A signal expansion in the lower Hudson Valley three years ago depleted WDFH-FM’s cash reserves and now the Ossining, N.Y., community radio station “finds itself in financial straits,” according to The Daily Dobbs Ferry. Executive Director Marc Sophos, who helped found the station 39 years ago as a high-school freshman, said the station faces doing dark. “There’s a short-term financial emergency right now,” he said. “It’s urgent. We do need to find this money or else the station will go under.
WCVE, Central Virginia’s Community Idea Stations, is planning a unique fundraiser for this spring: A “puzzle-solving event” designed by Ravenchase Adventures in Richmond, Va. The Big Idea Challenge runs April 29 through June 2 and the station hopes to raise $250,000 to supplement its on-air pledge dollars.”With the uncertain status of government funding, we have been looking for lots of different ways to reach out beyond our traditional audiences and involve folks who peripherally know about us but may not be as close,” Lisa Tait, vice president for development at WCVE, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We wanted something different to tie in with our mission and with the people who like public broadcasting, who are intellectually curious.”Teams will pay a $30 entry fee for contest. Challenges change weekly and will highlight five areas pubTV “impact areas” — arts and culture, history, science, children’s education and news/public affairs. Teams earn a point for each dollar of fundraising, and up to 500 points by solving weekly puzzles.
Three national pubcasting organizations are encouraging the FCC to exempt pubTV licensees from any new public interest reporting requirements, in a Jan. 27 filing with the commission. The Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) prepared the filing in response to the FCC’s notice of inquiry in November 2011 soliciting input on a proposal “to replace the issues/programs list that television stations have been required to place in their public files for decades with a streamlined, standardized disclosure form that will be available to the public online.”“We support the commission’s effort to standardize information about their public interest programming and activities,” said Lonna Thompson, APTS c.o.o., in a statement Monday (Jan. 29). “However, we strongly encourage the commission to exempt public television licensees from burdensome reporting requirements given public television licensees’ demonstrated success in delivering upon their mission to provide programming that addresses the needs and interests of their local communities.”
The stations are here so they can understand and illuminate a community’s aspirations and concerns, engage people in the life of their community, and help people reengage and reconnect with one another. — Richard C. Harwood and Aaron B. Leavy1
The remark above reflects a way of thinking strategically about the institution of public broadcasting at this point in our history. Today, public media boards and executives face such strategic questions as:
What can we do to be a more significant and engaged institution in our community? What should be our focus, and what does that mean for redeploying resources from current activities? How can we help nonprofit and government entities be more effective when their missions are in greater demand?
Nothing comes easily to public radio, not even a good idea. About 30 years ago, Wisconsin Public Radio veteran Jack Mitchell came up with the concept of banding together small stations throughout Wisconsin into a centralized system, within which a mothership would handle overhead and distribution, thus freeing up resources for stronger local content. Today, Wisconsin Public Radio operates 33 stations that benefit from strength in numbers – some of which might not exist today were it not for a centralized system. Each station is tied to one of two statewide networks, one featuring the NPR newsmagazines and classical music and the other mostly state-oriented talk programming. WPR “has twice as much programming” as a single network, said Mitchell, who now teaches at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and the networks don’t air the same programs at the same time.
The evaporation of the Commerce Department’s Public Telecommunications Facilities Program and the dwindling of other funding sources have created a critical situation at stations needing to purchase or update equipment for broadcasting. PTFP had provided public stations more than $233 million in capital funds since 2000. The congressional budget ax fell in April 2011, zeroing out PTFP’s annual $20 million allotment for matching grants. Compounding the problem is the parallel fall-off of state money, which also helped some stations cover equipment costs. At the same time, hardware for the first digital TV installations in the early 2000s is slowly approaching replacement time.
With this package of articles, Current begins publishing a series of articles on Public Media Futures, appearing in conjunction with a two-year series of quarterly forums starting this month. The forums are co-sponsored by USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy and American University’s School of Communication, which publishes Current. Both the articles and the accompanying forums are planned to amplify and contribute to conversations already underway in the field about serious issues facing public service media companies in the 21st-century. The recession and trends in media technology are shaking the structural and financial foundations of public media, suggesting that some of the system’s major operating assumptions will have to change. These articles include commentaries from thinkers in the field as well as reports by Current writers.
A former top editor of the Los Angeles Times, Russ Stanton, has joined APM’s Los Angeles station
KPCC in Pasadena, Calif., announced a major hire last week: Former Los Angeles Times Editor Russ Stanton has joined the station as its new v.p. of content. Stanton’s arrival “is part of an aggressive effort by the nonprofit news organization to become the preeminent regional source for both broadcast and online news — with deeper, more enterprising and investigative coverage,” KPCC declared on its website. Stanton had left the newspaper last month in what was announced as a “mutual decision” with Times President Kathy Thomson. In his four years at the helm, the Times won three Pulitzer Prizes, including a prestigious Public Service award. At KPCC, Stanton will be responsible for the station’s broadcast, website and live events coverage; one of his first duties will be to select an executive editor to supervise daily radio and digital news operations.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — At the packed “Looking Ahead with the Pubcasters” session at Monday’s (Jan. 29) Realscreen Summit, PBS President Paula Kerger once again spoke of the potential the PBS Foundation holds for the future of the organization.”It’s just starting to ramp up,” she said of the foundation. “It isn’t the full answer for us because the amounts of money are reasonably low, but it has given us a little more flexibility to do some things relatively more quickly.” One example: PBS was able to acquire a film on Steve Jobs soon after the Apple founder’s death on Oct. 5, 2011; Steve Jobs — One Last Thing premiered on PBS member stations the next month.