Inauguration Report ’09, organized by NPR, American University’s School of Communication and CBS, brought in more than 35,000 user contributions via Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, iPhone, Google Phones and text messaging. One of its creators, David Johnson, a professor at American University’s School of Communication, reviews the project, and its implications for the future of public media.
Here’s a bit of positive news during this ominous economic time. A huge increase in grant support enabled WGBH to have a very strong ’08. Grant commitments grew year-to-year a hefty 70 percent to $121.8 million, from $71.7 million, as of Aug. 31, 2008. Many were PBS grants; its commitments to WGBH jumped to $83.8 million in 2008, from $28.3 million in ’07.
“When you reach the end of an experience, it is right to ask, ‘What have I learned?’ ” mulls Weekend America host John Moe. “And after five years of shows, fair question. What I’ve learned is patriotism.” Read the rest of his comments bidding farewell to the APR show and its listeners.
Vivian Schiller, NPR’s new c.e.o., tells the American Journalism Review in a profile that her career as a tour guide in the Soviet Union prepared her for managing at media companies. “I think when I retire I’m going to write a book called Everything I Know I Learned as a Tour Guide, including how to lead the conga line.” On the subject of NPR’s future, she says: “I’ve been proselytizing a little bit about the incredible opportunity that NPR has that no other media organization has, to create a constellation of hyperlocal sites that provide inhabitants of communities with national news, local news and information tools for their communities. This has been sort of the Holy Grail for many media companies … and I think NPR’s the only organization that’s positioned to do it.”
In a speech to FCC staff (PDF) this week, Acting Chairman Michael Copps stressed cooperation within the agency and transparency for the public. “The spectrum is theirs and the rest of us are stewards,” he said. In the weeks ahead, he later added, “our three most important priorities will be, as you have heard me say already, DTV, DTV and DTV.” However, he also said, “At this point, we will not have — we cannot have — a seamless DTV transition,” due to “a patchwork of disjointed efforts.”
NPR’s Juan Williams is “America’s most two-faced senior black correspondent,” writes Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Tony Norman. (The “senior black correspondent” bit is a borrowed Daily Show joke.) Norman notes that on Fox News, Williams has joined the chorus of alarmist voices criticizing Michelle Obama. “Ironically, Williams probably considers his slander a form of racial tough love,” Norman writes. “I wonder if he secretly believes that knocking the first lady will earn him an invitation to the next soiree the president has with conservative commentators.”
At least one senator is fairly certain the DTV delay House bill will pass next week. Minnesota Democrat Amy Klobuchar is a supporter of the date change from Feb. 17 to June 12. “This is more than just about just watching TV for fun,” she told C-SPAN’s Communicators series on Jan. 30.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy is hosting an online discussion, Planning Special Events During a Recession, at noon on Feb. 3. Possible topics: How can you make your event seem worthwhile in the current economy? What steps can you take to promote your event? What can you do to ensure that an event’s participants will become active donors and volunteers?
Do you know a terrific public radio engineer? Nominate him or her for the annual Engineering Achievement Award, presented by the Association of Professional Radio Engineers. Former honorees include the late Wayne Hetrich, one of NPR’s 30 original employees. The honor will be presented at the annual NPR Labs/APRE Engineering Dinner in Las Vegas later this year. Deadline for nominations is March 1.
Dusty and the Big Bad World, a play by Cusi Cram, writer for the PBS Kids series Arthur, opened last night in Denver. The satire, billed as “a wildly humorous story about bigotry and the censorship of ‘Dusty,’ a public television children’s series about a dust ball,” was inspired by Cram’s experience with “Buster-gate,” the national controversy about a segment of the Arthur spinoff Postcards from Buster that featured a girl in Vermont with two gay moms. PBS dropped the episode but many stations still aired it. In the play, the magic dust ball is caught between liberal and conservative forces and his pubTV producer has to choose between sacrificing her principles and keeping the show on the air.
The former accounting manager at WGBH-TV in Boston is facing charges of embezzling nearly $500,000 from the station. Philip McCabe, who worked at the station from 1987 to 2007, allegedly used the station’s money to pay personal bills over a nine-year period. He is charged with two counts of making false entries in corporate books and two counts of larceny over $250, according to the state attorney general’s office.
RGV Educational Broadcasting Inc., in Harlingen, Texas, may lose the $700,000 annual grant it receives to run KMBH-TV and KMBH/KHID-FM. William Gillette of the CPB Inspector General’s office told the board of directors on Jan. 26 that in more than 20 years in operation, it hasn’t formed community advisory groups, a federal requirement for PBS and NPR stations. The IG’s office also said that Monsignor Pedro Briseño, KMBH’s president, CEO and g.m., had been signing documents for years stating that the stations were complying with federal laws. For background, see Current’s May 2008 story.
President Barack Obama’s $800 billion-plus economic stimulus package has passed the House. The bill includes around $6 billion funding for broadband improvement and building-out projects. Senate passage could come as early as next week.
The House has voted down a bill that would have delayed the DTV transition date until June 12, The Associated Press reports. The vote, 258-168, fell short of the two-thirds threshold needed for passage. GOP legislators contend a delay would confuse consumers as well as trouble wireless companies and public safety agencies waiting to use their incoming spectrum. The Senate unanimously approved the bill on Jan. 26.
CPB has canceled its annual National Leaders Meeting after hearing that many of the invited professional and lay leaders would not be able to attend in March because of fiscal problems. “Clearly, it is not the time for ‘business as usual,’” CPB President Pat Harrison wrote to invitees. CPB will go online to achieve some of the meeting’s objectives, she said. Participants in a two-hour online “dynamic inquiry” will discuss how public service media can most effectively serve the public. The meeting had been scheduled for March 18-20 in Washington, D.C.
PBS has purchased a 10 percent equity share in National Public Media, the national on-air and online corporate sponsorship rep whose clients include NPR, Pbs.org and public radio and TV stations across the country. Formerly known as National Public Broadcasting, NPM was established in 2007 when WGBH and NPR bought NPB. NPR owns 80 percent of the company, and WGBH owns the rest. As part of the new agreement, PBS President Paula Kerger will be seated on the board along with Vivian Schiller, president of NPR, and Jonathan Abbott, president of WGBH.
Colorado Public Radio has scaled back its plans for Colorado Matters, a 30-minute weekday news show that was slated to expand to one-hour and be paired with a local call-in. Since purchasing an FM channel to serve as the broadcast home of KFCR, an NPR News outlet serving Denver, CPR has been unable to sell 1370 AM, the outlet that until last year was the primary CPR news service in the market, according to the Denver Westword blog. In addition, CPR’s listener-sensitive revenues are starting to soften. Programming veep Sean Neathery says CPR now plans to expand Colorado Matters to a one-hour show that airs four days a week, with the call-in airing in the same timeslot on Fridays. CPR is recruiting a senior producer, a producer and one part-time production assistant to help with the expansion.
Too many public radio stations rely on subsidies from government and/or their university licensees, writes pubradio marketing consultant John Sutton, offering WMUB-FM in Oxford, Ohio, as a case in point. Miami University can no longer afford to operate WMUB as an independent station and on Jan. 22 announced a pending agreement to convert the outlet into a repeater of Cincinnati Public Radio’s NPR News service. “Maybe this is the future of public radio,” Sutton writes on his blog. “The consolidation of costs by having fewer independent operations is an option.”
Lorry Lokey, consistently one of America’s top donors, answered questions from nonprofits in a Chronicle of Philanthropy online chat Jan. 27. Lokey, who committed $45.7 million to nonprofits in 2008 alone, answered questions such as: How can a nonprofit best prove it is most worthy of a corporate donation? And, what is the biggest mistake development officers make when first meeting a new prospect?