Nov 18, 2010

Attention, RSSers, don't miss these . . .

Now playing on Current's home page:

"Knives sharpened for renewed assault on CPB." Bills to defund public broadcasting, or at least any radio network that fired Juan Williams, are beginning to seem like a real threat since the Nov. 2 midterm election gave Republicans a 60-plus majority in theHouse and a mandate to take huge bites out of federal spending.

"Leaders of Obama’s deficit panel advise: Drop CPB by 2015." Among the 58 possible federal budget savings recommended by the vice chairs of the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform are the entire appropriations to CPB, the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program and the Agriculture Department’s facilities grants to public stations.

"Soon off to war for APTS: new president, Pat Butler." Patrick Butler, public TV’s new chief lobbyist, wrote speeches for President Gerald Ford, was a founder of the Pew Research Center, and helped provide Ken Burns with funding for his acclaimed Civil War documentary series.

"Under-explained firing makes NPR an issue just in time for election." Top NPR officials may have thought their Oct. 20 decision to dismiss veteran journalist Juan Williams was about journalistic objectivity, but to many outsiders it sounded more like a story of arrogant lefty political correctness.

"Controversial analyst fired for one too many opinionated comments." NPR Correspondent Juan Williams’ simultaneous roles as a Fox commentator and an NPR news analyst had troubled NPR news leaders for much of the decade he was associated with public radio.

"NPR Board hires counsel to probe what went wrong." Reacting to NPR’s abrupt image makeover — from ascendant news organization to partisan punching bag — the network’s board hired an outside firm to investigate the decisions that invited the comedown, the dismissal of news analyst Juan Williams.

And here's that viral video everyone is talking about, "Good Radiation," a rap tribute to NPR.

Nielsen loses accreditation for 154 diary-only markets

The Media Rating Council, which ensures standards of audience measurement, has removed accreditation for Nielsen's measurement of its 154 diary-only markets, retroactive to 2009, according to Broadcasting & Cable. The magazine quotes "insiders" who say that with more folks dropping their land lines for cellphones, Nielsen is using address-based recruiting of ratings homes in its diary markets, instead of selecting by phone number. The new method resulted in sample sizes coming up short in two of the four quarters in 2009. Nielsen said in a letter to station clients that the issue has been resolved, it has requested a new MRC audit, and it expects to be accredited again soon. Nielsen's local people meters took eight years for all markets to secure accreditation.

PBS ombudsman wades into Fey fray

Producers made "a big mistake, one that was virtually certain to come back and bit them and PBS," by editing out Tina Fey's remarks about conservative women during during her acceptance speech for the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize on Nov. 9, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler writes in today's (Nov. 18) column. The broadcast on PBS Sunday (Nov. 14) ran 22 minutes long, one of the producer, Peter Kaminsky, told Getler. Producers had only 24 hours to trim the show. "We had no problem with anything she [Fey] said," Kaminsky said. "It was a humor judgment call forced by time."

But several letter writers figured that "excuse" might come up. As one said, "It's your prerogative to choose the programming you air; however, it's not your prerogative to edit out those comments with which you disagree. And please don't quote 'time issues.' Either run it or not."

Reps. Barton, Burgess request probe of NPR funding, Williams firing

Texas Republican Reps. Joe Barton and Michael Burgess have called for a Government Accountability Office investigation of NPR's funding. In a letter to the GAO, first reported Nov. 18 by Broadcasting & Cable, the lawmakers asked government investigators to follow the trail of federal funding in public radio -- including CPB grants awarded to NPR and federal aid to local stations that may be re-directed to NPR.

They pose five questions, including whether any federal funds pay for program production or the salaries of NPR personalities or editors, and whether NPR used federal aid to manage its contractual relationship with former news analyst Juan Williams or to pay for the internal review of his dismissal. They also ask investigators to examine and report details of the ethics code violations that NPR execs cited when they terminated Williams's contract.

The lawmakers write that the Williams dismissal "may reflect a tendency on the part of NPR management to use its ethics rules to silence employees," according to The Hill.

Rep. Barton is top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee with jurisdiction over CPB. Rep. Burgess, who also serves on the committee, chairs its subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

Breaking news: House votes down attempt to kill NPR funding

The House of Representatives today (Nov. 18) voted down a move to defund NPR, in the first Republican-ordered floor vote since the GOP-dominated Midterms on Nov. 2. The vote was 239-171. It was actually a procedural maneuver related to a debate rule on H.R. 1722, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. The House vote was to close debate and thus avoid voting on the NPR proposal, which had been put forward by Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.)

Following the vote, the Association of Public Television Stations issued a statement. “APTS stands in solidarity with public radio stations across the country who provide an invaluable service to their local communities,” said APTS Interim President and CEO Lonna Thompson. “Without federal funding, public broadcasting stations, particularly those in rural areas, would be unable to continue to provide our local communities with the unparalleled news and information, and educational programming that we provide today.”

NPR responded to the vote with this statement: "Today, good judgment prevailed as Congress rejected a move to assert government control over the content of news."

"The proposal to prohibit public radio stations from using CPB grants to purchase NPR programming is an unwarranted attempt to interject federal authority into local station program decision-making," the NPR statement continued. "Furthermore, restrictions on the authority of CPB – a congressionally chartered, independent non-profit organization – to make competitive grants to NPR, or any other public broadcasting entity, is misguided."

And Tim Isgitt, s.v.p. of communications and government affairs at CPB, said: "With a new majority in the House and many new members in both the House and Senate, we have a responsibility and an opportunity to educate Congress on the value and importance of public media to an educated and informed civil society. We will work closely with the other national organizations, and we will make sure every member is informed about the public media services that could be endangered without their support."

Vegas PBS reveals specific per-viewer program costs for its new pledge approach

Las Vegas PBS/Channel 10 is handling pledge in a very different way this season. "We are the only station in the U.S. trying this," General Manager Tom Axtell, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. From Nov. 26 through Dec. 12, no more 10-minute begging breaks; now they're three-minute segments. Fundraising is "mostly host-free and lower-key," the newspaper noted, with "Do Your Part" graphics popping up during shows, flashing the per-viewer contribution required to keep it on the air if every viewer contributes. Those figures are the station's costs for acquiring and broadcasting the program, divided by number of viewers based on Nielsen stats. "Quite a few of my colleagues are fascinated by this approach," Axtell noted. Click here for the station video explaining "Do Your Part" to viewers.

Letter writer hopes to rally community to receive PBS programming

In the midst of all the talk of defunding CPB, here's a letter to the editor to boost your spirits. Reader Jon M. Nelson wrote to the Lake County Record-Bee in Lakeport, Calif., asking for public support to bring PBS to the county two hours north of San Francisco. Nelson thinks PBS is an especially important educational source for the children of the county. He said an engineer from PBS affiliate KRCB in Rohnert Park, Calif., about 75 miles away, told him the equipment costs to pick up its signal would be around $25,000. "We need to get together to raise funds for this project of adding public broadcasting into our lives here in Lake County," wrote Nelson, of Lucerne, Calif., population 2,900.

Fox News chief says NPR execs are "Nazis"

In an interview with Howard Kurtz of The Daily Beast, Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes unleashes on those who challenge the rightward partisanship of the cable news channel and provocative rhetoric of Bill O'Reilly, who recently joked about beheading Washington Post political columnist Dana Milbank. Ailes blasts Jon Stewart of The Daily Show for bashing conservatives, but takes his criticism to another level when the subject turns to NPR's dismissal of news analyst Juan Williams.

"They are, of course, Nazis," Ailes said, referring to NPR's leadership. "They have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism. These guys don't want any other point of view. They don't feel guilty using tax dollars to spout their propaganda. They are basically Air America with government funding to keep them alive."

Ailes jokes about O'Reilly's remark on beheading Dana Milbank before acknowledging, "Bill knows he probably shouldn’t have said it. He just shot off his mouth.” Milbank responded to O'Reilly's threat in his Nov. 10 column.

FCC calls Tribal Issues Commission meeting for March in D.C.

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, speaking to the National Congress of American Indians Wednesday (Nov. 7) in Albuquerque, announced a Tribal Issues Commission meeting on March 3, 2011, in D.C. This year the commission adopted an order to streamline Native American broadcast radio assignment and allotment procedures. "Even though more than a million Native Americans and Alaska Natives live on over 55 million acres of Tribal lands across the U.S., there are only some 41 radio stations licensed to Native Entities," Copps said. "The new Tribal Priority gives precedence to American Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages, or companies controlled by Tribes, that want to set-up new radio stations to serve their local communities." Two years ago this month, the FCC granted construction permits for 29 Tribal pubradio stations (Current, Nov. 24, 2008).

Lyle Lovett helps bid farewell to iconic ACL studio

It's a wrap. After 36 years, Austin City Limits retired its legendary Studio 6A last week (Nov. 8) with a performance by Lyle Lovett, whose first appearance was as a backup singer to Nanci Griffith in 1985. The series will start the 2011 season in the new—and much roomier—Moody Theater in downtown Austin, Texas. Here's a sample of the wide press coverage the event received, including remembrances from Scott Newton, the show's photographer, who started shooting the action in 1978.

Order in the Court 2.0 gets two new staffers

WBUR's Order in the Court 2.0, winner of a Knight News Challenge grant, continues to progress, reports MediaShift Idea Lab. Two new staffers have arrived: Joe Spurr, project director, responsible for the design and development of the Order in the Court 2.0 website, which will provide live streaming of Quincy (Mass.) District Court proceedings. Spurr most recent worked at KPBS in San Diego, where he redesigned its website. Producer Val Wang will oversee the daily stream of written and video content from the court. She's been a freelancer with Here and Now and On Point.