California Arts Council directs state aid to three public media outlets

In the first and potentially only government-backed grant program supporting arts coverage by California’s public media stations, KQED, PBS SoCaL and Radio Bilingüe each received one-time funding from the California Arts Council. The Council created its Arts on the Air program as one of several initiatives funded by a special $2 million allocation from the California state legislature. The state aid was split between two arts education initiatives and three grant programs; the council created Arts on the Air specifically to support public, nonprofit media outlets and directed $200,000 to be distributed through a competitive grants process. “It’s a modest program, but the council really wanted to find organizations that would really impact public feeling about the arts, that would build public will and understanding about the value of the arts in our communities,” said Caitlin Fitzwater, spokesperson for the Arts Council. In San Francisco, KQED’s $75,000 grant will help fund an expansion of Spark, a weekly television show and educational outreach program that profiles local artists and art organizations.

All-Star Orchestra to bring classical masterworks to WNET, APT

The All-Star Orchestra, made up of top professional musicians from across the country, will produce eight pubTV programs of classical masterworks. The one-hour shows, titled All-Star Orchestra and set for broadcast on New York’s WNET over eight Sundays this fall, will feature performances of classics by American composers as well as guest interviews and commentary by the group’s Music Director Gerard Schwarz. American Public Television will distribute the programs nationally. In last month’s announcement, WNET programming exec Stephen Segaller said the project is “in the tradition of Leonard Bernstein’s celebrated programs that popularized classical music on television,” such as the critically acclaimed Omnibus, 1952–61, and Young People’s Concerts, which Bernstein led from 1958–72, the first series televised from Lincoln Center. The All-Star Orchestra’s performances were filmed in HD with 19 cameras last August at New York’s historic Grand Ballroom at Manhattan Center.

Kerger suggests viewers contact NEA “if they have issues with the focus of their funding”

In an article in the Deseret News, PBS President Paula Kerger advises viewers to reach out to the National Endowment for the Arts to voice their support for PBS arts programming. “I’ve not tried to encourage any large, grassroots efforts,” Kerger said, “but I think people should let the NEA know if they have issues with the focus of their funding.” The NEA recently broadened its Arts on Radio and Television fund to Arts in Media, resulting in far fewer grants to public radio and TV programs (Current, April 23).Kerger “recommended addressing concerns to Rocco Landesman, NEA chairman, either through direct correspondence or a phone call,” the Salt Lake City, Utah, newspaper said in the Saturday (June 9) story.

“Live from Lincoln Center” creator retiring after more than 30 years

John Goberman, who created Live From Lincoln Center more than three decades ago, is departing as executive producer on June 30 after more than 200 live national telecasts.The series continues in its 37th season on PBS this fall.Goberman was cited by Symphony Magazine as one of the 50 most important individuals making a difference in American music. He pioneered the video and audio technology by which concerts, opera, ballets and plays could be telecast during live performances without disruption of performers and audiences. His television work has garnered 13 national Emmy Awards, three Peabody Awards and the first Television Critics Circle Award for Achievement in Music.Goberman also created the concept of “Symphonic Cinema,” in which orchestral scores are performed live to the films for which they were originally commissioned. After departing Lincoln Center Goberman will focus on those events, as well as staging concert galas and video presentations across the country.

NEA slashes funds to WNET arts series, elevates digital media

The Arts on Radio and Television fund of the National Endowment for the Arts, a source of millions of programming dollars for public media, is distributing matching grants to a wider range of recipients this year — from a smaller pool of money. Pubcasters are anxious about the plunge in funding to flagship programs and independent projects now that the Endowment’s revamped Arts in Media fund also supplies cash to digital-game designers, app designers and artists working on web-based interactive platforms.

In 2011, almost all of the grants went to public TV and radio programs. This year about half did. The number of grantees was up from 64 to 78 and the total amount committed was down from $4 million to $3.55 million. In the past, two major beneficiaries of NEA funding are the PBS arts showcases American Masters and Great Performances, both produced by New York’s WNET. The biographical documentary series and the performance strand each received $400,000 from the NEA last year.

Arts try out for PBS slot on Fridays

With a nod to mission — and a bid for more major donors — PBS is spotlighting the arts for nine weeks this fall, hoping to bring them back as a regular feature of Friday nights. Productions in the first PBS Arts Fall Festival range from the Los Angeles Opera’s Il Postino to the broadcast premiere of Cameron Crowe’s documentary on grunge-rock pioneers Pearl Jam. The network pulled together some $2 million in funding for the shows, each paired with a different locale and station. The festival will culminate with a yet-to-be-announced fundraising special during December pledge drives. Ratings-wise, it’s a risky move.

Tragic legend returns to public TV, retold this time as an opera

A local tale from Fayette, Maine, that came to public TV seven years ago in an American Experience documentary will return next year as an opera on Great Performances. The musical retelling will be taped later this week during the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s new opera, Emmeline, at the Santa Fe Opera. [The premiere received more than its share of rave reviews, using words like “sensational” and “a triumph.” Great Performances’ version aired April 2, 1997 on many stations.]

“I’m very happy that it’s coming full circle,” says Picker. “It shows that public television is so important, because it’s capable of generating art.”