Apr 8, 2011

Pelosi stresses pubmedia support at Boston conference

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent an unequivocal message of support for public media to a crowd of some 2,000 participants at an afternoon plenary session of today's (April 8) National Conference on Media Reform in Boston. Pelosi enthusiastically cited a range of media reform objectives, including continued support for pubcasting. She said that Democrats and Free Press, the conference organizer, are working together to ensure funding to "NPR, PBS and their local affiliates," as well as expand low-power FM radio and fight for net neutrality.

Earlier in the day, Amy Goodman, host and co-producer of public broadcasting's Democracy Now!, presided over an international panel on "WikiLeaks, Journalism and Modern Day Muckraking" before an audience of around 500. Eight small cameras captured the presentations for later broadcast or streaming live to a secondary audience of activists following the conference online. Goodman's daily show, with roots in Pacifica radio, is heard almost everywhere in America, on hundreds of small stations and two satellite channels. Her impact and image has been magnified by the way that Democracy Now! has evolved from a radio program into a model for low-cost, multi-platform distribution.

The National Conference on Media Reform continues through Sunday. — Mark Fuerst

IRE salutes CPI's global investigations, ProPublica, NPR News

Investigative Reporters and Editors presented a 2010 IRE Medal, the top prize in its annual journalism competition, to a reporting collaboration between BBC International News Services and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a project of the Center for Public Integrity.

"Dangers in the Dust: Inside the Global Asbestos Trade," which exposed the international network that has kept asbestos on the market despite its known health risks, took the medal as the inaugural IRE winner for partnership/collaboration, new category in the annual competition. ICIJ also earned IRE honors for "Looting the Seas," an examination of the black market bluefin tuna trade.

ProPublica won for online reporting and innovations in watchdog journalism, and NPR News won for radio reporting with its two-part series, "Prison Profiting: Behind Arizona's Immigration Law," by correspondent Laura Sullivan. [PDF of 2010 IRE Award winners]

"This year's winners exemplify the profound difference journalism can make locally, nationally, and internationally," said Mark Horvit, IRE executive director.

Oklahoma lets pubcaster off the hook for legislative session coverage

The Oklamoma House of Representatives voted down a proposal Thursday (April 7) that would have required the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority to televise legislative sessions and committee meetings, calling it an unfunded mandate. Had the bill passed, OETA would have had to install cameras and other equipment and hire staff with no additional state money, the Oklahoman reports. State support for OETA this fiscal year was cut 6 percent, forcing it to decline contract renewals of three longtime anchors and put five local shows on hiatus. Its $4.2 million state allocation is expected to shrink by at least 7 percent for the 2012 fiscal year beginning July 1.

WNET, KOCE, World channel to run "American Family" marathon

A marathon of  PBS's original 1973 American Family documentary episodes begins at 11 p.m. April 23 on WNET/Thirteen in New York City, immediately following HBO's premiere of Cinema Verite, its docudrama on what happened behind the scenes of what is widely considered the first reality TV program. PBS SoCal/KOCE kicks off its American Family marathon at 11 p.m. Pacific, and the World multicast channel runs all 12 hours starting at noon April 24 with a re-air beginning at midnight April 25.

The groundbreaking and controversial documentary project chronicled the daily interactions of the Loud family (image: PBS) of Santa Barbara, Calif., including when wife Pat asked Bill for a separation. Son Lance was the subject of a followup 2003 PBS documentary, Lance Loud! A Death in an American Family, shot in 2001 when he was dying of hepatitis C and HIV.

The original American Family has not been seen in its entirety in more than 20 years (Current, Nov. 5, 1990). The new HBO film focuses on Alan and Susan Raymond, who filmed the original documentary for WNET.

Expansion of Native FMs at risk

Native Public Media has asked federal policymakers to extend the construction permit deadline for tribal groups to launch new noncommercial educational FM radio stations. The Federal Communications Commission awarded CPs for 38 tribal stations under its 2007 NCE filing window, potentially doubling the number of outlets broadcasting to Native communities.

"Because of the economic recession, and threatened cutbacks in federal funding to NTIA's Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, many of those permits are at risk of expiring," Loris Taylor, NPM executive director, said during an April 5 Senate hearing on broadband policy. "If these permits expire, the opportunity for reapplying is not likely to arise for many years to come."

NPM is requesting a one-year extension for permit-holders and preservation of congressional appropriations for PTFP and CPB. "Without continued support for station operations from CPB, all Native stations are in jeopardy," Taylor said.

On the broadband front, Taylor urged lawmakers to support recent FCC initiatives to provide access to digital media and basic telecommunications services in Native American communities. She called for the commission's Tribal Priority policy to be extended to landless tribes and for $1.5 million in funding for its new Office of Native Affairs and Policy. "We ask that you take this office and its functions as seriously as we do by assuring that it is adequately funded," she said. [PDF of Taylor's testimony]

Unique coloring book helps kids get ready for earthquakes

The nonprofit investigative news unit California Watch is distributing “Ready to Rumble,” a coloring and activity book to help kids prepare for an earthquake. It's part of “On Shaky Ground,” a 19-month investigation into the seismic safety at K-12 public schools in the state that reveals the Division of the State Architect approved at least 20,000 school buildings that lacked the final safety certification required by law. Underwriters for the coloring book, available in English, Spanish, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese and Vietnamese, include KQED public radio and Public Insight Network. California Watch partners include the PBS NewsHour.

Conservative libertarian defends public broadcasting

Here's a look at public broadcasting funding from a unique point of view: a fiscal conservative who is also a social libertarian. Bill Shireman heads up Future 500, a nonprofit that works to "transform fruitless ideological battles by redirecting corporations and stakeholders to understanding the systemic roots of problems and their solutions." In his piece on Huffington Post, he admits there are plenty of good reasons to get government funding out of media. "But the realist in me — the one that actually listens to both commercial and public media — sees something different."

"The overwhelming onslaught of advertising leaves us impoverished, when it comes to thoughtful, humane programming," he writes. "We need genuine choice in media. Right now, public broadcasting offers one important choice."

"PBS is fundamentally different from Fox or MSNBC, the conservative and liberal champions of commercial media. It is calm, thoughtful, measured, and introspective. It triggers not my passions and impulses, but my intellect. Even if I disagree — as I often do — I feel like I am more grounded and thoughtful when I listen to PBS."

Media reformers gather in Boston

PBS President Paula Kerger, Frontline Executive Producer David Fanning and Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! will address the National Conference for Media Reform, kicking off today (April 8) in Boston sponsored by Free Press. Other speakers at the three-day event include U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, and craigslist founder Craig Newmark. More than 2,500 participants are expected at the confab, which features some 80 interactive sessions on topics including journalism, public media, technology, innovation, policy, arts, and social justice, along with musical performances and film screenings. Can't attend? Free Speech TV will be streaming live, and check out the conference website. (As of 9:30 a.m., Free Press was having difficulty handling excessive web traffic; spokeswoman Jenn Ettinger told Current that techs are on the job.)