Dec 8, 2010

New House Appropriations Committee chair is Kentucky's Hal Rogers

The new chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee is Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.). That's good news for pubcasters, because also in the running was Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), who favors halting all federal funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Rogers, on the other hand, voted in June 2005 to restore $100 million for CPB. And earlier that year, when Kentucky Educational Television reached out to him, Rogers helped raise awareness of public broadcasting's role in public safety efforts, culminating in a partnership between APTS and the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA on the Digital Emergency Alert System (DEAS).

Another request from House to GAO for pubcasting audits

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), sponsor of a bill to defund CPB, has asked the Government Accountability Office to audit CPB and NPR funding. Two Texas congressman sent a similar letter to the independent investigative agency on Nov. 18, singling out NPR.

In a Tuesday (Dec. 7) press release, Lamborn said that "it is imperative that an accurate and complete snapshot of CPB’s use of taxpayer funding be available to lawmakers and the public. Unfortunately," he said, "the charts, figures, statistics and documents posted on these entities’ websites — and often cited in the news media — do not sufficiently account for the complicated revenue streams between and within these entities.  Efforts by Congressional staff, including the non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS), to contact CPB and NPR for clarification in this regard have been frustrating and limited in success."

NPR's Anna Christopher told Current: "This is a surprising claim, as NPR quickly and respectfully responded to each and every CRS inquiry. CRS repeatedly expressed gratitude to NPR for providing all requested information, and for adding clarity and context."

And Nicole Mezlo, CPB spokesperson, said that corporation staff members have spoken with the Congressional Research Service "numerous times," and CPB has not been contacted directly by Lamborn's office.

Cable news veteran to head up Boston's WBUR

WBUR in Boston has a new general manager. Charles Kravetz, longtime news and programming director of New England Cable News, is stepping into the position to be vacated by Paul La Camera on Jan. 1, 2011. Upon arriving at the new cable channel in 1992, Kravetz assembled a news operation from scratch. Within five months he supervised the building of a newsroom, hired 90 staffers and started 24-hour programming. He also opened four new state bureaus and led the news team to Peabody, Murrow and duPont-Columbia awards.

White paper: Status quo will not carry pubcasting into the digital future

A white paper on the future of public media warns that the field must step up its public advocacy and structural reforms if it is to meet the news and information needs of local communities and citizens.

"Rethinking Public Media: More Local, More Inclusive, More Interactive," by veteran news exec Barbara Cochran, follows up on the recommendations of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, October 2009. That report challenged public broadcasting to "move quickly toward a broader vision of public service media," one that is "more local, more inclusive and more interactive."

Although policymakers and philanthropic organizations must do many things to support the field's transition to digital public media, Cochran writes, public broadcasters themselves must demonstrate their commitment to change and make a bold, compelling and united case for it.

"There is universal agreement that funding sources — whether government, philanthropic or corporate — will not provide more money to support the status quo," Cochran writes. "Many recognize that some of the funds now going to public media could be redirected for greater efficiency and less duplication. Some believe public media missed an opportunity to bring new ideas to the table when the FCC’s national broadband plan was under discussion."

Cochran endorses the dramatic journalistic expansion proposed by public radio, including local newsgathering, and calls for public television to develop a new strategy to enhance its news output and community engagement. But she challenges the field to redirect its resources from "outmoded broadcasting infrastructure and duplication of service to building digital capacity." She calls on federal policymakers to provide more funding and the regulatory and legal foundation for public broadcasters to operate as effectively and efficiently as public media.

Acknowledging that public broadcasting faces a difficult environment in Congress next year, Cochran proposes that the field seek a special appropriation to produce more digital content under the national broadband plan and push for a reauthorization that would recast CPB as the Corporation for Public Media. Republican attempts to end federal funding of public broadcasting are "nothing new," she writes. "By emphasizing to Congress that support is going to strengthen local stations, public broadcasters may be able to avoid getting caught in partisan attitudes about national programming."

Cochran, who headed NPR News in its early days and was longtime president of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, will present the report this morning during a roundtable forum at the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C. To follow the event on Twitter, search for the hashtag #knightcomm.