A drop in dues-paying members over the last three years has diminished the resources of the Association of Public Television Stations at an especially critical time for the Washington-based lobbying organization. APTS’ membership has fallen to 75 percent of public TV licensees from a high of 85 percent in 2008. With dues from fewer of the 170-some station licensees, APTS is short about $1 million in annual membership revenue and unable to fill several key positions, including vice presidents for government relations and communication and a regulatory counsel, in a year when the recession, anti-deficit worries and political opposition are bearing down on pubcasting funding. “This is a problem,” APTS President Patrick Butler said in a session at public TV’s National Educational Telecommunications Association Conference last month in Kansas City, Mo. “If we could get to a point where everybody was in this boat and supporting our efforts in Washington, it could have a transformative effect.”
Will Glasscock, an APTS director of government relations, cautioned that “the very challenging environment continues” on Capitol Hill and “the partisan atmosphere has never been quite this bad.” Just last week, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said in a USA Today op-ed that if elected, CPB will be one of his targets for “deep reductions in subsidies.”
The situation poses a dilemma: APTS needs resources to fight for federal appropriations on Capitol Hill, which has been one of the most stable sources of revenue during the recession despite the ongoing partisan fights over it.
Memos to public radio stations’ Authorized Representatives (AReps) from NPR and APTS about the Public Media Alliance, a new combined TV and radio lobbying effort, Feb. 15, 2011
From NPR’s chair and president
Fr: Dave Edwards, NPR Board Chair
Vivian Schiller , NPR President & CEO
As you well know in light of this weekend’s news from the House Appropriations Committee, the elimination of federal funding for public broadcasting is a serious threat to the future of over 900 locally run radio stations and 360 television stations — and to the entire public broadcasting economy. To succeed in the face of this challenge we need to make our case forcefully, and use our limited resources wisely. Over the past several weeks, NPR and APTS executives and board members have discussed how we might mount an even stronger advocacy effort. We’ve concluded that our interests and those of the 170 million Americans that rely on public broadcasting each month will be best served by joining forces.
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 , 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.
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.
The Association of Public Television Stations thanked advocates beyond
the D.C. Beltway
APTS gave its David J. Brugger Grassroots Advocacy Award to Dr. Louis Sullivan, board chair of the Atlanta Educational Telecommunications Collaborative Inc. and former U.S. secretary of health and human services. The Brugger Award, named for the former APTS president, recognizes an individual who has shown “exemplary leadership in advocacy on behalf of public television,” APTS said. APTS’ National Advocacy Awards for 2010 saluted individuals or stations that exemplify effective advocacy for pubTV. Recipients were: Malcolm Brett of Wisconsin Public Television, Molly Phillips of Iowa Public Television, and Rob Shuman of Maryland Public Television. APTS said Brett’s “understated style but dogged determination” were evident last year as he worked with his congressman, Rep. David Obey, to win fiscal stabilization funds for stations.
While the Association of Public Television Stations and its member stations’ activists will be busy enough fighting off the cutback of more than $140 million just proposed by the White House (separate story), the group is working on a slate of new longer-range proposals to take to Congress. ¶ Notably, public TV will seek additional funding for an American Archive project that would preserve and catalog programs and clear rights for long-term public access, APTS President John Lawson said in an interview. ¶ APTS will also ask for changes in copyright law to ease clearance and expand rights for educational uses, he said. ¶ Lawson spoke with Current editors in APTS’ offices in downtown Washington. Current: By Feb.
The scene: a small conference room of the Senate Committee on Commerce, late on a February afternoon. The players: a senior committee staffer and her longtime acquaintance, a public broadcasting general manager. The author is president of Colorado Public Television (KBDI) in Denver. Illustration: Elene Usdin. ‘Well, the bastards have you right where they want you!” growled the aide, barely looking up from her papers spread across the conference table.
Two years after the CPB funding crisis began to subside, public TV’s assigned public-policy representative, the president of America’s Public Television Stations (APTS), was giving variations on this stump speech at meetings of pubcasters. This is an edited version of David Brugger’s remarks to the FirstView instructional TV screening conference in August 1998. One of the important revelations to station professionals and lay volunteers during our last Capitol Hill Day was that their members of Congress often fed back the message they had heard from the more than 85 percent of their constituents in your home towns who said they wanted continued or increased federal funding — this, in many cases, from members of Congress who had been ardent opponents of federal funding just 18 months before. Last summer’s Roper survey showed that Americans see public radio and public television as their second- and third-best values in return for tax dollars spent. This is even higher than during the 1995 funding crisis when we were No.
These are the bylaws of APTS, as of June 1998, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation that represents public TV in Washington. At that point, the group was calling itself the Association of America’s Public Television Stations, or America’s Public Television Stations for short. ARTICLE I. OFFICES AND REGISTERED AGENT. Section 1. Registered Office.
A professional campaign firm has begun setting up a Citizens’ Committee for Public Broadcasting to coordinate grassroots support for “full funding” of CPB. Proposed and organized by a New York consumer rights lawyer, Donald Ross, the committee has startup funding from about five major public TV stations, Ross says. The initiative is the latest in a long line of citizen interventions to support or protect public broadcasting. Separate plans for a big-name commission of prominent citizens to resolve “serious issues” in the field’s future were announced by CPB Chairman Henry Cauthen two weeks ago, but have been delayed, according to CPB. The citizen’s committee’s handful of staffers, meanwhile, is starting to recruit field activists and organizers out of the downtown Washington branch office of Ross’s firm, M&R Strategic Services.
For an industry that has “elitist” planted on its back like a hard-to-reach sticky label, the most critical piece of public broadcasting’s campaign to save itself may be the grassroots response. Opponents of CPB funding in Congress complain they’re swamped with calls and some charge that pubcasters, because they get federal funds, can’t legally lobby. Stations argue that they are within their rights as long as they don’t use federal money to lobby. When constituent calls and letters reach a “critical mass,” they penetrate
even the toughest mind-sets in Congress, said Bond. “Constituents always can make a difference.