Though its chances of advancing in Congress are considered slim, the proposed budget put forth this week by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan would zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Ryan said in the budget document released Tuesday that federal subsidies for CPB and the National Endowment for the Humanities could “no longer be justified.”
“The activities and content funded by these agencies go beyond the core mission of the federal government,” the document reads. “These agencies can raise funds from private-sector patrons, which will also free them from any risk of political interference.”
The proposed budget does not stipulate whether the zeroed-out funding would apply to the already appropriated two-year funding cycle, or whether it would be implemented after the forward-funded cycle. Patrick Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, said the proposal was expected. Ryan’s staffers told Butler a few weeks ago that the proposed budget would include zeroed-out funding.
• NPR introduced voice recognition–enabled ads this week on its smartphone app in an attempt to connect its nearly one million mobile listeners with sponsors, Adweek reports. The 15-second audio spots ask listeners to say “Download now” or “Hear more” after hearing an ad that sparks their interest. • The Knight Foundation has awarded a joint grant to the nonprofit newsrooms Voice of San Diego and MinnPost to help them develop plans to grow membership. The two-year, $1.2 million grant will be divided evenly between the news operations, who will collaborate on using membership data more effectively. Nieman runs down how the sites will use the grant.
President Obama has maintained level CPB funding in his fiscal 2015 federal budget request, but recommends eliminating the Rural Digital program and consolidating Ready to Learn funding into other programs within the U.S. Department of Education, in a mixed blessing for pubcasters.
• In his annual review of objectivity and balance in CPB-funded programming, CPB Ombudsman Joel Kaplan noted “far fewer complaints directed at public media,” continuing a trend of the past few years. “Whether that is because public media has improved in this area; people have grown tired of complaining about a lack of balance; or there were just not that many controversial stories this year is not clear,” he noted. Looking back over 2013’s controversies, Kaplan also criticized NPR’s reaction to a lengthy report by its own ombudsman that found fault with an award-winning NPR investigation. As Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos reviewed the three-part series about South Dakota’s foster-care system for Native American children, he “took the unusual step of re-reporting the story,” Kaplan wrote. NPR execs called the ombud’s report “deeply flawed”and said little would be gained “from a point-by-point response to his claims.”
Ted Krichels, CPB’s senior v.p. for system development and media strategy, recently talked to Current about the 50-page “Public Media Models of the Future” report he co-authored this fall with PBS Director of Strategy Stephen Holmes. Edited, rearranged and condensed excerpts from that conversation follow. Current: How did you start the process? Did you survey the entire system, or was it more word of mouth? Ted Krichels: Stephen and I initially were collecting stations, ones you would have heard about.
As some local pubcasters have started to forge paths toward models of public service developed through their own strategic planning or in collaboration with other stations, PBS has sought to bring more attention to their work, and progress, to date. Last year, it tapped Ted Krichels, former g.m. of Penn State Public Broadcasting, to lead its Sustainable Models Project, identifying models that other stations can replicate. Krichels completed that study last fall and recently joined CPB as senior v.p. for system development and media strategy. PBS released the 50-page “Public Media Models of the Future” report, written by Krichels and Stephen Holmes, PBS director of strategy, in November. Based on six months of research with public television station executives nationwide, the report identified eight service models: four within a broad category it called “community impact” and four that were focused on education.
A government-wide spending bill containing more than $1 trillion in appropriations, including $445 million for CPB through fiscal year 2016, passed the Senate Thursday by a wide margin on its way to President Obama’s desk. The Senate voted 72-26 for the measure after it cleared the House the previous day. Republicans cast all of the dissenting votes. In addition to CPB funding, the bill allocates $2 million for rural noncom stations that qualify for CPB’s Community Service Grants. Federal aid for CPB has remained relatively stable over the past three years, though appropriations took a hit with the automatic spending cuts that took effect in March 2013.
CPB will award $1.4 million to seven public radio and TV stations for the creation of a new Local Journalism Center covering energy policy, production, use and innovation. The grant is for two years, and the LJC will hire seven new positions along with freelance multimedia reporters to cover the beat, according to CPB spokesperson Kelly Broadway. Rocky Mountain PBS and KUVO-FM in Colorado are the lead stations on the initiative, which will focus on the West and Great Plains. The other participating stations, together covering six states and parts of Canada, are northern Colorado’s KUNC-FM, Colorado Public Television, Wyoming Public Media, Wyoming PBS and Prairie Public. The energy LJC, which will use data-based reporting to cover local and regional energy issues, is the second that CPB has committed to funding this year.