What if Congress stopped allocating federal aid to pubcasting? The latest bleak financial analysis from CPB, released last week, adds some specifics about how service would be affected in dozens of congressional districts across the land. Fifty-four public TV licensees in 19 states and 76 public radio operators in 38 states would be “at high risk of no longer being able to sustain operations” if federal aid ends, CPB asserts in a report backed by Booz & Co. and delivered to the appropriation committees June 20. Congress asked CPB for a report on the field’s economic options when lawmakers approved the most recent advance appropriation in December.
The CPB Board of Directors approved a supplementary grant of $575,000 June 14 to the Independent Television Service for completion of its Online Video Engagement Experience (OVEE), a digital platform that allows moderated interactive online screenings of video content streamed through PBS.org. CPB had backed development of the technology in 2010 with $954,000. The additional funding will support development of technical capabilities to run OVEE on mobile devices and stream live events, such as debates and town-hall meetings — enhancements requested by all five OVEE pilot stations. CPB management presented the grant request to the board at its June 4 meeting, but approval was postponed after Chair Bruce Ramer questioned whether the corporation should take an ownership stake in innovative projects such as OVEE (Current, June 11). The board agreed to take more time to consider the grant and delayed the vote.
CPB has awarded a $500,000 grant to NPR to support the network’s international news coverage. The grant, announced at a March 26 awards dinner honoring NPR correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, will support salaries and travel costs for reporters and producers in Jerusalem, Cairo, Beirut, Shanghai and Beijing. Last year NPR spent more than it had anticipated covering the Arab uprisings and the earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan. As NPR’s foreign desk steps up its reporting from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, reporters are putting themselves “on the front line of historic news events,” said CPB Chair Bruce Ramer, who announced the grant. “This will help NPR stay on the story as long as it takes.”
“This is going to be so important for our work,” said NPR President Gary Knell.
47 USC § 396, or U.S. Code, Title 47, Chapter 5, Subchapter III, Part IV, subpart d, § 396
This compilation of federal law was posted freely by the Legal Information Institute of Cornell University Law School. See LII for the latest preliminary (subject to revision) and final versions. (a) Congressional declaration of policy
The Congress hereby finds and declares that—
(1) it is in the public interest to encourage the growth and development of public radio and television broadcasting, including the use of such media for instructional, educational, and cultural purposes;
(2) it is in the public interest to encourage the growth and development of nonbroadcast telecommunications technologies for the delivery of public telecommunications services;
(3) expansion and development of public telecommunications and of diversity of its programming depend on freedom, imagination, and initiative on both local and national levels;
(4) the encouragement and support of public telecommunications, while matters of importance for private and local development, are also of appropriate and important concern to the Federal Government;
(5) it furthers the general welfare to encourage public telecommunications services which will be responsive to the interests of people both in particular localities and throughout the United States, which will constitute an expression of diversity and excellence, and which will constitute a source of alternative telecommunications services for all the citizens of the Nation;
(6) it is in the public interest to encourage the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities;
(7) it is necessary and appropriate for the Federal Government to complement, assist, and support a national policy that will most effectively make public telecommunications services available to all citizens of the United States;
(8) public television and radio stations and public telecommunications services constitute valuable local community resources for utilizing electronic media to address national concerns and solve local problems through community programs and outreach programs;
(9) it is in the public interest for the Federal Government to ensure that all citizens of the United States have access to public telecommunications services through all appropriate available telecommunications distribution technologies; and
(10) a private corporation should be created to facilitate the development of public telecommunications and to afford maximum protection from extraneous interference and control. (b) Establishment of Corporation; application of District of Columbia Nonprofit Corporation Act
There is authorized to be established a nonprofit corporation, to be known as the “Corporation for Public Broadcasting”, which will not be an agency or establishment of the United States Government. The Corporation shall be subject to the provisions of this section, and, to the extent consistent with this section, to the District of Columbia Nonprofit Corporation Act.
Two of pubcasting’s chief critics on Capitol Hill have revived their bids to end CPB funding. Republican lawmakers Rep. Doug Lamborn (Colo.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.) circulated letters last week asking colleagues to help them “permanently defund” CPB. They are targeting the $445 million advance-funded appropriation proposed for CPB in 2015. CPB’s requested appropriation “represents no reduction from its prior year appropriation level,” the lawmakers wrote. “While so many Americans are making sacrifices around the country to make ends meet, CPB appears unwilling to do the same.” They said the country is more than $15 trillion in debt, and ending support of CPB “should be one of the easier decisions to make.”
The lawmakers point to compensation of two top pubcasting execs to bolster their political case.
Stanley Harrison, a former communications director for CPB, died of cardiac arrest on April 5 in Miami Beach, Fla., six days before his 82nd birthday. He had suffered a stroke in November 2011. Harrison oversaw public relations and publications for CPB from 1976 to 1985, where his office was distinguished by a haze of cigar smoke. After CPB, he followed the corporation’s past president, Ed Pfister, to the University of Miami’s School of Communication, where Pfister became dean. Harrison remained a professor of public relations at the school.
Public Law 90-129, 90th Congress, November 7, 1967 (as amended to April 26, 1968)
Enacted less than 10 months after the report of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Broadcasting, this law initiates federal aid to the operation (as opposed to funding capital facilities) of public broadcasting. Provisions include:
extend authorization of the earlier Educational Television Facilities Act,
forbid educational broadcasting stations to editorialize or support or oppose political candidates,
establish the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and defines its board,
defines its purposes,
authorize reduced telecommunications rates for its interconnection,
authorize appropriations to CPB, and
authorize a federal study of instructional television and radio. Title I—Construction of Facilities
Extension of duration of construction grants for educational broadcasting
Sec. 101. (a) Section 391 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 391) is amended by inserting after the first sentence the following new sentence: “There are also authorized to be appropriated for carrying out the purposes of such section, $10,500,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1968, $12,500,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1969, and $15,000,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1970.”
(b) The last sentence of such section is amended by striking out “July 1, 1968” and inserting in lieu thereof “July 1,1971.”
The pull of economic strains and push of technical advancements continue to spark collaborations among stations, with seven pubTV outlets signing onto a CPB-backed joint master-control project in Florida and two Oregon stations preparing to link via fiber lines and share a single schedule. The CPB Board on March 27 unanimously approved a $7 million grant for a centralcasting facility that will serve six stations in Florida and one in Georgia. The Jacksonville Digital Convergence Alliance LLC will run one master control with customized programming streams for WJCT in Jacksonville; WFSU, Tallahassee; WPBT, Miami; WBCC/WUCF, Orlando; Tampa stations WUSF and WEDU; and WPBA, Atlanta. Depending on how many additional stations sign on, the participating pubcasters will save as much as $20 million over 10 years, according to CPB’s estimates. Cost savings have become imperative, as CPB’s supplementary appropriation for digital projects is nearly depleted.