May 17, 2012

APTS President Pat Butler pushes pubmedia consolidation in Media Institute speech

Speaking at The Media Institute today, Patrick Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, reiterated his opposition to defunding public media at the federal level, recently pushed in letters by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) and Sen. James DeMint (R-S.C.). Butler also reached out to commercial media executives, and suggested ways public broadcasters could consolidate without sacrificing the quality of their product, according to John Eggerton of Broadcasting & Cable.

The Media Institute is a nonprofit First Amendment think tank (based near Washington, D.C. in Arlington, Va.) supported by major media companies, foundations, associations and individuals. Many commercial media execs were in attendance for Butler's speech, Eggerton said.

According to Eggerton, commercial and noncommercial media alike share the same pressure to give up spectrum for wireless broadband. Butler pointed out that both have to be more efficient and effective with the spectrum that they have in order to preserve it.

On consolidation: "We're trying to do this work [entertain and educate] more efficiently," Butler said. "We are pursuing such initiatives as joint master control rooms, consolidated back-office operations, channel sharing, spectrum leasing, fee-for-service data and content management, and other innovations that may help us improve our service without increasing our costs."

On the value of public broadcasting: "[We are] the civilizing force in American society, the preserver of the national memory, the greatest classroom, the grandest stage, the community center and the champion of good citizenship...Oscar Wilde once said that America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between. This is manifestly untrue, but it is important that we never sacrifice civilization for commercialization," said Butler.

KCUR picks new G.M.

Nico Leone. Photo courtesy KCUR.
KCUR-FM, Kansas City's flagship NPR station, announced today that Nico Leone would succeed veteran general manager Patricia Cahill starting on Aug. 1.

Cahill, who has run the station since 1987, initially reported her intent to retire on Sep. 22, 2011.

Leone comes from St. Louis' KDHX, a not-for-profit community station, where he was co-executive director. After a nationwide search process, Leone was selected by a ten-member search committee that included representatives from KCUR staff, the community advisory board, the NPR board, donors and volunteers.

David Warm, chair of the search committee, said that, “Nico is exactly what we need to extend the excellence of KCUR into the future...Patty Cahill is leaving some big shoes to fill, and Nico will come as close as anyone can to matching her legacy.”

Lakeland Public TV gets $3 million in state bonds for new building

After 32 years, Lakeland Public TV in Bemidji, Minn., will be moving to a new facility, reports the Bemidji Pioneer. “The reality is we’re really, really squeezed here,” Bill Sanford, c.e.o., said during the announcement at the station, on the campus of Bemidji State University. The newspaper noted: "Workspaces are set up wherever space is available; some are next to the drum room, so when practice is in session, it can be difficult to simply make a phone call."

The pubcaster secured $3 million in state bonds, and now has a total of $3.6 million toward the $4.2 million building project. Construction is set to begin in spring 2013.

Indie pubcaster KCET secures national distribution deal with APT

KCET, the L.A. pubcasting titan that split from PBS on Jan. 1, 2011 (Current, Oct. 18, 2010), has just inked its first large-scale national distribution initiative since achieving independence.

KCET signed the syndication deal with American Public Television for Your Turn To Care, an original series which delves into the multifarious challenges faced by the Baby Boomer generation in caring for their aging parents and loved ones.

The series is hosted by actress and writer Holly Robinson Peete, and features a wide variety of Hollywood actors, media figures, medical professionals, and academics dispensing advice and sharing personal care-taking stories

The series can be seen on public television stations starting on July 1, 2012. KCET reports that over 70 pubTV stations have already placed the series in their schedules.

NPR facing $2.6 million budget deficit

Five months into his tenure as NPR president, Gary Knell is grappling with a looming budget shortfall, according to the Washington Post. Corporate underwriting income has fallen off sharply and fundraising for major gifts and foundation grants has been slowed by the departures of two top staffers.

The revenue shortfalls added up to a $2.6 million deficit through March, the half-way point of NPR's fiscal year. 

In a meeting with staff this week, Knell said he wanted to avoid cutting jobs or programs. "That's the last thing I want to do," he told the Post's Paul Farhi.

But Farhi picked up word that program cancellations are being contemplated. Citing anonymous sources, he reports that "there have been internal discussions about dropping Tell Me More," a weekday program hosted by Michel Martin that's aimed at minority listeners [PDF].

The loss of Tell Me More would be a major setback to public radio's long running efforts to develop more programs for minority audiences. The field has lost three series developed for African American listeners since 2009, when a $23 million budget shortfall prompted cancellation of News and Notes. Two programs launched independently by the African American Programming Consortium had short runs on minority-controlled public radio stations in 2009. Earlier this year, the Michael Eric Dyson Show, which launched with CPB backing in 2010, ended production.