Nov 10, 2010

Obama's deficit commissioners advise ending all CPB, PTFP support by 2015

The co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, created by President Obama in February to help balance the budget, are recommending an end to CPB funding as of 2015, according to a draft report released today (Nov. 10). The report also advises zeroing out the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) and the Agriculture Department's pubcasting grant program. "The current CPB funding level is the highest it has ever been," the draft says, and cutting it would save nearly $500 million in 2015.

The 50-page explanation of proposals insists that "everything must be on the table" for cuts or elimination.

Commission co-chairs are Erskine Bowles, former President Clinton's chief of staff, and former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming. Bowles, University of North Carolina president, was recently involved in the controversial decision by UNC-TV, licensed to the state university system, to turn over reporting documents to the state legislature (Current, July 26, 2010).

The commission's final report, due Dec. 1, will require the approval of at least 14 of the commission's 18 members. The panel meets monthly when Congress in session; videos of meetings are posted for online viewing.

CPB issued this statement following the draft's release:

As the steward of the federal investment in public media, CPB strongly disagrees with the co-chairmen of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, who propose without justification to completely eliminate funding for CPB and other public broadcasting programs.

American public broadcasting represents a model public-private partnership. The federal investment represents an average of 15 percent of funding for the more than 1,100 public radio and television stations around the country, and stations use this investment to raise funds from the communities they serve. In some cases, especially in rural and low-income areas, public broadcasting serves as a lifeline of content, information and services to the community. Therefore, the percentage of federal funding is higher in these regions. Public television and radio stations deliver free, universally available, non-commercial, high-quality programming and services to communities throughout the country.

Each month, PBS reaches more than 118 million people through television and nearly 21 million people online. Approximately 37 million listen to public radio each week. Public radio programming covers news and public affairs, science, history, education and the arts. For decades public television has served as a safe place for kids to learn — an option more important than ever for parents today. Every month, 5.8 million children access the educational website, PBS Kids Go!. In fact, PBS Kids
is the No. 1 educational media brand, and research shows that PBS content plays an essential role in helping to close the early literacy gap for the most disadvantaged children.

From a yearly federal investment amounting to $1.35 per American, public broadcasting returns six times that amount in programming and services, creating 17,000 jobs in the American economy.

This important investment, through CPB and the other public broadcasting programs, should be supported for the benefit, education and enrichment of all Americans.

NPR's statement:

The National Commission’s proposal to eliminate federal funding for public media would have a profound and detrimental impact on all Americans. Public radio is the last remaining source of independent, non-commercial and thought-provoking broadcast media in the country – and in some small towns and communities, is the only remaining source of free, accessible local, national and international news and information, music and cultural programming. Public radio stations are located in nearly every major city and small town delivering vital and highly trusted news and information to 37 million Americans each week – reaching more citizens than the circulation of the top 120 national newspapers combined.

In a time of media decline, especially in local, international and investigative reporting, public radio’s role in fostering an informed society has never been as critical as it is today. The public radio audience is one of the few in media that has consistently grown – doubling in the last decade alone.

Federal funding has been a central component of public radio stations’ ability to serve audiences across the country. It’s imperative for funding to continue to ensure that this essential tool of democracy survives and thrives well into the future.

Statement from the Association of Public Television Stations:

APTS is deeply troubled by yesterday’s recommendation from the co-chairs of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to eliminate funding for public broadcasting programs and services.

“APTS ardently opposes the recommendations of the co-chairs of the Fiscal Commission. Americans depend on programs and services provided by local public television stations to educate their children and stay informed on critical issues in their communities,” said APTS Interim President and CEO Lonna Thompson. “The elimination of federal funding would significantly impact local stations, particularly small rural stations, forcing them to go dark, hurting their communities and eradicating vital services.”

For the seventh consecutive year of the Roper poll, Americans ranked public television as the nation’s most trusted institution, and second in tax value among 20 federally funded services, behind only military defense. The American public believes that federal funding for public television is a wise investment.

Through federal funding, public television stations have created the most effective public/private partnership in our nation. Local stations have enhanced the educational successes of our students at a time when American educational achievement is falling behind other nations. Public television is also delivering critical services around job training, adult education and public safety that would not otherwise be available without the government partnership.

Thompson continued, “The co-chairs of the Commission also recommended eliminating the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (PTFP) and Rural Utilities Service Public Television Digital Transition Grant Program (RUS Digital), erroneously labeling these programs as duplicative. PTFP and RUS Digital are essential programs to the American people. Funding through these programs serves two compelling government interests: creating and improving infrastructure and new jobs, and ensuring that rural communities are able to share in the fruits of the digital age.”

Thompson concluded, “The investment in public broadcasting by the federal government is an investment in the American people. Americans deserve the valuable programming and services local public television stations provide over-the-air, on-line and on-the-ground to communities across our country.”

Science journalism awards for pubcasting

Pubcasters topped three of four electronic journalism categories in the 2010 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards announced today. NPR won for its reporting on the Gulf Oil spill; Nova ScienceNow, a series produced at WGBH in Boston, for a segment on memory research; and Chedd-Angier-Lewis Productions for their PBS series The Human Spark, produced in association with New York's WNET. Certificates of Merit were awarded to Oregon Public Broadcasting and Chicago's WBEZ. The awards, presented annually by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, honor professional journalists for distinguished reporting for a general audience.

Continuing live election coverage? Count on Alaska's KTOO

KTOO-TV in Juneau, Alaska, is streaming coverage of the state's midterm election recount to determine its next U.S. Senator. Visit the station's 360North live feed page to take a peek at the recount "action" in Anchorage — 15 teams of election officials sitting at tables eying write-in ballots, set to a soundtrack of soothing yet determined vote-counting music. (Right click the image to enlarge.) "While we don't expect much drama or excitement, every Alaskan will be able to watch through our cameras," Bill Legere, KTOO's general manager, said in a statement.

Layoffs hit KPFA, protests go on-air

The fight over staff cuts at Berkeley's KPFA-FM has moved from the streets to the airwaves. A Nov. 8 decision by Pacifica Foundation Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt to dismiss the staff of the KPFA Morning Show -- the local program that earns the most financial support from listeners -- came under immediate fire. Engelhardt proposed to replace the morning news staple with another program from Pacifica's Los Angeles outlet, KPFK.

The KPFA Morning Show team -- Aimee Allison, Brian Edwards-Tiekert, Laura Prives and Esther Manilla -- were ordered off the air after Monday's program, but they managed to mount a "renegade broadcast" on Tuesday Nov. 9 to discuss the lay-offs and the station's financial troubles. (Story and link to show audio here.)

Former KPFA host Larry Bensky, who fought a similar battle to stay on the air more than ten years ago, came out of retirement to publicly challenge the terminations, appearing on both KPFA and KQED, the NPR News station in San Francisco. "I would have loved to stay out of this morass," Bensky said, on this morning's edition of KQED's Forum. "These people, who have an audience and credibility, are among the few journalists left in Pacifica, " he said. The decision to take the Morning Show team off the air was a "short-sighted and foolish thing to do, and against Pacifica's principles."

Engelhardt, who signed on as executive director less than a year ago, said Pacifica had to enforce financial discipline on KPFA, which has burned through its financial reserves and had to borrow money from another station in September to meet its payroll. "There just plain isn't any cash anymore," Engelhardt said on KQED's Forum. Three Pacifica stations are in "pretty severe financial distress," she said. "Everything I'm doing is aimed at my best effort to make sure all five stations stay on the air."

But Engelhardt struggled to defend layoffs of Morning Show staff, who were among seven KPFA employees to lose their jobs. She said the Morning Show team had engaged in "so much one-sided skewing that makes for very bad radio."

KPFA's union workers have alleged the dismissals were retaliatory against staff who were openly critical of Pacifica national leadership. The Communications Workers of America bargaining unit filed a complaint of unfair labor practices against Pacifica management on Nov. 5.

WNED gets cooking with return to live show

WNED’s popular live WNED Cooks is returning after six years, the Buffalo station says. A new show on "Family Favorites" airs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 26, 2011. Viewers submit recipes, and eight will be selected to create the dish in the studio that day. All recipes are compiled in a cookbook. Eileen Koteras Elibol returns as host (Image: WNED). No word yet on whether the episode will grow into a series.

KCET's new programming features old favorites, Asian offerings

KCET in Los Angeles, which is cutting ties to PBS on Jan. 1 (Current, Oct. 18), announced early programming details to its members through a mailing this week. The Los Angeles Times reports that the station is "relying on a programming schedule that is largely available on DVD, and in some cases is decades old," in addition to longtime local faves such as Huell Hower's show and SoCal Connected. There'll be several English-language shows from Japanese broadcaster NHK including NHK Newsline, a daily half-hour Asian news roundup; Asia Biz Forecast; Journeys in Japan and Your Japanese Kitchen. Old faves such as Prime Suspect starring Helen Mirren represents a link to KCET's history as it moves forward, Mary Mazur, KCET's e.v.p. and chief content officer told the paper. Viewers also may remember The Nature of Things, a long-running science program from Canada, and Keeping Up Appearances, a BBC sitcom originally produced from 1990-95. The schedule is a work in progress, KCET officials noted.

Triple-A convo set at new Wilmington branch of World Cafe music hall

Triple-A music's 11th annual NON-COMMvention will be held next May 19-21 in a new branch of the WXPN-FM-affiliated music venue World Cafe Live, to be opened just seven weeks before in Wilmington, Del. World Cafe Live At The Queen will open April 1 after a $25-million renovation of an old downtown movie house called the Queen. WXPN and a partner opened the original World Cafe Live restaurant/bar/music hall in Philadelphia six years ago. The station, co-presenter of the NON-COMMvention (with, describes the event as "the music industry conference where contemporary, noncommercial radio stations, artists and music industry professionals from all of the country convene to discover new music and discuss current industry trends."

Colorado Public TV's nonprofit news arm gets healthcare reporting grant

Colorado Public News, a nonprofit news project of Colorado Public Television/CPT12 in Denver, has received a $386,250 grant to cover the cost of reporting on healthcare for three years, it announced this week (Nov. 8). The health-oriented Colorado Trust is providing the support, which will cover a full-time health reporter to produce multimedia reports. Colorado Public News supplies weekly coverage to a network of 14 news media on several platforms: television, radio, Internet, print and mobile. Donors fund journalists in particular subject areas, including state government, science, education or the economy.