Publicly funded arts institutions are feeling the recession squeeze this winter, and Vermont Public Television is no exception. In February, viewers will stop seeing new episodes of “Profile,” the locally produced Monday-evening interview show hosted by Fran Stoddard.
Over the show’s eight years, journalist Stoddard — a former host of Vermont Public Radio’s “Switchboard” — has interviewed a host of notables from Vermont and beyond, ranging from former Gov. Howard Dean to author E.L. Doctorow to late political humorist-writer Molly Ivins. Stoddard says she’s already taped this month’s upcoming shows, which profile Dartmouth prof Gretchen Gerzina and Hinesburg writer and entrepreneur Bill Schubart.
But those will be the last episodes VPT produces — at least for now. Community Relations Officer Ann Curran says the change is “part of a big package of savings” the station needs “to get through the fiscal year.” In the wake of two state budget rescissions and a reduced level of voluntary contributions, VPT has “a quarter-million-dollar gap between revenues and expenses,” she explains.
Having already lowered staff compensation, the nonprofit is “at the point where we’ve got to do something that is visible.” However, Curran says “Profile” repeats will be “the only programming change viewers will notice” — and VPT will continue to run old episodes from its library.
That isn’t much consolation to Stoddard, who says she had already “booked some very good people” for this spring’s shows and “was totally taken by surprise” by VPT’s announcement. “They’re making some very difficult decisions, and I got hit.”
Although Curran assures, “This is not the end of ‘Profile,’” Stoddard isn’t sure it’s worth waiting for VPT to decide if it can eventually resume production of the show, which lacks outside grant funding. “‘Profile’ just lets us know about the wonderful neighbors who live among us,” she says. “My list [of potential interview subjects] is so long, and it’s hard to let that list linger.”
For the future, Stoddard adds, “There are possibilities, and I am looking at them.” But “Vermont’s small, and if I’m not interested in leaving, there are fewer opportunities.”