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Jun 30, 2005

Marketplace reports on the competitive threats and economic challenges facing public TV.
NPR reports on and provides downloads of The Mann Report, a CPB consultant's study of political balance on PBS and NPR programs.
Pubcasters should be thrilled that the House restored CPB's 2006 funding, but "that price will be paid, as is so often the case in today's Washington, by the people who depend on government help for essential health care and education and job-training services," writes David Broder in the Washington Post. The columnist looks at the programs that were cut to enable return of the system's funds.

Jun 29, 2005

Public Radio Today, an Arbitron report, is chock-full of number-crunching thrills. (PDF)
CPB's bipolar approach to political programming extends to its $20 million "America at a Crossroads" project, the New York Times reports. First, the corporation gave a preliminary grant for a film about controversial neocon and former Bush advisor Richard Perle to an old Perle pal. Then it commissioned a critical examination of Bush foreign policy to balance the first film. "I think the American tradition of journalism is that if something is controversial, the initial treatment of it would provide sufficient balance," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, who helped PBS update its editorial guidelines.

Jun 28, 2005

Big Bird and the usual Sesame Street suspects figure heavily in this collection of editorial cartoons about public broadcasting's recent troubles, available via Slate.
Over at the TV Barn, Aaron Barnhart gives the rundown on the $112 million that's still missing from the various coffers that fund public broadcasting every year.
In today's Los Angeles Times, Tavis Smiley and NPR President Kevin Klose respond to the revelation that the political content analysis secretly commissioned by CPB Board Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson examined programs helmed by Smiley and Diane Rehm.
CPB named 11 more producers receiving R&D money for its America at the Crossroads project, which aims to prepare 20 hours of programming for broadcast around the fifth anniversary of 9/11. When the producers have completed R&D, CPB will choose which will get production funds.
In an epilogue to her feature on pubcasting funding, On the Media co-host Brooke Gladstone reveals that Lyndon Johnson invented the Internet [RealAudio file] -- or at least foresaw it at the time he was godfathering public broadcasting.

The BBC will double spending on journalism training to 10 million pounds a year, but has decided to do it online rather than creating a bricks-and-mortar college, The Scotsman of Edinburgh reported.

Jun 27, 2005

The New York Times Magazine profiles Nic Harcourt, music director at KCRW-FM in Santa Monica, Calif.: "At a time in radio when D.J.'s generally possess little personality and no responsibility for choosing the music they play, he has emerged as the country's most important disc jockey and a genuine bellwether."
A California appeals court overruled the sale of Orange County's public TV station to the KOCE Foundation, saying that a decision to reject the higher bid of religious broadcasters was the "rankest form of favoritism," reports the Los Angeles Times.

Jun 26, 2005

"Then on Thursday a Rove dream came true: Patricia Harrison ... ascended to the CPB presidency," writes Frank Rich in a New York Times op-ed today. The right doesn't want to kill off public broadcasting, Rich says, but "annex it to the larger state propaganda machine...."

Jun 23, 2005

People for the American Way called it a "landslide." Urged on by pubcasting backers around the country, the House voted 284-140 to restore $100 million cut from CPB's budget in a subcommittee, AP reported. However, the House did not undo the $23 million deletion of the Ready to Learn program for children's TV or $89 million in requested aid for digital transition and pubTV's satellite system overhaul. More than 80 Republicans joined Democrats in supporting an amendment by Reps. David Obey (D-Wis.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Jim Leach (R-Iowa), said Free Press, one of several groups that helped pubcasters publicize the issue.

How did your House member vote? Here's the House clerk's roll call of the 87 Republicans, 196 Democrats and 1 independent who voted for the Obey amendment.
Patricia Harrison, the controversial candidate for the CPB presidency favored by Board Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson, has been named President and CEO, AP reports. CPB announced the appointment in a news release as the House debated funding for public broadcasting.
Who supports public broadcasting? In the heat of battle over federal funding to the field, "Democrats in Congress and liberal organizations have emerged as public broadcasting's most visible and vocal supporters, while Republicans and conservatives have stayed mostly silent," reports the Washington Post.

Jun 22, 2005

"The White House is always looking for liberal bias in the news media, and I can help them find it," writes John Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle. "I can monitor my own column, and write detailed reports about the bias therein." (Via Romenesko.)
Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! interviews Bill Moyers on the right wing's agenda for public broadcasting.
"Mr. Tomlinson has not politicized PBS. Bill Moyers politicized PBS." So said George Neumayr, executive editor of American Spectator magazine, who appeared on last night's NewsHour with Kansas City PTV President Bill Reed. "Oh, Bill Moyers -- you know, Bill Moyers retired. He keeps bringing up Bill Moyers," Reed said. "And I hope Bill Moyers comes back. I'd love to have him back on our air."

Jun 21, 2005

"The appointment of the CPB ombudsmen has, indeed, accomplished something: It has sown doubts (or reinforced existing ones) among many listeners (and viewers) that there is something fundamentally wrong at NPR and PBS," writes NPR ombud Jeffrey Dvorkin in his latest column. (Via Romenesko.)
Slate reviews MSNBC's new talk show, The Situation with Tucker Carlson, finding it "shallow, but far from unwatchable; it zips along at a healthy clip, getting in a few good digs along the way, and next thing you know it's over, and you're no worse off than you were before."
The researcher who evaluated the political content of Now with Bill Moyers worked for 20 years at a journalism center aligned with the conservative movement, reports the New York Times.
The CPB Board postponed its decision on hiring a new chief executive until Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The executive committee of NETA, one of the largest associations of pubTV stations, told the CPB Board in a letter May 31 that it had gone about its balancing efforts in the wrong way -- at the national level. The letter explained: "...The solutions will not be found in press statements or surreptitious studies. Instead, bring them to the licensees. We have a direct relationship with our audience and we have the authority and responsibility to act."

The Organization of State Broadcasting Executives, representing 32 "primarily rural" pubcasting systems, urged CPB Chair Ken Tomlinson June 16 to speak out today for full restoration of federal aid to pubcasting, without which stations will close in some rural communities. OSBE also noted: "...if it is not obvious to us that the search process [for the new CPB president] has been conducted in a professional, unbiased and transparent manner, how can we assure our constituents and our supporters of public broadcasting's journalistic integrity."

Jun 20, 2005

The old "Save Sesame Street" e-mail hoax has made it harder for some people to take cyber-petitions about public broadcasting's funding crisis seriously, the New York Times reports.
Documentary filmmakers Tracy Strain and Randall MacLowry were to marry yesterday, according to the New York Times. They recently collaborated on "Building the Alaska Highway," an American Experience film.

Jun 19, 2005

While the CPB Board meets in D.C. this week, critics are planning events criticizing plans to hire a Republican leader as CPB president. On Monday, leaders of Common Cause and Free Press and media watchdog Jeff Chester plan to give CPB 150,000 petitions opposing partisan meddling with CPB. On Tuesday, children's TV advocate Peggy Charren will join Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in an event on Capitol Hill, Broadcasting & Cable reported (sub required).
Groups of senators and representatives wrote to CPB on Friday urging that it delay the appointment of a new president. Twenty-one reps asked CPB to begin a "transparent and nonpartisan search" to fill the job. Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan, Hillary Clinton and Frank Lautenberg questioning board Chairman Ken Tomlinson's plan to hire the former chief of the Republican party (PDF): “We find it astonishing that [Patricia] Harrison, given her former prominence as a partisan political figure, would be even considered as a candidate for a job that demands that the occupant be nonpolitical.” APTS earlier told CPB it would oppose acts that violate, or appear to violate, pubcasters’ independence.

Earlier in the week on the Senate floor, Dorgan said it was “pretty unseemly” that CPB had spent public money to monitor whether remarks on public TV were “anti-Bush” or “pro-Bush.” Those were terms the senator saw in raw data from a CPB consultant’s evaluation of Bill Moyers’ Now. He noted that some of the evaluations were erroneous, such as one classifying conservative Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) as a “liberal,” because Hagel had questioned White House strategy in Iraq. CPB sent the raw data to him on request but had not yet sent the consultant’s summary. Dorgan declared himself a fan of Jim Lehrer’s NewsHour and a critic of media concentration.

Jun 17, 2005

Through the progressive advocacy website MoveOn.org, more than 769,000 Web users have sent messages to Congress backing pubcasting: "Congress must save NPR, PBS and local public stations. We trust them for in-depth news and educational children's programming. It's money well spent."
The proposed cuts to CPB funding, if enacted, could trigger "a spiral of death for public broadcasting," said KCPT President Bill Reed on today's Democracy Now.
A coalition of citizen groups including Common Cause and Free Press has urged CPB Chairman Ken Tomlinson to postpone the board's vote on a new CPB president, now planned for Monday or Tuesday. The groups' letter yesterday suggests that Tomlinson's supposed candidate for the job, State Department official Patricia Harrison, got "inappropriately favorable consideration" because she and Tomlinson have worked together on U.S. propaganda efforts overseas.
The House Appropriations Committee approved a bill last night that cuts pubcasting's total 2006 funding by more than 40 percent. It would reduce CPB funding from $400 million to $300 million, eliminate the $23 million Ready to Learn program and deny requests for $39 million in digital transition funding and $50 million to replace the aging pubTV satellite system. But the committee approved a Democratic amendment that restores the traditional congressional practice of funding CPB two years in advance, earmarking $400 million for 2008. Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) told Reuters he will try to add funding for pubcasting when the bill comes to the House floor. The full House is expected to take up the bill next week, according to the Los Angeles Times. Public broadcasting executives told the New York Times that the controversy over CPB has damaged pubcasting's standing on Capitol Hill. The Senate, which has a long record of being more generous to public broadcasting than the House, could work for better numbers when the two houses meet later this summer to craft a final version of the bill.

Jun 16, 2005

"The Bush administration is introducing a political agenda to public broadcasting," writes columnist Molly Ivins. "They are using the lame pretext that PBS is somehow liberal to justify [turning] it into a propaganda organ for the government."
Stepping in where the Ready to Learn program may be cutting back, CPB has allotted up to $3 million for grants to stations that work with childhood literacy, the corporation announced at pubTV's National Center for Outreach Conference. Eighty to 100 stations will get "Ready to Lead in Literacy" grants of up to $35,000, said Ken Ferree, acting president. [Text of his remarks.]
Columnist Tom Teepen makes the case for supporting public broadcasting: "Public TV and radio are the anti-crudity media, refuges from the wasteland, a demonstration that mass media don't have to probe constantly for the lowest common denominator, and a standing rebuke to the commercial media for defaulting on their putative public trust."
Rhode Island's attorney general will continue investigating Boston University's management of its Rhode Island stations, reports the Boston Globe, despite the university's decision not to sell the stations. ''The motivation behind the decision to sell WRNI was shrouded in secrecy, and the motivation behind the decision not to sell doesn't seem that much clearer," said Patrick Lynch.
Investigators from CPB's Inspector General's Office are examining payments that the corporation made to two Republican lobbyists who provided "strategic advice" on legislation that would have changed the composition of the CPB Board, according to the New York Times.
NPR is "a better outfit than the people who are running public radio," says Bob Edwards in the Fairbanks News-Miner. (Via Romenesko.)

Jun 15, 2005

The New York Times profiles WNYC's Radio Rookies program as a new batch of the teen-reported pieces starts airing on the New York station. "The idea was to teach teens a way to introduce themselves to the public, in a way people can listen to and not just turn off because they're wearing the wrong clothes or talking the wrong way," says Rookies founder Marianne McCune.
Boston University and WBUR-FM have decided not to sell their pubradio stations in Rhode Island. Coverage in the Providence Journal.

Jun 14, 2005

PBS's revised editorial policy, which the PBS Board formally adopted today, includes a new definition of journalistic objectivity that emphasizes transparency over neutrality. Prior to the board's vote on the editorial policy, PBS President Pat Mitchell announced that she plans to hire an ombudsman, an expansion of PBS's editorial oversight that network's Editorial Standards Review Committee recommended in its report.
Marketplace host David Brown will leave the show July 29 to end his Texas-to-Cali commute, marry and have children. Kai Ryssdal will leave Marketplace Morning Report to take over for Brown.

Jun 13, 2005

New York Times writer Frank Rich referenced the CPB controversy in last Sunday's column, which drew parallels between the Watergate era and perceived chicanery within the Bush administration. "Though Nixon aspired to punish public broadcasting by cutting its funding, he never imagined that his apparatchiks could seize the top executive positions at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting."

Jun 12, 2005

Victor Hogstrom, president at Chattanooga's pubTV station WTCI, steps up to Kansas City's KCPT, where he succeeds Bill Reed. Polly Anderson, development veep at Alabama PTV, takes the reins of KWBU-FM/TV in Waco, Texas, on July 1.

Jun 10, 2005

A House appropriation subcommittee has voted to cut $100 mil from CPB funding, deny $89 mil in DTV and satellite requests from public TV and kill the $23 mil Ready to Learn program, the New York Times reports. G.O.P. leaders say dozens of other spending programs suffered the same fate. APTS President John Lawson asserts that it's "payback" for the Postcards from Buster conflict. On the APTS website, Lawson called the vote "nothing less than a direct attack on public television and radio." APTS has begun a campaign to persuade legislators called No Member Left Behind.
During a visit to WXXI, PBS's Pat Mitchell earns points with the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle editorial page for stepping back from conflict over L'affair Tomlinson. "She smartly was not strident in her reaction" to Tomlinson's complaints about Now," the newspaper said.

Jun 7, 2005

Rabbit Radio is a Dashboard widget for Apple's Tiger operating system that "makes listening to your favourite NPR stations easy."
Steve Salyer, president of Public Radio International, will resign this fall to head the Salzburg Seminar, an Austria-based forum for international issues. He discussed his new job in an interview on Vermont Public Radio.

Jun 6, 2005

"I am the observer," says Daniel Schorr in the Washington Post as he reflects on what turned him into a journalist. "Other people do things while I describe them." (Via Romenesko.)

Jun 5, 2005

The new ombudsman at the New York Times, Byron Calame, endorses the newspaper's decision to appoint a separate newsroom veteran, the "standards editor", to promote journalistic values and give the ombudsman fewer faults to find.

Jun 3, 2005

CPB’s general counsel has taken the FCC job vacated by her new boss. Donna Gregg, CPB’s top lawyer since October 2002, will be the commission’s Media Bureau chief, succeeding Ken Ferree, now acting president at CPB. Like her new boss, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, Gregg is a Duke University grad who worked at the Wiley, Rein & Fielding law firm. Ferree went to Georgetown with Michael Powell, Martin's predecessor as FCC chairman.
The FCC has granted 17 construction permits for low-power FM stations, reports Radio World.
Media Matters for America and its new blog offspring, Hands Off Public Broadcasting, see inadequate balance in CPB's pair of ombudsmen. While William Schulz "is clearly a conservative, the other, Ken Bode, is hardly a liberal."
"I think radio needs a lot more silliness," says Garrison Keillor in the Boston Globe.

Jun 1, 2005

NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin and two colleagues joined Diane Rehm today to discuss the CPB ombuds and other aspects of their field. (First hour.)