Forum will focus on philosophies of public media’s local service

The next Public Media Futures Forum, the latest in an ongoing series of events examining topics of interest to the field, will take place Tuesday at Georgia Public Broadcasting in Atlanta. The city is also the site of this week’s Public Media Development and Marketing Conference, sponsored by DEI. The forum will explore differing philosophies of local service, such as the audience-loyalty approach championed for public radio by David Giovannoni and the “community impact” approach favored by CPB, foundations and other stakeholders. The more than 20 participants will include Michal Heiplik, director of the Contributor Development Partnership, a project of the Major Market Group and CPB; Ted Krichels, currently a project director for PBS, examining sustainable station business models;  Arthur Cohen, president of Public Radio Program Directors; and Barbara Appleby and Valerie Arganbright, co-founders of the Minnesota sustainability consultancy Appleby Arganbright. The Forum will be streamed live from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Time.

Wednesday forum to explore public media arts coverage

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.

Radio g.m.’s adapt business models for newsgathering

Public radio is adapting too slowly to the competitive challenges it faces from Internet-based media platforms, and the pace of change must increase if local stations are to thrive in the years ahead. It’s a warning that public broadcasters have heard many times before, and research that I conducted this fall revealed that a large majority of radio station leaders have absorbed and begun acting on it. What were the most important changes you made in the last three years? Changes cited among
the 89 managers surveyed
How many cited this

Added news programming

Made organizational changes, including replacing a ce.o. or developing a new strategic plan

Invested in new media and or planned for digital convergence

Developed major-gift and other fundraising activities

Made non-news program changes

Took steps to “go local”

Developed new facilities

Expanded broadcast range or acquired new signals

Undertook promotional and community engagement activities

Invested in social media

Found and developed community partners

Source: Public Media Futures, November 2012 survey

In an online survey initiated in collaboration with Public Radio Regional Organizations, nearly three-quarters of 96 respondents, mostly general managers and chief executives, agreed that public radio must adapt more quickly to shifts in media consumption. Most station leaders see the expansion of local newsgathering capacity as the best strategy for bolstering their value to local listeners.

Pubcasting’s push into online news delivery has built-in limitations

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – At a forum of leading public media professionals, participants expressed mixed feelings about whether public media can, or should, replace newspapers as primary gatherers of news. At the fourth Public Media Futures forum, held Thursday at Bloomberg’s offices in San Francisco, more than two dozen public media professionals debated whether the industry’s non-broadcast capabilities are robust enough to allow it to fill the role of a daily newspaper. In some respects, public broadcasting websites have already moved into the up-to-the-minute newsgathering space. Kinsey Wilson, executive v.p. and chief content officer at NPR, said functions much like a newspaper website, with breaking news, a story flow that shifts multiple times a day and large quantities of original content apart from radio pieces rewritten for the Web.

Top prospects for expanding pubradio revenues examined at Public Media Futures Forum

SEATTLE — When public media development consultants and station leaders gathered at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus on July 10 to discuss fundraising programs of the future, two ideas stirred up the most vigorous discussion: the potential for sustaining membership fundraising to reduce stations’ reliance on pledge drive revenues, and a text-giving program that would enable NPR to solicit donations directly from listeners. Maryland-based consultant John Sutton dreamed up the latter idea over breakfast, and he proposed it during the forum as a way to open a new path for listener donations that would provide dues relief to local stations. Under Sutton’s plan, NPR would run text-giving campaigns twice a year soliciting $10 donations from listeners. The monies raised — he estimated $35 million in net revenues — would reduce the program dues that NPR charges stations. Stations wouldn’t have to worry about NPR cultivating their listeners as donors because the text gifts would be made anonymously.

Dick McPherson

Questions to ask before you collaborate

For two decades, Dick McPherson has managed the McPherson Associates’ Public Media Co-op, through which 30-plus stations with more than 25 percent of pubTV members have shared fundraising materials, strategies and tests. Current asked McPherson to flesh out his heroically concise remarks at the Feb. 27 Public Media Futures forum about the powers and pitfalls of collaboration in fundraising. “Collaboration” sounds so good, even natural and certainly logical, especially among colleagues who share the same values and challenges. “Going in together” is not only efficient but today seems essential for public stations’ survival.

Cohesion: It helps when collaborators want the same things

There’s a growing disparity between the haves and have-nots among public stations. Their abilities to expand services and revenues are diverging. And if they were to collaborate on fundraising, they’d want different results from it. That was the scene as described by 20 execs and consultants in the Public Media Futures forum held Feb. 16 in Washington, D.C., by the communication schools of the University of Southern California and American University in cooperation with Current.

Upsides: Reconceived public stations can ‘be more PBS’ and be more local

The stations are here so they can understand and illuminate a community’s aspirations and concerns, engage people in the life of their community, and help people reengage and reconnect with one another. — Richard C. Harwood and Aaron B. Leavy1

The remark above reflects a way of thinking strategically about the institution of public broadcasting at this point in our history. Today, public media boards and executives face such strategic questions as:

What can we do to be a more significant and engaged institution in our community? What should be our focus, and what does that mean for redeploying resources from current activities? How can we help nonprofit and government entities be more effective when their missions are in greater demand?

Scale: Wisconsin net has economies of size and local bureaus, too

Nothing comes easily to public radio, not even a good idea. About 30 years ago, Wisconsin Public Radio veteran Jack Mitchell came up with the concept of banding together small stations throughout Wisconsin into a centralized system, within which a mothership would handle overhead and distribution, thus freeing up resources for stronger local content. Today, Wisconsin Public Radio operates 33 stations that benefit from strength in numbers – some of which might not exist today were it not for a centralized system. Each station is tied to one of two statewide networks, one featuring the NPR newsmagazines and classical music and the other mostly state-oriented talk programming. WPR “has twice as much programming” as a single network, said Mitchell, who now teaches at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and the networks don’t air the same programs at the same time.

Current participates as information provider in a series of forums

With this package of articles, Current begins publishing a series of articles on Public Media Futures, appearing in conjunction with a two-year series of quarterly forums starting this month. The forums are co-sponsored by USC Annenberg’s Center on Communication Leadership and Policy and American University’s School of Communication, which publishes Current. Both the articles and the accompanying forums are planned to amplify and contribute to conversations already underway in the field about serious issues facing public service media companies in the 21st-century. The recession and trends in media technology are shaking the structural and financial foundations of public media, suggesting that some of the system’s major operating assumptions will have to change. These articles include commentaries from thinkers in the field as well as reports by Current writers.

Capacity: Radio’s local newsrooms weigh in

As the chorus calling on public media to add more local journalists grows, let’s be mindful of the specific ways adding journalists can dramatically improve local public service. Just by enlarging its newsroom to four, five or six journalists, a station will gain the human wherewithal to unleash a proper beat system. Beats cause reporters to become specialists. With a news staff of six, for example, a newsroom could have reporters well versed in the actors, history and nuances of a starter set of beats — education, health, business, law, environment and arts/culture. These specialists are more likely to break original stories, to know when it’s important to follow up, and to extract meaningful news analysis from a week’s events.