Jun 3, 2010

Sutton plays out the scenario of radio oblivion by 2020

NPR President Vivian Schiller's remarks at D8 yesterday don't jibe with her reassurances that NPR "is not trying to do an end run around stations," writes public radio marketing consultant and researcher John Sutton on his blog. If she truly believes that radio towers won't exist in 10 years, then NPR's long-term strategy must not include the audiences and revenues aggregated by local stations. "It can't. Not if the towers are gone. So what replaces the $68 million NPR now gets in station revenues? It's not all business support. That kind of money comes from listener contributions. With member stations out of the way, NPR has to be thinking about direct listener fundraising. There's no other model."

Sutton, a critic of NPR's mobile strategy, adds: "It will be interesting to see how the NPR Board balances the interests of NPR's member stations against a corporate vision that financially requires the near-extinction of those stations and the migration of their listeners to NPR platforms."

West Virginia takes control of state pubcasting underwriting funds

The West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority, licensee for the state's pubradio and television stations, on June 2 approved the transfer of underwriting funds from the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Foundation to state-controlled accounts, reports the Charleston Daily Mail. Critics are concerned the move may result in the authority making pubcasting programming decisions. The shift was requested by Kay Goodwin, state secretary of education and the arts, to improve accountability. "Currently, all proceeds from underwriting go directly to specific foundation checking accounts, on which no foundation directors have signature authority," Goodwin said at the Wednesday meeting. "Foundation directors make no determination as to how funds are expended from those checking accounts." Goodwin recommended there be a "clear delineation in the finances and staffing of the authority and foundation," the paper said. The board okayed the change -- but exempted expenditures for Mountain Stage, the popular national music show produced in the state. Authority CFO Michael Meador issues checks for performance expenses, for a quicker turnaround on those payments. Andy Ridenour, the show's e.p., told the board this is done to get payments to visiting artists within a few days of their appearances. He said a new process that would require state and foundation approval might hold up payments and hinder the show's ability to draw bigger-name artists.

FCC starting up Native Nations Broadband Task Force

The Federal Communications Commission announced June 2 (PDF) that it is seeking members for an FCC-Native Nations Broadband Task Force to help the agency increase broadband deployment and adoption on Tribal lands. The group will help develop a consultation policy, get input from Tribal governments, develop recommendations to promote broadband within its communities and coordinate efforts with other federal departments and agencies. Applications are due to the FCC by July 15 for the two-year appointments.

PBS NewsHour seeking ideas to keep its BP oil spill video feed streaming

A Gulf Leak Meter widget and live video stream of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico have provided PBS NewsHour with a "significant increase" in Web traffic, the show reported today (May 27). Newshour and NPR are providing the embedding code for the widget free and it has been used by more than 3,000 websites including YouTube, Huffington Post, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Wired, ProPublic, Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and many local PBS stations. Subscribers to the PBS Newshour YouTube channel doubled in one 24-hour period. More than 1 million viewers have watched the video feed via Newshour and NPR websites. The crisis began April 20 when an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 17 workers and left 11 missing, and oil continues to flow from a well some 5,000 feet below the surface. The widget debuted May 9.

UPDATE: Chris Amico, an interactive editor at NewsHour, is requesting assistance from the news-tech community at Help by Hacks/Hackers for ideas to keep the streaming video flowing. "We're currently using NPR's Akamai account, but the cost is starting to get beyond our ability to pay," he noted, adding, " . . . would your news organization like to partner with us to help keep the feed alive?" For technical reasons the show can't link directly to BP's video feed, which is in WMV format.

WTVI salvages nearly $100,000 from proposed $860,000 county cuts

While state budget woes continue to threaten public broadcasters, WTVI in Charlotte, N.C., is running into county funding problems. Mecklenburg County provides about 23 percent of the station's operating budget, or about $860,000, President Elsie Garner told Current. Garner got a heads-up call from the county manager in March that the funding would be zeroed out under a proposed fiscal 2011 budget. The station geared up for a fight with a "very complex and well-orchestrated" plan of attack, Garner said. The League of Women Voters was instrumental; that group didn't want to lose its televised debates. Thousands of postcards of support poured in to the county. Red and black buttons saying I WATCH WTVI AND I VOTE were spotted all over town. The station's board chair wrote an opinion piece in the June 3 Charlotte Observer. And in a preliminary vote last night (June 3), the county commission decided to give nearly $100,000 to WTVI -- still a big cut, but not nearly as large as proposed. "Being a glass half-full kinda gal, I'll take it," Garner said. One bright spot: The county is still paying WTVI's debt service of $10 million in bonds sold 10 years ago to finance its digital transition. "That's deeply appreciated," Garner said. The new spending plan is set for final approval June 15 and would take effect July 1. CORRECTION: This item originally identified the city as Charlottesville.