Dec 30, 2011

Florida stations still struggling after May cut of state funding

The Tampa Bay Times is looking back at a rough year for pubcasters in the state, after Gov. Rick Scott's decision in May to veto nearly $4.8 million in state funding. Public TV stations lost more than $300,000 and each public radio station saw a $60,000 drop. All told, in the Tampa Bay area, WEDU, WMNF and WUSF radio and TV stations lost a total of around $1 million. "And while Tampa Bay area public broadcasting fans initially responded with a surge in donations," the paper noted, "as the year wore on, local stations found themselves increasingly challenged to find new, permanent solutions to the funding dilemma."

"The public, in times of emergency, comes through," said Rob Lorei, WMNF's news and public affairs director. "Now they don't have that sense of urgency." While the station's first pledge drive after the cuts brought in more money, October's fundraising fell $30,000 short.

Bob O'Rourke dies at 72; developed pubcasting science shows

Bob O'Rourke, a former vice president for public relations at the California Institute of Technology who helped develop several pubcasting science features, died Tuesday (Dec. 27) of complications following a lung transplant. He was 72.

O'Rourke conceived the idea for AirTalk: The CalTech Edition, a collaboration with local NPR member station KPCC in Pasadena, Calif., as well as The Loh Down on Science, "the fun way to get your daily dose of science in less than two minutes," hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh. He also was a driving force behind Curious, a four-part pubTV series from WNET that focused on the work of scientists at CalTech and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

"Bob O'Rourke's passing is a loss to Caltech that is incalculable," said Loh, a Caltech alumnus, in a statement from the university. "I feel his loss as deeply as I would the loss of a member of my own family. One of the wonderful things about Caltech is that it has always had a maverick, irreverent, and out-of-the-box spirit, and I think many of Bob O'Rourke's projects reflected this."

He had been diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis in 2006. During the last two years O'Rourke gave several media interviews about the disease, including on NPR, in the Los Angeles Times and on NBC's Today show.

O'Rourke, a native of Beverly, Mass., is survived by his wife, Sandy; four children, two stepchildren and eight grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a sister and two brothers.

A funeral Mass will be 2 p.m. Jan. 4 at Holy Family Church in South Pasadena. The family requests memorial donations to UCLA Medical Science Development (Attention: Nushie Gaharib; 10945 Le Conte Ave., Suite 3132, Los Angeles, Calif., 90095).

FCC reaffirms "tribal priority" for broadcast licenses

The Federal Communications on Wednesday (Dec. 28) issued an order reaffirming the "tribal priority" it created in 2009 to bolster Native American rights in broadcast licenses. In a concurring statement, retiring Commissioner Michael Copps called the order a “wonderful step” toward “bringing modern telecommunications to Indian Country.”

John Crigler, a longtime telecom attorney working with Native Public Media (NPM), told Current that the order recognizes "the inherent right of tribes to serve their own people, by recognizing that tribes and Alaska Native villages are political, not racial classifications."

Crigler said the FCC adopted a requirement that protects tribes from proposing a broadcast allocation, only to lose it to a non-tribal bidder at auction. Now, only a tribal entity may bid on a tribal priority allocation. Both the NPM and the National Congress of American Indians supported that concept. Crigler said a channel allocated under the tribal priority may be a awarded to a non-tribal entity only if the tribe that proposed the allocation did not concurrently submit an application and no other qualifying tribal entity bid on the channel in an auction. "Tribes therefore get 'two bites of the apple' before having to surrender a channel that serves tribal lands to a non-tribal entity," Crigler said.

UPDATE, Jan. 4: More details here, from the Telecommunications Law Resource Center.