May 24, 2010

OMB cites $25 million to pubcasting as example of unnecessary spending

Millions of dollars in pubcasting funding through the Commerce Department and U.S. Department of Agriculture was cited Monday (May 24) as an instance of "programs that are heavily earmarked or not merit-based as well as those that are plainly wasteful and duplicative" by the Office of Management and Budget. Director Peter Orszog said in an OMB blog posting that President Barack Obama has sent to Capitol Hill the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010, which Politico describes as "a line-item veto with a twist: The president would have a limited time after a bill is passed to submit a package of rescissions that must be considered by Congress in straight up or down votes." Orszog said the proposed Act "will empower the President and the Congress to eliminate unnecessary spending while discouraging waste in the first place." He noted in his post that Commerce was allocated $20 million and the USDA $5 million to fund public broadcasting, "even though this activity is ably supported through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting." Full text of the President's proposed legislation here.

UPDATE: CPB, PBS and APTS today (May 26) issued a statement in reaction to Orszag's blog posting. The organizations say that the Department of Commerce’s Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utility Service (RUS) Digital Transition Grant Program "provide essential support that is not provided elsewhere through federal or state appropriations." A significant portion of PTPF funds go toward entities and activities ineligible for CPB support, the groups say, such as station and university distance learning projects. The RUS Digital Transition Grant Program provides ongoing resources to rural stations that have yet to fully convert all of their studio and production equipment to digital. "At present," the statement notes, "CPB does not have the funding or the mechanisms to support the extensive infrastructure investments that PTFP and the RUS Digital Transition Grant Program currently fund."

Head of PBS engineering will oversee team on next-gen broadcast TV for ATSC

Jim Kutzner, PBS chief engineer, is chairing the next-generation broadcast TV team of the Advanced Television Systems Committee, Television Broadcast reports. It's one of three working teams, the other two probing the feasibility and market requirements for 3DTV, and broadcast Internet TV. Kutzner's group will look at tech that might be used to "define a future terrestrial broadcast digital television standard,” according to the ATSC. The organization sets the tech standards for American broadcast television. It held its annual meeting last week in Pentagon City, Va., where the latest initiatives were announced.

McCartney to receive Gershwin Prize at "In Performance at the White House" concert

The third Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song will go to Sir Paul McCartney at a special concert in the East Room of the White House on June 2, the Librarian of Congress James Billington announced May 24. The show will recorded by WETA as one of the “In Performance at the White House” series, to air on PBS July 28 (check local listings). The concert will feature tributes to McCartney by stars including Stevie Wonder, Faith Hill, Jonas Brothers, Dave Grohl, Jack White, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris, Herbie Hancock and Corinne Bailey, as well as remarks by Jerry Seinfeld. The Gershwin Prize was created by the Library of Congress to honor artists "whose creative output transcends distinctions between musical styles and idioms, bringing diverse listeners together, and fostering mutual understanding and appreciation."

Louisiana's KEDU launches urgent fundraising appeal

To meet its CPB grant requirements, KEDM in Monroe, La., has scheduled an emergency fundraising drive for June 2 -4. CPB Community Service Grant criteria calls for the university-owned station to raise 48 cents for every potential listener in its service area, or $152,000 annually, G.M. Joel Willer tells the local News Star. “We have been really falling short for some time and it’s finally catching up to us." The station needs to raise $45,000 if it is to meet CPB's standard. KEDU licensee, the University of Louisiana at Monroe, has stipulated that programs will be cut if the station doesn't raise at least $30,000. KEDM is the only public radio service to the region; News Star readers complain about a recent decline in program quality and an agenda to turn KEDU into a "[public relations] vehicle for the University."

Is pubcasting open enough to new media?

Pubcasting blogger John Proffitt today tackles "Closed vs. Open: Why Public Media Struggles With New Media." The two types "are philosophically different, possibly opposed. One embraces community, drawing in participation and 'hosting' conversation and engagement. The other treats the public as a media receiver. Sure, there are some middle grounds here, but this is a big difference that has powered, silently, a lot of conversations in which I’ve participated, without realizing it. No wonder we struggle with this. No wonder there’s both dismissal of the new as irrelevant to the mission and nevertheless pitched battles over who will control the social network engagements, who gets or shares in the online revenue, and how and when content will or won’t appear online. We’ve been experiencing the 'misery and failure' of a closed system trying to adopt an open one, not understanding why it’s not working." He's quoting journalism prof Jay Rosen, who says that "Open systems don’t work like closed systems; if you expect them to you’ll get nothing but misery and failure."

Lasar: Local CABs don't necessarily represent the whole community

Matthew Lasar, a professor and media writer who authored a book on the history of Pacifica Radio, examines two of the "smaller recommendations" in Free Press's recent white paper on public broadcasting reforms, and cautions against its proposal to strengthen the role of local station Community Advisory Boards.

Free Press's ideas for "pumping up" CABs assume that "there is an almost Rousseauean entity out there called 'the public' or 'the community' that, when consulted, will always serve up selfless suggestions about how to make a community or public radio station better....Lots of people who attend public media board meetings go there for self-interested reasons. They want some portion of the station's resources. They want a show on the station. Or they want access to the station’s air time."

CABs have an important role to play in reaching public media's under-served constituencies and providing input on programs, Lasar acknowledges, but: "These sort of boards can pressure stations to disconnect from their listeners by capitulating to small factions who have little interest in anything besides their own narrow agenda."

Lasar examined Free Press's proposals for financing a public media trust fund last week on Ars Technica. Current's summary of the paper, New Public Media: A Call for Action, with a link to the full report, is here.