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.

PBS to track behavior of viewers pledging to core-schedule programs

In an experiment signaling public TV’s resolve to address concerns about the long-term effects of transactional pledging on its donor base, PBS plans to test whether fundraising around regularly scheduled signature series can convert more viewers into loyal members and donors. Though traditional fundraising programs generate more cash for stations, many development professionals believe that pledging around core programs could yield better-quality donors who are committed to public TV’s mission. Stations such as Maryland Public Television and PBS SoCal in Orange County, Calif., have successfully pledged series from PBS’s National Program Service, as well as popular British dramas and comedies acquired from other distributors. Their results prompted PBS to take a deeper dive into the approach. “As we transition from a goal of gross dollars into a broader philosophy of the long-term value of donors, this seemed like a great time to look seriously at best practices with emphasis on sustaining donations,” said Joe Campbell, v.p. of fundraising programming.