WASHINGTON, D.C. — An increasing number of public broadcasters have been contacting the FCC in recent weeks for information about participating in the upcoming spectrum auction, according to commission representatives who spoke at a CPB board meeting here Tuesday. The uptick began after an Oct. 1 report by investment banking firm Greenhill & Co. projected massive paydays for television stations if they sell spectrum to wireless carriers in next year’s congressionally mandated auction. Most pubTV stations, the representatives said, have been asking the FCC for details about transitioning from UHF to VHF channels.
CPB’s Inspector General has recommended that CPB end the crediting of in-kind donations toward stations’ nonfederal financial support after the IG’s office found six stations had overstated NFFS by claiming invalid donations and incorrectly valuing the contributions. The IG’s office said in a Sept. 30 report that it found stations had inappropriately claimed in-kind donations such as venue space, merchandise and services as NFFS, amounting to misclassifying of hundreds of thousands of dollars. “CPB should evaluate the practicality of continuing to allow stations to claim in-kind trades as NFFS given the historical and continuing challenges in valuing trades and documenting that trades were received by the stations,” the report said. CPB uses NFFS to calculate the annual Community Service Grants it doles out to public broadcasters.
CPB will spend $3 million to give public television executives access to expert advice on the upcoming broadcast spectrum auction. The extremely high value of spectrum as appraised by an Oct. 1 FCC report, “Incentive Auction Opportunities for Broadcasters,” created a “considerable amount of confusion” among managers, said Michael Levy, CPB e.v.p. Previous estimates had been much lower. CPB now believes, based on conversations with general managers after the report was released, that “perhaps as many as 50 to 60” of those executives now feel compelled to “revisit their thinking” about whether to participate in the auction, Levy said. The topic generated discussion at a CPB/PBS General Managers Strategy Meeting Monday and Tuesday in Washington, D.C., Levy said.
The five winners of American Graduate’s Raise Up hip-hop and spoken-word competition performed their original poems on the stage of Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center during a star-studded celebration Sept. 28. The Raise Up competition aimed to include more young people in conversations about high-school dropout rates. It came about through a partnership between CPB’s American Graduate initiative and Youth Speaks, a San Francisco–based nonprofit that seeks to empower young people through writing and performing. The contest was part of the American Graduate: Lets Make It Happen initiative, which focuses on helping communities reduce dropout rates.
The Senate approved three members of the CPB Board Thursday, one returning and two new. The three were nominated by President Obama earlier this year. New to the governing body for a term expiring in 2016 is David Arroyo of Brooklyn, N.Y., s.v.p. for legal affairs at Scripps Network Interactive. From 2008-12 Arroyo chaired the Board of Latino Justice, formerly the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. He also was recognized by the Imagen Foundation as one of the most influential Latinos in entertainment in 2012.
Greater Public, the organization providing fundraising resources and support to public media stations, has opted not to renew the contract of Jeannie Ericson, executive director of its digital division. Ericson formerly worked directly with stations as executive director of the Integrated Media Association, which merged with Greater Public in August 2013. Under a yearlong contract that expired Aug. 29, she helped Greater Public evaluate how to integrate iMA’s digital services for stations into its existing portfolio of development-focused activities. Ericson had not expected that Greater Public would decline to renew her contract, she said.
CPB will review its television Community Service Grant policies to clarify how to handle station revenues from the upcoming spectrum auction. The auctions, mandated by Congress to be conducted by the FCC before 2022, will clear spectrum for wireless devices. All broadcasters must decide whether to participate, and a station’s sale of spectrum could bring in millions of dollars. So far, two recent noncom TV deals in California and Maryland, in which a speculator paid stations up front for a share of future spectrum proceeds, each topped $1 million. The value of a similar deal in Connecticut was not made public.