In 2011, as partisan critics attacked NPR, Frontline chief David Fanning urged public media to specialize in strong journalism. Fanning, who was accepting Quinnipiac University's annual Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, quoted the famed CBS News producer: public TV's "most precious right will be the right to rock the boat."
Memos to public radio stations' Authorized Representatives (AReps) from NPR and APTS about the Public Media Alliance, a new combined TV and radio lobbying effort, Feb. 15, 2011
From NPR's chair and president
Fr: Dave Edwards, NPR Board Chair
Vivian Schiller , NPR President & CEO
As you well know in light of this weekend's news from the House Appropriations Committee, the elimination of federal funding for public broadcasting is a serious threat to the future of over 900 locally run radio stations and 360 television stations — and to the entire public broadcasting economy. To succeed in the face of this challenge we need to make our case forcefully, and use our limited resources wisely. Over the past several weeks, NPR and APTS executives and board members have discussed how we might mount an even stronger advocacy effort. We've concluded that our interests and those of the 170 million Americans that rely on public broadcasting each month will be best served by joining forces.
CPB's website, as of February 2013, carries this document, "Revised February 1, 2011," redefining the assignment of its ombudsman. Kenneth Tomlinson, past chair of the CPB Board, had prompted controversy by hiring two ombudsmen in April 2005. Charter Establishing the CPB Office of the Ombudsman
The founders of public broadcasting saw a clear need for a “system-wide process of exerting upward pressure on standards of taste and performance.” (The 1967 Carnegie Commission Report, p.36) In addition, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) was expected to become the “center of leadership” with a “primary mission…to extend and improve . . .
Among the 58 possible federal budget savings recommended by the vice chairs of the president’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform are the entire appropriations to CPB, the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program and the Agriculture Department’s facilities grants to rural public stations. That could put public broadcasting in a congressional bull’s-eye, since a number of bigger items on the list would be too politically devastating to okay. Who on either side of the aisle would vote to boost the retirement age to 69, wipe out income-tax deductions for health benefits and mortgage interest or raise the payroll tax? “The current CPB funding level is the highest it has ever been,” the draft says, with no comment on the merits, and notes that erasing the appropriation would save nearly $500 million in 2015 alone. The authors and vice chairs of the panel are former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, and Clinton Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
Bills to defund public broadcasting, or at least any radio network that fired Juan Williams, are beginning to seem like a real threat since the Nov. 2 midterm election gave Republicans a 60-plus majority in the House and a mandate to take huge bites out of federal spending. Last week the co-chairmen of President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform — assigned to suggest ways to reduce the $13.7 trillion deficit — advised dropping CPB from the budget, along with some vastly bigger federal expenditures that have even sturdier support in Congress (separate story). For conservative talking heads, ending aid to pubcasting would be a high-profile get-tough symbol. And for liberals, giving up CPB could be an attempt to avoid other more widely unpopular cuts.
NPR President Vivian Schiller's remarks near the end of NPR Board meeting, Nov. 12, 2010. Over the last three weeks, I’ve heard from a lot of people — we all have — challenging what NPR is, what it does, and why we’re here. We’ve heard assaults on our programming, and on our objectivity. We’ve read some critical listener letters and comments posted on NPR.org and elsewhere.
NPR President Vivian Schiller dispatched this apology Sunday evening, Oct. 24 , six days after the network set off a pre-election political firestorm with its firing of news analyst Juan Williams. She stands by the decision but not the way it was handled. Dear Program Colleagues,
I want to apologize for not doing a better job of handling the termination of our relationship with news analyst Juan Williams. While we stand firmly behind that decision, I regret that we did not take the time to prepare our program partners and provide you with the tools to cope with the fallout from this episode. I know you all felt the reverberations and are on the front lines every day responding to your listeners and talking to the public. This was a decision of principle, made to protect NPR’s integrity and values as a news organization.
What public broadcasting can do to plan for its own future and for federal policies that serve the public interest
In the first part of this commentary in Current Oct. 4 , Wick Rowland, an early PBS planner and now a station leader in Colorado, said that public broadcasting’s failure to put time and money into formal research and planning has left it “adrift, mute and helpless” on the periphery of federal policymaking about media and spectrum. Pubcasting was slow to respond to the journalism crisis, aloof from the Obama administration’s big commitment to give the public universal access to broadband Internet service.In Part 2 he suggests how the system could equip itself to develop a more coherent, visionary agenda for its own future and the nation’s media policies. The commentary is available as two PDFs: Part 1 and Part 2. At this extraordinary moment, when so many outside observers and critics are simultaneously trying to define a national agenda for public media — when we should be confidently helping to guide those debates — we seem unprepared for the task.
Why everyone but public broadcasters is making federal policy for public media
The FCC’s recent National Broadband Plan and its Future of the Media initiative have highlighted a chronic problem in U.S public broadcasting: The system has no long-term policy planning capacity, and therefore it always has had great difficulty dealing with the periodic efforts by outsiders to critique and “reform” it. Public broadcasting ignores most media policy research, whether it originates in academia, think tanks or federal agencies, and it often seems out of touch with major national policy deliberations until too late. That disengagement is highly dangerous because it allows others to set the national legal and regulatory agenda for communications without assuring adequate policy attention to public-service, noncommercial and educational goals. Such policy initiatives also can negatively affect the funding and operating conditions of every public licensee. This article, the first of two, examines the history and recent serious consequences of that disengagement.