The National Endowment of the Arts announced $4.68 million in funding to 76 media-arts projects April 23, including new grantees such as the Online Video Engagement Experience (OVEE) developed with CPB funding, a new initiative from the Association of Independents in Radio called Spectrum America and Sonic Trace, a multimedia production at KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif., that was created through AIR’s recently concluded Localore project. For a second year, the NEA will continue to support projects that use digital technologies to go beyond traditional broadcasting platforms. In its announcement, the endowment highlighted a $100,000 grant to OVEE, a digital platform that allows web users to interact while watching PBS and local station content. The Independent Television Service developed the technology with support from CPB. AIR also received $100,000 for Spectrum America, a project that will pair media artists with public stations as they experiment with “new approaches to storytelling.”
Sonic Trace, a co-production at KCRW initiated through AIR’s 2012–2013 Localore initiative, received a direct NEA grant of $75,000 to continue exploring the experience of Latino immigrants. NEA also backed digital media projects at NPR, providing $100,000 for music programming and multimedia content.
The CPB Board on April 22 unanimously approved changes to its Radio Community Service Grants program for fiscal 2014, including phased-in hikes in nonfederal financial support (NFFS) requirements for most stations, pubradio’s first transparency requirements, qualification changes for minority-status stations and $9 million in financial incentives over five years for mergers and collaborations. Current CSG policies, which govern distribution of some $90.6 million in radio grants for fiscal 2013, were last updated in 2005. Since then, “shifts in technology, audience behavior, demographics, competition, and the economy have dramatically changed the landscape for public media,” said Oregon Public Broadcasting President Steve Bass, a CSG panel member who spoke at the CPB meeting. “That environmental reality was the backdrop for our discussions and influenced our thinking about the CSG program policy that would best serve the interests of stations and better align our system for the future.”
A 20-member CSG panel, more than half of which was made up of general managers from stations, has been crafting the update over the last 14 months. Bruce Theriault, senior v.p. of radio, told the board that more than 200 stations gave feedback on the document.
The Ready to Learn program backing educational media and outreach for children ages 2 to 8 is making digital learning through community engagement a priority, a change that will affect which stations participate in the program.
President Obama released his fiscal 2014 federal budget proposal April 10, and recommended $445 million in two-year advance funding for CPB. This is a level amount compared to previous federal funding levels for CPB.
Public television’s strongest case for preserving tax-based support for stations and CPB centers on informing political leaders about the full range of public-service work that stations deliver to local communities, particularly in the field of education, according to the field’s lead advocates in Washington, D.C.
Former West Virginia Governor Bob Wise was honored for his work supporting public media’s educational service. Wise is president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, a partner in CPB’s ongoing American Graduate project to reduce the drop-out rate among high school students. He also chairs the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Gov. Wise spent 10 years in the U.S. House before serving as West Virginia’s governor from 2001 to 2005. The CPB Thought Leader Award honors U.S. leaders who help pubcasters serve the public in the areas of education, journalism and the arts.
Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, a documentary developed with pubcasting support, will have its theatrical release April 5, presented by BET Networks. The 2012 film marks the 40th anniversary of social activist Angela Davis’s acquittal on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in connection with a botched kidnapping attempt. Film funders included Independent Television Service, BET and CPB. Director Shola Lynch previously worked as a visual researcher and associate producer for Ken Burns and Florentine Films before her 2004 debut documentary, Chisolm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed. Free Angela is distributed by Codeblack Films, a division of Lionsgate, and will open in select AMC theatres in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Oakland, Philadelphia and Atlanta.
A pair of documentaries to be released for public TV broadcasts next month focus on two of the most difficult aspects of the nation’s dropout crisis — under-performing schools and at-risk youth. 180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School will be presented in conjunction with Tavis Smiley Reports: Education Under Arrest as part of CPB’s American Graduate initiative. Both premiere in late March, and were previewed during a Jan. 30 webinar from the National Center for Media Engagement. For 180 Days, “our goal was to share the perspective of students, how they view the things they have to go through,” Alexis Phyllis Aggrey, production manager of National Black Programming Consortia, told webinar participants.