HD New direction at Knowledge

Flush with provincial money and new status as a Crown corporation, the Canadian educaster drops in-house production and spends on digital technology
September 18, 2008

It’s all new at The Knowledge Network. A new name – Knowledge – a new logo, a new focus on digital technology, and new status as a provincial Crown corporation.

And CEO Rudy Buttignol is counting on new eyeballs too. ‘We’ve proven to the government that we’re lean, and we’re successful. We have 1.2 million viewers watching at least one hour every week, that’s one in four British Columbians, and we’re number one with kids. But we can be better,’ he says after shooting a fundraising promo. ‘I’m out there, schilling for dollars,’ he laughs.

And he is evidently good at it. Appointed as CEO in September 2007 after a lengthy stint at TVOntario, Buttignol raised $2.2 million from 26,000 private donors last year, ‘all solely for programming, and I phone five to ten donors a week to thank them personally’ he explains.

Murray Coell, the province’s minister of advanced education, handed over $2.7 million during the relaunch on Wednesday afternoon, to pay for the digital conversion.

This is a coup for Buttignol, as Knowledge has been on shaky legs for the past few years as the provincial government reviewed whether it should shut the channel down or privatize it.

Knowledge was previously an agency of the provincial government, run through the Open Learning Agency, and made programming in-house that often focused on distance education.

Its in-house efforts have been mothballed, for now. Knowledge will air acquired educational programming, though it hopes to commission its own shows from indie producers in the future.

‘We don’t create it. We find it, filter it, aggregate and disseminate it,’ says Buttignol.

As a Crown corporation, now under its own board of directors, Knowledge has ‘a measure of independence we didn’t have,’ before, he adds. ‘This is a signal that we’re important and that the government recognizes that. Going digital is putting flesh on the bones. It’s vital, digital is transforming the world.’

Also, the channel will now air 24 hours a day.

Going forward, the provincial government will ante up $6.3 million of Knowledge’s $8.5 million annual budget. The rest comes from donors.

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