WASHINGTON, D.C. — CPB’s Board of Directors unanimously approved a resolution Thursday urging the FCC to avoid allowing “white areas” that would lack public television coverage after the upcoming spectrum auction and channel repacking. The resolution followed a meeting Tuesday in which network broadcasters and CPB management met with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to discuss the auction, set for mid-2015. It will clear bandwidth to be used by the burgeoning number of wireless devices. Television broadcasters face three choices: sell spectrum and get out of broadcasting, sell a portion of spectrum and share a channel with another broadcaster, or opt out of the auction. Vinnie Curren, CPB c.o.o., told the CPB Board Thursday that it has identified “half a dozen major communities” where auctions could occur and where the pubTV station “is operated by an institution whose primary mission was not public broadcasting,” such as a university or government agency.
CPB will convene two meetings about spectrum over the next two months, working to craft guidelines for public TV stations to use in deciding whether to participate in the upcoming auction, as well as exploring wider policy and technology issues. Broadcasters face several options as the FCC works to clear bandwidth for the growing number of wireless devices. A station can sell all its spectrum and get out of broadcasting completely, sell part of it and share a channel with another broadcaster, or opt out of the auction altogether. The auction is set for mid-2015. CPB is approaching spectrum issues in a “very measured” way, CPB President Pat Harrison told the board at its April 8 meeting in Washington, D.C. “We’re hearing that stations need more spectrum, not less,” for public-service oriented projects.
Nine members of the Pacifica Foundation’s board of directors opposing last month's firing of executive director Summer Reese filed a lawsuit Thursday asking the court to void the action and reinstate her. Calling themselves the Pacifica Board Members for Good Governance, the group filed a civil lawsuit in the Superior Court of California, County of Alameda. According to the lawsuit, Reese’s March 14 firing violated Pacifica’s bylaws and was “improper, unlawful and fiscally reckless.”
Named in the lawsuit are the board members who voted for Reese’s removal, including Chairwoman Margy Wilkinson and Vice Chairman Tony Norman. The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages, only the overturning of the board’s decision and the immediate reinstatement of Reese. The Pacifica board voted in executive session to dismiss Reese, who was appointed permanent executive director of the network last November after holding the job on an interim basis.
Though its chances of advancing in Congress are considered slim, the proposed budget put forth this week by House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan would zero out funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Ryan said in the budget document released Tuesday that federal subsidies for CPB and the National Endowment for the Humanities could “no longer be justified.”
“The activities and content funded by these agencies go beyond the core mission of the federal government,” the document reads. “These agencies can raise funds from private-sector patrons, which will also free them from any risk of political interference.”
The proposed budget does not stipulate whether the zeroed-out funding would apply to the already appropriated two-year funding cycle, or whether it would be implemented after the forward-funded cycle. Patrick Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, said the proposal was expected. Ryan’s staffers told Butler a few weeks ago that the proposed budget would include zeroed-out funding.
• NPR introduced voice recognition–enabled ads this week on its smartphone app in an attempt to connect its nearly one million mobile listeners with sponsors, Adweek reports. The 15-second audio spots ask listeners to say "Download now" or "Hear more" after hearing an ad that sparks their interest. • The Knight Foundation has awarded a joint grant to the nonprofit newsrooms Voice of San Diego and MinnPost to help them develop plans to grow membership. The two-year, $1.2 million grant will be divided evenly between the news operations, who will collaborate on using membership data more effectively. Nieman runs down how the sites will use the grant.
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.