Talks between NPR and CPB about expanding the network's Code Switch to a local and regional level are on hold as NPR President Gary Knell departs for his new job. A CPB draft business plan for 2014, released last month, said that the corporation “is considering building on the success of the NPR Code Switch initiative by extending it to local stations as a regional initiative.”
The cross-platform production aims to examine issues of race, culture and ethnicity, and spark discussion on social media platforms and NPR’s website. It launched in May with a $1.5 million, two-year grant from CPB. Discussions about expanding Code Switch beyond its current operations are now in a holding pattern, however, as NPR looks for a new chief executive. “We’ve been talking to NPR and PBS about a national-down-to-local diversity initiative,” said Michael Levy, executive v.p. of corporate and public affairs at CPB.
Veteran pubcaster Ted Krichels will become CPB's new s.v.p. for system development and media strategy, effective Nov. 4. Krichels replaces Mark Erstling, who remains with CPB but will focus solely on issues concerning the upcoming television spectrum auctions and subsequent channel repacking. In his new role, Krichels will oversee CPB's efforts to ensure that public television and its related digital and visual media services are universally available across America. Krichels has more than 25 years experience in pubcasting management, most recently as associate v.p. and g.m. of Penn State Public Broadcasting in University Park, Pa., and previously as c.e.o. of KBDI in Denver.
Anxiety among public TV executives about channel repacking after spectrum auctions outweighs their enthusiasm for selling bandwidth, CPB s.v.p. Mark Erstling told corporation directors during their Sept. 17 board meeting in Washington, D.C.
CPB has commissioned Booz & Co. to research the effect of spectrum policy issues on the pubTV system for a white paper CPB will release early in 2014. The outcome of the upcoming auction to clear broadcast bandwidth for use by mobile devices is as critical to the future of public media “as the original noncommercial set-aside of public spectrum and the Broadcasting Act of 1967,” Erstling told directors. CPB’s greatest concern is loss of universal access to local public TV services, Erstling said.
The House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over CPB is pushing once more for eliminating government funding to public broadcasting in its fiscal year 2014 budget proposal, according to the New York Times.
CPB plans to fund two additional Local Journalism Centers, according to a Nieman Lab article reviewing lessons that journalists have learned from running the centers. The funder initially put up $8.1 million in 2010 and 2011 to start seven LJCs around the country. Some have fared well, while others have struggled with a lack of additional funding and difficulties in working out collaborative relationships among station partners. CPB expects to phase out funding for the existing LJCs even as it backs new ones. Most participants don’t know whether they will be able to sustain the partnerships after CPB funding dries up, according to Nieman.
Republican Colorado Congressman Doug Lamborn today reintroduced legislation to kill federal funding for NPR. Its language is identical to his bill that passed the House in 2011, which prohibited stations from using CPB funds to acquire programming or pay NPR dues. That bill never made it to the floor of the Senate. "At a time when millions of federal works are being furloughed, schoolchildren are barred from visiting the White House, and many military training flights are grounded to save money, it is unacceptable that taxpayers are still on the hook for millions of dollars each year to subsidize National Public Radio," he said in a statement. "Additionally, it was highly inappropriate for NPR to move into a lavish new headquarters building partly paid for by taxpayers, many of whom continue to struggle under the worst economy since the Great Depression."
CPB has withheld financial support for the Pacifica Foundation’s five radio stations after the organization missed deadlines for fixing errors and shortcomings in its accounting and operations. The errors were discovered during a CPB audit last year that cited Pacifica for insufficient accounting practices, misreported revenues and failure to comply with CPB rules on open meetings and financial transparency. The withholding of CPB funding hits Pacifica at a precarious time as its stations struggle to raise enough money to pay rent and staff. WBAI, Pacifica’s New York station, fell short of its on-air fundraising goal in May by 45 percent, or $343,000. The station can’t cover its June payroll or rent for its antenna, according to a June 9 email by Berthold Reimers, g.m., to members of WBAI’s board.