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.

PBS SoCal offering Imagen Awards for pubTV broadcast

For the first time, PBS SoCal will distribute the annual Imagen Awards for broadcast on public television stations nationwide. The honors recognize positive portrayals of Latinos in media, as well as achievements of Latino celebrities in the entertainment and communications industries. The 28th awards gala took place Aug. 16 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. The televised special will highlight attendees, winners and presentations.

Six TV and radio pubcasters receive Golden Mike Awards

Two Los Angeles–area public TV stations won Golden Mikes. KCET won three awards in Division A (for stations with 50 or more full-time news staff members): topping the category of news/public affairs program and investigative reporting with SoCal Connected. It also won for entertainment reporting. PBS Southern Cal (KOCE-TV) won for best documentary in Division B (comprised of TV stations with 49 or fewer full-time news staff) for Be Brave: Samantha’s Story and for best news public affairs program. In the radio contest, KPCC/Southern California Public Radio won 10 Golden Mikes in Division A (stations with six or more full-time news staff members): individual writing, sports reporting, live coverage of a news story, news public affairs program, news reporting, serious feature reporting, light feature reporting, news special, entertainment reporting and use of sound.

APTS recognizes Barbara Mikulksi and Greg Walden, gives innovation and advocacy awards

The Association of Public Television Stations handed out Champions of Public Broadcasting awards during its Public Media Summit in Washington, D.C., Feb 24–26, recognizing Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D) and Oregon Rep. Greg Walden (R). APTS also gave EDGE Awards to Twin Cities Public Television and New Jersey’s NJTV and recognized individuals with Advocacy Awards. Mikulski, who replaced recently deceased Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) as chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has been an ardent defender of public broadcasting in the Senate and was a vocal defender of the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program before it was eliminated in 2011. As chair of the House Energy Subcommittee on Communications and the Internet, Walden has helped secure federal aid for public broadcasters to help defer costs related to spectrum legislation. As he accepted his award, he told summit attendees that increased competition from cable and digital channels has made public TV less relevant to television viewers, and he suggested that public broadcasters support cuts to government-entitlement programs in order to salvage their own funding.

Voice of OC expands partnership with PBS SoCal

Voice of OC, the nonprofit investigative news agency in Orange County, Calif., is expanding its partnership with PBS SoCal. Voice of OC Editor-in-Chief Norberto Santana Jr. will appear weekly on KOCE-TV’s news program, Real Orange. “It’s a natural partnership,” said Mike Taylor, news director at PBS SoCal, in the Jan. 17 announcement. Santana said the partners hope to “give the public a front seat at public policy, not only after it’s being made but before it’s being made.”

PBS SoCal is the primary PBS member station for Los Angeles, the second-largest media market in the nation.

PubTV in L.A. not yet a case of win-win-win-win

When KCET announced in October 2010 that it would quit PBS after four decades as its primary Los Angeles affiliate, the task facing PBS was enormous: Find a local outlet to step into the breach, establish new branding, arrange for cable carriage, find homes for orphaned shows, and, most importantly, change long-term tuning habits so 16 million-plus potential viewers could find their favorite programs. All in less than three months. The outlet that stepped up was Orange County’s KOCE, a second-string station still recovering from a costly, drawn-out legal battle with religious programmer Daystar Television Network several years earlier. KOCE became PBS SoCal and, with extensive effort and CPB aid, the PBS program schedule began broadcasts on a new channel Jan. 1. But nearly a year into the new reality, it’s clear that the changeover has not been without complications.