Feb 24, 2011

Republican Congressman loves public radio — no, really

Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), new chairman of the Rules Committee in the House of Representatives, is a big fan of public broadcasting, particularly NPR's foreign coverage and This American Life, the Public Radio International series produced by WBEZ in Chicago.

Yes, you read that correctly.

"It might not be healthy these days for conservatives to admit they like public broadcasting, given the relentless flogging it takes from some ideologues," writes the Los Angeles Times' Jim Rainey. "So give credit to Dreier for acknowledging the truth — that NPR, PBS and their local affiliates are gems that deserve our support, one way or another."

Dreier is confident that funding from members, foundations and corporate donors could cover station costs. He wants to form a "post taxpayer-supported Corporation for Public Broadcasting." He says there needs to be a "transition period," especially for smaller stations. "There are local affiliates in places like Alaska and North Dakota and places where public broadcasting stations are the only stations out there," Dreier says. "We need to figure out another way to do it."

"I am just a big fan of public broadcasting," he adds. He's helped with pledge drives at Los Angeles stations KCET and KCRW, and Pasadena's KPCC, along with WAMU in Washington, D.C.

Dreier will soon be traveling to Indonesia and says he can't wait to visit NPR's Jakarta bureau. He tells Rainey: "But what I really want to do is host Morning Edition."

GOP-Dem talks on Continuing Resolution "off to a shaky start," Washington Post reports

The budget stalemate continues to percolate over the Continuing Resolution to keep the government running through September, which contains a provision wiping out all of CPB's funding. Since the bill's passage at 4:30 a.m. Feb. 19, the Republicans put together a bill that would push the March 4 deadline two weeks – with $4 billion in cuts, roughly proportional to the $61 billion over the remaining seven months of the fiscal year. Senate Democrats rejected that idea, the Washington Post reports. Those lawmakers, meanwhile, want another 30 days to work all this out with funding remaining at current levels; House Republicans rejected that idea. The Post says there's a "wide gulf" between the two sides on the budget plan, and that talks "have gotten off to a shaky start" with the Republicans insisting on the entire $61 billion in reductions.

Boston Globe: Defend aid to PBS and the endowments, let NPR survive on its own

Congressional Democrats have to make some tough choices about which programs to defend against the Republican drive to slash government spending, especially when it comes to a "fat GOP target" like the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, according to op-ed page editors of the Boston Globe. CPB's $531 million appropriation is a comparatively small item in the federal budget, but it offers a big political pay-off for Republicans.

As the Globe sees it, public radio doesn't need federal assistance: NPR receives only a sliver of this federal aid through direct grants, and the financial squeeze of lost CPB grants on public radio stations could be eased through dues relief. Democrats should fight to protect other cultural programs targeted by the GOP -- the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, and the arts and documentary programs on PBS.

"For a news service, there's a major upside to being free from government support," the Globe's op-ed writers reason. "The best guarantee of a fearless media is its own income stream." NPR and its member stations are "among the jewels of the American media," and fans and listeners "should, and surely will, step up to make certain it survives...."

The editorial, published this morning, doesn't acknowledge the roles that Boston pubcasters WBUR and WGBH play in competing for local news audiences, or the extent to which WGBH's television production house depends on federal funding and PBS support.

Beth Deare dies in house fire; groundbreaking former WGBH producer

Aloyce Beth DuVal Deare, a pioneering producer of African-American programming and documentaries at WGBH, was killed Feb. 20 in a four-alarm house fire at her home in Newton, Mass. She was 63.

She had also been battling brain cancer, which had spread from throat cancer last year.

Deare won 13 Emmys and a Peabody Award during her tenure at the station in the 1980s. One was for a critically acclaimed “In the Matter of Levi Heart,” a documentary about a Boston Police shooting. Her credits also include “Beacon to Freedom: Black Life in the Bay Colony,” which she finished in 2008 while undergoing treatment for throat cancer, and American Experience’s “Midnight Ramble,” a 1994 film tracing the history of black filmmaking.

“WGBH is saddened by this loss,” WGBH spokesperson Jeanne Hopkins said in a statement. “Beth was a very talented producer and someone who helped connect WGBH with others in the community.”

The Boston Globe said that in 1979, “Deare began producing content at WGBH that no other station was covering” with the show Say Brother.

The program “tackled various issues of the day and was known for its arts and culture programming,” WGBH radio host Callie Crossley told the newspaper. “It was on a spectrum of high-quality production.”

Documentary filmmaker Valerie Whitmore, of Milton, Mass., a former producer for the programs Coming Together and Evening Magazine on WBZ-TV, told the Globe that Deare was at the center of a group of women of color working on new television programs in Boston in 1980s. "It was good-natured competition," she said. "It was like we were all sisters and comrades together working in the business.”

Deare worked at WGBH for 17 years before becoming an associate professor at Bunker Hill Community College in Bostin, teaching English and oral communication. She was on staff until the time of her death.

Memorial services are pending. (Image: WGBH)