Life cycle of a reform: independence of CPB Program Fund

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.

Pacifica Foundation By-laws, 1955

Pacifica began operation of its first and flagship station, KPFA in Berkeley, Calif., April 15, 1949. These are early bylaws of the nonprofit organization. See also Pacifica’s bylaws as of 1999. Article I
Identity
Section 1. The name of this corporation shall be PACIFICA FOUNDATION.

CPB will seek operator to develop American Archive; director leaves project

Having lost its digital projects fund last year, CPB lacks the money to develop the American Archive much further, according to Mark Erstling, senior v.p. The next step is to find an outside institution to adopt and support creation of the proposed archive of public stations’ historic audio, video and films.

That helps explain why professional archivist Matthew White left CPB Jan. 13 after two years as executive director. “It was very clear to him that things were going to change significantly,” Erstling says, and White accepted an offer to lead a “significant” archiving project abroad. White could not be reached for comment. CPB declined Current’s multiple requests for interviews with White over the previous two years.

Stewards for the media future

What public broadcasting can do to plan for its own future and for federal policies that serve the public interest

In the first part of this commentary in Current Oct. 4 [2010], Wick Rowland, an early PBS planner and now a station leader in Colorado, said that public broadcasting’s failure to put time and money into formal research and planning has left it “adrift, mute and helpless” on the periphery of federal policymaking about media and spectrum. Pubcasting was slow to respond to the journalism crisis, aloof from the Obama administration’s big commitment to give the public universal access to broadband Internet service.In Part 2 he suggests how the system could equip itself to develop a more coherent, visionary agenda for its own future and the nation’s media policies. The commentary is available as two PDFs: Part 1 and Part 2. At this extraordinary moment, when so many outside observers and critics are simultaneously trying to define a national agenda for public media — when we should be confidently helping to guide those debates — we seem unprepared for the task.

Adrift, mute and helpless

Why everyone but public broadcasters is making federal policy for public media

The FCC’s recent National Broadband Plan and its Future of the Media initiative have highlighted a chronic problem in U.S public broadcasting: The system has no long-term policy planning capacity, and therefore it always has had great difficulty dealing with the periodic efforts by outsiders to critique and “reform” it. Public broadcasting ignores most media policy research, whether it originates in academia, think tanks or federal agencies, and it often seems out of touch with major national policy deliberations until too late. That disengagement is highly dangerous because it allows others to set the national legal and regulatory agenda for communications without assuring adequate policy attention to public-service, noncommercial and educational goals. Such policy initiatives also can negatively affect the funding and operating conditions of every public licensee. This article, the first of two, examines the history and recent serious consequences of that disengagement.

Public Broadcasting Act of 1967

Public Law 90-129, 90th Congress, November 7, 1967 (as amended to April 26, 1968)
This law was enacted less than 10 months after the report of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Broadcasting. The act initiates federal aid to the operation (as opposed to funding capital facilities) of public broadcasting. Provisions include:

extend authorization of the earlier Educational Television Facilities Act,
forbid educational broadcasting stations to editorialize or support or oppose political candidates,
establish the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and defines its board,
defines its purposes,
authorize reduced telecommunications rates for its interconnection,
authorize appropriations to CPB, and
authorize a federal study of instructional television and radio. Title I—Construction of Facilities
Extension of duration of construction grants for educational broadcasting

Sec. 101.

Saudek’s Omnibus: ambitious forerunner of public TV

When producer Robert Saudek died in 1998, his New York Times obituary called him “the alchemist-in-­chief of what is often called the golden age of television.” From 1952 to 1961, the product of Saudek’s alchemy was Omnibus, a weekly that did what public TV now aspires to do, but on commercial network TV. It turned out to be one of the last but finest gasps of the Cooperation Doctrine — the notion that commercial broadcasting could ignore the bottom line and the largest available audience. [More on the Cooperation Doctrine.]

For the December 1999 pledge drives, PBS distributed the first-ever TV retrospective on the famous series, “Omnibus: Television’s Golden Age,” from New River Media. The writers are William M. Jones, professor of political science at Virginia Wesleyan College and author of Omnibus: American Television’s Season in the Sun, from Wesleyan University Press, and Andrew Walworth, executive producer and president of New River Media.