Dec 13, 2010

"170 Million Americans" launches to help save pubcasting funding

On average every month, 170 million Americans go to television, radio, online services and in-person events offered by public media. That crowd amounts to more than half of the country’s population.

Surprised? That’s just what the slogan writers are hoping for.

The line “170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting,” debuting today (Dec. 13) on a new website — — is intended to help defend public broadcasting from potentially dire funding cuts looming in the new year.

The site is sponsored by nine national public TV and radio organizations and co-managed by two of them, the Association for Public Television Stations and Minnesota-based American Public Media.

And the big audience statistic reveals for the first time a comprehensive estimate of public media users across all platforms. Public radio’s Station Resource Group spent months, long before this campaign was devised, gathering the data and subtracting people in overlapping audiences who could be counted more than once.

See this week's Current for the story of how one big number grew into an even bigger advocacy campaign.

New director of development at Idaho PTV

Idaho Public Television has hired Megan Griffin as its new director of development.

She will manage a team of 10, including director of membership, director of major giving and director of corporate sponsorship.

From 2005 to '09 she was a program director and director of development at the Children’s Home Society of Idaho, where she created a program that raised more than $3 million.

Edwards appoints NPR programming panel

KPCC President Bill Davis will chair a task force of public radio programmers, researchers and news execs analyzing programming opportunities and economics for NPR, Board Chair Dave Edwards announced today.

"[T]here are some dayparts that have traditionally underachieved in their ability to attract an audience," Edwards wrote in his Dec. 13 memo to NPR member stations. "The economics of new program development also remain a challenge." Another role for the task force will be to articulate "the role that NPR and stations can play" in programming opportunities.

"This work will be very helpful in guiding the NPR Board on future investments in programming," Edwards wrote.

Prior to joining American Public Media's KPCC in Pasadena, Calif., Davis was senior v.p. of programming at NPR. One focus of his work was addressing problems with under-performing midday shows.

Also serving on the task force are George Bailey of Walrus Research and four station programmers: Lynn Clendenin, Oregon Public Broadcasting; Ron Jones, Detroit's WDET; Hawk Mendenhall, KUT in Austin, Texas; and, Steve Schram, Michigan Radio. NPR staff on the panel include: chief researcher Lori Kaplan; programmers Margaret Low Smith and Eric Nuzum; station relations chief Joyce MacDonald; Ellen McDonnell, executive director of news programming; and Keith Woods, v.p. for diversity in news and operations.

Edwards, who serves on the NPR Board as g.m. of Milwaukee Public Radio, is also a member of the task force. He announced his intention to convene the panel last month, just moments after his election as NPR chair.

ivi TV adds Chicago signals, including WTTW

The controversial online TV provider ivi, which sells worldwide access to broadcast signals, announced today (Dec. 13) that it has added Chicago channels to its lineup. A rep for ivi told Current that the new stations include pubcaster WTTW/Channel 11. ivi, which launched in September, captures and encrypts TV stations’ signals and distributes them through a web app to subscribers. It says stations are paid for the content through the U.S. Copyright Office. PBS,, WGBH and 22 other plaintiffs disagree, and filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York on Sept. 28, saying in part: “The defendants are nothing more than publicity-seeking pirates" (Current, Oct. 4).

With Soros funding, NPR walked into escalating crossfire

Should NPR have accepted a $1.8 million reporting grant from the Open Society Foundations, given the antagonism that political conservatives and Fox News has for their founder, philanthropist and financier George Soros? "In retrospect, knowing what I now know, would I rather that the first money had come from somewhere else? Probably yes," says Oregon Public Broadcasting President and NPR Board member Steve Bass in Politico's lengthy Dec. 12 report on how the grant exacerbated the controversy over NPR's dismissal of news analyst Juan Williams.

Politico's Keach Hagey reveals that the grant, which backs start-up of an NPR news initiative to strengthen enterprise reporting in state capitols, was approved in mid-August after months of discussions. "The Open Society grant came to NPR at a time when Soros was trying to cement his role as the definitive bogeyman of the right," Hagey writes. The same week that NPR unveiled its Impact of Government project, Soros announced his first-ever contribution to David Brock's progressive watchdog group Media Matters for America to "more widely publicize the challenge Fox News poses to civil and informed discourse."

The Washington Post recently reported on the long history of crossfire between Fox News and Media Matters -- and how NPR walked unwittingly into it.

NPR plans to announce more funders for its Impact of Government project soon, President Vivian Schiller said during a Dec. 8 roundtable forum in Washington, D.C.

Transfer of Current to American University approved in principle

Current is likely to have a new publisher in January — the School of Communication at American University in Washington, D.C.

Details of the contract to transfer the print/web publication remain in negotiation, but the governing boards of the university and Current’s longtime publisher, New York’s WNET, have approved the deal in principle. The unanimous approval by the WNET Board, Dec. 9, prompted a story in a New York Times blog Dec. 12.

WNET has published Current since 1983, for most of its 30 years.

The editor and staff will keep their jobs, the publication will continue to cover public media, and the School of Communication has said Current will be editorially independent.

Larry Kirkman, dean of the school, told the Times that the school has “become a laboratory for the future of public media,” with the help of affiliates such as the Center for Social Media and the Investigative Reporting Workshop, which produced its first documentary for Frontline this spring.

Current will report more about the transfer and plans for its future when details are settled.