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.

Monday roundup: CPB Board gets nominee; public TV funding rebounds

• President Obama has nominated Dr. Judith Davenport to serve as a CPB Board director, the White House announced Friday. Davenport, a retired dentist, co-founded Pittsburgh, Pa.–based Sheridan Broadcasting Corp. with her husband Ronald in 1973. She also serves on several other boards, including the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and the Andy Warhol Museum. The nomination goes to the Senate for confirmation.

Kansas governor proposes to cut state aid to pubcasting

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has proposed cutting state aid to public television and radio by 42 percent in the next two fiscal years. State policymakers allocated $1.04 million to Kansas pubcasters for fiscal 2013. Under the budget proposal unveiled by Republican Gov. Brownback Jan. 16, the total subsidy would drop to $600,000 annually in fiscal 2014 and 2015. Gov. Brownback has previously targeted for public broadcasting even deeper spending cuts: for fiscal 2012, he sought to completely eliminate state aid.

Maine legislators reject proposal to zero out pubcasting aid

A committee of Maine’s legislature unanimously voted April 5 to reject Gov.  Paul LePage’s bid to eliminate funding for the state’s public broadcasting network. The bipartisan 13-member Joint Standing Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs agreed to keep the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s $1.7 million appropriation in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Unless the governor vetoes the budget before April 26, the spending plan will take effect with MPBN’s funding intact. The appropriation is 13 percent less than last year’s state subsidy for MBPN, but President Mark Vogelzang told an MPBN reporter that he was happy with the restoration of funds. The legislative committee also directed Maine’s government to determine how much MPBN spends on emergency broadcasting services and to survey other ways in which the network might be able to provide services to the state.

State aid to Virginia stations again in jeopardy

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has proposed zeroing out the state’s $7.2 million in state funding for Virginia’s public television and radio stations and their educational telecommunications services for the next two years. Pubcasters hope to convince McDonnell to restore some funds by arguing for the value of the educational services they provide. The state’s system does more for public schools than pubTV in many states. WHRO in Norfolk/Hampton Roads, for example, has created 22 online high-school courses that are available to schools for much lower annual fees than the roughly $5,000 per-student charges of commercial vendors, according to Bert Schmidt, WHRO’s president. The governor’s office denied pubcasters’ request for a meeting, but Schmidt and his colleagues are still pursuing “creative solutions,” he says, such as channeling money through appropriate entities to assure politicians that it’s used solely for educational purposes.

State aid down $85 million in four years

In four years that include the deepening recession, fiscal 2008 through 2012, public broadcasting stations in 24 states have lost a total of $85 million in financial support from state governments, according to a study released last week by Free Press, a progressive media-reform group. Those states reduced spending on public media by 42 percent of their 2008 amount. Free Press, which has joined the defense of federal and state aid to public media, gave the study a timely release date, one week before the congressional Super Committee’s Nov. 23 [2011] deadline to cut vast sums from the federal budget and deficit. “As federal lawmakers are considering making further cuts to public broadcasting nationally, we wanted to make sure they understood the full picture of public broadcasting in their states,” said Josh Stearns, co-author of the study and associate program director of Free Press.