PubTV stations move to pitch sustainer gifts during pledge

Public TV stations looking to reduce their reliance on transactional fundraising will get more assistance from PBS this summer, when for the first time pitch breaks for its pledge specials will include messages inviting viewers to join as sustaining members — providing donations that arrive every month with no end date, although in smaller amounts than a Doo Wop show might inspire. While a steady flow of contributions from a donor’s credit card sounds like a great idea in principle, it’s challenging for many local stations to adjust to this new method of charitable giving. Instead of receiving cash infusions at pledge time and dealing with fulfillment of high-dollar premiums, they have to change the language they use in asking viewers to support their service throughout the year and develop new systems for tracking credit-card expiration dates. But the biggest hurdle, according to fundraising specialists, is adjusting for the change in their cash flow when membership contributions come through monthly donations of $10 to $15, rather than much higher gifts tied to premium offers. Veteran fundraisers say the effort pays off over the long haul: “Sustainers,” as this increasingly commonplace breed of member is called, renew at higher rates than those responding to traditional pledge pitches, and their monthly gifts help to even out the roller-coaster financial cycles of on-air fundraising.

Kerger describes factionalism within pubTV as system’s greatest threat

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. — PBS President Paula Kerger called for local public TV stations and PBS to move beyond their reputations as a “dysfunctional family” to embrace “the power of a collective system” to strengthen their public service. In a keynote speech opening this year’s PBS Annual Meeting, Kerger said public television has reached an important moment in its history — one that she considers to be “the most important moment of my tenure” as PBS president. Kerger pointed to the outpouring of support for public TV when its federal funding came under attack during the fall presidential elections and the international attention and praise that accrued to PBS and stations following the blockbuster Masterpiece Classic hit Downton Abbey. “We have the potential to accomplish great things,” Kerger said.

Merrill Brockway, Emmy-winning Dance in America producer, dead at 90

Merrill Brockway, a producer and director of several PBS arts programs who was best known for his work on the Great Performances spinoff Dance in America, died May 3 in Santa Fe, N.M. He was 90. Brockway was born in Indiana and began a career as a piano teacher and accompanist before entering TV at the age of 30. He wrote and directed for CBS affiliates in Philadelphia and New York before leaving commercial TV for PBS in 1975, when Dance in America launched. He worked on the program, produced by New York’s Thirteen/WNET, from 1975–88, capturing some of America’s most renowned dancers and choreographers on film. Dance in America spotlighted the work of Martha Graham, Thyla Tharp, and the New York City Ballet as choreographed by George Ballanchine, among many others.

Sun, who grew up in north-eastern China during the Cultural Revolution, pursued an engineering career out of "curiosity," she said. "With engineering, you see a problem, you fix it and you see the result right away." (Photo: WOSU)

Blazing her own path as a pubTV broadcast engineer

The first television broadcast in China was transmitted in 1958. The first time that Ling Ling Sun watched a television program was 20 years later, when she was 18. Now she is engineering manager for television broadcast services at WOSU in Columbus, Ohio, and was recently appointed vice chair of the PBS Engineering Technology Advisory Committee.

APT, PBS partner to offer Moyers & Company for viewing on COVE

Moyers & Company has become the first American Public Television-distributed program to be presented on the PBS COVE online video player and PBS mobile apps. The weekly public affairs show, hosted by veteran public TV journalist and independent producer Bill Moyers, has been offered on COVE on a test basis for several weeks, according to spokesperson Joel Schwartzberg. With today's announcement, PBS and APT signaled their intention to collaborate to bring more APT titles to PBS's online video player. The arrangement helps to make Moyers & Company more easily accessible for public TV viewers. The series, which launched in August 2010, is the first from Moyers to be distributed by APT.

NEA announces 2013 media arts grants; OVEE and AIR projects among recipients

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.