Mar 31, 2009

Telecom exec named to head NTIA

The White House nominated Lawrence E. Strickling to head the Commerce Department's NTIA, the agency that administers annual rounds of PTFP matching grants to help pubcasters buy equipment. He and Julius Genachowski, the nominee for FCC chair, are both friends of the Obamas from Chicago, the Washington Post pointed out. Both Strickling and Genachowski graduated from Harvard Law and went to the FCC, Strickling as chief of the Common Carrier Bureau and Genachowski as chief counsel. Before serving as policy coordinator in the Obama campaign, he worked at three telecom companies, most recently the optical fiber service provider Broadwing Communications. His new agency, NTIA, will dispense some $4.7 billion in grants for broadband service improvement as part of the stimulus package.

Intel chips in some cash for NewsHour

PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer has signed a major new corporate underwriter, Intel Corp., through the rest of 2009. As part of the deal, NewsHour staffers will help plan and moderate several small meetings on national issues and a larger conference on innovation this year, says spokesman Rob Flynn. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the program will thank Intel with a 30-second underwriting credit and a short mention at the other end of the show, plus short mentions on Tuesday and Thursday. The NewsHour also has underwriting from Chevron Corp., Grant Thornton LLC accounting and consulting, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and more than a dozen other foundations.

No snacks for thrifty PBS board

How bad is the economy? So bad that treats for PBS board members are disappearing. At the meeting today in Arlington, Va., Chairman John Porter quipped to the board, "Symbolic of the careful work being done on the budget, there will be no snacks at break time. We're doing every single thing to make certain the budget is as tight as possible." Board members didn't go hungry, as lunch was indeed provided. Also announced at the meeting, good news for stations: PBS dues will remain at fiscal 2009 levels for FY10.

HuffPo launches investigative unit with $1.75 mil

The Huffington Post has unveiled details of its expansion into investigative journalism. With an initial budget of $1.75 million, the Huffington Post Investigative Fund will hire 10 staff journalists who will coordinate stories with freelancers. Work produced by the investigative team will be available for any publication or website to use at the same time it is posted on the Huffington Post, said Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief. The Atlantic Philanthropies and other unnamed donors backed the venture. In its report on the HuffPo's new unit, Poynter's E-media Tidbits points to other nonprofit and philantrophic efforts to produce investigative reporting, including The Korean international news site, which launched in 2000, is the model for HuffPo's set-up combining efforts of professional and citizen journos.

Channeling ire over NPR fundraising

That brouhaha over a proposed NPR pledge drive? It's based on outdated assumptions about the potential for pubradio growth, according to marketing consultant John Sutton. "The industry is losing money each year by not allowing NPR to raise money directly from listeners," he writes emphatically on RadioSutton. "We know from past research that listeners to two stations will support both stations and give average or above average gifts. They have room in their budgets to do both. Even now. Even in this economy....The issue here shouldn't be whether or not NPR should be allowed to raise money directly from listeners. The issue should be how NPR and stations can work together to grow the revenue pie with stations and NPR making appeals." Meanwhile, over at Fried Bagels, WEOS general manager Aaron Read channels the anger of station execs by comparing NPR to A.I.G., the failed financial company that's come to symbolize the excesses of Wall Street. "NPR took our money (affiliate fees) and promised us that all their ridiculous amounts of growth (multiple foreign bureaus, NPR West facility, new NPR HQ building, Day to Day, Bryant Park Project, News & Notes, etc) would be good for all affiliate stations and was necessary to do. And we had to do it because the consequences were too big a downside to risk not doing it." The analogy is imperfect, Read acknowledges, but "on a visceral level, that's what people are thinking...and thus the parallels are very strong."

Author looks to a more dynamic public media

Jessica Clark, author of a a recent white paper on public media, shares thoughts on the future of public broadcasting in an interview at MediaShift Idea Lab. One point: "'Legacy media' is top-down, one-to-many media: print, television, radio, even static web pages. We're advancing a more dynamic, relevant definition of public media -- one that's participatory, focused on informing and mobilizing publics around shared issues."