Ron Hull, a former director of the Program Fund, reflects on the value of buffer from partisan politics
Jan. 2, 1979 — Robben Fleming, a university president and an authority on (labor) negotiations, comes to CPB as its third president. Also in January, the politically appointed CPB Board suspends its committees to reevaluate their roles. This decision shelved the board’s Program Committee, which traditionally had voted aye or nay on national production proposals for public TV. Even before Fleming arrived, the CPB Board had been rethinking this process.
Western Massachusetts broadcaster WFCR-FM has adopted a new name — one that seems to speak of ongoing expansion: New England Public Radio. CEO Martin Miller announced the plans at a station event Wednesday night. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the station announced it has arranged to buy new quarters in downtown Springfield, south of its longtime home in Amherst, and has bought a new FM frequency in the Berkshire Mountains town of Adams, northwest of Amherst. The news and classical music station, licensed to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, added a second program schedule, all-news/talk, on a leased station in the 1990s and in October acquired WNNZ-AM for the schedule. By building translators in addition, one or both of its program streams now span from southern Vermont to northern Connecticut, New Hampshire to Albany, N.Y. Where it may encounter competition from another growing regional public radio franchise, Northeast Public Radio (WAMC).
In this Q&A, content creators talk with Current about why they decided to pursue a project and how they produced it. What: Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?, a four-hour PBS series that the network scheduled for four Thursday nights on public TV starting March 27. Who made: Larry Adelman, series creator and executive producer, co-director of California Newsreel. Production companies: California Newsreel with Vital Pictures. Presenters: the CPB-funded National Minority Consortia.
Bring out your dead, practice your silly walks, and steel yourselves for something completely different, yet strangely familiar. PBS is launching a video onslaught of Monty Python humor—the classics as well as the humorists’ annotated favorites and an acclaimed sequel of sorts. PBS has scheduled Monty Python’s Personal Best, a pastiche of new material and clips from the TV series and movies, for Feb. 22, March 1 and 8. Separately, PBS will release all the naughty bits — the 45 original 30-minute episodes of Monty Python’s Flying Circus — this spring.
CPB announced Friday it will replace President Kathleen Cox, its president for 10 months. She had been predecessor Robert Coonrod’s No. 2 executive and his chosen
successor when the CPB Board promoted her, effective July 1, but last week’s
terse news release cast her as a temporary hire who was finishing up a series
of research projects inspired by a McKinsey & Co. study of public TV she managed for Coonrod. “Last spring, in no small part because of her significant contributions to [implementing the findings of the study], Kathleen Cox and CPB agreed to a one year contract to serve as president and CEO,” the statement read.
WGUC will buy another Cincinnati public radio operation, WVXU and six affiliated repeater stations, from Xavier University. The sale price of $15 million is the second-largest sum ever paid for a pubradio license, WGUC President Richard Eiswerth told the Cincinnati Post last week. Selling WVXU was “tough but very necessary,” said Xavier’s president, Michael Graham. The Cincinnati school will use the funds to build a student learning and residential center. The deal had been in the works since September but kept under wraps, according to WGUC.
The system’s revenues passed $2 billion late in the 1990s and $2.3 billion during fiscal year 2003, the latest year for which the Corporation for Public Broadcasting has complete figures. Dollar figures below are in thousands. The portion from private, non–tax-based sources passed 50 percent of the total in fiscal year 1986 and has hovered around 60 percent since FY1999 (see “Private sources row”). Source: CPB’s annual Public Broadcasting Revenue reports. For breakdowns between public TV and public radio and other details, see CPB’s latest full report, for fiscal 2003 system revenues, in a PDF file.
ExxonMobil will stop underwriting Masterpiece Theatre after spring
2004, the oil company announced Dec. 13. It has spent more than
$250 million on MT and other PBS programs over 32 years. In recent
years, the company has spent about $10 million a year, providing full
funding for the drama series, says Jeanne Hopkins, v.p. of communications
at WGBH, which packages the series. For years before merging with Exxon, Mobil had also supported another series
of largely British dramas, Mystery!, but Mobil had dropped funding
of the sister series Mystery!
PBS Online is celebrating its third anniversary this week with a doubled
staff, an expanded mission, an upgraded teachers’ service that opens next
month, and a much faster connection with the Internet, to be turned on this
month. In the three years since PBS launched its site, the Web has grown to 39
million users a week in this country, with online ad sales approaching $1
billion. During the same period, public broadcasting’s largest web site,
PBS’s, has built an audience of more than 2 million unique visitors a month,
who choose among some 50,000 pages. Things have moved so fast, says PBS Online
chief Cindy Johanson, “it seems like it was 10 years ago, not three.” PBS expanded its Internet connection by one-third last February, and demand
soon had it hitting the ceiling again.