Presidential sparring puts pubcasting in political bull’s-eye

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s pledge to defund PBS, which he reiterated during the Oct. 3 televised presidential debate, set off a flurry of advocacy activity by pubcasters working at both the national and local levels. PBS had already spent several months developing its site, trumpeting the importance of public TV, and sped up its launch to the day after the debate. Stations sprung into action to alert their viewers and listeners, sending waves of them to the grassroots-advocacy 170 Million Americans website — which has since garnered 50,000 new fans. “Thousands of people are coming to our aid,” particularly on Twitter and Facebook, said Pat Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations advocacy organization.

STING: The Right jabs pubradio with NPR fundraiser’s words

Neither Ron Schiller nor Betsy Liley had eaten before at Café Milano, the upscale see-and-be-seen restaurant in Georgetown, before Feb. 22, when they stepped into an elaborate trap that had been set for them there. The two NPR fundraisers didn’t get the $5 million donation that was discussed by their lunch partners, and the president of NPR didn’t pose for a photo accepting a phony check, but those were the better results of the lunch meeting. They couldn’t have expected that a hidden-camera recording of their talk with two prospective donors would cost Schiller his next job, put Liley on administrative leave, trigger the ouster of NPR’s president and severely undercut support for federal aid to public broadcasting. Two weeks later, March 8, the consequences began tumbling into sight as right-wing activist James O’Keefe’s video of their lunch meeting spread virally on the Web.

O'Reilly and Williams on O'Reilly's Fox News program

Under-explained firing makes NPR an issue just in time for election

Top NPR officials may have thought their Oct. 20 decision to dismiss veteran journalist Juan Williams was about journalistic objectivity, but to many outsiders it sounded more like a story of arrogant lefty political correctness. That narrative opened up public radio — and all of public broadcasting — to a political attack that may help the candidates of Fox News and the Republican Party rally their conservative base for the midterm elections Nov. 2. Criticism of the firing was not limited to the partisan right.