Jan 12, 2011

It's NPR vs. Lamborn, Round 1

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who reintroduced two bills to defund public broadcasting last week, is engaging in a war of words with NPR.

The Hill reports that in an e-mailed response to his legislation, NPR called Lamborn's goal misguided and said it would insert the federal government into news decisions at local stations. "It seems ironic that Congressman Lamborn, who seeks to withdraw federal support for public radio, wants federal legislators in turn to assert control over how local public radio stations can make use of programming funds," NPR said.

Then Lamborn e-mailed a statement to the conservative Daily Caller website to disagree. “Within NPR, some bizarrely claim that my efforts are aimed at controlling and influencing the editorial content of NPR," he said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. I believe removing federal funding from NPR would give the news organization greater, not less, editorial freedom than they currently enjoy.”

And now, from the American Archive: Edward R. Murrow extolling the wonders of "new" educational TV

Sure, she was snowed in. But WGBH's media archivist Karen Cariani in Boston was still able to interact with the audience in Nashville via the wonder of technology for the American Archive session today (Jan. 12) at NETA's national conference. ("It's not snowing anymore, but still blowing," she reported.) That's e.p. Amy Shumaker of South Carolina ETV to the left of Cariani, and Matthew White at the podium, he's the executive director of the ambitious project to identify, digitize and organize countless hours of historic pubcasting content.

Before updating attendees (don't forget, Jan. 31 is deadline for inventory grants), White showed an American Archive promo that brought a delighted round of applause: It contained a grainy, black and white recording of legendary newsman Edward R. Murrow, cigarette in hand, talking about that day's launch of a service called "educational television." Addressing the viewer on Sept. 16, 1962, he intones, "Commercial television did not completely fill the promise of this medium. That's why educational television was conceived ... If occasionally it brings laughter to your lips, I trust that on occasion it will bring a tear to your eye."

"If newness be its vice," he said of this brand-new network, "then boldness be its virtue."

Director of "Last Train Home," on P.O.V. this year, scores Directors Guild nod

The Directors Guild of America has announced its nominations for best documentary directors for 2010, and Lixin Fan is on the list. His film, "Last Train Home," airs on P.O.V. this year. It's the latest in a long line of nominations and awards for the film, which follows migrant workers as they travel from Chinese cities to their home villages for the New Year’s holiday.

Inadequate sourcing led to NPR's misreporting on Giffords

How did NPR News make such a huge and serious error in misreporting that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had been killed during the Jan. 8 shooting in Tucson? NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard reports that information fed to the newscast unit by KJZZ News Director Mark Moran and NPR Correspondent Audie Cornish was from anonymous sources and and neither provided accurate, first-hand accounts.

"Typically, in a big, fast-breaking news story like this, senior editors should have been consulted before going on air with devastating news based on sources NPR would not name," Shepard writes. "But that didn’t happen."

Andy Carvin, NPR senior social media strategist, posted the erroneous news on two NPR twitter accounts, but opted not to delete the tweets. He explains in this Lost Remote comment thread: "I posted that she had been killed because that is what we were reporting, and as soon as I saw we were backing off from that assertion, I posted the followup noting that as well. I very briefly considered deleting the incorrect tweet, but concluded it was both pointless and inappropriate....I can imagine if I had deleted it, we'd be reading news stories and blog posts today about NPR trying to cover our tracks on Twitter."

Dick Meyer, NPR News executive editor, acknowledged and apologized for the error on Jan. 9.

CPB looking for station hubs for its $12 million "Operation Graduation"

CPB announced at the NETA conference that within the next two weeks, it will issue a request for proposals for its $12 million Public Media Project 12: Operation Graduation. Nine Network of Public Media in St. Louis and WNET/Thirteen in New York City are partners in the project, which aims to raise awareness nationwide of the high-school dropout crisis and develop innovative local solutions.

Twelve stations will be selected as community hubs, based on the severity of the dropout rate in its market, existing educational partner relationships, and station capacity to sustain the initiative for at least 18 months.

Also, the National Center for Community Engagement will provide grants to any CPB-funded licensee to participate in the work. NCME expects to award 30 to 40, with an average of $10,000.

CPB President Pat Harrison discussed the dropout problem onstage by Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia; and Juan Sepulveda, director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, at today's (Jan. 12) luncheon session at the conference in Nashville, which continues through Thursday.

FCC considering noncom-commercial channel sharing

Think the DTV transition complicated life at your station? Just wait for the FCC's spectrum repacking and stacking.

In a crowded session at the NETA conference today (Jan. 12), CPB, APTS and PBS reps detailed the challenges that await pubcasters. "All stations will be impacted," even those that don't participate in an anticipated spectrum auction (Current, Feb. 8, 2010), said Mark Erstling, CPB's v.p. for system development and media strategy. The shift in channels "will have a cascading effect" on channels nationwide, he said. As John McCoskey, head of PBS technology, added, "It'll be a big turn of the crank that will shuffle stations across country."

The FCC issued a notice of proposed rulemaking in November requesting comments on its ideas to free up spectrum for mobile devices. Of the 294 MHz used by broadcasters, the FCC would like stations to voluntarily return 102 MHz. It wants to repack (remove and shift) as well as stack (facilitate sharing) channels.

One of its ideas is for stations to share channels – even allowing commercial and noncoms to do so. It's looking at how much loss of universal service might occur if shared channels are allowed. And what would a shared channel do to the quality of digital services and HD? Does this imply the elimination of multicast channels? What happens at those stations that made promises to provide certain services on those multicast channels in return for DTV funding? What about PBS requirements on signal quality, or CPB rules on full service? "These are big-picture questions," Erstling said.

The NPRM has yet to be published in the Federal Register, which triggers the deadline for comments to be filed.

CPB is on the block in first spending-cut bill of the year

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) has proposed the first series of spending cuts in this year's newly GOP-controlled House – and eliminating CPB funding on the list. As the Washington Post's Federal Eye blog points out, "Brady chairs the Joint Economic Committee and is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee – perches likely to put him at the center of the Congress's forthcoming debate on government spending and deficits." Brady calls his bill the Cut Unsustainable and Top-heavy Spending, or the CUTS Act.