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.
Boston’s WGBH and the Library of Congress will take over stewardship from CPB of the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, a collection of programs, raw footage, speeches, concerts and other program-related materials spanning over 50 years of pubcasting history. Together, WGBH and the LOC will digitize and store more than 40,000 hours of content. Both will provide public access to the collection within their own facilities in Boston and Washington, D.C. Materials with cleared rights will be available online as well. CPB, which initiated development of the collection in 2007, will provide $1.1 million over two years to support the archive. “We’re playing to both of our strengths,” said Karen Cariani, media library and archives director at WGBH, who will manage the station’s role in the project.
CPB will devote $2.5 million to reporting projects spearheaded by stations and national producers, President Patricia Harrison announced Nov. 12 at the Public Radio Regional Organizations Super-Regional conference in Fort Washington, Md. The funder will provide $1.5 million for the Diverse Perspectives project, an initiative to support reporting from groups of news stations for local, regional and national use. Like the CPB-backed Local Journalism Centers, the stations will focus on particular topics. The number of stations to receive the two-year grants will depend on the range and size of proposals submitted, said Bruce Theriault, CPB senior v.p. of radio, but he estimated that about five groups will receive support.