Mar 15, 2011

PBS, NPR need to "start biting back" at funding foes, Free Press head says

Craig Aaron, new managing director of the Free Press media reform organization, posted a column on Huffington Post after presenting 1.2 million signatures collected by his group, and CREDO Action, on Cap Hill today (March 15). "Unfortunately," he wrote, "there are those out there, even inside public media's institutions, who tell organizations like and Free Press to keep it down. They would rather we stayed below the radar. They seem to think they can appease their attackers by lying low or even offering up a few 'scalps' (to quote one insider involved in the dismissal of NPR's Vivian Schiller). They persist in this doomed strategy even though every time they back down, the attacks and the nasty rhetoric from the other side heats up."

"PBS and NPR have been kicked in the teeth for decades — now it's time for them to start biting back," he said. "This is not the end of efforts by Free Press and our allies to rally public support for our media. This is just the start. Our members are going to be standing up and standing strong, here in Washington and in local communities across the country."

1.2 million signatures supporting pubcasting arrive on Capitol Hill

Sesame Street actors joined members of Congress and activists in a rally on Cap Hill today (March 15) where advocacy groups presented 1.2 million signatures to save public broadcasting funding. Cast members from the iconic children's show described how the made a personal impact on their lives — and livelihood. “It has changed all of us and has given us as artists a place to work with such pride,” said Roscoe Orman, who has portrayed Gordon Robinson since 1973.

Yahoo! News blog editor heading to Frontline

Frontline has hired former Yahoo! News blog editor Andrew Golis as its director of digital media/senior editor. He'll oversee integration of the Frontline broadcast, Web and new media initiatives. At Yahoo! News, Golis built a network of nonpartisan reporting blogs, including the Upshot, which received 100 million page views after just six months in operation.

Rep. Blumenauer issues "Dear Colleague" letter on NPR video sting

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) sent a "Dear Colleague" letter today (March 15) alerting members of Congress to press coverage that last week's undercover video sting of NPR executives was edited in a misleading manner, citing stories from the Associated Press and on conservative TV host Glenn Beck's website.

"Recently, members of the media and Congress have paid great attention to a hidden-camera video taken of National Public Radio (NPR) fundraisers by activists working for James O’Keefe," the letter reads. "I wanted to bring to your attention analysis conducted by experts in video editing and journalistic ethics, as well as a broad range of conservative media figures.. . . It is our obligation as lawmakers to act only when we have the most accurate information possible. In this instance, any rush to pull federal funding for NPR based on James O’Keefe’s deceptively edited video would be wrong."

Rep. Lamborn introduces revamped bill to defund NPR

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) today (March 15) introduced H.R. 1076 (PDF), an updated version of his previous bill to ban federal funds from being used on public radio programming. The latest bill now specifically prohibits "funding of National Public Radio and radio content acquisition," and also bans using any federal funds to pay NPR dues.

The House Rules Committee also just announced an emergency meeting for 3 p.m. Wednesday to consider the bill; that must take place before any floor action on Thursday.

Beth Kirsch moves from WGBH to HITN

Beth Kirsch is the new vice president and executive producer of digital media content for the Hispanic Information and Telecommunications Network (HITN). She'll oversee the $30 Million 2010 Ready to Learn Project LAMP (Learning Apps Media Partnership), recently awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to the network and two partners. Kirsch joins HITN from WGBH in Boston, where she's worked since 1999 on shows including Between the Lions and Martha Speaks. "With more than 20 years of experience in public television, Kirsch brings expertise in educational media, animation, writing, editing, outreach and fundraising," HITN said in a statement. "During her time at WGBH, Kirsch raised many millions in funds for television production and outreach initiatives focusing on literacy, science, literature, social issues, and health."

Nader weighs in on "ludicrous corporatist right-wing" charges against pubcasting

"Public Broadcasting's Cowardly Executives" is the headline Ralph Nader's column on CounterPunch, a self-described "bi-weekly muckraking newsletter."

"The tumultuous managerial shakeup at National Public Radio headquarters for trivial verbal miscues once again has highlighted the ludicrous corporatist right-wing charge that public radio and public TV are replete with left-leaning or leftist programming," he writes. He goes on to furnish numbers for conservative vs. liberal guests on Charlie Rose (far more conservatives, by his count), and points out that Nader himself as appeared "not once on the hostile Terri Gross radio show."

"Here is a solution that will avoid any need for Congressional contributions to CPB," Nader writers. "The people own the public airwaves. They are the landlords. The commercial radio and TV stations are the tenants that pay nothing for their 24 hour use of this public property."

"Why not charge these profitable businesses rent for use of the public airwaves and direct some of the ample proceeds to nonprofit public radio and public TV as well as an assortment of audience controlled TV and radio channels that could broadcast what is going on in our country locally, regionally, nationally and internationally?" — an idea he's been promoting since 1988.

Ira Glass's dialogue on liberal bias now live online

Since his appearance on On the Media last weekend, This American Life host Ira Glass has received "very thoughtful emails" from conservative listeners about the liberal bias they hear in public radio's programming, he writes on the TAL blog. Glass invites listeners to join the conversation on TAL's Facebook page and on On The Media's website.

Look beyond the cost savings to value of pubcasting, say three conservative writers

Is the dialogue among conservatives regarding funding for public broadcasting becoming more nuanced? On the Weekly Standard's blog, writer Philip Terzian embraces the conservative viewpoint that federal funding should be killed, but he also notes: "The fact is that the kind of radio and television I like — classic jazz and classical music, arcane documentaries on history, literature, and science — is nearly nonexistent on the air, except on PBS and NPR."

In a response to that commentary in the New American, published by the ultra-right John Birch Society, writer Beverly Eakman, an education policy analyst and former speechwriter for the late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, says that conservatives need to become more involved with pubcasting. "In the present political climate, where even children’s programming is rife with leftist messages, junk science, and psychobabble, however subdued, it is probably a mistake to support CPB with taxpayer dollars," she says. "However, if the culture is ever to be turned around, conservative traditionalists need to step up to the plate and get on the boards of organizations that will present the kinds of high-culture programs that PBS does."

And Mary Kate Cary, a former White House speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush and a  contributor to NPR's Tell Me More, points out in U.S.News & World Report that CPB has a board comprised of six presidentially-appointed members, three Republicans and three Democrats.And CPB is legally charged with “strict adherence to objectivity and balance in all programs or series of programs of a controversial nature.”

". . . Congress should support continued funding for all perspectives to be heard on public radio," she writes. "According to the public broadcasting corporation, 'diversity in programming' is one way that it ensures a wide range of perspectives is available to PBS viewers and NPR listeners. If federal funding ends, presumably having that wide range of perspectives will end too, because there won’t be a federal mandate for diverse programming anymore."

What's up with Glenn Beck exposing deceptions of O'Keefe's NPR sting?

Why did Glenn Beck's website The Blaze publish a critique of the NPR sting video? Politico reports on reactions to the analysis by Scott Baker and Pam Key, the first journalists to compare the 11-minute video that prompted resignations of two top NPR execs to raw videotape that was recorded during James O'Keefe's undercover sting of NPR. Jennifer Rubin, a conservative blogger for the Washington Post who has criticized Beck, questions “whether (Beck) is trying to do something on the up and up and advance good journalism or whether he is doing it to create a controversy and stick his finger in the eye of the right in some ways in retaliation for all of the negativity that’s been expressed of late.”

House votes on another short-term Continuing Resolution today

The House today (March 15) votes on H.J.Res. 48, a short-term Continuing Resolution that would keep the government running through April 8. It cuts $6 billion in spending from the fiscal 2011 budget by reducing or eliminating 25 government programs and earmarks. If passed, CPB will lose funding for two already completed initiatives: $25 million in station fiscal stabilization grants, and $25 million for the recent radio interconnection infrastructure project. The programs were also cut in the president’s budget, as well as the Senate Democrats’ most recent CR proposal. The measure is expected to pass.