PBS Board approves national promotion of Passport premium

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ARLINGTON, Va. — The PBS Board updated a policy governing promotion of its on-demand video premium Passport and approved a fiscal 2018 draft budget with no dues increase at its meeting Friday.

Board members unanimously approved a change that will allow PBS to promote Passport on PBS.org and other platforms. Currently, promoting Passport is left solely to stations, though PBS can assist with promotion if localizing the service isn’t feasible for a station.

“As adoption has grown, numerous stations’ development leaders have requested that PBS promote Passport on a national level,” said Tom Karlo, chair of the board’s station services committee and GM of KPBS in San Diego. “Through benefit of scale, PBS.org and other platforms would drive traffic to local stations and provide increased revenue.”

The board also approved a $323.9 million budget proposal for FY18. The 5.6 percent reduction from this year’s $343.2 million budget does not include a hike in membership dues.

PBS management took “a deliberate and conservative approach” in crafting the budget, said Molly Broad, finance committee chair. “This budget reflects a significant reduction in utilization of designated net assets in order to preserve a measure of flexibility given these uncertain times,” Broad said.

PBS is prioritizing maintaining its investment in general audience content and enhancing children’s educational work, interconnection and “integrated content promotion and fundraising” to drive additional revenue to stations, Broad said. The budget devotes $2.5 million to the new PBS Kids multicast channel.

The board voted unanimously to send the draft proposal to member stations for comment. It will vote on the final budget in June.

PBS President Paula Kerger updated the board on advocacy work around federal funding for CPB, which President Trump is proposing to eliminate.

Kerger noted support “organically bubbling up,” such as the recent Capitol Hill rally organized by MoveOn.org and parent groups.

“It really is the voice of the people that makes a difference,” Kerger said. “Constituents matter to members of Congress.”

PBS has also relaunched ValuePBS.org, a site created in 2012 to help stations in conversations with “any potential stakeholder,” Kerger said. The site is now mobile-responsive and can integrate with the Bentomatic station website template.

Other work includes the #ILovePBS social media campaign to “tap into the support and affection for PBS and stations,” Kerger said. Some half a million Facebook users have posted the slogan on their profile pictures; those have been viewed by 100 million people, Kerger said.