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Pubcasters answer the call for Katrina relief

Originally published in Current, Sept. 19, 2005
By Jeremy Egner

In the wake of the devastation wrought along the Gulf Coast by Katrina, pubcasters rallied to support relief for the public at large.

Unlike some federal agencies, pubcasters responded quickly as the scope of the catastrophe became clear. Most stations immediately began running spots for the Red Cross and used websites to detail ways listeners could contribute. In Texas and other areas receiving evacuees, stations shared relief shelter logistics.

After pubcasting lobbyists secured FCC waivers allowing stations to fundraise for hurricane victims and the relief agencies serving them, several stations joined commercial partners for fundraisers.

The system hasn’t tabulated how much money pubcasters raised or the efforts stations undertook, but examples include:

PBS, which along with other networks aired Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast on Sept. 9, was slated to air the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert, presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center Sept. 17. [PBS announcement.]

Co-produced by NPR and Newark’s WBGO, the Higher Ground concert benefits the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Higher Ground, a fund designed to aid the New Orleans music industry and other city institutions and people laid low by Katrina. NPR will archive the concert, with donation links, on for eight days.

CPB on Sept. 14 approved an additional $500,000 in special aid for stations affected by the storm, bringing its total outlays to more than $1 million. The corporation has also made grants ranging from $2,500 to $80,000 to 20 stations in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Pubcasting lobbyists also requested $30 million in emergency federal CPB funding to cover affected stations’ expected shortfalls and made a separate $59.3 million request through PTFP for emergency repair expenses.

For staffers directly affected by the storm, the PBS Foundation set up a Disaster Relief Fund for pubcasters to help their colleagues. Launched Sept. 7 at, the effort netted more than $10,000 in the first few days.

Development Exchange Inc. launched a Colleagues Helping Colleagues fund at Sept. 13 that topped $3,500 at Current’s deadline.

Pubcasters with fundraisers scheduled this month pondered how to participate in the widespread relief efforts while at the same time gracefully soliciting funds to meet their own economic needs.

Some, such as Public Radio Partnership in Louisville, Ky., delayed their fundraisers. Others that pledged on schedule received few complaints from their audience about the decision, according to development staffers.

System consultants discussed strategies for handling fundraisers in the wake of Katrina during an open conference call Sept. 8. A recording is available at DEI also offers tips on its website.

Web page posted Oct. 5, 2005
Copyright 2005 by Current Publishing Committee


Devastated like their city, New Orleans pubcasters look to the future.


Advocates for pubcasting and storm-damaged states seek millions to restore stations.


In Syracuse, N.Y., WCNY raised $382,323 in two hours on Sept. 15-16.

APTS obtained FCC permission for broadcast of the Katina fundraising.

Higher Ground concert organizer Wynton Marsalis will speak Oct. 20 at the National Press Club.

Marsalis led a march through the auditorium, but it wasn't a funeral dirge.

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