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."