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Richard H. Madden
'No good deed goes unpunished.'

Rick Madden was one of 15 pubcasters profiled in Current's special section "15 Who Made a Difference," published Dec. 17, 1990

By Stephen Singer

Being named one of 15 public broadcasters who made a difference in 1990 gave Richard H. Madden an idea for a motto for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

"There's no company motto at CPB," said the director of the corporation's Radio Program Fund. "It should be, 'No good deed goes unpunished.' It's nice to get that recognition," he said.

Punishment for what Madden and program fund beneficiaries see as good deeds is something he may be familiar with. As head of the fund, he gets plaudits from those whose programs are funded, and darts from others who don't approve of the funding system, even if they like the job he does.

Madden is quick to point out that funding decisions are made by panels, but as director of the program fund, he is the lightning rod for praise and criticism.

With $4.3 million to finance radio programming, the fund is the "largest unrestricted competitive fund of its kind in the country," Madden said.

It's a fact even one critic can't argue with. "It's the largest single body of monies going to radio producers," said Kevin Singer, executive director of the Association of Independents in Radio.

The fund was established in October 1986 and Madden, 45, has been its only director. "The radio fund is slowly coming of age," he said. "It can be seen by the maturity of some of the programs it has funded," he said, citing Fresh Air, produced by WHYY in Philadelphia; Soundprint, produced by WJHU in Baltimore; Crossroads, produced by Elizabeth Perez-Luna, and Afropop, produced by Sean Barlow.

Program funding by CPB "also has permitted the creation of the system expansion task force," Madden said. "We're right on the edge of a new group of stations coming into the system. It creates new program opportunities. It's not a monolithic test," he added.

"For better or worse, the program fund is still the dominant influence in the producing community in radio," Singer said. "There's substantial criticism. Some of it is well-founded," he said, adding that the fund is "handled well," though it is "hard to separate Rick from the structure he operates."

"It's easy to attribute to Rick personally the responsibility for what the fund has done," Singer said. "I don't know if it's a real accurate way of doing things. Indies and producers generally have a real tendency to personalize the fund and its operation. I have a tendency to slip into that. I can't convince myself at the same time that an equally qualified bureaucrat would not be encountering the same criticisms."

The way CPB and Congress established the fund "is what I find questionable: one person with such extreme discretion and a lack of public accountability," Singer added.

To Current's home page
Later news: Madden receives CPB's Edward R. Murrow Award, 2001.

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