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Mar 9, 2011

Senate votes down Continuing Resolution

The Senate today (March 9) rejected the Republican Continuing Resolution proposal, which would end funding for CPB. Broadcasting & Cable noted that the move was expected.

Video sting? Schiller resignation? No big deal for these listeners

The NPR video sting and subsequent resignation of its president Vivian Schiller prompted little reaction from listeners at two Washington state NPR affiliates. The Seattle Times reports that "the news was greeted in Seattle with a collective shrug: two e-mails and one phone call" to KUOW-FM. Station President Wayne Roth said that "unlike the Juan Williams affair, that got a lot of response from both listeners and nonlisteners, this seems relatively quiet." At KPLU in Tacoma, two e-mails arrived. "They just wanted to know what happened," said Paul Stankavich, g.m. "It was a good conversation." Has your station heard from viewers or listeners? Let Current know.

APTS, CPB react to undercover video sting, NPR president's resignation

The Association for Public Television Stations and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting today (March 9) issued statements regarding the undercover video sting of NPR executives Ron Schiller and Betsy Liley, and today's resignation of NPR President Vivian Schiller.

From APTS President Patrick Butler:

Since assuming the presidency of NPR two years ago, Vivian Schiller has led her organization to new heights of news coverage, audience growth and financial strength, and her friends and admirers in public broadcasting wish her well in the next chapter of her remarkable career.

The comments of former NPR executive Ron Schiller are indefensible and reprehensible, and in no way do they reflect the philosophy of the thousands of people in public broadcasting who are committed to providing a civil forum for in-depth, objective reporting and discussions of public issues at the local, national and international levels.

Public opinion research consistently finds enthusiastic support for public broadcasting across the ideological and political spectrum, and the most recent survey finds 69 percent of Americans favoring continued or increased federal funding for public broadcasting. One hundred seventy million Americans regularly turn to their local public broadcasting station for the most trusted news and public affairs, educational and cultural programming in America.

We are confident that the millions of viewers and listeners, students and citizens who depend on public television and radio continue to believe, as we do, that public broadcasting provides an essential service to a self-governing society and that this service richly deserves continued public support.

From CPB:

For nearly 50 years, the federal investment in public broadcasting has helped to strengthen our society. Public broadcasting educates our children, increases our sense of community as Americans, and provides a respectful non-commercial alternative on a hyper-commercial media landscape.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is responsible for the health and vitality of public broadcasting in the United States and the investment of taxpayer dollars in locally owned and controlled public broadcasting stations and national producers and distributors of content such as PBS and NPR.

Recent events involving NPR officials have not reflected the values and aspirations of public broadcasting. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is committed to fair, balanced, objective, and transparent journalism that reflects a variety of viewpoints. The Corporation is committed to editorial standards that clearly separate decisions about content from financial or political considerations. We demand respect for all Americans whatever their racial or ethnic background, political belief, educational level, or occupation.

The Corporation condemns the unprofessional conduct and offensive statements by Mr. Schiller and Ms. Liley that are inconsistent with these values. We will continue to work with our local station and national network partners to achieve these values and we will support NPR in its search for a Chief Executive who can strengthen NPR and fulfill them.

Austin City Limits hires its first general manager

KLRU's Austin City Limits has created a new position, general manager, and hired former Arista Records exec Tom Gimbel. Bill Stotesbery, station c.e.o. and g.m., said the growth of the franchise over the past several years (Current, July 20, 2009) created the need for the post. Gimbel's background also includes founding Clatterhead, a social media advertising and marketing company, and High Wire Music, an independent management, label services, and music distribution company for more than 20 artists. Gimbel will oversee business development, production and digital strategies for the longtime hit pubcasting show.

Knight Foundation gets new Journalism and Media Innovation v.p.

Michael Maness is the new vice president of the Knight Foundation's Journalism and Media Innovation program. Maness joins Knight after more than three years as vice president of innovation and design at Gannett. He succeeds Eric Newton, who becomes senior adviser to Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibarg├╝en (a former PBS Board chairman).

During the last five years, the Knight Foundation has invested more than $100 million in its Journalism and Media Innovation Initiative, which includes work on national media policy, technology innovation, public media transformation and the evolution of the World Wide Web. Part of the initiative is the popular Knight News Challenge, now in its fifth year, which competitively awards up to $5 million a year to develop platforms, tools and services to inform and transform community news, conversations and information distribution.

House Whip predicts another no agreement on Continuing Resolution by deadline

The Continuing Resolution, with its elimination of CPB funding, probably won't be passed by the new deadline of March 18, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told a breakfast meeting for reporters today (March 9). He said Congress will probably pass another temporary measure to avoid a federal government shutdown.

President still supports pubcasting funding in wake of NPR controversies, press secretary says

The White House today (March 9) signaled that it still supports taxpayer funding for NPR, despite news of the video sting and NPR President Vivian Schiller's resignation. The Associated Press is reporting that White House spokesman Jay Carney said that both Democratic and Republican presidents have supported such funding in the past and that there remains a need to support public broadcasting.

Video sting producer's fake Muslim group also contacted PBS, it confirms

PBS tells the Associated Press that it was contacted by the same fake Muslim group that arranged a meeting with an NPR executive and secretly videotaped him calling the tea party racist. PBS spokeswoman Anne Bentley said today (March 9) that the network had an initial conversation with the Muslim Education Action Center but had concerns about the group. She says a PBS executive was contacted, but when PBS couldn't confirm the organization's credentials, they halted discussions.

NPR ombudsman answers questions in live chat

Alicia Shepard, NPR ombudsman, took questions in a live online chat at WashingtonPost.com at 1:30 p.m. Eastern today (March 9). The chat is archived. Shepard said that Betsy Liley, NPR's senior director of institutional giving, who was also caught in the sting video, is now on administrative leave. "I'm not sure how she could continue effectively for NPR," Shepard said.

Shepard also referred participants to her blog posting on NPR President Vivian Schiller's resignation.

Ron Schiller declines new post at Aspen Institute, citing sting controversy

The Aspen Institute has issued a statement that Ron Schiller, at the center of NPR's video sting, has decided not to join its staff. "Ron Schiller has informed us that, in light of the controversy surrounding his recent statements, he does not feel that it's in the best interests of the Aspen Institute for him to come work here," the institute said in a statement Wednesday (March 9). Schiller was set to start work with the institute on April 1 as director of its Arts and Harman-Eisner Artist-in-Residence programs.

Josh Silver departing Free Press after nine years, to launch Democracy Fund

Josh Silver, president of the Free Press media reform organization, is stepping down to become founding c.e.o. of the Democracy Fund, a foundation that will "challenge the influence of corporate lobbyists over government policymaking," Free Press said in a statement Tuesday (March 9). Silver was a co-founder, with media scholar Robert W. McChesney, of Free Press in 2002, and will remain on its board of directors. The organization has been a strong supporter of public broadcasting and has fought for government funding increases (Current, May 10, 2010). Stepping into the leadership role at Free Press will be Craig Aaron, currently managing director. Aaron co-authored Changing Media: Public Interest Policies for the Digital Age. Before joining Free Press, he was an investigative reporter for Public Citizen's Congress Watch. (Image: Free Press)

Cap Hill Democrats suggest broadening budget cuts to subsidies, entitlements

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Senate Democratic leaders are proposing broadening budget cuts into the "more politically volatile terrain" of subsidies and entitlement programs to break an impasse over Republican proposals. Recommendations from the two parties on the fiscal 2011 Continuing Resolution are $50 billion apart. Reductions in the GOP version include zeroing out CPB's $460 million appropriation (Current, March 7, 2011). The paper notes that this change in Democratic strategy could mark a major shift in the budget battle. Up until now, debate has focused strictly on discretionary programs controlled by annual appropriations, a tiny amount of total federal spending. Most of the rest of the budget consists of mandatory spending such as Medicare and Social Security. So far, Republicans "reacted coolly" to the Democratic suggestion, the paper says.

Vivian Schiller resigns as NPR president

Vivian Schiller has resigned as NPR president, the news organization has just announced. Her departure, effective immediately, follows yesterday's release of a video sting involving NPR fundraising chief Ron Schiller, who exited late yesterday.

In a statement posted on NPR's own news blog, NPR Chair Dave Edwards said the NPR Board accepted Vivian Schiller's resignation with "understanding, genuine regret, and great respect for her leadership of NPR these past two years."

"Vivian brought vision and energy to this organization. She led NPR back from the enormous economic challenges of the previous two years. She was passionately committed to NPR's mission, and to stations and NPR working collaboratively as a local-national news network."

Joyce Slocum, SVP of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, will be appointed to the position of interim c.e.o., and an NPR executive transition committee will work on details of recruiting new leadership. Before coming to NPR, Slocum was in charge of business and legal affairs at HIT Entertainment, a major producer of children's television programs.

Ron Schiller, who is no relation to Vivian Schiller, already planned to leave NPR in May for a new job at the Aspen Institute when a videotape of his lunch meeting with two men posing as prospective donors provided fresh ammunition to conservatives seeking to end public broadcasting's federal subsidies. Schiller described members of the Tea Party as "racist, racist people" and made disparaging remarks about the Republican Party in the heavily edited video, which was produced by conservative activist filmmaker James O'Keefe. Late yesterday, Ron Schiller apologized for his comments and announced that his resignation was effective immediately.

With the departure of both Schillers, NPR has now lost three top executives in the fall-out over last fall's dismissal of former NPR analyst Juan Williams. Ellen Weiss, senior news v.p., resigned under pressure in January.

In his statement this morning, Edwards acknowledged the turbulence at NPR and its effects on public broadcasting: "I recognize the magnitude of this news – and that it comes on top of what has been a traumatic period for NPR and the larger public radio community. The Board is committed to supporting NPR through this interim period and has confidence in NPR's leadership team."

UPDATE: NPR's David Folkenflik is reporting that Vivian Schiller was forced to resign.