Dec 12, 2011

MPTV Friends, Milwaukee station appear close to merger

Milwaukee Public Television is in "the final stages of merger talks" with the fundraising group MPTV Friends, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Over the years the nonprofit has raised around $100 million for public television in the city. Ellis Bromberg, MPTV g.m., told the paper the talks are "amicable," adding, "I think both sides believe that this is the best in the long run for our station and our donors. We think so, and so do the Friends."

Under the agreement expected to be announced soon, more than half the Friends' 19 employees would become MPTV staffers in its development department, and the others may receive severance. Assets of the Friends, worth more than $3 million, would become the property of MPTV. The Great TV Auction, the Friends' group's biggest fundraiser and arguably the largest pubTV auction in the country, would continue.

Merger talks began earlier this year, after MPTV's attorney Steven Biskupic wrote a letter to the Friends group saying that the relationship between the two entities could be in violation of IRS and other federal law (PDF), and asking Friends to stop using several Milwaukee Public Television trademarks. The letter also stated that although the Friends group raised $5.8 million in 2010 for the station, it only forwarded $2 million to MPTV.

The president of the Friends Board of Directors, Dave Stroik, declined to discuss the talks. He has called a board meeting for Tuesday (Dec. 13).

Blogging voyage to continue for most of NPR's Argo stations

Ten of the 12 public radio stations participating in the NPR-led Argo Project intend to continue reporting on their specialized topics when the blogging pilot ends this month. "[F]or some stations, it’s been an eye-opening experience in how original, web-native publishing can expand audiences in ways that repurposed radio content might not on its own," reports Andrew Phelps of Nieman Lab. "At four of the 12 stations, their Argo blog drew monthly audiences bigger than every other part of their news sites combined." Blogs published by California stations KQED and KPBS were top performers in the Argo Network, and both intend to keep reporting next year.

The Argo Project launched in 2010 as a demonstration and proving ground for NPR's strategy to help stations expand their digital reporting capacity. CPB and the Knight Foundation provided grants totaling $3 million for the two-year experiment.