CPB announced catch-up grants to 10 pubradio stations whose public service is faltering according to the corporation’s new Community Service Grant criteria.
Each station will receive $10,000 and consultants’ help as they assess and plan how to improve their performance. Five chosen for a follow-up implementation phase will get additional $240,000 grants and consulting aid to help them put their plans into action.
The grants will be funded through CPB’s $1.8 million Station Renewal Project.To be eligible for CSGs, stations must maintain at least certain minimal levels of listening or community financial support.
Of 410 pubradio stations, roughly 30 are failing to meet the required service levels, Vinnie Curren, c.o.o., told the CPB Board Dec. 4. The 10 chosen for the grants had to show CPB that they were “serious about wanting to improve,” Curren said, and had to contribute their own funds to the effort.
“It’s not just cash floating in from CPB,” he said. “These people will have skin in the game.”
The stations are KANZ in Garden City, Kan.; WIPR in San Juan, Puerto Rico; WMMT in Whitesburg, Ky.; KDHX in St. Louis; KRCL in Salt Lake City; WNSB in Norfolk, Va.; WUMB in Boston; WNTI in Hackettstown, N.J.; KVCR in San Bernardino, Calif.; and WNYE in New York.
About three dozen public radio licensees stand to lose CPB grants that average $120,000 a year under new eligibility standards that took effect Oct. 1, but a $2.2 million Station Renewal Project will help some keep the aid.
The policy shift raises questions that date back to the mid-’90s, when CPB first required minimal levels of audience service for stations receiving Community Service Grants. Some station reps argue that universal criteria are a poor fit for stations that are significant in their communities but fall short of the standards.
Fiscal 2007 guidelines now require licensees to meet minimum thresholds either in average quarter-hour ratings or in membership and underwriting income relative to coverage-area populations.
All licensees except sole-service stations must now meet the criteria to receive CSGs, including 39 that had enjoyed exemption. As under the previous rules, minority stations must meet only 50 percent of the threshold.
Thirty-eight of the 405 grantees meet neither standard, according to Michael Levy, CPB spokesman. Six more beat the standard by just 10 percent. Levy declined to name at-risk stations. Their average grant is $122,190.Some are better off than others. Thirteen of the 38 fall short of the standards by less than 25 percent, and CPB expects they can close the gap in a year or so, Levy says.
Most grantees in danger of losing the grants, however, have a way to go. On average they meet just 53 percent of the listening goal and 42 percent of the fundraising goal.CPB will not drop licensees from the program right away but will instead phase them out within five years. For the first two years of the phase-out period, a licensee will receive its full CSG but must use 25 percent of the grant money to improve its audience and fundraising performance.
If it continues to fall short, its grant will be reduced by 50 percent in years three and four and cut entirely in year five. However, a licensee can requalify for a CSG if it meets the standards. Six grantees already receive reduced CSGs for failing to meet the previous criteria.CPB announced Sept. 25 that 10 at-risk stations will participate in a Station Renewal Project to help improve their performance. Twenty-nine stations applied for the $2.2 million program.
Participating are WNYE in New York; WUMB in Boston; KDHX in St. Louis; KRCL in Salt Lake City; WMMT in Whitesburg, Ky.; WNSB in Norfolk, Va.; WNTI in Hackettstown, N.J.; KANX in Garden City, Kan.; KVCR in San Bernardino, Calif.; and WIPR in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
In the project’s first phase, Public Radio Capital will review each station’s governance, management, programming strategy, fundraising tactics and other factors and recommend changes. Stations will submit improvement plans to CPB when they request second-phase funding. Up to five will be accepted.
Managers at several Renewal Project stations welcome the chance to improve their services.. “We need the shot in the arm that CPB is giving us, to take an objective look of where we’ve been and where we want to go,” says Larry Ciecalone, g.m. of KVCR.WNTI’s Jon Peterson says he would like to hire directors of underwriting and major giving, which the station’s licensee, Centenary College, can’t afford. “The CSGs are vital, and the mere thought that you’re teetering on the cusp of losing it is kind of scary,” he says.
Some stations on the brink belong to the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, whose president, Carol Pierson, sees shortcomings in CPB’s use of audience-service standards. Some community stations provide important services for loyal audiences but lack reliable ratings because Arbitron overlooks their audiences — farm workers without phones, for example, and Native Americans in remote areas. Yet they provide important services, she says, such as the Native stations with strongly loyal audiences.
Different criteria that measure community impact more accurately are needed, Pierson says, but those are hard to quantify.
posted Jan. 2, 2007
Copyright 2006 by Current Publishing Committee