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.
Three staff positions — including that of the television station manager — have been cut at WKYU at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. The lay-offs were part of a restructuring that prepares the dual licensee for a potential 10 percent reduction in federal funding. WKYU staff members who lost their jobs are Terry Reagan, development director; Linda Gerofsky, TV station manager; and Dorin Bobarnac, engineer. Thirty-one employees remain at the dual licensee. James Morgese, a veteran pubcaster who took over as director of educational telecommunications at the university earlier this month, told Current that the restructuring includes creation of a single content division and allows radio and television staff to collaborate in producing programs for radio, television and the web.
KPCC’s ambitious three-year, $10 million project to fortify its newsroom and serve more people of color has created an unintended casualty: The Los Angeles station lost the popular namesake of its top-rated morning news magazine, The Madeleine Brand Show, after changes that included a new co-host.
Public broadcasting became a trending topic during and after Wednesday night’s presidential debate, as GOP nominee Mitt Romney repeated his pledge to defund PBS and the NewsHour’s Jim Lehrer was roundly criticized for his performace as debate moderator.
An audit by the CPB Inspector General’s Office of Pundit Productions, the nonprofit that operated a public radio news bureau on Capitol Hill until its shutdown last fall, found violations of several CPB grant requirements and recommended that Pundit return more than $35,000 in grant monies. At CPB management’s request, the IG examined how Pundit spent a $300,000 grant provided by CPB in 2011 for a “transition project” intended to develop a long-term business plan and pricing model. The nonprofit bureau, run by Melinda Wittstock, relied heavily on CPB’s assistance, receiving grants totalling $2.3 million since its start-up in 2003. For the 2011 grant, CPB covered slightly less than half of the $688,036 budget for the business planning. The IG spotted violations with $81,013 in expenses, ranging in scope from more than $40,000 in depreciation charges to payments of $285 that covered reporters’ parking tickets.
CPB’s financial analysis on alternative funding sources for public broadcasting, prepared by consultants at Booz & Co. and delivered to Congress in June, has had little impact on lawmakers’ views about continuation of CPB’s annual federal appropriation to date, CPB staff reported during a Sept. 10 board meeting in Washington, D.C.
In the report, analysts for Booz examined a range of options for replacing CPB’s federal aid — from selling commercial advertising to tapping spectrum auction proceeds or selling pay-channel subscriptions, among others. They concluded that withdrawal of federal aid would have a “cascading debilitating effect,” starting first with stations serving rural areas and ultimately leading to collapse of the public broadcasting system. The dire predictions haven’t made much difference in swaying lawmakers on Capitol Hill, CPB’s government affairs staff reported to the board. “I think it’s fair to say that in the past two-and-a-half months there’s been a little change in the conversation regarding funding for public broadcasting, and the idea of commercials,” said Michael Levy, CPB executive vice president. CPB staff have been meeting with key Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate appropriations committees to discuss why a purely commercial model for public broadcasting is not a viable option. The Booz analysis predicted that public TV could earn more revenue from commercial advertising sales than it now does from underwriting, but the switch to ads would prompt a large portion of those who provide private support to the field — individual donors, foundations and underwriters — to withdraw their support, resulting in a net revenue loss.
The massive American Graduate project is all about potential — the potential of students who stay in school to graduate, as well as the potential of public broadcasting stations to serve as community conveners.