When Alan Chartock, president of Northeast Public Radio in Albany, N.Y., was on a wife-imposed Mexican vacation, despite her objections he still found a way to call in for his five-day-a-week 7:34 a.m. spot. Chartock, 70, lives and breathes the media institution he created nearly single-handedly in 1981. He’s on air most days and often hosts two weekly shows, one about medicine and the other about media. If you are one of the 450,000 monthly listeners to mother station WAMC or its 22 repeaters in the hilly towns and valleys where New York meets Vermont and Massachusetts, you know a lot about Chartock. You know he’s always trying a new diet (currently, no white food).
Public radio station representatives endorsed this resolution by voice vote during NPR’s annual Members Meeting of stations, May 3, 2005. The meeting lacked the quorum necessary to adopt a proposed official resolution. The proposal, offered by Tim Emmons, g.m. of Northern Public Radio in DeKalb, Ill., responded to recent news coverage about CPB activities promoting conservative programming on public TV. Whereas it is the statutory and historical role of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to serve as a firewall between partisan politics and public broadcasting; and
Whereas the Public Broadcasting Act specifically directs CPB to act “in ways that will most effectively assure the maximum freedom of the public telecommunications entities and systems from interference with, or control of, program content or other activities”; and
Whereas CPB has in the past respected the First Amendment rights of broadcasters and deferred to the professional judgments of journalists; and
Whereas the Public Broadcasting Act requires CPB to distribute program funds by grant rather than by contract specifically to limit CPB interference in the editorial decision-making process of public broadcasting program producers and stations; and
Whereas the Public Broadcasting Act requires CPB to create and annually update a plan for the development of public telecommunications services and consult with interested parties when so doing; and
Whereas CPB has recently dismissed its President and CEO under uncertain conditions; and
Whereas the CPB board recently appointed two ombudsmen without consulting with the public broadcasting system, raising legitimate concerns of an institutionalized process for potential interference in content, and
Whereas, such a process within a funding agency is fundamentally inconsistent with the principles of ombudsmen in reference to news organizations;
It is therefore resolved that:
CPB should follow statutory requirements and do nothing to diminish the firewall between the Federal funds appropriated by the Congress and the public broadcast programming it funds; and
CPB should follow statutory requirements and refrain from interfering in constitutionally protected content decisions; and
CPB should follow statutory requirements and, before making changes in funding priorities, should engage in a system-wide consultation about the priorities of public radio and defer to the reasonable and legitimate choices of broadcast professionals to build services of value within the local communities they serve.
This study — partially funded by CPB and the Ford Foundation during CPB’s first year and released in April 1969 — recommended creation of a public radio network and a national production center (a year before the founding of NPR), restructuring of the noncommercial FM band, and formation of a radio division at CPB to look out for public radio’s interests. The study was headed by Samuel C.O. Holt, who later served as programming chief at NPR. Holt’s recommendations are here. Summary
The Public Radio Study was funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and The Ford Foundation at an important time for the medium. We have tried to gain a feeling for noncommercial educational radio and its problems, to get from the station managers and others who work in the medium something of their attitudes toward their field and its future, and to make recommendations to meet some of the problems we encountered in our field work.