Oct 15, 2009

CPB Inspector General's office issues report on KMBH violations

The CPB Inspector General's office has issued findings from its audit of KMBH (PDF) in Harlingen, Texas, that looked into the station's compliance with grant rules and examined its financial documents related to CPB (Current, March 16, 2009). KMBH is linking to the report on its home page. The 30-page investigation of RGV Educational Broadcasting Inc., controlled by the Brownsville Catholic archdiocese, was for fiscal years 2007 and '08. The report found that KMBH didn't fully comply with requirements to: establish a community advisory board, maintain certain documents for public inspection, describe and document station policy for complying with donor list and political activities rules, establish separate accounting records for CPB grants, and exclude from nonfederal financial support reports transactions that do not qualify as contributions. In his response included in the report, Msgr. Pedro BriseƱo, station president and g.m., generally disputed the findings but agreed to undertake most of the recommendations. KMBH has been weathering controversies for several years. It has had financial difficulties, including a pledge drive with only six callers (Current, April 21, 2008), and raised eyebrows in November 2007 when three board members were dismissed without explanation. An independent group, Voices from the Valley, is attempting to launch another pubradio station in the Rio Grande Valley.

PBS rejects last minute appeal to re-edit "Obama's War"

The Marine Corps leaned on PBS to remove explicit imagery from Obama's War, the Oct. 13 Frontline documentary that took viewers into Afghanistan's Helmand province with rank and file Marines. Opening minutes of the film include a firefight in which Marine Lance Cpl. Charles S. Sharp was fatally wounded. Frontline had followed rules of embedded reporting in filming and presenting the footage, Marine Corps Col. B.F. Salas acknowledged in a letter to PBS President Paula Kerger, but he appealed to her on the basis of “journalistic good taste,” according to this column by PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler.

“An accomplished storyteller can inform us without resorting to graphic imagery or what might be termed 'combat pornography,'” Col. Salas, Marine Corps director of public affairs, wrote.

The letter arrived hours before "Obama's War" debuted on Frontline. Kerger respectfully declined Salas’s request on Oct. 14.

“I’m with PBS on this,” Getler wrote, weighing in on the exchange. “I think Salas’s use of the phrase ‘combat pornography’ is not helpful or appropriate.”

During an Oct. 13 appearance on public radio's the Takeaway, Cpl. Sharp’s father said he supported the filmmakers’ decision to include footage of his son’s final moments. “It’s not anti-war to me. It’s showing the job these men and women are having to do every day,” Ric Sharp told the Takeaway's Celeste Headlee. “It’s not a game. This is real life.”

The opening sequence, first presented Oct. 1 as a preview reel on Frontline’s website, is on the Oct. 13 web edition of the Takeaway. The full program can now be viewed on Frontline’s website.

FCC asking for responses to Berkman Center broadband policy report

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comments on a broadband study by Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, asking, among other items, how much weight it should be accorded as the FCC develops a broadband strategy. The 232-page draft report by the Center, which works to "explore and understand cyberspace," is a comparative study that seeks to define what broadband is and examines how it was developed and is used in Denmark, France, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. From the study: "All countries we surveyed include in their approaches, strategies, or plans, a distinct target of reaching their entire population. Many of the countries we observed explicitly embrace a dual-track approach in the near future: achieving access for the entire population to first-generation broadband levels of service, and achieving access to next generation capabilities for large portions of their population, but not necessarily everyone, in the near to medium term." Recent findings of the blue-ribbon Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy also recommended that broadband policy makers "set ambitious standards for nationwide broadband availability and adopt public policies encouraging consumer demand for broadband services." Pubcasting stations are among entities in the running for millions in broadband stimulus funds (Current, Sept. 21).

"Unconference" PubCamp gearing up for this weekend

More than 300 community organizers, bloggers, tech developers and pubmedia staffers are expected at the first national PublicMediaCamp (or "PubCamp") this weekend in Washington (Current, Aug. 3). It's a sold-out PBS-NPR initiative to "strengthen the relationship between public broadcasters and their communities through the development of collaborative projects, both online and offline," according to a joint statement. Oct. 17 and 18 is the national kickoff, with local events then hosted by stations. Participants are using the PubCamp wiki site to propose their own sessions to lead. More sessions are expected to pop up as the weekend progresses in an "unconference" format. Can't attend? Don't worry, follow the presentations as they are posted online at the PubCamp's website, and check out tweets, #pubcamp.