Feb 28, 2011

KNPB in northern Nevada loses signal in fire

Weekend snow and ice storms contributed to the cause of a fire that knocked out several channels from KNPB in northern Nevada. Viewers still can't access 5.1 HD, the standard digital channel, Create on 5.2 or V-me on 5.3. The blaze, which destroyed a filter system in the transmitter, was discovered at 9 p.m. local time Sunday, during the premiere of Stewards of the Rangeland, a new KNPB production focusing on livestock management strategies. "KNPB engineering staff are working with the transmitter manufacturer to replace damaged parts, returning the signal as soon as possible," a Monday (Feb. 28) release from the station said.

Director of "Helvetica," "Objectified" docs now crowdfunding "Urbanized"

Gary Hustwit, director of "Helvetica" and "Objectified" on Independent Lens, is crowdfunding his latest project, "Urbanized." He's launched the funding drive on Kickstarter with a goal of $85,000 by March 23; as of Feb. 28, he has about $42,000. Hustwit and a his team are now editing, with post-production this summer on the documentary examining urban design. Donors can fork over from $10 to $5,000 for nifty perks: At the $2,000 level, it's two VIP tickets to the world premiere, dinner that evening with Hustwit and members of the cast and crew, a "special thanks" in the film's credits, 10 DVDs, two DVD box sets, two T-shirts and a set of the limited-edition prints. So far two donors will be enjoying all that.

Vote on Continuing Resolution probably put off until at least mid-March

The threat of a government shutdown apparently has been avoided until at least March 18, reports the Washington Post. Senate Democrats on Friday (Feb. 25) tentatively accepted a Republican plan to cut $4 billion in federal spending that President Obama has already targeted for elimination. CPB funding was zeroed out in the Continuing Resolution the House passed along to the Senate earlier this month (Current, Feb. 22).

Announcement coming soon on Alaska pubcasting merger

Alaska public broadcasting stations could merge as soon as next month, according to today's (Feb. 28) Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The stations, including KUAC in Fairbanks, KTOO in Juneau, KYUK in Bethel and Alaska Public Telecommunications in Anchorage, have been in talks for two years. Those discussions were sparked by mounting financial problems that prompted layoffs and reductions in local programming starting in 2009. A committee has been hearing input from residents in communities that would be affected. General managers are not involved in discussions, "since their jobs or those of their employees could be affected," the paper says. CPB supplied an $88,000 consulting grant. The proposed model could be unveiled in early March.

Feb 26, 2011

Susanna Capelouto heading to CNN

Susanna Capelouto, Georgia Public Broadcasting's news director, has left to join CNN. She's been with GPB a total of 19 years, the first two part-time. She'll be a producer for CNN Radio working with another GPB alum, John Supulvedo, producing long-form audio stories. Capelouto said last week she now plans to become "a loyal GPB volunteer," network spokesperson Nancy Zintak told Current. Also last week, she was honored at the Georgia State Capitol by lawmakers with a House Resolution for her years of service to GPB; guests nibbled on a cake featuring her likeness on the icing. She reports to CNN on March 7.

"Motown Sound" fills White House for PBS show

The White House "reverberated like a long-ago basement sound studio in Detroit" on Thursday (Feb. 24), reports the Associated Press. The occasion: a PBS In Performance at the White House, "The Motown Sound." Performers included Smokey Robinson, John Legend, Seal and Stevie Wonder — first lady Michelle Obama confessed he's her favorite, "yes indeed." And Motown founder Berry Gordy was in the audience. See a clip here.

PBMA leaving NETA, will focus on pubcasting leadership training

The Public Broadcasting Management Association is departing its 30-year home at the National Educational Telecommunications Association.

It’s time, said PBMA Vice Chairman Tom Livingston, president of Livingston Associates in Baltimore. “We’re grown now.” Coulter Nonprofit Management in McLean, Va., will work with PBMA.

Livingston told Current that the group’s aspiration “is to become more significant in the leadership development area.”

The system is facing “unbelievable challenges,” he said. If pubcasting is to have a viable future, “it’s going to take some great leadership. Basically there’s been no coordinated leadership development work in public media for 15 or 16 years. And I believe we can see the results of that in the state of our leadership today.”

Livingston added that the group is grateful for NETA’s longtime support. “There are times when PBMA would have expired if not for NETA,” he said.

More in the next issue of Current.

Feb 25, 2011

Pubradio tech survey charts growth in smartphone usage, streaming audio tune-ins

Results of the third annual Public Radio Technology Survey measured dramatic growth in smartphone adoption among public radio listeners and their clear preference for Apple's iPhone among mobile hand-held devices. More than a third of respondents now own a smartphone, a 29 percent gain since last year's survey; within this subgroup of survey participants, 63 percent use the iPhone. The survey of 21,000 public radio listeners, conducted through a partnership of Jacobs Media and Public Radio Program Directors, also shows impressive gains in the number of respondents who listen to public radio via Internet streams. An infographic from Jacobs media sums up the 2010 survey findings; PRPD details top-line results here. For the last survey, released in Sept. 2009, researchers found dramatic growth in the number of respondents who frequented social networking sites such as Facebook.

Pubcasting foe Sen. Jim DeMint on Communications subcommittee

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) have named the members of their subcommittees, including the Communications and Internet Subcommittee that has the most direct oversight of communications issues and the FCC, reports Broadcasting & Cable today (Feb. 25). John Kerry (D-Mass.) returns as subcommitte chair; GOP ranking member is John Ensign (Nev.). "The Republican membership includes two of the 10 most conservative Senators according to National Journal's just-released ratings," B&C points out — such as Jim DeMint (S.C.), author of several bills to defund public broadcasting.

PBS: Doing something right ... or left?

"The conventional tag that I often see applied to PBS is 'liberal,'" writes PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler in his column today (Feb. 25). "I get a fair amount of mail from critics who say they are viewers and who say they see public broadcasting that way."

But wait:

"I also get probably an equal amount from viewers, or from people who claim to be viewers, that think PBS has moved to the right, that the service has increasingly sold out to the right-wing and corporate interests. I'm not trying to invoke, here, the idea that when one is criticized by both sides it must mean it is doing something right and in the broader public's interest."

WNYC latest to sign on with Public Insight Network

WNYC Radio in New York City has joined American Public Media's Public Insight Network, which will provide its newsroom with a direct link to persons in their community to act as sources for reporting, reports Fishbowl NY. WNYC will focus on the subject of education, reaching out to both English- and Spanish-speaking mebers of the community. More than 40 newsrooms nationwide are now members of the network (Current, Jan. 24, 2011).

PBS going Gowalla

PBS is going live on Gowalla in March. Not sure what that means? "Gowalla helps you keep up with friends, share your favorite places and discover the extraordinary around you," it says. So where is PBS? Thirteen hours ago, at the White House South Lawn.

NCME web analytics webinar info now available on site

If you're curious about web analytics but weren't able to participate in the Feb. 9 webinar on the topic from the National Center for Media Engagement, it's now archived at its site.

Two more Knight Commission papers released today

The fourth and fifth in a series of white papers aimed at implementing recommendations of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy are being released today (Feb. 25) at an Aspen Institute roundtable from 9 a.m. to noon Eastern (webcast here). The papers: “Government Transparency: Six Strategies for More Open and Participatory Government” by Jon Gant and Nicol Turner-Lee, and “Creating Local Online Hubs: Three Models for Action” by Adam Thierer. Roundtable participants include John Bracken, Knight's director of digital media; Lucy Dalglish, e.p. of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; and Lee Rainie, director of Pew's Internet and American Life Project.

Feb 24, 2011

Republican Congressman loves public radio — no, really

Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), new chairman of the Rules Committee in the House of Representatives, is a big fan of public broadcasting, particularly NPR's foreign coverage and This American Life, the Public Radio International series produced by WBEZ in Chicago.

Yes, you read that correctly.

"It might not be healthy these days for conservatives to admit they like public broadcasting, given the relentless flogging it takes from some ideologues," writes the Los Angeles Times' Jim Rainey. "So give credit to Dreier for acknowledging the truth — that NPR, PBS and their local affiliates are gems that deserve our support, one way or another."

Dreier is confident that funding from members, foundations and corporate donors could cover station costs. He wants to form a "post taxpayer-supported Corporation for Public Broadcasting." He says there needs to be a "transition period," especially for smaller stations. "There are local affiliates in places like Alaska and North Dakota and places where public broadcasting stations are the only stations out there," Dreier says. "We need to figure out another way to do it."

"I am just a big fan of public broadcasting," he adds. He's helped with pledge drives at Los Angeles stations KCET and KCRW, and Pasadena's KPCC, along with WAMU in Washington, D.C.

Dreier will soon be traveling to Indonesia and says he can't wait to visit NPR's Jakarta bureau. He tells Rainey: "But what I really want to do is host Morning Edition."

GOP-Dem talks on Continuing Resolution "off to a shaky start," Washington Post reports

The budget stalemate continues to percolate over the Continuing Resolution to keep the government running through September, which contains a provision wiping out all of CPB's funding. Since the bill's passage at 4:30 a.m. Feb. 19, the Republicans put together a bill that would push the March 4 deadline two weeks – with $4 billion in cuts, roughly proportional to the $61 billion over the remaining seven months of the fiscal year. Senate Democrats rejected that idea, the Washington Post reports. Those lawmakers, meanwhile, want another 30 days to work all this out with funding remaining at current levels; House Republicans rejected that idea. The Post says there's a "wide gulf" between the two sides on the budget plan, and that talks "have gotten off to a shaky start" with the Republicans insisting on the entire $61 billion in reductions.

Boston Globe: Defend aid to PBS and the endowments, let NPR survive on its own

Congressional Democrats have to make some tough choices about which programs to defend against the Republican drive to slash government spending, especially when it comes to a "fat GOP target" like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, according to op-ed page editors of the Boston Globe. CPB's $531 million appropriation is a comparatively small item in the federal budget, but it offers a big political pay-off for Republicans.

As the Globe sees it, public radio doesn't need federal assistance: NPR receives only a sliver of this federal aid through direct grants, and the financial squeeze of lost CPB grants on public radio stations could be eased through dues relief. Democrats should fight to protect other cultural programs targeted by the GOP -- the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, and the arts and documentary programs on PBS.

"For a news service, there's a major upside to being free from government support," the Globe's op-ed writers reason. "The best guarantee of a fearless media is its own income stream." NPR and its member stations are "among the jewels of the American media," and fans and listeners "should, and surely will, step up to make certain it survives...."

The editorial, published this morning, doesn't acknowledge the roles that Boston pubcasters WBUR and WGBH play in competing for local news audiences, or the extent to which WGBH's television production house depends on federal funding and PBS support.

Beth Deare dies in house fire; groundbreaking former WGBH producer

Aloyce Beth DuVal Deare, a pioneering producer of African-American programming and documentaries at WGBH, was killed Feb. 20 in a four-alarm house fire at her home in Newton, Mass. She was 63.

She had also been battling brain cancer, which had spread from throat cancer last year.

Deare won 13 Emmys and a Peabody Award during her tenure at the station in the 1980s. One was for a critically acclaimed “In the Matter of Levi Heart,” a documentary about a Boston Police shooting. Her credits also include “Beacon to Freedom: Black Life in the Bay Colony,” which she finished in 2008 while undergoing treatment for throat cancer, and American Experience’s “Midnight Ramble,” a 1994 film tracing the history of black filmmaking.

“WGBH is saddened by this loss,” WGBH spokesperson Jeanne Hopkins said in a statement. “Beth was a very talented producer and someone who helped connect WGBH with others in the community.”

The Boston Globe said that in 1979, “Deare began producing content at WGBH that no other station was covering” with the show Say Brother.

The program “tackled various issues of the day and was known for its arts and culture programming,” WGBH radio host Callie Crossley told the newspaper. “It was on a spectrum of high-quality production.”

Documentary filmmaker Valerie Whitmore, of Milton, Mass., a former producer for the programs Coming Together and Evening Magazine on WBZ-TV, told the Globe that Deare was at the center of a group of women of color working on new television programs in Boston in 1980s. "It was good-natured competition," she said. "It was like we were all sisters and comrades together working in the business.”

Deare worked at WGBH for 17 years before becoming an associate professor at Bunker Hill Community College in Bostin, teaching English and oral communication. She was on staff until the time of her death.

Memorial services are pending. (Image: WGBH)

Feb 23, 2011

A little birdie told us . . .

Are you in pubmedia? Here are five Twitter feeds you should be following, as suggested by Bryce Kirchoff at the National Center for Media Engagement.

America's main news diet: Commercial

America is the only major democracy in the West to rely almost entirely on commercial media to comprehensively inform its citizens. So says Rodney Benson, associate professor of media, culture and communication at New York University, in the online magazine The two surveyed 14 countries; in every Western European democracy they examined, public broadcasting channels attract at least a third of the national TV audience. “Who is the average BBC watcher?” Benson says. "Everybody in Britain.”

And foreign public media stations can schedule news programming during primetime.“Whereas there’s a big different in what people know here, when you compare high and low income, high and low education, in some of these countries there’s almost no difference,” Benson says. “The value of having this kind of broad publicly oriented programming available to everyone at an accessible time, and putting a lot of resources behind that to make it available and accessible, is that citizens are better informed in those countries.”

Nation's first all-student state news network to debut Feb. 28 on Hawaii PBS

America's first student news network, Hiki No – it means "can do" – premieres Feb. 28 on PBS Hawaii, reports the Star-Advertiser in Honolulu. Students from more than 50 public, charter and private high schools and middle schools in the state will contribute to the first season. Initially there will be one one new half-hour, student-created newscast each week; eventually, the project is shooting for six new Hiki No newscasts weekly. Newscasts also will be available on PBS Hawaii's website. Funding was provided by CPB and the Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation.

Local filmmaker Stuart Yamane also created a half-hour documentary, "Backstory: The Making of Hiki No," which debuted Feb. 21.

Joyce Campbell to retire; worked at KCET, WETA, KQED

Joyce Campbell, who has worked in public television continuously since 1959, is retiring as KCET's vice president of education and children's programming. Her last day is March 18.

Campbell has been with the Los Angeles station for 20 years. She's supervised many of the station's major initiatives, from bi-lingual pledge programs to California Connected, the science series The Human Quest and A Place of Our Own and Los NiƱos en Su Casa, for Spanish- and English-speaking child caretakers. Most recently, she  helped develop Sid the Science Kid with the Jim Henson Co. and served as KCET e.p. on the series through the production of its second season, just wrapping.

Prior to KCET, Campbell was senior v.p. and station manager at WETA in Arlington, Va. She also worked at KUID-TV in Moscow, Idaho. She began her career at KQED in San Francisco, as a senior producer/director helping to cover the tumultuous 1960s in the Bay Area. One memory: While directing a live concert at the Berkeley Folk Festival, Country Joe and the Fish, standing before the American flag, used the “f” word. The next morning, the FBI was at the station. Fortunately, no fines.

Campbell and her husband, David Campbell, are planning an adventurous start to her retirement: a trip to the Serengeti.

PBS, the antidote to "Ice Road Truckers"

PBS President Paula Kerger was in Knoxville recently, and chatted with Metro Pulse. One topic: Why PBS remains unique in the world of TV. "There are just so many options, and so many channels have pursued different niches. ... Other channels, like the Learning Channel, Bravo, and the History Channel started down the path towards being a commercial version of public broadcasting, but they’ve all moved away from it. ... The History Channel’s name franchise is now Ice-Road Truckers, you know? So we’re still providing something no one else is."

Feb 22, 2011

WBEZ, rejecting politicking

WBEZ 91.5-FM in Chicago is sending letters to members concerning the Congressional fight over CPB funding, but isn't using its airwaves or website to urge listeners to take action. Torey Malatia, g.m., explains to the Chicago Reader, "It is inappropriate for a public service institution committed to independent, fair journalistic practices to use its public service platforms to urge specific legislative action, even if — especially if — that action results in institutional financial benefit. Journalists either report content to the public in a way that rejects politicking or not. You either stick to principles or you really don't have any."

Judge grants injunction to keep ivi TV from streaming station signals without consent

A New York U.S. District Court judge today (Feb. 22) granted a preliminary injunction blocking ivi TV from streaming signals from TV stations without their consent. More than 20 broadcasters, including WNET/Thirteen, PBS and WGBH, had filed suit against the Seattle firm, which charges subscribers for retransmission (Current, Oct. 4, 2010) and insists that is permitted because ivi is a type of cable system. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said ivi was "extraordinarily unlikely" to be deemed a cable system under copyright law, and that it was posing that harm to broadcasters' business. Todd Weaver, ivi's c.e.o., released a statement that said in part, “This fight is for the people and their right to choice and control over their own entertainment – and it will continue. The oppressive big media networks must open their doors to innovators or they will inevitably fall. People want responsible choice, not the one-size-fits-all television offerings imposed by powerful media interests.” He said ivi will continue to operate during its appeal.

Former Frontline producer joins Center for Investigative Reporting's new production unit

The Center for Investigative Reporting is starting an in-house production unit for digital media and video. Sharon Tiller, former series executive director of Frontline/World on PBS and senior producer at Frontline, will lead the unit as the center's director of digital media. A release says the move is part of a larger business development strategy to create new models for investigative journalism to sustain itself and leverage new technologies to increase and engage audiences. Tiller will supervise a team of seven.

The center has had a 20-year relationship with Frontline. The first joint segment will air in spring 2011.

Frontline, NPR win Polk Awards for collaborative projects

Two public broadcasting collaborations have won prestigious Polk awards for their news projects. Frontline, ProPublica and the Times-Picayune of New Orleans won the Polk for television reporting, and NPR and ProPublica won for radio.

In a release, presenter Long Island University called the "Law & Disorder" Frontline collaboration "monumental." The reporting partners looked at the often brutal actions taken by the New Orleans Police Department in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, investigating charges that officers shot at 10 persons and killed four. The project revealed that law-enforcement commanders issued orders to ignore long-established rules governing use of deadly force. C. Thompson of ProPublica; Frontline Senior Series Producer Raney Aronson-Rath and Producer Tom Jennings; and Laura Maggi and Brendan McCarthy of the Times-Picayune will be honored.

The Polk radio reporting award goes to another collaboration, by NPR and ProPublica, which found the U.S. military was not adequately diagnosing and treating traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers. Honored for “Brain Wars” are T. Christian Miller of ProPublica, NPR Correspondent Daniel Zwerdling, and NPR Deputy Managing Editor of Investigations Susanne Reber. The project showed that the military medical system is failing to diagnose brain injuries in tens of thousands of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many veterans receiving little or no treatment for lingering health effects. Their investigation found that some 40 percent of soldiers suffering from concussions were not receiving a correct diagnosis from military doctors.

The awards, seen within the news industry as rivaling Pulitzers in their importance, were established in 1949 by Long Island University to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent who was murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war. The honors will be presented at a luncheon April 7 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

Newsosaur to pubcasters: learn to live without federal aid or learn to share

Veteran newspaperman and news industry analyst Alan Mutter weighs in on the debate over CPB funding and concludes that it's time for public broadcasters to learn to live without their federal aid. Public broadcasting stations are "generally well-funded, well-known and well-established organizations," Mutter writes on his blog Reflections of a Newsosaur, noting that local stations derive an average of 15 percent of their annual revenues from Uncle Sam. "The fact that the public media operate with only a modest degree of federal funding is not only fortunate for them at a time of aggressive budget cutting but also a sign that government support of the public media has been an unqualified success," Mutter writes.

He points to the political pressure that's historically been exerted on CPB to influence content; six-figure salaries of executives at CPB, PBS and local stations; and the field's success in raising private sources of support to strengthen its service to make his case.

If policymakers see a continued need for federal assistance to nonprofit media, Mutter concludes, then new web-based start-ups such as New America Media and MinnPost should be included in the mix of grantees. These not-profit news ventures deserve a
n equal chance in competing for "the sort of seed money that helped build public broadcasting into the powerful organization it is today."

Pubcasters take to the sea for November cruise

Three public broadcasters are headliners on a 10-day PTV at Sea cruise in November. Gwen Ifill of Washington Week, Mark Samels, e.p. of American Experience, and Scott Simon, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition will be presenters and panelists on board Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner as it sails from Venice to Croatia, Malta, Tunisia, Monte Carlo, Florence and Rome. It's sponsored by Artful Travelers.

Pubcasting among cuts that may be "dead on arrival" in Senate, Time magazine says

Here's a good analysis by Time magazine about how this Washington showdown is different from back in 1995. "The $61 billion in cuts House Republicans called for in their 2011 budget passed Saturday include many provisions that are dead on arrival in the Senate," it says. "Proposals to defund health reform, Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting are all nonstarters for Democrats."

Feb 21, 2011

Warner introduces spectrum auction bill

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has introduced an incentive auction bill to free up wireless spectrum. S.415 would authorize payments to broadcasters who voluntarily give up spectrum, but also would require the Federal Communications Commission to "establish a maximum revenue sharing threshold applicable to all licensees within any auction."

"Red-state rural stations" may be hit hardest by conservative House CPB funding cut

Small television and radio stations serving rural, "politically red areas" in California and other states would endure the biggest impact loss of federal funding, reports the San Francisco Chronicle today (Feb. 21), as those stations often rely more heavily on that support. Example: Last weekend, Rep. Wally Herger voted in favor of the GOP's Continuing Resolution, which zeroed out CPB funding. Voters in conservative Yuba County have sent him to the House for 13 terms. But their local station, KIXE in Redding, "could be devastated" if those cuts pass the Senate, the paper said. The local unemployment rate is 16 percent, so member donations often can be hard to come by. "The victim from this cut will be all of the red-state rural stations," said Phil Smith, KIXE g.m. "I told Congressman Herger, 'You're going to be wiping out all of your friends with this.' "

Feb 20, 2011

LA Times pop music critic going to NPR Music

Ann Powers, the Los Angeles Times pop music critic since 2006, is joining NPR Music and will switch to contributor status at the newspaper, LA Observed is reporting. Powers opined on the recent Grammy Awards on the NPR Music website. "There is no more articulate authority on pop music in the country than Ann," wrote Sally Hofmeister, Times assistant managing editor, in a memo to staff.

Minority, indie filmmaking will suffer in wake of federal cuts: Consortium board member

Eric Easter, a board member of the National Black Programming Consortium, has a column on the Root website pointing out if CPB funding is indeed axed, "As usual, the hardest-hit victims won't be PBS or NPR; they'll be the people on the ground – minority and independent filmmakers and digital storytellers for whom public grants are often their sole source of funding. We can't allow this to happen."

Feb 19, 2011

Public broadcasting national orgs say they'll continue to work to restore CPB funding

Reactions are coming in to the House vote to pass the Continuing Resolution that zeroes out $460 million in advance funding for CPB.

From Pat Harrison, president of CPB:

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) provides funding for community-based public television and radio stations and program producers who create unique and trusted content that serves the educational and informational needs of this country. We would like to express our appreciation to the many Members of the House of Representatives who recognize the value of this service to the nation and, especially, to the people in their home districts. Specifically, we would like to thank Representatives Blumenauer, Markey, Lowey and others who are leading the fight to retain federal funding for CPB. We will continue to work with these Representatives and with members of the Senate to educate them about the importance of the federal investment in public media.

From PBS:

The elimination of funding for public broadcasting approved by the House of Representatives threatens millions of citizens throughout America with the loss of services that they rely on, especially parents and children. PBS' nearly 360 member stations will be severely impacted. Smaller and rural stations, those that operate in areas with the most limited media choices, would feel the most dramatic effects.

“PBS and independently owned and operated public television stations are America’s largest classroom, available to all of America’s children – including those who can’t attend preschool,” said PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger. “PBS' educational programming, as well as our training resources and tools for teachers prepare children for success in school and opens up the world to them in an age-appropriate way and builds critical skills in young students. Costing about one dollar per person per year, public broadcasting is an effective, efficient use of leveraged tax dollars – a public-private partnership that delivers far-reaching services that Americans trust and value.”

“We will continue to work closely with our member stations, other national public broadcasting organizations and the millions of Americans who support public television to make our case to Congress,” Ms. Kerger concluded.

From the Public Media Association, the newly formed intiative from NPR and the Association of Public Television Stations:

Today, the Public Media Association (PMA) expressed deep disappointment with the House vote to eliminate funding for local public television and radio stations. The House vote was 235-189.

“If this House-passed bill stands, it would endanger hundreds of public radio and television stations that serve as educational, informational and cultural lifelines for millions of people nationwide, and it would be a death sentence for stations serving rural and small-town America,” said PMA president Patrick Butler.

“Public broadcasting serves people everywhere, including hundreds of communities where such service would never be profitable,” Butler continued. “To dismantle a public broadcasting system that 170 million Americans regularly rely on for lifelong learning, in-depth news and public affairs programming, and world-class culture – all for the sake of reducing one year’s federal budget deficit by less than three thousandths of one percent – is to recklessly defy the will of the American people, who routinely rank public broadcasting just behind national defense as the best use of taxpayer dollars.

“We urge the Senate to reject this House action, and we hope the final decision on this matter will recognize the enduring value of public broadcasting as America’s largest classroom, its greatest stage, and its most trusted and comprehensive source of information for the citizens of the world’s greatest democracy,” Butler concluded.

House passes Continuing Resolution, zeroing out $460 million in CPB funding

At 4:30 a.m. today (Feb. 19) the House approved a huge package of spending cuts, slashing more than $60 billion that included a $460 advance appropriation for CPB. The vote: 235 to 189, along party lines. John Boehner (R-Ohio) did not vote, as is tradition for Speaker of the House. Three Republicans opposed the Continuing Resolution. Cuts total some $60 billion in spending from last year's levels in many domestic programs. The CR now goes to the Senate, where and Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), called the cuts "draconian." Amendment 436 from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), co-chair of the bipartisan Public Broadcasting Caucus, would have salvaged CPB's funding but was gaveled down just before midnight Feb. 16 on a procedural decision.

NBR hires Washington lobbyist

Nightly Business Report, acquired last year by businessman Mykalai Kontilai, has hired a lobbyist. Alan Rubin of Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney has registered with Congress to advocate for a Department of Defense education intitative. Kontilai told Current last year that the project entails supplying members of the military with financial educational information. Kontilai's acquisition of the show in 2010 was big news in the pubcasting system, as reported by both Current and, subsequently, the New York Times.

Feb 18, 2011

Haarsager takes on leadership of Public Television Major Market Group

Longtime public broadcaster Dennis Haarsager, who led NPR in an interim capacity prior to President Vivian Schiller's arrival, is the new executive director of the Public Television Major Market Group, an influential consortium of pubTV stations from the nation’s 30 largest broadcast markets. He replaces Bill Kobin, the group's executive director for the last 14 years.

Haarsager retired in 2010 from NPR as its senior v.p. of system resources and technology. He previously spent three decades in Pullman, Wash., as associate v.p. and g.m. for Washington State University’s Educational and Public Media, which includes Northwest Public Radio and pubTV stations KWSU and KTNW. He held management positions with Idaho Public Broadcasting and South Dakota Public Broadcasting, where he began his pubcasting career as a broadcast technician in 1969.

Over the the past 30 years, Haarsager has been deeply involved in the system. He has served on 15 boards affiliated with public broadcasting, including the Small Station Association, the Association of Public Television Stations, PBS, American Public Television and the Station Resource Group. He has consulted for CPB, and numerous stations from Alaska to Florida.

In September 2010 he won the Association of Public Radio Engineers Technology Visionary Award, and in 2008 the Integrated Media Association presented him with a Golden Mouse, for vision and leadership in the challenges of new media for public broadcasting.

Haarsager also writes a popular blog, Technology360.

Top 30 TV markets should provide enough spectrum space, new white paper contends

A white paper (PDF)  presented this week to the FCC predicts there will be little need for spectrum givebacks outside the Top 30 TV markets, Broadcast Engineering reports. The study was conducted by CTIA/The Wireless Association and the Consumer Electronics Association, two trade organizations that strongly favor freeing up 120 MHz of spectrum for mobile devices. It also estimates that the federal government could net some $33 billion on the auctions, after compensating broadcasters that surrender licenses and paying for the technology to repack the DTV band.

Does Tehran Bureau site have "stamp of approval" from PBS and Frontline?

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler writes today (Feb. 18) on the Tehran Bureau, a news site founded in 2008 by Iranian-born and Massachusetts-based Kelly Golnoush Niknejad that entered into an editorial partnership with Frontline in 2009. "Where I have difficulty is in the close and unique association of this relatively new website focused on a single country with Frontline and PBS," Getler writes. "Tehran Bureau appears online under the Frontline and PBS banners as part of the Frontline site. That looks to me, and I assume to some others who come upon the site, like a big-time stamp of approval from two names that stand for journalistic credibility and distance."

Jefferson Public Radio to renovate two historic properties in Medford, Ore.

The JPR Foundation, which supports Jefferson Public Radio in Ashland, Ore., has big plans – $7 million in big plans, to be exact, reports the Mail Tribune in Medford, Ore. The NPR member station will be moving from a basement at Southern Oregon University into an historic 1910 brick warehouse in Medford that was donated to foundation earlier this month. After renovations, in addition to the pubradio offices and studios, the warehouse will contain the Western States Museum of Broadcasting, a cafe and auditorium. JPR also is closing a deal to buy the Holly Theatre in Medford this spring, with plans to remodel the 1930 building. JPR previously had renovated the Cascade Theatre in Redding, Calif. for its studios there (Current, Aug. 2, 1999).

"Will this be a challenge, and will it be taxing? It will be," said Ron Kramer, executive director of JPR. He said plans to build a 40,000-square-foot building on the SOU campus were scrapped after estimates came in between $16 million to $20 million – too expensive during a tough economy.

Feb 17, 2011

How's broadband availability in your community? Find out on the map

The Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) today (Feb. 17) unveiled the first public, searchable nationwide map of broadband Internet availability. In an announcement, NTIA said the data will support efforts "to expand broadband access and adoption in communities at risk of being left behind in the 21st century economy and help businesses and consumers seeking information on their high-speed Internet options."

Obama budget signals priority for public broadcasting, new press secretary says

New White House Press secretary Jay Carney indicated that President Obama puts a priority on noncommercial broadcasting funding, reports Broadcasting & Cable. Carney called the president's budget, released this week, a road map showing his priorities. A reporter asked Carney if the president saw a "universal American value" in public broadcasting, and he replied, "The budget represents his priorities, and I think you can read into that." President Obama's new budget increases funding for CPB from $430 million in FY11 to $445 million in 2012.

Both sides continue to speak out on value of pubcasting

Two more of the many opinion pieces circulating on public broadcasting funding:

On the side of public media, WGBH President Jon Abbott and his Boston colleague Charles Kravetz, g.m. of WBUR, say sacrificing money for public broadcasting will make little difference in America's budget woes. "Does the federal deficit need to be addressed? Of course," they write today (Feb. 17) in the Boston Globe. "But gutting public radio and public television is not the answer. Eliminating the government’s investment in public broadcasting would reduce the $1.5 trillion federal budget deficit by less than three ten-thousandths of one percent."

Stating the case against funding on his blog is Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), author of S. 178, which calls for elimination of CPB funding. "Shows like Sesame Street are multi-million dollar enterprises capable of thriving in the private market," he writes. "According to the 990 tax form all nonprofits are required to file, Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell received $956,513 – nearly a million dollars – in compensation in 2008. And, from 2003 to 2006, Sesame Street made more than $211 million from toy and consumer product sales. When taxpayer funding for public broadcasting ends, rest assured, Cookie Monster will still be fed."

Sesame Workshop, meanwhile, is declining press interviews on the funding fight, and referring reporters to a Feb. 15 statement on its website, which says in part: “At this critical time when we need to keep America competitive by maintaining a better grip on our nation's finances, we also must continue to provide resources for families of young children whose circumstances are under severe economic or other hardships. For these reasons, we believe it is critical that the Congress do its utmost to continue to provide maximum resources to CPB during this critical budget cycle.”

CR amendment to fund CPB tossed out due to point of order

The amendment from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oreg.) restoring CPB funds to the Continuing Resolution under debate in the House was gavelled down on a procedural matter just before midnight last night (Feb. 16). Blumenauer's Amendment 436 would have provided $460 million in fiscal 2013 CPB funding by doing away with IRS tax breaks on oil or gas wells. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) raised a point of order that the funding offset was not allowed; the Chair agreed.

"It’s not that Democrats tried to do something nonsensical here, it’s that Republicans have set up the rules to tie our hands," Blumenauer spokesman Derek Schlickeisen told Current. "If you’re going to offset the funding for CPB, you have to do it within the Labor-HHS bill, as opposed to anywhere else within the budget. That’s what Republicans objected to. This forces us to find the offset within a very narrow set of programs that families depend on and which are not wasteful."

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), author of H.R. 68 (to defund CPB) and H.R. 69 (to zero out NPR programming) funding, said he "personally enjoys some of the programming, but it's not the issue whether we like it or not. It's whether taxpayers should subsidize this, when [public broadcasters] are perfectly capable of surviving and thriving in the open market."

Nevertheless, supporters including Reps. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) – who stood beside a poster of Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie being handed a pink piece of paper reading, "GOPink Slip. You are fired." – continued speaking on the value of public broadcasting.

When Markey began discussing elimination of the the oil and gas deductions, he was met with an objection by Rehberg that Markey's time to speak had expired. Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.) yielded back one minute to Markey, who said the objection was understandable, as Rehberg supports those tax breaks. "This is a misallocation of resources to big oil instead of Big Bird," Markey said.

C-SPAN is estimating a final vote on the CR is "possible late today." Republicans are still trying to cut a total of $61 billion from the current fiscal year's budget.

To recap the funding picture for CPB at this point:

For 2011: If enacted, this CR would rescind any unobligated CPB funds for this year.

For 2012: The general CPB account for 2012 ($445 million, forward funded in FY10) is safe. A total of $86 million for specific items was cut (station economic stabilization, $25 million; digital upgrades, $36 million; and radio interconnection, $25 million).

For 2013: The FY11 request for FY2013 zeros out all public broadcasting support. The President’s request in FY11 (for 2013) was $460 million, and that was the amount in the draft appropriations bill for FY11 that Blumenauer sought to restore.

Feb 16, 2011

FCC's Genachowski won't confirm voluntary spectrum auction in oversight hearing

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that he has "some dark suspicions" that broadcasters may face mandatory spectrum givebacks for an upcoming auction, reports Broadcasting & Cable. At an FCC oversight hearing in Washington today (Feb. 16), Dingell pushed Genachowski for a yes or no answer as to whether the auction, which will free up bandwidth for mobile devices, will be voluntary. "We haven't addressed that question," Genachowski answered. "We've proposed a win-win-win incentive auctions that will free up billions of dollars and bring market incentives into spectrum allocations, helping give this country what it needs – a lot more spectrum for mobile broadband."

"Do you believe that a broadcaster who does not participate in voluntary incentive auctions should be forced to relinquish its current spectrum allocation, yes or no?" Dingell demanded. When Genachowski began talking about the importance of broadcasting, Dingell accused him of "contemplating your navel" and asked for a response in writing.

Pubradio's Alan Chartock speaks out against Republicans, specifically funding foe Lamborn

Alan Chartock, president of WAMC, Northeast Public Radio, takes on House Republicans  in a strongly worded piece in today's (Feb. 16) Huffington Post. Why now? "As almost anyone in the system knows, I am probably the most frequent critic of NPR and its leadership," Chartock writes. "But there are times when you really have to speak up and this is one of them."

His main target is Colorado Rep. Doug Lamborn, who wrote a January op-ed in The Hill calling NPR "a good place to start cutting federal spending." Chartock criticizes Lamborn's insistence that "no one can justify paying for services that are widely available in the private market."

"Frankly, I am surprised that the man's nose isn't growing, a la Pinocchio," Chartock says. "He knows full well that NPR is among the most important and trusted news gathering services in the world. He has to know that there is nothing akin to it in the world of contemporary journalism. He has to know that the right wing has gobbled up many, if not most, of the AM talk stations and turned them into propaganda outlets for the likes of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O' Reilly, Mike Savage (nee Weiner) and Glenn Beck. So it certainly stands to reason that these people and their Congressional mouthpieces would try to rid society of a network that at least tries to adhere to presenting all sides, something the aforementioned disciples of hatred would know nothing about."

Arthur travels to Capitol Hill for press conference to rally pubcasting support

Seven Democratic House members were joined by the PBS Kids character Arthur in a press conference in the breezy sunshine outside the Capitol in Washington today (Feb. 16). Rep. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.) said this latest threat to public broadcasting funding is different from former battles in the mid-'90s and six years ago (Current, June 27, 2005). "Back then, there was a strong, moderate, thoughtful Republican base of support," he said. "Now there is a partisan undercurrent that is unsettling." Rep. Ed Markey (Mass.) said because of the importance of local pubstations to their constituents, "there is a razor-sharp edge to this issue back home." Rep. Betty McCollum brought along her stuffed Elmo (above, Current image), and Big Bird did indeed make an appearance, as he has in past funding battles – but this time, in miniature form on the podium, accompanied by an even-smaller Grover. Rounding out legislative attendees were Rep. Nita Lowey (N.Y.), a staunch supporter during previous battles; Rep. Sam Farr (Calif.); Rep. Paul Tonko (N.Y.); and Rep. Bill Owens (N.Y.). Arthur stood at attention quietly observing the proceedings, and was thanked for his service to America at the end of the proceedings. Watch the press conference here.

Groups announce 1 million signatures to save pubcasting funding

In the last four days, three progressive organizations have collected more than 1 million signatures opposing the GOP plan to defund public broadcasting. The move to zero out federal support of CPB "is clearly political, not budgetary,” said Timothy Karr, campaign director at Free Press. “Every time the GOP is in power, they offer a new measure to kill public broadcasting. But there’s something they don’t take into consideration—the American people love public broadcasting." Other groups collecting signatures are are and CREDO Action

Mister Rogers goes to Washington, take 2

If you're looking for a pitch for public media, marketer Izzy Smith points to an entrancing moment of political theater posted on Public Radio Exchange. Producer Roman Mars retells the story of Fred Rogers' moment in a 1969 Senate hearing, playing opposite longtime Rhode Island Sen. John Pastore. "It's like Capra, isn't it?" Mars comments, but to his credit Mars points out that Pastore was an ally of President Johnson in supporting the fledgling thing called public broadcasting. YouTube has the video, with a young Fred Rogers at the witness table.

Santorum to House GOP: Fans of Barney, Sesame Street 'hit you pretty hard'

It's unlikely that the House GOP's push to defund public broadcasting will succeed, according to former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a potential candidate for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Santorum is a veteran of earlier congressional battles to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's federal appropriation. In an interview on Fox News yesterday, he recalled how it played out: the "Barney contingent came out and the Sesame Street contingent came out, and these are programs that are popular among families and so they hit you pretty hard." HuffPo and GOP12, a blog covering the 2012 field of Republicans running for president, have video clips.

Pubcasting exec says "we're embarrassed" at support, Adweek reports, the outspoken advocacy group at the forefront of all things progressive, has turned its home page into a petition opposing proposed funding cuts to public broadasting, and e-mailed its members to sign it. And pubcasting execs appreciate that effort, right? Well . . .

Several who spoke with Adweek "wish MoveOn would have stayed quiet," the advertising mag reports. They’re concerned that the group’s support "will help opponents paint public broadcasting as a tool of the left wing, rather than a thoughtful, educational and often high-brow approach to news and culture."

Adweek quoted one exec as saying of the assistance: “We’re embarrassed.”

But PBS President Paula Kreger disagreed. "When you look at the breadth of people talking about us right now, they aren't all left- or right-wing crazy people,” Kreger told Adweek. “MoveOn is out there, but so are others. It's a stretch to point to them and say, 'See, they're all one.’ It's a polarizing time, and there are some people who look for these opportunities."

Feb 15, 2011

Pubcasting enthusiasts posting Twibbons of support

You Twitter? You a public broadcasting fan? This Twibbon's for you.

"Character from one of America's favorite public television shows" to the rescue

Six House Democrats are planning a press conference for 11:15 a.m. Eastern Wednesday (Feb. 16) to announce their efforts to oppose cuts proposed for CPB in H.R.1, the Continuing Resolution under debate this week. Reps. Ed Markey (Mass.), Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Nita Lowey (Iowa), Sam Farr (Calif.) and Paul Tonko and Bill Owens (both N.Y.) "will be joined by a character from one of America’s favorite public television shows" on the House side of the east front of the Capitol. Could it be . . . the "Big Bird defense"? Fifteen years ago the tactic rescued CPB funding by a 2-to-1 House majority during Newt Gingrich’s reign as House speaker. Last October, former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston (R-La.) acknowledged to Fox News that back in '95, “It was Big Bird that killed us" (Current, Nov. 29, 2010).

UPDATE: Nope, no Big Bird defense. A spokesperson for Sesame Workshop tells Current that there will not be any Sesame Street characters present.

How about "retransmission revenue" for PBS?

Politics Daily senior correspondent Jill Lawrence really likes PBS and NPR. But she wants them defunded. "It's time to end [pubcasting's] role as a political football and a symbol of what government shouldn't be doing," she writes. "It's time to find another way to help public broadcasting thrive."

One idea: Sell PBS programming to cable and satellite companies. Lawrence quotes David Schutz, a veteran broadcast financial and marketing analyst, who said PBS has never looked for "retransmission revenue" from subscription television providers. "Maybe it's time for them to re-evaluate that relationship," he said. Schutz estimates that could bring in from $85 million to $300 million a year for PBS and member stations.

House Energy and Commerce plan calls for examination of NPR "editorial and employment standards"

The House Energy and Commerce Committee plans to "examine certain editorial and employment standards and practices at NPR," Broadcasting & Cable is reporting. The committee's oversight plan, obtained by B&C, cites "recent controversies involving NPR," no doubt meaning the fallout from the firing of correspondent Juan Williams (Current, Nov. 1, 2010).

Ken Burns: Pubcasting services used by all, "regardless of political persuasion"

PBS documentarian Ken Burns issued a statement on public broadcasting today, as debate nears in the House of Representatives on the future of CPB funding. It said in part that discussions over public media support "is always described as a left-right divide. But myriad services in public broadcasting are enjoyed in every state of the union regardless of political persuasion. Public television is particularly a crucial link in ongoing adult education, something we desperately need as we retrain those without jobs." He cited pubcasting's role in providing "in-depth and independent media, along with news, cultural and educational programming," and said it delivers those services "in a nonpartisan, fair, and, most importantly, in-depth fashion. We should not, at this time or any time, forfeit our commitment to the kind of journalism, public affairs, cultural and educational programming that can only be found on public radio and television."

APTS, NPR integrate lobbying efforts to form Public Media Association

The Association of Public Television Stations and NPR are consolidating their lobbying efforts to broaden APTS' advocacy work to include public radio. The Public Media Association will be governed by a legislative council of four pubradio leaders named by the NPR board of directors and four public TV leaders selected by the APTS Action board, along with NPR President Vivian Schiller and APTS President Pat Butler. He will oversee the effort. Mike Riksen, NPR’s vice president for policy and representation, will report directly to Butler on government funding issues. Schiller initiated the discussions with APTS several months ago about aligning their advocacy functions.

Blumenauer attacks "reckless partisan assault" on public broadcasting funding

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), took to the House floor this morning (Feb. 15) to once again speak in favor of public broadcasting on the day that lawmakers will debate the Appropriation bill that zeros out CPB funding. "I fear this reckless partisan assault on public broadcasting will actually hurt our longterm efforts to tame the deficient," he said. "It would mean the loss of a valuable tool to educate and inform the public through a respected and nonpartisan source. This is exactly how to get information to the public on how to deal with the massive deficit problems that we face." He added that efforts to extinguish funding "are attacking one of America’s best public-private partnerships." The Congressman also defended pubcasting on Feb. 11.

The House provides a live stream of floor action, if you want to keep an eye on the debate.

This American Life cracks century-old secret of Coca-Cola's formula

Public radio's This American Life is having website server problems today (try here, it may be up again when you read this). Why? Most probably because it has posted the secret formula for Coca-Cola, which supposedly had not been made public since its first bottling in 1886. Leave it to TAL to unearth a 1979 story on page 28 of the Atlanta Journal Constitution showing a photo of the formula, handwritten by its creator John Pemberton. TAL consulted historian Mark Pendergrast, author of a history of the drink, who (somewhat noncommittally) said: "I think that it certainly is a version of the formula." Care to whip up a batch? London's Daily Mail provides the recipe, along with coverage of TAL's jackpot find. Coriander – who knew?

Feb 14, 2011

FCC reaches out to state broadcasting groups for spectrum webinars

The Federal Communications Commission has sent invitations to webinars on spectrum auction to 15 state broadcast associations, reports the CommLaw Blog. The notice says that FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake and Rebecca Hanson, senior adviser on broadcast spectrum, will describe "the financial opportunities offered by voluntary incentive auctions, as proposed in the FCC’s National Broadband Plan." They'll also discuss "new business model options" that stem from voluntary spectrum givebacks. The Virginia Broadcasting Association announced stations there may take part March 17. No other details are available, the blog noted.

President's proposed budget adds $15 million to CPB funding for 2012

President Barack Obama released his budget today, and support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is safe through fiscal 2014. In fact, funding actually increases from $430 million in FY11 to $445 million in 2012, points out MinnPost media reporter David Brauer. The president does propose cutting $80 million in CPB grants for digital transition, station interconnection infrastructure and station fiscal stabilization, which the system received during the recession (Current, Dec. 14, 2009).

Want to check out the CPB section of the president's budget? Click here (PDF) and search on "Corporation for Public Broadcasting," or go to the bottom of page 1203.

MinnPost plays out scenario of lost federal aid for MPR

How real is the threat by Republicans in Congress to defund public broadcasting, and what difference would an end to federal aid make for Minnesota Public Radio? David Brauer, media writer for MinnPost, assessed the impact of the proposed cuts and the odds that they'll garner support among Senate Democrats after MPR began telling its listeners about the looming House vote. Washington University Professor Steven Smith says pubcasting's allies in the Senate and the White House will only be able to do so much to protect public broadcasting: “Senate Democrats will not go for cuts as deep as the House, but it is possible that CPB will take a significant hit as a part of the ultimate deal,” Smith says. If MPR's $4 million annual CPB grant is cut-off, Brauer reports the funding loss will have ripple effects on the statewide pubradio service and its national programming arm -- especially since it will arrive on the heels of $14 million in revenue losses in 2008-09.

NBR looking to radio show, multiple bureau partnerships

Nightly Business Report is "strongly pursing" a national radio deal, and is hoping to open up to multiple bureau partnerships with pubcasting stations by the end of the year, NBR owner Mykalai Kontilai tells the News on News website. The radio program would be a half-hour audiocast of the weeknight NBR, with an addition 30 minutes of NBR-produced content. "It would involve both of our hosts or some other radio talent," Kontilai said. NBR also has seven proposals out to pubTV stations for bureau partnerships. "We’ve received some positive feedback," he said. "I would hope by the end of the year, we’d have three to five new bureaus opened, one in the Rocky Mountain region, one in the Southwest, one in Southern California, one in Washington, D.C. and one in Chicago. It would put a reporter on the ground to cover breaking stories. We’ve got contracts out for people to review. So we’re pretty late in the process." Kontilai's acquisition of the show in 2010 was big news in the pubcasting system, as reported by both Current and, subsequently, the New York Times.

Feb 13, 2011

Rep. Markey hits GOP for funding reductions, citing CPB

Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement yesterday (Feb. 12) on GOP budget cuts that by "putting the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Pell Grants on the chopping block, Republicans are denying our youngest children and our neediest students the excellence of educational, cultural and informational resources and opportunities both in their homes and in classrooms throughout the nation."

He also said that the reductions were made "to appease demands of its extremist Tea Party caucus."

The House begins debate Tuesday on a Continuing Resolution to keep the government running that includes a proposal to zero out CPB funding by fiscal 2013.

Feb 12, 2011

House debate on Continuing Resolution – including CPB funding – set to begin Tuesday

Debate has been set to start Tuesday (Feb. 15) on H.R. 1, the Continuing Resolution (CR) that would keep the federal government running but also would slash the budget, including ending CPB funding as of fiscal 2013. The resolution also proposes eliminating FY 2011 money for the CPB Digital program, Ready to Learn, the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, the Rural Utility Service's digital work, and Radio Interconnection. "These draconian cuts will deal a devastating blow to local public television and radio stations if enacted," APTS President Patrick Butler cautioned in an e-mail to stations today (Feb. 12).

Amendments are expected to be put forward to save the pubcasting dollars. Those votes could come at any time Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, the message said.

CPB, APTS, NPR and PBS react to House Appropriations bill to zero out pubcasting support

Public broadcasting's so-called "G4" – CPB, PBS, the Association of Public Television Stations advocacy organization and NPR – today (Feb. 12) issued comments on the formal proposal Friday by the House Appropriations Committee to eliminate federal funding for public broadcasting as part of cuts in the Continuing Resolution to keep the government running.

The statement from CPB:

"Federal funding for public media is a smart and careful investment that continues to deliver proven benefits to the American people at both a local and national level. It is a successful example of a vital public-private partnership," said Pat Harrison, president and CEO of CPB.

"We understand the challenges to our economy as a result of increasing budget deficits, but the proposed elimination of funding for [CPB] will not address this challenge in a meaningful way; it represents a disproportionate attack on public media. Further, elimination of CPB would impact millions of Americans who rely on public media for free, quality content that has a mission to educate, inform and inspire. This proposed action would directly result in cuts to the 1,300 public television and radio stations that provide this service; impact thousands of jobs in rural, suburban and urban communities throughout the country already reeling from a faltering economy; and eliminate a valued service – content that strengthens our civil society through children's and educational programming, lifelong learning for all Americans, and quality entertainment."

The statement from PBS:

“PBS and public television stations are America’s largest classroom, the nation’s largest stage for the arts and a trusted window to the world – all at the cost of about $1 per person per year,” said PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger. “Federal funding provides vital seed money for PBS’ nearly 360 member stations, which are locally owned and operated, supporting important programming and initiatives, particularly among underserved groups like rural populations who wouldn’t otherwise be able to access public media content and services.

“We understand that, in this difficult economic environment, it is appropriate for Congress to carefully examine every federal expenditure to ensure its continued value to the American public. Legislation to eliminate funding for public broadcasting overlooks the critical value that PBS member stations provide, especially to parents and their children. It’s America’s children who will feel the greatest loss, especially those who can’t attend preschool. PBS's educational media helps prepare children for success in school and opens up the world to them in an age-appropriate way.”

The statement from APTS:

"Federal funding is essential to the operations of more than 1,000 local public television and radio stations in communities across the country," said APTS President and CEO Patrick Butler. "These local stations enhance the lives of their local communities through educational programming and services in K-12 schools, GED and other lifelong learning services, job training, in-depth coverage of local issues and state legislative proceedings, music and cultural programming, emergency alert and public safety services, and trusted local news and other programming that captures the rich diversity of American life. More than 170 million Americans regularly depend on these services, and they have consistently ranked public broadcasting as the second best use of federal funds, just behind national defense.

"We fully understand that, particularly in a time of economic challenge, it is appropriate for Congress to carefully examine every federal expenditure to assure its continued value to the American taxpayer. Eliminating the investment in public broadcasting would have a microscopic effect on the federal budget deficit but a devastating impact on local communities nationwide."

The statement from NPR:

“The elimination of federal funding would be a significant blow to nearly 900 public radio stations that serve the needs of more than 38 million Americans with free over-the-air programming they can’t find anywhere else,” said NPR CEO and President Vivian Schiller. “It would diminish stations’ ability to bring high-quality local, national and international news to their communities, as well as local arts, music and cultural programming that other media don’t present. Rural and economically distressed communities could lose access to this programming altogether if their stations go dark.

“The public values and increasingly relies on the trustworthy news and information that public radio provides. The growing number of public radio listeners speaks to the hunger for independent local media sources that help make sense of what’s going on in their own community and around the world.”

Feb 11, 2011

Virginia Senate, House disagree on $2.7 million for public broadcasting

Virginia legislators have lots to talk about before agreeing on a budget, and that includes public broadcasting. The Senate restored $2.7 million that Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) proposed cutting from public broadcasting, while the House defeated a proposal to restore even a portion of the funding, according to the Roanoke Times.

Word World declares Chapter 11 bankruptcy

In 2005, WTTW's proposed preschool literacy show Word World was a surprise recipient of more than $7 million in Ready to Learn funding from the U.S. Department of Education. The perky program premiered on PBS in 2007, and went on to win three Emmy Awards.

On Thursday (Feb. 10), Word World LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Reuters is reporting the company has liabilities of more than $10 million, including a $3.3 million convertible note and unpaid debts to animation and production studios. It has secured lines of credit allowing it to continue operations while it restructures.

"It's the classic story of a great company with a bad balance sheet that ran out of time," said Don Moody, c.e.o. of Word World LLC.

Word World revenue comes from merchandising and licensing deals from more than 100 foreign countries where the show is aired, Moody said.

House members ask colleagues to preserve CPB funding

Twenty members of the House of Representatives on Thursday (Feb. 10) urged their colleagues to sign a letter of support for public broadcasting funding (PDF). The letter reads in part: "We can all agree that we should right-size government spending, but we must do it in a way that doesn’t deprive citizens across the country of a fundamental way to be educated, informed and inspired. We cannot turn our backs on one of America’s most successful public-private partnerships, an indispensable service that delivers exceptional value to citizens in small towns and major cities. It is an appropriate role for our government and one that we hope you will support."

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) authored the request, and spoke up for pubcasting on the House floor today. takes up pubcasting funding fight

The progressive website has a petition on its site supporting public broadcasting as the debate on federal funding nears. From the page: "The Republicans just released their budget proposal, and it zeroes out funding for both NPR and PBS – the worst proposal in more than a decade. We need to tell Republicans that cutting off funding was unacceptable last time they were in charge, and it's unacceptable now." Signers' information is zapped directly to their Congressional reps with the message, "Congress must protect NPR and PBS and guarantee them permanent funding, free from political meddling."

Berkman's Online Media Legal Network to assist nonprofit investigative journos

The Berkman Center’s Online Media Legal Network will collaborate with the Investigative News Network (INN) to help its member nonprofit news organizations find pro bono and low-cost legal help. Based at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet Society, Online Media Legal Network is a legal assistance and referral service of more than 100 law firms, law school clinics, in-house counsel and 7,000 individual lawyers nationwide that provide free and reduced-fee legal assistance to qualifying independent journalists and journalism ventures. The INN was conceived at the 2009 investigative public media conference in Pocantico, N.Y. Its members include some of the top pubmedia news orgs, including California Watch, Center for Investigative Reporting and the Center for Public Integrity.

Feb 10, 2011

Influential pioneer of pubcasting Robert Schenkkan dies at 93

Robert F. Schenkkan, who worked with President Lyndon Johnson on the 1967 act that established CPB and was one of "the Six Pack" of early pubTV station managers who provided counsel on the membership design of the Public Broadcasting Service, died Wednesday (Feb. 9) in Austin, Texas, of complications of dementia. He was 93.

Top public broadcasters were quick to pay their respects. Jim Lehrer, anchor and editor of PBS NewsHour, told the Austin American-Statesman, “He was the first to understand the immediate meaning and ultimate importance of public broadcasting. He really got it. It was ‘educational’ TV when he started, and he realized it could be so much more. He also believed very strongly that if public broadcast was going to deal with news and public affairs, it couldn’t be seen as a political branch of government or special interest. He protected that from all who might have thought otherwise and did so stridently, eloquently and repeatedly.”

Schenkkan helped found Austin's KUT-FM in 1958, and KLRN in San Antonio in 1962. (KLRU broke  from KLRN in 1987 and is now the Austin PBS affiliate.)

“Only Bob could have persuaded LBJ to see that it was a good thing for Austin to have a noncommercial television station, even though it would compete with Johnson’s own KTBC,” longtime PBS news journalist Bill Moyers told the Texas newspaper. "But Bob was a visionary in his quiet-spoken way, and he had this talent for persuading people without any histrionics – because he made such sense, was so principled and sought nothing for himself from the outcome. I’ve never known anyone more dedicated to the community’s interest. . . . And others fell behind him from sheer admiration.”

He worked with Johnson on passing the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

In 1969, CPB's Ward Chamberlin turned to a representative group of station managers for advice on formation of PBS. The managers became known as "the Six Pack," according to The Vanishing Vision: The Inside Story of Public Television (by James Day, 1995). There was Schenkkan, James Loper, and Presley Holmes from the NET (National Educational Television) Affiliates Council; and Hartford Gunn Jr., Warren Kraetzer, and Lloyd Kaiser from the board of the Educational Television Stations group.

Schenkkan authored the influential paper, "Public Broadcasting and Journalistic Integrity: A Policy Statement of Public Broadcasting Service," in January 1971. While g.m. of WRLN, he was also the first chairman of the board of the ETS (Educational Television Stations) division of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters.

He protested to the White House in the final days of President Nixon’s presidency, as Nixon loaded the CPB board with partisan appointees who threatened to stop money for public affairs programming. “Bob really got his dander up, and thank God he did,” Lehrer said. “He was forceful, and he had credibility. He was a natural defender against the onslaught. Our defense against the Nixons of the world is that we’re instruments of nobody – not Nixon or any other administration.”

He always held firm to the belief that the educational aspect of public broadcasting was of utmost importance. As he told Current in 1993, "When you say something to that [station] board about education, everybody sits up a little straighter. . . . There is an enormous amount of concern out there about the education of children." He was one of three founding administrators of the College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin.

Schenkkan was born in New York to Dutch immigrant parents. He studied drama at the University of Virginia and earned a graduate degree from the University of North Carolina. He fought with the Navy at Guadalcanal during World War II.

While on leave from the service, he married his college sweetheart, Jean McKenzie, and the couple had four sons: Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Jr.; Tex, an executive with the San Francisco firm Digidesign, which makes music hardware and software; Pete, an attorney in Austin; and Dirk, an attorney in San Francisco. Jean died in 1985. Four years later, he married Phyllis Rothgeb. She survives, along with her sons John and David, and two grandchildren – including actor Benjamin McKenzie of TV's The O.C. and Southland and the indie film Junebug.

Plans for a memorial service are pending.

For his 90th birthday in March 2007, KLRU and KUT hosted a tribute that gathered 150 friends and family members. Accolades poured in, including from Chamberlin and former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Newton Minow. Here's a slide show of the celebration.

Advocacy journalism conference coming soon

Spaces are quickly filling for the "Advocacy Journalism in the Digital Age" conference March 1 at the Newseum. The Ford Foundation and the American University School of Communication are gathering experts in social activism, public policy and journalism to help define the opportunities and challenges created by new digital technologies. Panelists include Clark Hoyt of Bloomberg News, NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard, and Nick Clooney, director of "Journey to Darfur," tracing his trek to the war-torn country with his son, actor George Clooney. RSVP here.

PBS brings in new institutional giving director for its foundation

Karen Avery, former director of foundation relations at the Smithsonian, is the new senior director of institutional giving at the PBS Foundation, working to raise funds from foundation and corporate sectors. She will report to Brian Reddington, senior v.p. of development, who was recently shifted from oversight of the Online Giving Campaign to focus solely on foundation work. Prior to Avery's Smithsonian development work, she was assistant dean of Harvard College where she directed an initiative to raise the awareness of women's issues at Harvard, and served as a hearing officer for complaints of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Obama to back voluntary spectrum auctions in speech today

President Obama will unveil his Wireless Innovation and Infrastructure Initiative in a speech today (Feb. 9) at Northern Michigan University at Marquette, reports National JournalThe speech backs the idea of a voluntary spectrum giveback that could net the government a total of $27.8 billion over the next 10 years, $9.6 billion of which would go to deficit reductions, White House officials said. Those figures are estimates of what the government would have after giving broadcasters and others who relinquish spectrum a share in auction proceeds, and paying the costs of relocating or consolidating spectrum users into different bands.

West Virginia lawmakers take up bill on private fundraising for state pubcasting network

Legislation authorizing the West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority to continue soliciting donations through its private nonprofit fundraising organizations is coming up for a floor vote in the House of Delegates today. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Morgan, responds to a report issued last summer by the state legislature's auditors, who said the pubcasting network's relationships with its sister nonprofits-- the Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting Inc. and the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Foundation Inc. -- circumvent state spending regulations and travel rules. As introduced last month, H.B. 2695 authorizes West Virginia EBA employees to work with the Friends groups and make their broadcasting studios and facilities available to them for the purpose of fundraising. It also addresses governance problems that the EBA grappled with in recent years, including the governor's role in appointing members of the EBA board and in selecting and setting compensation levels for its executive director. The House chamber just initiated today's floor session [calendar here]; live audio of the debate is being streamed here.

New Jersey Network transfer bumped to July 1

New Jersey officials expect to transfer the New Jersey Network pubcasting network to a new overseer on July 1, three months later than originally projected, according to the Star-Ledger. A spokesperson for Montclair State University confirmed it would bid on at least one, if not all, of the three proposals. Richard Stockton College, also in New Jersey, had been considering a bid but may be dropping out. (UPDATE: The Press of Atlantic City is reporting Stockton will not bid.) Sharon Schulman, director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton, said Tuesday (Feb. 8) that “nothing will be turned over to us. They’re keeping the licenses.” That would make the deal more of an operational management contract than a sale, reports Shore News Today. The paper says other potential bidders include WNET, WNYC, WHYY, WBGO and production company Caucus Educational Corporation.

The RFPs seeking bidders to manage the TV network, purchase or manage the radio network, were released Feb. 4. Gov. Chris Christie wants NJN off state support due to a budget crunch (Current, July 6, 2010).

PBS Memorial Day concert work wins Writers Guild Award

Television writer Joan Meyerson has won a Writers Guild Award for her work on PBS's 2010 National Memorial Day Concert. She also won this award – the full category name is the Award for Outstanding Script Television Comedy/Variety/Music, Awards, Tributes/Specials – for the 2006 Memorial Day show. PBS has been producing the program live from the Capitol grounds for more than 20 years.

Feb 9, 2011

APTS mobilizes stations as House vote nears on pubcasting funding

Anticipating a floor vote to eliminate funding for public broadcasting next week, the Association for Public Television Stations today (Feb. 9) called for stations to join the first big push to build political support in the House of Representatives.

The House Appropriations Committee is preparing to debate a Continuing Resolution that would fund the government after the current CR expires next month, and CPB is among many federally-funded entities that could be zeroed out. The bill is expected to come to the floor during the week of Feb. 14. House leaders have said it will be debated under open rules that allow lawmakers to offer amendments targeting specific programs, according to APTS.

But CPB is already included in a list of $35 billion in recommended spending cuts that Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) shared with rank-and-file Republicans today.

APTS is advising stations to "exercise your First Amendment right to use your broadcast resources to marshal your community supporters to advocate for continued federal funding." It also provided detailed talking points for use in communicating the message, particularly to station boards, and a briefing on the do's and don'ts of making on-air appeals for political support.

According to APTS, there are now six bills in Congress to either defund or reduce public broadcasting support:

– H.R. 68, by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), to amend the Communications Act of 1934 to prohibit federal funding for CPB after fiscal year 2013;

– H.R. 69, by Lamborn, which separately targets public radio programming funding;

– H.R. 235, the "Cut Unsustainable and Top-Heavy Spending Act of 2011," by Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas);

– H.R. 408, Ohio Republican Rep. Jim Jordan's "Spending Reduction Act of 2011";

– S.178, the Senate version of that bill, by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), and

– S. 162, the Cut Federal Spending Act of 2011 by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Nearly 1,400 nonprofs and agencies manage access channels, project finds

Here's the third update on Rob McCausland's interesting Mapping Community Television project. (Here are parts one and two.) McCausland is director of information and organizing services at Alliance for Community Media, and is mapping every community access provider in America. Tuesday's (Feb. 8) post reveals he's located 471 nonprofit organizations and 907 government agencies that manage access channels. The alliance is a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to citizen access to media.

WITF sings, "Go Public!" on its uber-catchy YouTube video

Central Pennsylvania's WITF has released what may very well be the first hip-hop/bouncy pop/rap music video supporting Congressional support for pubcasting funding. "Go Public!" was composed and produced by the WITF staff, who also star in the three-minute spot. Be forewarned: You'll wanna get up and dance in your cubicle.

Craigslist founder backs pubmedia funding

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, posted a statement on his blog Tuesday (Feb. 8) in support of pubcasting funding. "I feel that public service media is a big deal," he writes, "and that NPR will be a dominant force in news media." He also directs visitors to the 170 Million Americans advocacy website.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute invests $60 million for TV science documentaries

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which has supported Nova, scienceNOW and science reporting on the PBS NewsHour, has announced a $60 million documentary film initiative "that aims to bring high-quality, compelling science features to television," it says. This is the institute's first initiative for documentary films, according to Sean B. Carroll, vice president for science education. Its priority will be "to tell intriguing science stories that will grab the viewer," Carroll says. The Chevy Chase, Md.-based institute is a biomedical research organization that employs 380 scientists, including 13 Nobel Prize winners.

FCC fines KCET $10,000, alleging public file access violations

The Federal Communications Commission is fining KCET in Los Angeles $10,000 for failing to make available the station's public inspection file. The FCC posted the notice (PDF) Tuesday (Feb. 8).

It describes how an agent from the FCC enforcement bureau's L.A. district office, without identifying himself as an agent, showed up on Aug. 19, 2010, at the station lot's main gate and requested to see the file. A security guard told him he had to make an appointment, and denied his request to speak with the station manager. The agent left. The same thing happened the next day.

On the third day, the agent identified himself and showed FCC credentials to the guard. "After a thorough examination of the agent’s badge and several phone calls to Station KCET personnel inside the building," the FCC report says, "the agent was allowed to go inside of the facility and view the public inspection file. The agent found that the Station KCET public inspection file was complete."

A KCET station rep subsequently told the agent that the general counsel was not in the office on those days, and she didn't know rules regarding public access to the records. The security supervisor said in general, persons wishing to view the file must make an appointment, and cited KCET's security protocol to conduct screenings at the gate.

The alleged violations took place before the station declared its independence from PBS membership (Current, Oct. 18, 2010).

UPDATE: KCET sent Current this statement in response: "As stated in the FCC notice, KCET's Public Inspection Files are in order. KCET is looking into the alleged violation and will respond to the FCC notice by the March 10, 2011 deadline."