NEW ORLEANS — CPB is considering a proposal to allocate $3 million annually over six years to support collaboration among public radio stations, with the amount to be drawn from Community Service Grant incentive funds. The money would support upwards of 20 collaborations among 80 or so stations, each of which would receive an additional $70,000 to $90,000 annually. That financial boost would help stations develop content, streamline operations, plan technology and infrastructure, and undertake other collaborative activities. The program would start in fiscal year 2015 at the earliest. By encouraging collaboration, CPB hopes to “unleash the potential of the network effect,” said Bruce Theriault, senior v.p. of radio, at the Public Radio Regional Organizations Super-Regional Meeting in New Orleans Nov.
New Hampshire Public Television and WGBH in Boston announced today a collaboration in both programming and back-office tasks. The two said in a statement that each will remain independently owned and operated stations. They have posted a website to explain the upcoming changes to viewers in both states. NHPTV will contract for services in broadcast technologies, membership services and financial administration, which will allow for financial savings that may be redirected to programming, the announcement said. "The collaboration will provide operational economies, which are key to NHPTV’s continued success following the loss of its state funding and its transition from an entity of the University System of New Hampshire to an independent, community-licensed public media organization," it said.
For two decades, Dick McPherson has managed the McPherson Associates’ Public Media Co-op, through which 30-plus stations with more than 25 percent of pubTV members have shared fundraising materials, strategies and tests. Current asked McPherson to flesh out his heroically concise remarks at the Feb. 27 Public Media Futures forum about the powers and pitfalls of collaboration in fundraising. “Collaboration” sounds so good, even natural and certainly logical, especially among colleagues who share the same values and challenges. “Going in together” is not only efficient but today seems essential for public stations’ survival.
Grantmakers at foundations increasingly look for public radio and television stations to move beyond traditional broadcasting and serve their communities in new ways — as conveners of public dialogue, as innovators testing new approaches for producing and funding digital journalism, and as partners in helping their communities tackle social problems.
Station execs who are veterans at foundation fundraising say pubcasting projects that touch on these key themes have a good shot at capturing the attention of grantmakers:
Emphasis on community engagement
Nine Network/KETC in St. Louis received a three-year $450,000 foundation grant backing its participation in CPB’s American Graduate initiative. The JSM Charitable Trust, a private foundation in St. Louis, awarded the grant last month to help support a series of events, programs and community-engagement activities aimed at improving high-school graduation rates. The station will sponsor town-hall meetings for teachers and students, for example, and is working with a youth-literacy group on a poetry project for kids.
The nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting is launching an investigative news channel on YouTube to serve as a hub for investigative journalism. The Knight Foundation provided an $800,000 grant to start the channel. The center, based in Berkeley, Calif., announced on April 11  that the channel will feature videos from commercial and noncommercial broadcasters and independent producers, including NPR, ITVS, ABC News, the New York Times, the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, the Center for Public Integrity and American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop. The center plans to add contributors and seek submissions from freelance journalists and independent filmmakers from around the world. “One of the goals of this partnership will be to raise the profile and visibility of high-impact storytelling through video,” said Robert Rosenthal, executive director of the center.
There’s a growing disparity between the haves and have-nots among public stations. Their abilities to expand services and revenues are diverging. And if they were to collaborate on fundraising, they’d want different results from it. That was the scene as described by 20 execs and consultants in the Public Media Futures forum held Feb. 16 in Washington, D.C., by the communication schools of the University of Southern California and American University in cooperation with Current.
NBC will share stories, resources and content distribution with two public broadcasters, ProPublica and two local nonprofit newsrooms under the FCC agreement clearing Comcast’s 2011 takeover of NBC Universal. If the preexisting, five-year collaboration between NBC-owned KNSD in San Diego and the nonprofit Voice of San Diego news site is anything to go by, news consumers may see real benefits. Boosting NBC Universal stations’ local content through partnerships with nonprofit news organizations was one of the conditions placed on the network to complete its deal with Comcast. ProPublica, the Pulitzer-winning investigative enterprise that frequently partners with other top news outlets, will work with WNBC-TV in New York, as well as with all 10 NBC-owned stations in the country. In other metro areas, WCAU in Philadelphia will work with pubcaster WHYY, and KNBC in Los Angeles with team up with public radio station KPCC, operated by a sister organization to American Public Media.