, verbatim.

We never received any response from Anderson.

“Lavish Salaries” Make Public Broadcasting A Target for Fiscal Hawks

Last year, U.S. Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, blasted “lavish” salaries paid to top executives at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and National Public Radio.  CPB is the “steward” of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting.  Its programs are distributed through PBS and NPR.  The television programs are broadcast on New Mexico’s PBS affiliates.

U.S. Senator Jim DeMint

DeMint penned published in the Wall Street Journal in which he reported how a few select people in non-profit public broadcasting are getting rich.  Paula Kerger, the President of PBS, in 2009 pulled in $632,223 a year.  The President and CEO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting netted $298,884 in reportable income, and another $70,630 in other compensation.  DeMint wrote, “That’s practically a pittance compared to Kevin Klose, president emeritus of NPR, who received more than $1.2 million in compensation, according to the tax forms the nonprofit filed in 2009.”

DeMint argued that if these non-profits could pay such lavish salaries, then they should have the funds to survive as private broadcasters without annual federal subsidies.

“He doesn’t even mention how people chipping in $25 to ‘save’ shows like Sesame Street might feel misled if they saw the salary numbers,” observed in reviewing DeMint’s opinion piece.  Graham is director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center.

A by Graham of public broadcasting tax data in 2009 found even more generous salaries.  NPR’s CEO received over $1.3 million the previous year.

PBS President Kerger has enjoyed annual raises of about $100,000 even while the nation suffered through the recent recession.  In 2007 her annual salary was $424,409.  In 2008 she received a $110,000 raise to rake in a new personal best of $534,500.  As noted above, in 2009 she topped that, taking home $623,223.  Ironically, last year PBS distributed a report entitled: 

In the face of criticism, Kerger has seen a small reduction in her base pay.  Her reportable income in 2010 dropped slightly to $603,403.

Paula Kerger

Anderson, according to UNM records New Mexico Watchdog reviewed in the office of University Counsel, was hired at the $165,000 salary and has not received a raise above that level.  She did not answer our questions whether she has received any bonuses above her regular pay.

KNME does not make it easy to discover Anderson’s salary now or in years past.  KNME’s web page provides no financial data.  Until UNM launched its Sunshine Portal this year, the information on Anderson’s salary was available only in unindexed volumes of computer payroll printouts kept in the office of University Counsel.

New Mexico Watchdog has pending a public records request to inspect KNME’s financial and other information.  A filed last year alleges that UNM has siphoned off millions of federal and state dollars from KNME operations.

Supporters of public television may not be happy to learn that public television stations making frequent pleas of poverty pay their executives so handsomely.   The publisher of the Dunkirk, New York was upset to learn that he had been faithfully giving money to  a public television station in Buffalo that paid its top executive $310,000.  “Why would anyone who wants people to donate their hard-earned dollars to their programming consciously earn that much money? Are they out of touch or are they just plain selfish?” he asked in an editorial entitled, “”

Journalists are beginning to examine executive pay at other PBS affiliates, like where over seven people receive more than $200,000.

Non-Profit TV Pays As Good As For-Profit TV

We consulted three individuals who work in the broadcasting industry in Albuquerque:  the general manager of a large television station, a high-level executive in a large broadcasting corporation, and a producer at a local television station.  The consultations were not for attribution.  We wanted to know how Anderson’s public non-profit television salary compared to the level of compensation in the private profit-driven market.

First, we must note the comparison is not quite fair.  Anderson manages a smaller staff and budget than local private television broadcasters.  Those broadcasters turn out daily product–morning, noon, evening and nighttime news reports, along with updates and the notorious “breaking news” alerts. With those caveats, all of which favor Anderson, we made our inquiries.

The consensus was that Anderson’s $165,000 salary at non-profit public KNME-TV was in line with what executives in similar positions make in Albuquerque’s for-profit broadcasting sector.   The executive at the large broadcasting corporation was miffed that Anderson’s paycheck was larger than his.  The producer shared his personal salary, and it fell below all of KNME’s salaries for its producers.

One could argue that the private companies need to treat their employees better.  Or the point may be that KNME’s generous salary for its top executive shows the station really does not need public subsidies to get by.

Between 2001 and 2012, the federal subsidy of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has increased from $340 million to $441.1 million, .  PBS has asked for a $445 million advance for 2015.  PBS receives only 15% of its budget from federal funding.  The balance comes from donations and sponsorships.

According to , Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said that, while he is a fan of PBS, he will end its federal subsidies if elected.  He said he believes the institution can and should stand on its own. PBS CEO Kerger called Romney’s comments “very disapointing” and said any further cuts would be “crippling” because some local affiliates depend heavily on federal largesse.  President Obama defunding PBS and NPR on the grounds that the $400 million plus of federal subsidies have little effect on the nation’s staggering deficit.

On a side note, a recent paper in The Cato Institute’s Policy Analysis publication makes the case that PBS and NPR would be better organizations, and provide better, more robust, more diverse and more challenging programming if they were allowed to go private.  The article is entitled,

(Disclosure:  Jim Scarantino, the author of this report, was a regular panelist on the KNME-TV public affairs weekly program “New Mexico In Focus” for several years until announcing in July 2010 that he was leaving for a period of extended travel.  As a panelist, Scarantino had little to no contact with Anderson.  He was paid $100 for preparation and taping of the program.)


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18 Comments For This Post So Far

  1. Jim Scarantino
    9:00 am on August 31st, 2012

    To early readers of this post, apologies for inoperative links to the three stations’ salaries. We’ve fixed it for KENW and KRGW. Working on the KNME link. Thanks for your patience.

  2. Dwight Bobson
    11:48 am on September 1st, 2012

    Why would you ask the person to justify the salary? It would be extraordinary if the person receiving the salary was the person who set the salary. You should be asking the person or board who set the salary at that level. I doubt the number came out of the blue. The person is an employee of the institution. The only ones I know who set their own (five times family of four) salary and very generous benefits are the Congressmen of the US, you know, like Jim DeMint. Based on your demonstrated abilities evident here, I can guess why your salary is not as high as you might think it should be.

  3. Paul White
    12:16 am on September 2nd, 2012

    In all fairness, I’d like to see an article about how the government subsidizes the private sector and how much those CEO’s receive in compensation. Let’s start with the oil, mining and defense industries.

  4. Dwight Bobson
    8:25 am on September 2nd, 2012

    Pam: You may not know how right you are to ask the question. Since this site decided not to publish my comment where I simply asked them to ask those who set the salary why it is what it is, I direct your attention to the libertarian web site of the CATO Institute and see one accounting of the $87 billion to corporate welfare

  5. Jim Scarantino
    12:19 pm on September 2nd, 2012

    Dwight: Sorry for the delay in enabling your comment. It’s Labor Day weekend and I’ve been away from the computer. Paul: If you know of any other television station that receives government subsidies, I would be glad to look into it. A comparison within the same industry would be fair. But I think PBS is the only television station in the state that receives government subsidies. Comparing the manager of KNME to the manager of a company with 40,000 employees who use heavy equipment to extract fuels, pilot ships, maintain research labs, etc., would be pointless.

  6. Jim Scarantino
    12:21 pm on September 2nd, 2012

    Dwight: As to why we posed the questions to Anderson: She is the general manager who oversees all operations and knows the most about the station. She would be the best person to explain what she does and offer some explanation for her compensation level, which we understand she negotiated when she arrived at the station in 2008.

  7. Paul White
    11:33 pm on September 2nd, 2012

    Jim, you do have a point. So I’ll just ask you to do an article on government subsidies for the oil, mining and defense industries.

    You could leave out the compensation for the CEO’s of these companies, which I still think are outrageous regardless of their sometimes enormous responsibilities.

    I believe our government should be fiscally conservative, equally. So if you are going to zero in on questioning the need for federal subsidies for non profits please consider stopping the subsidies for private corporations, some that make billions in profits.

  8. Don
    10:58 am on September 4th, 2012

    I for one am quite weary of seeing my tax money and the tax money stolen from others wasted on NPR. $455 million every year, stolen and wasted on an organization dedicated to the advocacy of liberalism, even in some of it’s music programming. (Don’t tell me I don’t know what I am talking about. I heard it even on a classical music program one day. The advocacy of Barack Obama because “he might grant more funding for the arts”). It is time for this tax-theft to STOP.

    As for “corporate welfare” let’s see, how about no more subsidies for the corn ethanol lobby and their phony fuel? How about an end to not paying people to farm? How about an end to the massive awards to the ACLU when they harrass anyone in court who does not agree with their plan to take over American thru their constant advocacy of criminal supremacy? How about an end to welfare for every whiney leftist theft-group that sits there with their hands out for government freebies at the expense of us taxpayers?

    The list is endless. I don’t want to hear ANY politician whine about the “need” for “revenue increases” (code for more stolen tax money from us) until the MASSIVE WASTE in our government is ENDED. Over $400 BILLION of the $1.3 trillion (that comes out to 30%) deficit last year was WASTE, and that is only the waste due to duplicate federal programs. That’s right, more than one program doing the same thing. The total WASTE of our stolen tax money is far greater than just that $400 billion.

    NO MORE TAX INCREASES until ALL the waste is ENDED. I don’t know why we continue to let liberals push us into this stupid tax increases vs. spending cuts debate. That should be a non-starter. We should shove back by hitting the massive waste and demand an end to it. Now and forever.

  9. Paul White
    11:20 am on September 4th, 2012

    Don, I think taxes should go back to where they were before the Clinton and Bush years. It was fair and equitable. I do agree with you however that many of the subsidies are just pork. Yes, let’s do away with the ethanol, oil and gas and mineral extraction subsidies.
    The problem is that this isn’t just a liberal issue, the Republicans want to subsidize these industries just as much (or more regarding defense and big Oil) as the Democrats.

  10. Paul White
    11:21 am on September 4th, 2012

    Don, I think taxes should go back to where they were before the Clinton and Bush years. It was fair and equitable. I do agree with you however that many of the subsidies are just pork. Yes, let’s do away with the ethanol, oil and gas and mineral extraction subsidies.
    The problem is that this isn’t just a liberal issue, the Republicans want to subsidize these industries just as much (or more regarding defense and big Oil) as the Democrats. -Paul

  11. Don
    11:29 am on September 4th, 2012

    Paul: I have no problem “subsidizing” defense. I do have a problem with WASTE, wherever it appears. It is my firm belief that we could eliminate almost all of our deficit by eliminating all the waste in the federal government.

    Yes, some pampered pooves in both parties would scream as their oxen were gored. All the more reason to do it. We let the pontificaters (sp?) from both major parties rail year after year and do nothing to eliminate their favorite sacred cows. I could cite a certain NM congressman who purports to be a fiscal conservative but who obfuscates with the best of them.

    Perhaps a good housecleaning is in order here?

  12. Paul white
    12:24 pm on September 4th, 2012

    I agree, we have congressmen who speak with forked tongues. There is plenty of waste in defense, time to take a hard look at foreign policy.

  13. Jason M
    12:28 pm on September 4th, 2012

    That’s a lot of money and a lot of staff for a station that’s programming is piped in. Can anyone name a LOCALLY produced PBS show without visiting the website?

    They’re being replaced in my house by Netflix anyway; if you want to see any of the British dramas, Masterpiece, Downton Abbey – there’s Netflix.

    Cut them to the bone. We can’t afford this shit.

  14. Don
    2:55 pm on September 4th, 2012

    Jason, Right. And there is a lot of other s..t we can’t afford also.

    Paul: There is plenty of waste everywhere. We have to have defense. We don’t have to have a lot of those other departments. Cut out the non-essential departments, cut out the waste in the essential ones and we might be able to keep some of our hard-earned dollars in the future.

  15. Joseph Segura
    9:29 am on September 5th, 2012

    I read Senator DeMint’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. You misquoted Senator DeMint when you increased the President and CEO of CPB’s salary by $200K in your article.

  16. Don
    10:47 am on September 5th, 2012

    There certainly is big money in “non-profit”.

  17. Jim Scarantino
    5:24 pm on September 5th, 2012

    We corrected the typo found by Joseph Segura.

  18. Don
    9:16 am on September 8th, 2012

    It is so easy to be generous with other people’s money.

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