Frontline receives nearly $6 million in two grants

Frontline, public television’s investigative news showcase, announced two major donations Wednesday, including the largest grant from individuals in its 30-year history. Most of the $5 million from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler, longtime supporters of producing station WGBH, will create a reporting endowment for the program to ensure the series’ long-term sustainability. The remaining $1.5 million will support existing programming and digital efforts over four years. Meanwhile, a two-year, $800,000 gift from the Ford Foundation will back a new cross-platform Enterprise Journalism Group. The funds will pay for initial recruits for the in-house group of digital journalists and producers.

Ford grant will support PRI’s immigration initiative

The Ford Foundation has awarded Public Radio International a two-year, $500,000 grant to support Global Nation, a project that will cover social-justice issues affecting immigrants to the U.S. and their children. Launched last year, Global Nation uses partnerships with ethnic media, independent producers and local public radio stations to find social-justice stories affecting immigrants. The resulting stories air on PRI’s The World. The initiative was initially supported by the Rita Allen Foundation. Using the Ford support, PRI will expand the initiative’s reach with enterprise reporting and an online community of people and civic organizations concerned about immigration issues.

NYPR looking to boost coverage for classical station

New York Public Radio has applied to the FCC to acquire 90.3 FM in Ossining, N.Y., from community licensee Hudson Valley Community Radio for $400,000. The broadcaster plans to use the new signal as a repeater for WQXR, its classical music station airing on 105.9 FM in New York City. Ossining is about 40 miles north of the city, on the eastern bank of the Hudson River. The addition of 90.3 FM would expand WQXR’s reach to areas of Westchester County that were within its coverage area when it was owned by the New York Times. NYPR’s 2009 purchase of WQXR was a three-way transaction with Spanish-language broadcaster Univision that involved moving the classical station to a weaker signal.

Ford backs for-profit newsroom

A recent Ford Foundation grant to the Los Angeles Times highlights the heightened competition pubcasters face for philanthropic dollars in a fast-changing media world. The $1.04 million two-year grant to the newspaper, a subsidiary of the Tribune Company media conglomerate, marks the first time Ford has directly supported a major for-profit daily. The money will be used to hire staff members to cover new and expanded beats, including immigration and California’s prison system. The decision to pay for additional reporters, Ford spokesman Alfred Ironside explains in an email, resulted from the grantmaker’s exploration of “new models for sustaining quality, independent journalism that reaches more people at a time when newsrooms are under stress.” Ford is considering similar grants to other for-profit news organizations, he writes. Such developments worry observers of public broadcasting.

David Oliphant of Pittsburgh Foundation

Foundations favor grantees with digital, local news chops

By giving two seminal news-related grants last year, the Pittsburgh Foundation broke from what chief executive Grant Oliphant described as the foundation’s history of “generic support” for public media. Answering the call from the Knight Foundation for matching grants to address gaps in local news coverage …

Ford Foundation spending for educational broadcasting, fiscal years 1951-76

The Ford Foundation was noncommercial television’s first big funder, years before Congress contributed large sums — supporting efforts to acquire reserved channels, helping to start stations in major cities, and backing National Educational Television, the system’s major production and distribution organization in its early years.

Fred Friendly’s solar-powered plan to give public TV independence

… Friendly began toying with an idea for a permanent source of funding for noncommercial television. In the spring of 1966 he began considering the possibility that synchronous satellites might provide the magic potion for the fourth network….