Apr 12, 2011

Sutton sees pubradio's diversity problem as a failure of leadership

There's "a lot of truth" in Sue Schardt's recent speech about the lack of diversity in public radio, writes John Sutton, Maryland-based marketing consultant, on his blog. Schardt, executive director of Association for Independents in Public Radio, spoke passionately during a February NPR Board meeting, calling for the field to acknowledge its obligation to serve all of the American public, not just its core audience of highly educated, affluent, white listeners.

Sutton disagrees that public radio's focus on growing its core audience is a bad thing, but that's a subject for his blog on another day. He lays responsibility for the field's lack of diversity at the feet of its leadership.

"It turns out that the predominately well-educated, upper middle class white people in charge of public radio policy, funding, and programming are very, very good at making radio for their demographic peers and no one else," Sutton writes. The leadership talks about service to diverse audience, but has yet to deliver.

"After two decades of trying, public radio’s white leadership is incapable of diversifying the audience in any meaningful, measurable way," Sutton writes. "Just try and find an audience report from CPB or NPR that shows a diversity initiative that yielded audience growth among minority listeners."

PBS to start testing next-gen Emergency Alert System

PBS announced at the NAB Show in Las Vegas today (April 12) that later this year it will begin testing a next-generation emergency alert system to deliver multimedia alerts using video, audio, text and graphics to cellphones, tablets, laptops and netbooks, as well as in-car navigation systems. The pilot is part of work on  a new Mobile Emergency Alert System, the first major overhaul of the nation’s aging Emergency Alert System since the Cold War. PBS Chief Technology Officer John McCoskey said in a statement that PBS has been involved in testing digital broadcasting as a part of an upgraded emergency system since 2005. PBS plans to announce stations for the pilot project soon.

Budget agreement cuts three CPB funds, leaves NPR intact

As expected, CPB lost digital funding, recession aid to stations and radio interconnection money in the budget agreement for the remainder of the fiscal year, finally hammered out last week on Capitol Hill. The bill, H.R. 1473, zeros out $25 million in station "fiscal stabilization" grants and $25 million for replacement and upgrade of the radio infrastructure, and reduces digital spending from $36 million to $6 million. There's also a small — .2 percent — across-the-board trim for all non-defense discretionary spending. Main appropriation for FY11, $445 million. One reported sticking point in the contentious negotiations was a provision to prohibit federal funding for NPR; the Democrats managed to kill that.