Jun 21, 2011

New executive director at BAVC: Mark Vogl

Marc Vogl begins July 11 as the new executive director of the Bay Area Video Coalition, a leading video access and training unit based in San Francisco. Vogl is an arts grantmaker at the Hewlett Foundation, former arts group manager, and onetime sketch comedy actor. He succeeds Ken Ikeda, who has joined Public Radio Capital's offshoot, the Public Media Company. Vogl co-founded the the Hi/Lo Film Festival ("a celebration of high concept/low budget films") and the sketch comedy group Killing My Lobster, and became executive director of its Lobster Theater Project. He remains active in local nonprofits serving arts and the young homeless.

White paper suggests another run at Public Square channel

In a new white paper, the American Enterprise Institute is recommending resurrecting the idea for PBS's Public Square channel (Current, Jan. 19, 2004) as a home for public-affairs content.

Norman Ornstein, lead author of "Creating a Public Square in a Challenging Media Age" — and a former member of the PBS Board — lays out four strategies to increase civic participation via media. It suggests working to keep newspapers alive, establish universal broadband access, get quality information to citizens, and develop a public-square channel, "the likes of which public television envisioned back in the mid-1990s." Ornstein served while PBS President Pat Mitchell was pushing for the Public Square project.

Three ideas for building that channel: Replace broadcasters' public-interest obligations with a rental fee for the use of public airwaves, and use the fee to fund public-affairs programming; create a public-private foundation to allocate money for public-interest purposes; and encourage social networking sites, as well as partnerships between social networking and traditional media.

Here's the full AEI report in PDF form.

FCC report author says contributions a "more effective way" of bankrolling nonprofit media

Steve Waldman, who spearheaded work on the FCC's recent 365-page report, “The Information Needs of Communities,” sat down with Columbia Journalism Review to defend the project, which has been widely viewed as disappointing (even by FCC Commissioner Michael Copps) for its lack of specific, feasible recommendations. Waldman said his researchers "made a lot of effort to try to come up with some ideas that were innovative, pragmatic, and practical, and that would actually be effective and not just push people’s buttons."

One aspect of the report Waldman feels has been overlooked by the press is the role of the nonprofit sector in future news coverage. "People tend to think that the alternative to commercial media is PBS," he said. "Our view is that PBS and NPR are really important, but there’s this much broader world of nonprofit media now. The sources of innovation there, and the public policy implications, are different. Part of what makes this hard is that they’re different in each case; there is like eight to nine different subcultures in the nonprofit sector. They add up to a pretty significant part of the media system, at least when we’re talking about accountability reporting, but each one of them is kind of small and on their own — public access channels, low-power FM, state SPANS [satellite public affairs networks], and, probably most prevalently, this world of nonprofit websites, which is really important."

There are currently two ways of subsidizing nonprofit media. "One is the direct grants system through CPB; the other is the charitable contributions system ... They both have a role," Waldman said. "But I think given the diversity of different players in the nonprofit sector, the charitable contribution system is arguably a more effective way of doing it."

Here is part two of the two-part interview.

APTS, CPB, PBS urge FCC to consider Native spectrum choices carefully

As the Federal Communications Commission seeks comments on maximizing spectrum usage to Native American lands, "it is critical the commission does not divest current spectrum being utilized by public television and radio interrupting current services already allocated to tribes and rural communities," according to comments filed with the FCC by APTS, CPB and PBS on Monday (June 20).

The orgs used an example of TV and radio translators in Utah. That state "possesses a complex and unique geographical make up," and rural communities and Native American tribes have relied on translators for decades, they said. Utah currently operates and maintains 688 translators — 35 percent of all translators in the country. "Many rural and Native Tribe communities pose the risk of being disconnected if spectrum is reallocated without first reaching a solution to continue service," the groups said.

"A deployment of extended broadband coverage which interrupts or hinders the current TV and radio broadcasting systems in these communities would simply alleviate one problem while creating another," the groups said, urging the FCC to carefully study current services allocated to Native Nations, "and work to maintain or successfully transition such indispensable TV translator systems."

KCET moving from Los Angeles to Burbank

Big changes continue at KCET in Los Angeles, which went independent from PBS on Jan. 1. Station execs told staff on Monday (June 21) that they'll be moving next year from their longtime Sunset Boulevard home to a new 14-story office tower on Studio Row in Burbank, according to the Los Angeles Times. KCET sold its historic 4.5-acre studio lot to the Church of Scientology in April for $42 million (the paper reported in March that the property had been assessed at $14 million). KCET's new home will be at the Pointe, completed in 2009 as part of the NBC campus. Terms of KCET's lease were not disclosed, but real estate experts familiar with the Burbank market valued the 11-year deal at about $25 million.

"We had a very valuable piece of real estate that we felt made a lot of sense to monetize, because it was not an operationally efficient place to do business today in the changing media landscape," Jerome told the newspaper. "You've got employees spread around several buildings. The spatial configurations were not right. We just felt really that we wanted to get into a brand-new facility that has open architecture that allows for a more collaborative and collegial work environment."

KCET will downsize from about 105,000 square feet of studio and office spaceto more than 55,000 square feet over one-and-a-half stories in the Burbank location. There will be two production studios and nearly all new equipment.

The station has until late April to leave its current site, which it now rents from the church.