When Congress adopted the Public Broadcasting Act 40 years go, it put its contribution to public TV and radio into the hands of the nonprofit Corporation for Public Broadcasting with a structural characteristic and two mandates that have caused conflict and inertia ever since. The law has the President nominate the CPB Board and the Senate confirm the CPB Board. Rather than keeping political appointees off the board, it splits them almost equally. The majority are chosen by the White House from its own party and the minority of board members named, in practice, by Senate leaders of the other party. The appointment has become a mid-level plum for political appointees.
The bad news: Public radio is a small part of a rapidly expanding nonprofit sector. Competition with other nonprofits for mind-share and donor support will intensify. Moreover, public radio lacks the financial transparency that donors increasingly expect.
Fundraisers got an outsiders’ view of pubradio from a former insider at the Public Radio Development and Marketing Conference, July 10 , in Snowbird, Utah. This article is adapted from remarks by longtime public broadcaster Robert G. Ottenhoff, president of GuideStar, a leading source of information for monitoring the performance of nonprofits of all kinds. Ottenhoff founded Newark’s WBGO-FM, served as executive director of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority and then became chief operating officer of PBS. I was asked to come here today and give you an outsider’s perspective on public radio. I’m an avid listener of public radio.
CPB from its start had always had responsibility for ensuring “objectivity and balance” in programming that it funded, but on June 2, 1992, the U.S. Senate amended the House bill that included CPB’s reauthorization (H.R. 2977) to add related responsibilities. Amendments were accepted by the House and signed by the President in August. Text below is from the act as signed by the President. Objectivity and Balance Policy, Procedures and Report