Jul 18, 2012

House subcom passes Labor HHS bill; Rep. Dicks speaks out against NPR rider

A House panel today (July 18) voted 8-6 to pass to the full Appropriations Committee proposed legislation that would cut $6.3 billion from current spending levels, and includes zeroing out CPB in fiscal 2015. The mainly  party-line vote saw one Republican, Arizona Rep. Jeff Flake, joining Democrats in opposition — but because he wanted even deeper cuts, according to The Hill.

Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Washington) spoke out during the packed meeting on Capitol Hill against the 40-some policy riders that had been placed on the bill, which included language banning pubradio stations from using federal funds for NPR dues or programming.

"Now, with certain minor exceptions the only way funds in this bill find their way to NPR is when the Corporation for Public Broadcasting makes grants to local public radio stations and they use some of that money to acquire programs like All Things Considered," Dicks said. "With this rider, we’re just getting into the middle of our local radio stations’ programming decisions — telling them it’s okay to get programs from, say, American Public Media, but not from NPR. What possible basis do we have for making that distinction?"

"We should be trying to find a path for getting our work done and getting bills enacted," Dicks said, "not erecting new obstacles by bringing in all sorts of contentious policy issues that stand little chance with the Senate and none with the White House."

The bill proceeds to the full committee next week. The Senate won't be considering any spending bills before the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. The Senate Appropriations Committee has recommended level funding of $445 million for CPB, with President Obama proposing the same figure in his budget.

Will "Call the Midwife" on PBS prove too gory for refined "Downton Abbey" fans?

In a column in London's Daily Telegraph, writer Glenda Cooper wonders whether American viewers of the upcoming presentation of Call the Midwife "may be in for a bit of a shock — despite PBS’s carefully describing the drama as 'colourful' (as in blood-drenched)." Cooper says the adaptation of a young East End midwife's life features "graphic descriptions of Fifties obstetrics — which left its British audience spending half their time soaked in tears of joy, and the other half-hiding behind the sofa."

Will the series inspire Downton Abbey's passion among fans, who took to throwing highbrow Downton-themed parties? That's tough to tell, Cooper says. "After all, it’s hard to plan a dinner party around a series that begins with two women (one heavily pregnant) beating each other up, before segueing into a graphic description of the effects of syphilis."

iQ Kids Radio coming from WQED, "Saturday Light Brigade" producers

WQED and the Pittsburgh production company behind the long-running Saturday Light Brigade pubradio show are partnering on an upcoming streaming channel, iQ Kids Radio. The partners just secured three years of support from the Junior League of Pittsburgh to kick-start the project, set to launch in 2013.

iQ Kids Radio will blend children’s content from WQED, PBS and SLB Radio Productions covering multiple disciplines — language, science, music appreciation, geography and more — into a streaming-audio format, as well as individual programs for podcasts and national distribution aimed at kids up to age 12 and their parents.

Programming also will include youth-created music, storytelling and news and commentary based on listener submissions at and SLB’s work with more than 8,000 children annually on The Saturday Light Brigade, a kids’ radio show with music, live performances and interviews.

In 2004, supported by broadcasters, foundations, corporations and individuals, SLB Radio Productions opened a $250,000 broadcast studio and training complex in the expanded Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

The Junior League of Pittsburgh is providing administrative and volunteer support as well as $45,000 for the launch. Junior League members will help with business planning and design and run events related to the project.

Grant to ProPublica will support development of news apps

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has awarded ProPublica a $1.9 million grant to support the nonprofit’s work with news applications, the organizations announced today. In addition to app development, the grant will support paid news-app fellowships for journalists at ProPublica’s headquarters, as well as training seminars at journalism conferences.

“We think this is a really rich area,” said Michael Maness, v.p. of journalism and innovation at the Knight foundation. Scott Klein, ProPublica’s news apps editor, told the Nieman Journalism Lab that ProPublica will be developing more news apps focused on campaign financing as the election approaches.