A key definition of noncommercial/public TV and radio: Federal law gives some preferential treatment to public radio and TV stations and requires them in turn to remain “noncommercial.”
Sec. 399b of the Communications Act, as amended, says: “No public broadcast station may make its facilities available to any person for the broadcasting of any advertisement.” Ads are messages “transmitted in exchange for any remuneration” … “that are intended”:
(1) to promote any service, facility, or product offered by any person who is engaged in such offering for profit;
(2) to express the views of any person with respect to any matter of public importance or interest; or
(3) to support or oppose any candidate for political office.
By defining “advertisements,” the law also describes by contrast the permissible noncommercial kinds of paid announcements that have come to be called an “underwriting” credits.
In FCC rules implementing the law, Sec. 73.621(e) forbids “promotional announcements” for for-profit advertisers but permits airing of underwriting credits recognizing donations:
“No promotional announcements on behalf of for profit entities shall be broadcast at any time in exchange for the receipt, in whole or in part, of consideration to the licensee, its principals, or employees. However, acknowledgements of contributions can be made.”
Indeed, Sec. 73.1212 requires stations to identify program underwriters (and advertisers, on commercial stations), because, as the commission explained in its 1970 order (paragraph 2), the public has a right to know “by whom it is being persuaded.”
“These interpretations of Commission policy and rules present issues of importance, since on the one hand they affect the financial support of educational broadcast stations, and on the other hand they pertain to the public’s right to know by whom it is being persuaded. At the same time they affect the essential noncommercial character of these services which permits them to fulfill the unique and important role in onr society which they do.”
More recently the commission summarized its rules on its website:
“Noncommercial educational stations may acknowledge contributions over the air, but they may not broadcast commercials or otherwise promote the goods and services of for-profit donors or underwriters. Acceptable “enhanced underwriting” acknowledgements of for-profit donors or underwriters may include:
(1) logograms and slogans that identify but do not promote;
(2) location information;
(3) value-neutral descriptions of a product line or service; and
(4) brand names, trade names, and product service listings.
However, such acknowledgements may not interrupt the station’s regular programming.”
Examples of violations: The FCC doesn’t find or punish many broadcasters. Most enforcements involve small noncomm licensees, including religious stations, and few cite large pubcasters. Examples of two that did:
Paid political advertisements on noncomm stations are among the ads prohibited by FCC rules, though in 2012 a federal appeals court ruled that noncommercial stations can carry political ads. The decision did not create a binding national precedent. The Ninth Circuit was considering maverick San Francisco station KMTP’s appeal of FCC fines imposed in 2002 for “willful and repeated broadcast of approximately 1,911 prohibited ads,” not all political ones.
Gradual loosening of underwriting rules: Though the laws and FCC rules on underwriting have seldom been as specific and unrestrictive as many public broadcasters wanted, they generally have moved from tighter to looser, often addressing practical problems encountered by stations:
May 6, 1970: FCC order homogenizes previously separate underwriting rules for radio and TV. It asserts that underwriting donations should cover partial station operating expenses and not just program production costs.
November 1970: FCC order exempts product mentions during on-air fundraising auctions
April 23, 1981: The FCC’s Second Report and Order on underwriting addresses a slew of practical questions.
July 15, 1982: FCC decides how the Public Broadcasting Amendments Act of 1981 affects underwriting regulations
Logos in underwriting: Congress also amended the law to loosen underwriting rules. Sec. 399a of the Communications Act permits underwriting credits to include “aural or visual” identifiers of underwriters such as logos.
Network guidelines: To clarify nuances in FCC rules and protect stations, and to prevent real or seeming conflicts of interest involving funders, PBS, NPR and other program distributors impose their own restrictions on underwriting announcements that air with national programs that they distribute:
PBS Funding Standards and Practices, as amended through Jan. 27, 2008, and still online in late 2012. Among other criteria, PBS cites a three-point “test” for proposed funding arrangements:
- Editorial Control Test: Has the underwriter exercised editorial control? Could it?
- Perception Test: Might the public perceive that the underwriter has exercised editorial control?
- Commercialism Test: Might the public conclude the program is on PBS principally because it promotes the underwriter’s products, services or other business interests?
Where should the line be drawn between underwriting and advertising? Opinions differ enormously, even among station managers, depending on their philosophies and potential effects.
Is “noncommercial” the best defining difference? Early in the 1980s, some public TV leaders advocated dropping the structural distinction of “noncommercial.” At their behest, in 1981, Congress asked the FCC to experiment with on-air advertising, directing the FCC to create the Temporary Commission on Alternative Financing. TCAF conducted an extended test of advertising on several stations and reported its findings, including this executive summary, in 1983.
See also separate section on Lawrence Grossman’s PTV Weekend proposal for limited advertising on public TV.
Amended charter (PDF) as of August 2008, for coordinating body with representatives of various kinds of public TV stations, recognized by CPB and other national groups for purposes of consultation. Earlier versions: September 2006, August 2005.
APTS Bylaws as of June 1998
Public Media Alliance: pragmatic coalition
After NPR’s controversial firing of Juan Williams, NPR outsourced its high-profile representation to APTS by joining in the Public Media Alliance. Announcements by NPR and APTS leaders, Feb. 15, 2011.
Carnegie Commission on Educational Television, Public Television: A Program for Action, was published by a major foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1967
The full report is available for purchase online.
Prologue: In October 1965, just a month before the first Carnegie Commission was formed, Sen. Warren Magnuson (D-Wash.) released the Educational Television Progress Report. Magnuson, then chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, laid out the case for federal aid to public broadcasting in this report published a month before the creation of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television.
Epilogue: The Carnegie Corporation revisits public broadcasting 40 years later with a symposium and report, The Meeting of Two Cultures: Public Television on the Threshold of the Digital Age, in summer 2008. Included are remarks by PBS President Paula Kerger, an essay by longtime public media consultant Richard Somerset-Ward, and a report on ideastream, Cleveland’s public media nonprofit built from the merger of WVIZ-TV and WCPN-FM.
See also Public Broadcasting Act tab
A Public Trust: The Report of the Carnegie Commission on the Future of Public Broadcasting (Carnegie II), published by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, January 1979. Carnegie II, as the commission came to be called, followed up on Carnegie I’s report a decade earlier, which led to passage of the Public Broadcasting Act and annual appropriations to the field through CPB.
“The Public Interest Standard in Television Broadcasting” examines the “public interest and necessity” objective of federal broadcasting regulation. The paper was part of the Gore Commission report, Dec. 12, 1998.
Precedent for taxpayer funding of electronic media in the public interest: land-grant colleges: Advocates for taxpayer funding of public media point out a successful precedent in public policy, the Morrill Act of 1862, which endowed state universities with the value of large tracts of federally controlled land, assisting public education, including the spread of agricultural expertise.
The Communications Act covers federal regulation of wired and broadcast telecom. The Legal Information Institute at Cornell University Law School maintains extensive, free online resources on federal law and regulations. Handy if you don’t have a law library.
U.S. Code: Federal laws that are in effect
Table of contents > Telecom > the FCC > public broadcasting and more >CPB
Also: broadband, transfer of auctionable frequencies, communication satellites, policies favoring new technologies and competition
Code of Federal Regulations: Federal agencies’ rules, a.k.a. administrative law, that Congress authorizes the agencies to decide and implement. The stuff that pours out of the Federal Register.
Authorization by Congress, original, 1967: See materials about the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which created CPB, specifies its purposes and governance and authorizes it to distribute federal aid to public TV and public radio. Several changes of mandate since then are cited on this page.
Founding CPB documents:
Hearing by U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee, Sept. 12, 1984. Posted online at Open Library.
Appropriations by Congress
Annual appropriations history as reported by CPB, 1969-2014
Goals and objectives set by CPB Board
Goals for fiscal year 2003, November 2002
Goals and Objectives for fiscal year 2004, adopted July 23, 2003
Business Plan, fiscal year 2013, Sept. 10, 2012, naming the board’s priorities: Digital and Innovation, Diversity, Dialogue and Engagement, Healthy Stations and System, Education, Journalism, and Transparency and Integrity.
Congress gives CPB a spending formula and mandates
Regardless of their priorities, CPB’s board and managers have limited discretion in spending the appropriation. In the Public Broadcasting Amendments Act of 1981 (part of the year’s budget reconciliation act), Congress applied a budget formula that helps keep the peace between TV and radio interests and directs more than half of the appropriation to eligible (“CPB-qualified”) local stations.
This chart converts the act’s legislative language into simpler budget percentages.
Station leaders critical of CPB’s Television Future Fund of the 1990s charged that the corporation violated the formula by redirecting millions of station allocations into research and experimentation. Current dipped into the arithmetic.
A mandate for political “objectivity and balance”: In its 1992 CPB authorization, Congress emphasized CPB’s obligation to foster “objectivity and balance” in programs that it assists.
CPB commissioned seven papers on aspects of objectivity and balance.
CPB compiles monthly “Open to the Public” reports of public comments. They are “one component of CPB’s Commitment to Objectivity and Balance.”
Restrictions on partisan activities and sharing of mailing lists
CPB policy on use of mailing lists from partisan groups, 1999
Bills proposed to make substantial changes in CPB
These are several that were introduced in the 1990s:
Pressler bill, Public Broadcasting Financial Resources Enhancement Act, 1996
Fields bill, Public Broadcasting Self-Sufficiency Act, 1996
Tauzin/Markey bill, Public Broadcasting Reform Act, 1998
Public Service Publisher Initiative (public TV and radio)
Digital Distribution Consortium Working Group (public radio)
Digital Rights Working Group convened for public TV by CPB
Public Television’s Approach to New Media, issued for the Digital Rights Working Group, September 2006.
Grow the Audience, a CPB-backed project of the Station Resource Group
A Digital Gift to the Nation, a report by former PBS leaders Lawrence Grossman and Newton Minow for the Century Foundation’s Digital Promise Project, April 2001.
Rutgers historian Richard Heffner interviews Grossman about the project, 2000.
CPB reports annually to Congress on public broadcasting’s services to minorities, as required by its funding legislation
Fiscal year 2010 report, Services to Minorities and Diverse Audiences
Earlier reports posted by CPB
Advocates for ethnic groups take public media to task
Latinos and Ken Burns clash over absence of prominent Hispanic troops in his WWII documentary, The War, 2007.
PBS President Paula Kerger, caught between Burns and his critics, replies to criticism, March 2007.
Latino critics of The War seek assurance from PBS, Statement from Defend the Honor and reply from PBS, Aug. 20-22, 2007
Latino producers to PBS: Diversity data ‘incomplete and often anecdotal,’ March 2009.
Open Letter to Our Public Media Colleagues from the CPB-recognized ethnic minortia consortia, May 2009.
Services designed for ethnic minorities
CPB Request for Proposals: Creation of a New Public Radio Format to Serve Latinos in Los Angeles, Nov. 26, 2007. The first try, delegated by CPB to Radio Bilingue, collapsed after failing to make a deal for an FM frequency.
CPB/PBS Diversity and Innovation Fund request for proposals for primetime PBS series, June 2010.
Before 1984, the one-sentence Sec. 399 of Public Broadcasting Act, 1967, prohibited editorializing:
“No noncommercial educational broadcasting station may engage in editorializing or may support or oppose any candidate for political office.”
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the editorializing prohibition in FCC v. League of Women Voters of California, 1984. The text of the decision comes from the FindLaw database.
But Sec. 399 still orders noncomm stations not to support candidates:
“No noncommercial educational broadcasting station may support or oppose any candidate for political office.”
Public Radio News Directors Guide produced by NPR Local News Initiative and Public Radio News Directors Inc. It suggests the roles of news directors, best practices, recipes for success.
Code of Ethics, Society of Professional Journalists, online version and PDF. Also: SPJ ethics blog, position papers, case studies.
Independence and Integrity II: The Updated Ethics Guide for Public Radio Journalism, by Alan Stavitsky and Jeffrey Dvorkin, commissioned by CPB, released Jan. 20, 2004. Also on CPB’s website.
PRNDI Statement of Ethics, adopted by Public Radio News Directors Inc., July 2003.
Ten Tenets from MPR News, published by Minnesota Public Radio, Aug. 14, 2001.
Foundations, Funding, and Independence by Raul Ramirez, KQED-FM, San Francisco, published on Poynter.org, August 2002. (Current published a version July 8, 2002.)
Accountability and transparency
Donors demand clearer view of station reality, speech by Bob Ottenhoff, published in Current, Sept. 8, 2003.
Required filing: a chance to show your stuff!, commentary by Cindy Browne, Current, Jan. 19, 2004.
Grant accountability disputes and errors
Settlement of U.S. Justice Department action against WNET, June 15, 2010, concerning accounting of grants from three federal agencies. Current coverage, June 21, 2010.
Settlement of U.S. Justice Department action against WGBH, Boston, Dec. 20, 2012, concerning accounting of grants from three federal agencies, 2005-08. Current coverage, Jan. 15, 2013.
Educational Television Facilities Act, 1962, authorized federal facilities grants to public broadcasting stations, years before the first Carnegie Commission, the Public Broadcasting Act and CPB.
Educational Television Progress Report by Sen. Warren Magnuson (D-Wash.), 1965, followed up on the act and preceded Carnegie I.
Public Telecommunications Financing Act of 1978: Actions in this summary include reassignment of facilities grants from Office of Education to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the Commerce Department.
Part IV, Subpart a of the Communications Act authorizes NTIA’s grantmaking Public Telecommunications Facilities Program
Likely end of PTFP: PTFP lost its appropriation during the federal budget wars of 2011. PTFP’s last annual round of grants, for fiscal year 2010, was disbursed in fall 2010.
Jefferson Public Radio / Southern Oregon University dispute, 2011-12
Audience Research Analysis publications, many written by ARA founder David Giovannoni, describe the factors that built public radio’s audience, including stations’ focus on NPR-style news and information and the proliferation of stations carrying those programs. Included in ARA’s What We Know section are numerous articles originally published in Current during the 1980s and 1990s.
Having It All: How Public Radio Stations Can Provide Great Service and Live Within Their Means, a study commissioned by CPB and done by Brody Weiser Burns (company later renamed BWB Solutions), November 2004.
NPR Blueprint for Growth, July 2006.
Grow the Audience project: final report, “Public Radio in the New Network Age,” prepared by Station Resource Group for CPB, January 2010.
NPR Audience Opportunity Study prepared by Smith-Geiger for NPR, Summary of Key Takeaways released to Current, summer 2010.
See also Digital distribution tab
Would-be Carnegie panels: Since the Public Broadcasting Act grew directly out of the original Carnegie Commission’s 1976 report, the commission has inspired a long line of blue-ribbon advisory bodies and report writers hoping for similar impact for public media. But few since then have had the success that President Johnson gave to Carnegie I.
Among the projects undertaken in the past three decades:
Carnegie I, 1967, and Carnegie II, 1977-78. See separate tabs.
Temporary Commission on Alternative Financing, Executive Summary of its report, 1983. Includes results from an extended test of commercial advertising on several public TV stations.
Twentieth Century Fund Task Force on Public Broadcasting, Summary of Recommendations, 1993.
PTV Weekend proposal by Lawrence Grossman, 1996. See separate tab.
Report of the Gore Commission, “Charting the Digital Broadcasting Future,” by the Clinton administration’s Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters (PIAC), 1998. All sections of the report are archived online by the Benton Foundation, including the Executive Summary and a short history of the committee created in 1997.
Digital Promise Project’s “A Digital Gift to the Nation,” a report by former PBS leaders Lawrence Grossman and Newton Minow that proposed a Digital Opportunity Investment Trust (DOIT) for content production, April 2001. See separate Digital Promise tab.
Digital Future Initiative, a project of PBS, at the end of Pat Mitchell’s presidency, and the New America Foundation, Dec. 15, 1995. Full report, 133 pages, or summary, 11 pages. See also Current article.
Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, “Issues Related to the Structure and Funding of Public Television,” January 2007.
FCC Future of Media Project report, Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Landscape in a Broadband Age, June 9, 2011.The project was led by Steven Waldman. Full report (almost 400 pages, 5 MB).
In preparation, Waldman’s FCC project held a rare workshop on public media, Public and Other Noncommercial Media in the Digital Era, April 30, 2010, in the FCC’s offices, Washington, D.C. Speakers represented CPB, public media networks, independent producers, foundations, academic and policy observers. The Future of Media Project’s site includes links to speakers’ submitted remarks and a full transcript of workshop.
CPB/Booz report to Congress, Alternative Sources of Funding for Public Broadcasting Stations, June 20, 2012. Requested by Congress, prepared by CPB with the help of Booz & Co. Appropriators ordered the report after a tough round of bitterly partisan appropriations battles.
Knight Commission on the Future Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. See separate tab.
New America Foundation report, Public Media, Spectrum Policy, and Rethinking Public Interest Obligations for the 21st Century by staffers Benjamin Lennett, Tom Glaisyer and Sascha D. Meinrath, June 2012. The project was backed by George Soros’s Open Society Foundations.
Indecency’s winding road, 1978-2006, compiled by Jeremy Egner for Current
Action for Children’s Television v. FCC, two U.S. Court of Appeals rulings on broadcasts of indecent material — in June 1995 voiding a provision that favored public over commercial broadcasters, and in July 1995, upholding the indecency rule itself.
Stations and their associations objected to activities of CPB Chair Kenneth Tomlinson
Public radio stations unofficially urged CPB to serve as insulation from political interference, May 2005
The Association of Public Television Stations warns CPB Chair Kenneth Tomlinson that it will oppose interference with public TV, June 9, 2005. APTS follows the Iowa Public Broadcasting Board, which in May opposed appointment of Republican Party leader Patricia Harrison as CPB president.
Resolution of APTS Action Inc., Oct. 31, 2005. The public TV stations’ lobby endorses reforms of CPB governance for Congress to consider in reauthorizing future aid.
CPB Inspector General Kenneth Konz’s report on Tomlinson’s activities, “Review of Alleged Actions Violating The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967,” Nov. 15, 2005. See also Current coverage.
Kenneth Tomlinson’s statement in the report
CPB Board immediate reactions to IG report, Nov. 15, 2005.
Citizen groups petition CPB under Freedom of Information Act for release of Tomlinson-related documents, Nov. 21, 2005
CPB Inspector General’s “Review of CPB Corrective Actions,” June 2006, in response to the IG’s November 2005 report on the Tomlinson affair.
In a talk to media reformers, Bill Moyers discusses, among other things, his role as a political target for Ken Tomlinson and other Republican partisans.
CPB Inspector General’s “Special Review of CPB’s Overall Grant Management, Procurement and Grant Oversight Practices for the America at a Crossroads series”, Sept. 30, 2009. The IG’s office looks back at the Crossroads series funded during Tomlinson’s time as a CPB Board member and chair.
Editorial Integrity for Public Media Project
Code of Editorial Integrity for Local Public Media Organizations, final text in PDF, updated April 2012.
The project, sponsored by the University of Wisconsin, was initiated by public TV’s Affinity Group Coalition and public radio’s Station Resource Group and funded by CPB. The code was planned as successor to the Wingspread Conference statement in 1984 (see below). Project directors: Byron Knight of Wisconsin Public Broadcasting and Tom Thomas of SRG, with staff support by Skip Hinton of NETA. Steering Committee chaired by Ted Krichels of Penn State Public Broadcasting.
Wingspread Conference, 1984
Wingspread Statement of Principles on Editorial Integrity in the Program Process for State Licensees of Public Broadcasting Stations, Nov. 28-30, 1984. The draft statement was later endorsed by PBS and the National Association of Public Television Stations. The statement was published in proceedings of the conference, Editorial Integrity in Public Broadcasting, by the Southern Educational Communications Association (SECA), which facilitated the meeting. The statement was cited in Supreme Court’s Arkansas ETV v. Forbes decision below.
Independence of CPB program decision-making
“Life cycle of a reform: Independence of CPB [Television] Program Fund, Current, Nov. 19, 2012. For a period starting in 1979, the CPB Board and top management vowed to stay out of Program Fund decision-making about TV productions.
Independence of editorial decision-making even for state-owned pubcasters
Arkansas Educational Television v. Forbes text of decision, 1998. The U.S. Supreme Court established certain independent free-press rights for public broadcasters licensed to state governments. See also Current story, May 25, 1998.
Klan v. KWMU, Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, 2000 — PDF on site of Washington University Law School, St. Louis
Political interference by Alabama Educational Television Commission: Political appointees on commission pushed for broadcast of programs promoting selected Christian views; network chief Alan Pizzato resisted, and the commission fired him. See also Current coverage:
Pizzato sues commission and its members in June 2012, published July 18, 2012.
Memo by attorney Todd Gray advises Pizzato about “systemic risks” if political appointees choose programs.
Compare the Alabama network’s mission statements before and after the commssion met June 12, 2012
Separating public media from partisan activity
CPB Mail List and Partisan Political Activities Requirements, rules for grantees released July 30, 1999, after controversy over stations that had exchanged mailing lists with Democratic Party and other partisan groups. DEI, a group that trains and advises public media fundraisers, issued recommendations on the use of mailing lists.
Protecting journalists from abuse by police
Democracy Now! co-host Amy Goodman and co-workers Nicole Salazar and Sharif Abdel Kouddous filed suit against Twin Cities authorities in federal court, May 5, 2010, alleging interference in their reporting during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Current coverage: Police authorities settle with plaintiffs, October 2011. Resources from Center for Constitutional Rights, which defended Goodman and crew.
Opening distribution and production funding to indies: From its early days, broadcasting got most programming from station and network staffs, but for practical and principled reasons (including diversity of opinion and ethnicity) independents increasingly sell (or donate) their work to PBS, NPR, other distributors and stations, especially at the national level. Current coverage:
October 1998: Mandate included in CPB authorization bill
September 1989: ITVS’s first board of directors named
March 2012: a leading indie nonprofit, Kartemquin Films in Chicago, began this petition to PBS and helped win back favorable scheduling for the Independent Lens and POV series. Current story on outcome, May 2012.
About the independent production communities
Mapping Public Radio’s Independent Landscape, “Final Report: Opportunities for Innovation,” Feb. 13, 2006, combined in one PDF with “Interim Report: Key Findings, Critical Questions,” Nov. 29, 2004. Prepared by SchardtMedia (Sue Schardt).
AIR-ITVS Scan of Public Media’s Independent Journalists, April 20, 2011, survey conducted in December 2010 by Market Trends Research for AIR and ITVS and funded by CPB.
Association of Independents in Radio (AIR): Boston-based group of audio producers, many focused on public radio.
AIR Bylaws, original, 1988.
Code of Fair Practices for Working with Freelance Radio Producers, AIR/PAG, released in 1999 and revised in 2001
Public Radio Exchange: PRX, a nonprofit based in Cambridge, Mass., and spun-off by Station Resource Group, operates an online marketplace for independent and other productions seeking distribution.
Independent Television Service (ITVS): San Francisco-based nonprofit funded largely by CPB by direction of Congress
ITVS Articles of Incorporation, Sept. 22, 1989
ITVS Bylaws, as amended through Dec. 8, 1990
Current coverage of its startup, December 1991.
Producing for PBS: Subsite of PBS.org aimed at producers.
PBS Editorial Standards and Policies as of 2011. Check site above for most recent version.
Many PBS shows are or include independent productions, though the definitions of “independent” vary. Distribution vehicles devoted to indie work include: POV broadcast series, Independent Lens broadcast series, PBS Film Festival annual and online, begun in 2012.
Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, website.
“Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age,” Report of the Knight Commission, October 2009.
“Rethinking Public Media,” by Barbara Cochran, published by the Knight Commission, December 2010.
David M. Davis memo about quality, to production staff of Boston’s WGBH, 1958: “This will not be just another television program.”
Why public media? Selected essays, speeches and documents on this site that contribute to defining public broadcasting and public media.
Why public television? To give all Americans access to television that will “educate, enlighten, engage and inform” them as citizens, station leaders said in their mission statement, Feb. 23, 2004. Current story: Public TV’s vision of itself: a lens for understanding the world, March 8, 2004.
The forum had been created in an extended process by a committee called the Core Working Group, initially appointed by America’s Public Television Stations (APTS).
The Case for Change (draft), May 1997
Questions & answers about the process of creating the Forum (“Countdown 97″), drafted by the Core Working Group, 1997
Participants: Core Working Group, Circle of Advisors plus consultants from BMR Associates
The Nixon Administration Public Broadcasting Papers: A Summary, 1969-74: Under the Freedom of Information Act, the staff of Carnegie II requested release of White House documents during peak conflicts between the Nixon administration and public broadcasting. This is a summary compiled and released by the Carter administration’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration a decade later. This detailed NTIA summary was published by the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB):
Nixon’s FCC chair backs long-term CPB funding and 1:1 match of donations, April 1, 1970: Though the Nixon administration fought the expansion of public TV journalistm, it backed the young system of stations. In testimony before a Senate subcommittee, April 1, 1970, Dean Burch, Nixon’s FCC chair, endorsed a 1:1 match of federal dollars to nonfederal contributions He and activist Commissioner Nicholas Johnson support Senate bill 3558 to reauthorize CPB funding.
Burch and Johnson also urge Congress to create a dedicated ongoing funding mechanism. Burch comments: “Too great a delay in finding the permanent financing solution will adversely affect the development of [CPB] and thus of the nation’s noncommercial educational system.”
President Nixon announces his veto of CPB funding in message to Congress, June 30, 1972
NPR Articles of Incorporation, Feb. 26, 1970
National Public Radio Purposes, memo by William H. Siemering envisions All Things Considered and major characteristics of the NPR sound, 1970.
Revenues and expenses
PBS history and founding documents
Proposal on the Formation of the Public Television Network, 1968, by Ward Chamberlin and Robert Carlisle
Articles of Incorporation, Nov. 3, 1969
GAO report, Dec. 21, 1984, assuring Congress that public television is not vulnerable to the financial instability that threatened public radio during NPR’s financial crisis because pubTV is much less centralized
Major issues and revisions in PBS structure
Declaration of Interdependence, a rhetorical prop used by Pat Mitchell for a speech preaching station-network cooperation at a PBS annual meeting in Philadelphia, 2001.
Production cost-sharing arrangements
Proposal for the Station Program Cooperative by PBS President Hartford Gunn, October 1972
PBS program dues cost-sharing formula: Based on PBS documents, Current explains the closely guarded PBS National Program Service dues formula. The formula determines the share of the Program Assessment (or dues) paid by each member station for PBS National Program Service programs. (Stations also pay a smaller Member Assessment for other PBS services.)
University of North Carolina Television statement on equity in CPB and PBS formulas, 2001. This is an example of the disputes that arise periodically over the PBS dues formula, often when stations are pinched by conflicting trends in the CPB Community Service Grant formula.
See also Underwriting, Public television
PBS Editorial Standards and Policies, as of June 2011
PBS Funding Standards and Practices, as of 2008
America at a Crossroads series, including “Islam vs. Islamists” documentary
Frank Gaffney and other producers of “Islam vs. Islamists: Voices from the Muslim Center” defend their work in memo to PBS and WETA boards of directors, March 6, 2007.
Report on May 1997 proposal by Lawrence K. Grossman, former PBS president
Text of May 1977 review of issues by James A. Fellows, for the Hartford Gunn Institute
Debate on the experiment published June 23, 1997, in Current:
Coverage of the proposal in Current:
Disclosure: Current took no position on the PTV Weekend proposal. The chairman of its publishing committee, Jim Fellows, facilitated discussion of the idea, and the organization that administers the newspaper, New York station WNET, opposed it.
Radio campaign for inclusion
Public Media Policybase is seeking copies of significant documents to expand this collection of basic and significant documents of U.S. public media — past, present and proposed future — to assist broadcasters, policy advocates, students, teachers and students of history.
The Policybase began as an online supplement of Current‘s 2000 edition of A History of Public Broadcasting and was compiled by Current with help from the National Public Broadcasting Archive at the University of Maryland. The archive is now incorporated in the university library’s Special Collections unit.
Thanks to those who have supplied documents, especially past NPBA curators Tom Connors and Karen King.
Where electronic files were not available, we have taken care in scanning and spell-checking texts from documents, but we cannot guarantee complete accuracy. Please notify us by e-mail if you find or suspect errors.
Please let us know if you have significant texts that you believe should be accessible here.
Set-aside of DBS capacity for noncommercial TV upheld in court, 1996
But in satellite radio, the FCC declines to reserve noncom capacity when the two satellite radio services merge, 2008
Carriage of local noncommercial broadcasters on satellite TV
Congress backs FCC plan to free up spectrum, expand wireless services and reduce deficit with chanel auctions. Title VI of the Middle Class Tax Relief Act (see page 118), approved by a House-Senate conference committee, Feb. 17, 2012. The act authorizes the FCC to repack and condense the band of UHF spectrum used for TV broadcasting. By 2021, frequencies voluntarily relinquished by broadcasters would be auctioned off by the commission for consumer cellphone, emergency and other wireless services. Broadcasters that give up channels, or agree to share bandwidth with other stations, or move to VHF channels, will receive payments. See also Current coverage.
Public-media and civic groups file further comments on FCC proposal, Jan. 25, 2013. See Current story, Jan. 31, 2012.
FCC creates LPFM service, Jan. 20, 2000, with this original set of rules.
Urged to act by existing FM interests, including NPR, and instructed by Congress, FCC adopts Second Report and Order, March 22, 2001, revising LPFM rules, protecting full-power stations from interference and limiting LPFM growth.
Local Community Radio Act of 2010, official PDF. Signed by President Obama, Jan. 4, 2011.
The FCC adopted its Sixth Report and Order on LPFM, Nov. 30, 2012. The text is a PDF; the order is available on the FCC site in other formats. Prometheus Radio Project highlights key features of the new law.
Which spectrum bands are used for what?
Legislation and rules reserving blocks of spectrum
Selective treatment of competing applicants for noncom channels
What ancillary services can noncommercial DTV broadcasters offer (and charge for)
FCC tries to minimize interference between FM and TV Channel 6, which use adjacent frequencies
San Mateo County (Calif.) Community College District selling KCSM-TV, 2012-13
University of San Francisco sells KUSF to Los Angeles public radio station KUSC
New Jersey legislature agrees to sell or rent out its NJN TV and radio stations, 2010-11
SaveWCAL, a listener-donor group, contests the 2004 sale of the station by St. Olaf College to Minnesota Public Radio. They question whether the college’s windfall and MPR’s plans for a contemporary music station serve the intent of donors (Current, Nov. 5, 2007) to classical music station WCAL over the decades.
Daystar religious network and KOCE leaders match bids and lawsuits in long fight for public TV station in Orange County, Calif.
Pittsburgh’s WQED frustrated in attempts to sell or lease out its second TV channel, WQEX.
Conversion of “institutional” licensees to independent nonprofits
New Jersey Network memo summarizes experience of xxx station licensees. NJN’s Howard Blumenthal
Funding from state and college/university licensees
Associations of state and university licensees
Iowa Public Radio Final Report, Bornstein and Associates, November 2004. Bornstein, who oversaw the University of Wisconsin networks before retiring and led NPR’s recovery in the 1980s, endorses a proposal to unite the stations of three state-owned universities into a statewide nonprofit network. See Current followup story, Sept. 15, 2008.
System revenue, by source, compiled for two decades, 1991-2011
Recommendations for creation of a Voters’ Channel, by Alvin Perlmutter, 1990