The National Endowment of the Arts announced $4.68 million in funding to 76 media-arts projects April 23, including new grantees such as the Online Video Engagement Experience (OVEE) developed with CPB funding, a new initiative from the Association of Independents in Radio called Spectrum America and Sonic Trace, a multimedia production at KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif., that was created through AIR’s recently concluded Localore project. For a second year, the NEA will continue to support projects that use digital technologies to go beyond traditional broadcasting platforms. In its announcement, the endowment highlighted a $100,000 grant to OVEE, a digital platform that allows web users to interact while watching PBS and local station content. The Independent Television Service developed the technology with support from CPB. AIR also received $100,000 for Spectrum America, a project that will pair media artists with public stations as they experiment with “new approaches to storytelling.”
Sonic Trace, a co-production at KCRW initiated through AIR’s 2012–2013 Localore initiative, received a direct NEA grant of $75,000 to continue exploring the experience of Latino immigrants. NEA also backed digital media projects at NPR, providing $100,000 for music programming and multimedia content.
The latest in an ongoing series of Public Media Futures forums will spotlight public broadcasting’s work surrounding the arts. The Feb. 20 roundtable discussion, “The Future of Arts and Culture on Public Media,” will be hosted by the USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy in downtown Washington, D.C. The center is co-sponsoring the forums with American University’s School of Communication, publisher of Current. Confirmed speakers and participants include Alyce Myatt, director of media arts for the National Endowment for the Arts and a former PBS programming v.p.; Roger LaMay, g.m. of WXPN-FM in Philadelphia; Vincent Curren, CPB c.o.o.; Sue Schardt, executive director of Association of Independents in Radio (AIR) and Maxie Jackson, president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Adam Clayton Powell III, senior fellow at the USC Annenberg Center, will moderate the discussion.
The National Endowment for the Arts will be holding a webinar Jan. 29, 1-2 p.m. EST, to provide guidance for applying to their Media Arts grant opportunities. Applicants have a shot at earning up to $100,000 in individual grants. The webinar registration link can be found on the NEA’s website.
When the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts announced a settlement with Boston’s WGBH over its handling of $60 million in federal grant funds, it was the second time in two years that a major producing station had come under scrutiny by auditors for its handling of grant monies for public TV productions.
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.
Soon, listeners will hear celebrities read James Joyce’s entire masterpiece Ulysses via satellite and Internet radio; a New York City theater will use video-game technology to invent a new medium for the performing arts; and a San Francisco-based organization will craft computer data into interactive visual artworks. The projects are made possible through the newly expanded Arts in Media category from the National Endowment for the Arts, which this year branched out from primarily supporting public TV and radio programs. Last week the NEA announced 78 grants totaling $3.55 million, with an increased emphasis on technological innovation and multiplatform reach (Current, April 23). Several of the largest grants, $100,000 each, went to high-profile first-time recipients with strong digital components. Open-source pioneer Mozilla Foundation of Mountain View, Calif. — parent of the Firefox browser — won for Open(Art), which will commission collaborations between artists and technologists to create and exhibit artwork on the Web.
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.
WNET’s accounting problems have cost it $1.96 million out of a series of production grants totaling $13 million, following a two-year federal investigation of the big New York station’s grant accounting. Federal lawyers and the licensee — Educational Broadcasting Corp., now officially known as WNET.org — signed a settlement in which the station gave up 15 percent of the grant money:
$950,000 to be paid back to the feds for inadequately documented or prohibited costs, and
$1,015,046 that the station has spent on the productions but agreed to give up. By the time of the settlement, the growing sum of unreimbursed expenses had cut a $7.8 million hole in the station’s financial fabric. To keep federally backed productions going, the nonprofit continued spending money on them but stopped asking for reimbursements. Robert Feinberg, general counsel, said it was a voluntary decision by the station: “If we have done something wrong, we didn’t want to compound the error.”
The leadership of WNET said a federal investigation into the station’s use of federal grants totaling almost $13 million is wrapping up, and the organization is financially sound. “There was sloppiness as opposed to real wrongdoing in terms of our accounting systems, which has been addressed,” said James Tisch, chairman of the WNET Board, in an interview. The station has hired a new chief financial officer and created the position of executive director, financial control, to ensure compliance with federal grant rules, said Neal Shapiro, president. “We have a new CFO. We have a new compliance person to make it very clear we take all these rules very seriously,” Shapiro said.