Friday, August 21, 2015


Last October we reported on a nasty feud between two college media organizations over noncom royalty fees paid to SoundExchange for online music streaming. Intercollegiate Broadcasting Systems (IBS) complained about a new fee structure approved by the competing College Broadcasts Incorporated (CBI).

IBS filed suit to nullify the $500 minimum annual fee for college radio broadcasters and webcasters.  IBS felt that when CBI agreed to the $500 fee, they and SoundExchamge set a defacto price for all college broadcasters at the expense of IBS members.  CBI was not involved in the lawsuit but they were the likely target. IBS said in its suit the $500 fee was too high and the way is was determined was improper.

The D.C. Circuit on Tuesday 8/14/15 upheld the $500 minimum annual fee for college radio broadcasters and webcasters, finding that IBS had failed to show any impropriety in setting the rate. 

The Court held that the $500 minimum fee itself wasn’t arbitrary, capricious or excessive. IBS was pushing for a $20 minimum fee for “very small” broadcasters.  Here is our earlier post:

Originally published: Thursday, October 23, 2014


A pending settlement reached earlier this month [October 2014] between College Broadcasters, Incorporated (CBI) and SoundExchange doesn’t sit well with Fritz Kass, CEO of rival organization Intercollegiate Broadcasting Service (IBS).

In a recent e-mail, Kass alleged:

It is quite possible that SoundExchange makes, has made, payments to CBI, which in turn help fund the CBI Executive Director [Will Robedee], and perhaps others. CBI and CBI's Executive Director may have a personal stake in the outcome of these proceedings.

CBI reached the proposed settlement with SoundExchange that, if ratified, will keep royalties CBI member stations pay for online steaming rights the same as current rates for the next five years. The agreement sets the annual cost for CBI’s members at $500.00 per year, plus a $100.00 fee as a proxy for not reporting certain performance broadcasts.

IBS could have reached a similar agreement with SoundExchange but Kass protested saying $500.00 is too high for IBS members. The two organizations compete for members. CBI’s agreement with SoundExchange may increase the perceived value of CBI membership. Kass says the CBI agreement could affect all noncommercial broadcasters:

[SoundExchange] by agreement with CBI has established a "market place" noncommercial rate of $600 per stream. If the CBI becomes the noncommercial standard, as SoundExchange has proposed, then [fees paid by other noncom broadcasters] would more than double per stream.


CBI and IBS are small organizations that rely on membership fees and revenue from conferences.  Annual revenue for CBI in 2012, according to filings with the IRS, was around $72,000. IBS reported annual revenue for 2013 of around $55,000. Both organizations rely on volunteers, though CBI does pay part time Executive Director Robedee.

Relations are not warm between Robedee and Kass. In an October 15, 2014 email, Kass said:

I am in no way connected financially to either the broadcast or music industry. I have no stake personally in the outcome of setting webcasting rates. That is not true of the Executive Director of CBI [Will Robedee], who according to his sworn testimony, is paid by CBI. There may be other recent payments from SoundExchange to CBI for conference exhibit/sponsor fees, etc. It is quite possible that SoundExchange makes, has made, payments to CBI, which in turn help fund the CBI Executive Director, and perhaps others. CBI and CBI's Executive Director may have a personal stake in the outcome of these proceedings.
Robedee declined to comment on the statement by Kass.

SoundExchange is a 501c6 organization entrusted by the Copyright Royalty Board to collect and distribute digital performance royalties from noncommercial broadcasters and webcasters. SoundExchange currently has agreements with several organizations: the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, on behalf of NPR, APM, PRI and PRX, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters (NFCB), and the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB). IBS, as well as other noncom organizations, are involved in litigation with the Copyright Royalty Board over rates and terms for 2016 – 2020.

IBS won a recent DC Circuit Court case challenging the constitutionality of the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision process. Representatives of CBI and IBS declined to comment on the litigation.
IBS is involved, and has been involved, in litigation before the US Court of Appeals (DC Circuit) since May 2007 over the $500 minimum performance royalty rate ordered by the CRB for all commercial and noncommercial web streams. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015


We have been reporting for several months about the competition between WBUR and WGBH for news listeners in Boston. According to folks at both stations, this is a situation that matters on many levels.

Nielsen Audio and Radio Research Corporation (RRC), the distributor of noncom Nielsen Audio data, does not allow subscribing stations to provide hour-by-hour data for publication by news outlets.  But they do allow data to be reviewed for background and general observation, which I have done.
What I saw in the most recent data is that WBUR clearly leads listening during Morning Edition. Then the listening pattern changes fairly dramatically. Boston Public Radio – a three-hour local news and talk magazine on WGBH – has substantially more listening than WBUR until 2pm. The two stations are close in listening until 4pm when WBUR regains its edge during ATC.

During the hours when Boston Public Radio airs, WGBH has more Boston listeners in the Boston metro than WBUR’s national flagship programs On Point and Here and Now (a coproduction with NPR News). Charlie Kavetz acknowledges WGBH’s gains:


The success of WGBH is undeniable and that is good for them.  They brought in a new audience of people, many of whom where listening to commercial radio. I am impressed by what they’ve done.

Phil Redo, GM of WGBH, said in an email that WGBH’s success is not necessarily at the expense of WBUR:


[The Nielsen data] clearly shows how WGBH's commitment to local information and journalism has lifted the total shares of public radio listening in Boston without seriously injuring WBUR…we think our efforts will only be additive to the market. This is not a zero-sum situation.

To me, the winners are the listeners! The competition between WBUR and WGBH is positive for public media because it encourages innovation and better public service.

To put the ratings data in context, here are the schedules for both stations Monday – Friday from 6am – 7pm, the hours when the most people hear radio:
6am – 7am
Morning Edition
Morning Edition
7am – 8am
Morning Edition
Morning Edition
8am – 9am
Morning Edition
Morning Edition
9am – 10am
BBC Newshour
Morning Edition
10am – 11am
On Point
The Takeaway
11am – Noon
On Point
Boston Public Radio
Noon – 1pm
Here & Now
Boston Public Radio
1pm – 2pm
Here & Now
Boston Public Radio
2pm – 3pm
Fresh Air
The Takeaway
3pm – 4pm
Radio Boston
The World
4pm – 5pm
5pm – 6pm
6pm – 7pm
6:00 ATC
6:30 Marketplace
6:00 Marketplace
6:30 ATC
Source: Station websites


Public radio has not previously seen a battle quite like the one now going on in Boston. Both organizations are excellent public media organizations with deep pockets and historic legacies. This situation is different than other two-station markets such as KCRW and KPCC in LA or KPLU and KUOW in Seattle.  In those situations both stations air Morning Edition and ATC but go their own way for most of the rest of the schedule.

Charlie Kravetz, GM of WBUR said in a telephone interview that the competition involves the sustainability of both stations:

There is no question that this is a very competitive relationship. When you are competing on very fundamental levels around the sustainable nature of organizations – there is a lot at stake.

The ratings are only part of the picture.  WBUR and WGBH compete for members, donors, underwriting revenue and pride.

Both Kravetz and Phil Redo at WGBH agree the competition has increased public radio listening in Boston and elsewhere. Kravetz commented:

There are times of the day when the competition between WBUR and WGBH likely have increased listening. In the middays our [national] audience has grown as we’ve transitioned Here & Now into a national program with NPR.

Redo says the competition has generated interest in public radio across the country:

…we are proud to have placed Boston, as a market, in the top tier of stations with largest share of public radio listening.
Again, the listeners are the winners!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


AIR – public media’s go-to organization for audio excellence – just announced 12 recipients of Entrepreneurial Fellowships. Here is the Class of Fall 2015:

The fellowships provide the winners with career and craft coaching sessions led by my favorite consultant Tom Livingston. [I was a coaching client of Tom’s for many years and benefitted greatly.
AIR is filling a major public media need: Mid-level career coaching. This is where the next generation of leaders will come from. Public media needs to invest in mid-career coaching because these folks have a wide perspective and multi-generational experience.
Brett Ascarelli, a radio journalist at the Swedish public service broadcaster, has worked as a print journalist, photographer and graphic designer.
Heidi Chang is a multimedia journalist whose work has been featured on NPR, “The World,” “Living on Earth,” Voice of America, “Marketplace” and other outlets.
Sarah Gustavus is a public media journalist who covers public policy, food and culture as a producer with New Mexico PBS.
Freelance audio producer Dr. Diane Hope has made radio features for BBC, numerous podcasts, and museum audio guides.
Emma Jacobs has reported for NPR affiliate stations including WHYY and WNYC. She is a recipient of a 2014 NPR Above the Fray traveling fellowship and NLGJA radio award.
George Lavender is the coordinating producer of Making Contact, a nationally distributed half-hour radio show. His reporting has aired on NPR, WBUR, KQED, KCRW, and RFI.
Anthony Martinez grew up an only child on a farm in Idaho, which made him into a hard-working introvert hell-bent on seeing the world. (He is a 2013 alumnus of AIR's New Voices scholarship program.)
Allyson McCabe reports and produces music stories for NPR, The Brooklyn Rail, The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Rumpus, and hosts “FM Mutations” for WPKN.
Karen Michel has asked questions, listened to answers, and made many radio and some performance pieces to let others know what she’s seen, heard, and learned.
Ryan Noyes is founder of Listening Post Productions, a start-up public media production corporation in Philadelphia.
Khrista Rypl is a web producer at “Studio 360,” a production assistant at “Here's the Thing,” and an occasional editor for Michael Ian Black's podcast, “How to Be Amazing.”
A.C. Valdez is an award-winning radio producer, and has worked with shows like NPR's “Latino USA” and PRI's “America Abroad.” He lives in New York.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


This is one of my favorite SPARK! posts.  It originally ran on February 26, 2015.

Tanya Ott is one of the best teachers in public media.  She is Vice President of Radio at Georgia Public Broadcasting.  I’ve worked on a couple of projects with her and I am amazed by the way she shares her knowledge.


Last Friday 2/20/15 I saw a post on the AIR list from Tanya that I just have to share.  She was replying to a question about how to get a job in a newsroom:

I've been working on getting my resume together to start applying for producer/reporter jobs at local NPR member stations, and I've run into an issue: I'm not entirely sure what an air-check is.
Would anyone be able to chime in with their two cents on what a station might be looking for when they ask for an aircheck with an application?
Thanks in advance for any input you might have!
Here is Tanya’s Reply:

From: Tanya Ott (
Sent: Fri 2/20/15 2:58 PM
To: (
I've worked in and managed public radio newsrooms for 26 years and hired many dozens of reporters, hosts and producers (In fact, I've got two jobs open right now - listed under TV at although they're radio and digital-centric, not video)
Anyway, my advice (besides highlight your best work) is this:
1. Match your aircheck (or reel .... And yes, I do still know how to splice reel to reel tape) to the job description. If you're applying for a host position that occasionally reports front load your aircheck with hosting samples, then include some reporting towards the end.
And vice versa for a reporter position that occasionally fills in as host.
2. Research the station and know that they do. At my current station (and my last station) our focus is long-form reporting. In fact, my last station didn't do any traditional "spot" news on a regular basis... so putting a bunch of :45 voicers or wraps on an aircheck/resume tape would have been kinda pointless.
3. Do not telescope or montage your reporting if you're applying for a reporter position. I want to hear not only your voice and how well you write in and out of tape, but I'm also judging your reporting prowess on the narrative arc and structure of a piece.
4. Provide a summary of your aircheck listing the type of story (feature, wrap, voicer, audio postcard, live election coverage, etc) and length so I can easily get to what I want to hear. This may not be as necessary if you're simply pointing a potential employer to your online resume/work samples.
5. You may be asked to submit a sample of your newscasts go or hosting. This can be tough if you haven't held a host position. It's okay to record a "mock" newscast, just indicate that in your cover letter or aircheck rundown. And make sure it's as close to what a normal newscast would sound like (ie include a weather report, etc)
Hope this is helpful! Happy to answer any other questions you might have. Tanya
I want to underscore two points:

• Research the station before you apply.  This will help you with the way you approach the station.  As a consultant, I always listen to a client’s station or program to catch a vibe of the place.

• Do provide a printed rundown of your “reel” with the time(s) of segments. For me, nothing is worse than getting an unmarked audio file.

Here are a couple of my own recommendations for audio or video job demos:

• Remember, the first thirty seconds of the demo are really, REALLY important.  They are the listener’s first impression of you. I’ve never hired anyone based on thirty seconds of content but I have discarded many applicants because of obvious deficiencies in the first few moments of their demo. 

• The total time for the demo should be five minutes or less.  Put the total time for the reel on the rundown.

Happy hunting.  We need new people in public media.

Monday, August 17, 2015


Like many people in the public media biz I was surprised to see the news last week that Steve Yasko is no longer Executive Director and General Manager at WTMD, Baltimore.  I don’t have any inside info about what happened and this column isn’t about his departure.  It is praise for Steve because he is one of my public radio heroes.  He has made public radio and media better.

Steve speaks truth to power, whether “power” wants to hear it or not. He has an intuitive feel for using media to connect with people.  He sees the potential in situations and creates plans to achieve them.


Before Steve Yasko became GM in September 2002, WTMD was almost irrelevant.  A headhunter called me when the GM job opened.  After learning about the station, I told the recruiter that it looked like a can of worms – a place where entitled bureaucrats had full time jobs keeping their fulltime jobs.

Yasko saw it as an opportunity and took the gig. [Disclosure: I unintentionally created grief for him at the time.  In a moment of sloppiness, I prematurely spilled the beans about Yasko’s plan to re-make WTMD into a 24/7 Triple A music station. This was an important learning experience for me.  I double-check stuff like this now before publishing it.]

At WTMD Yasko transformed the station by creating an entrepreneurial culture based on listeners love for music and where to find it.  He inspired an amazing sense of place – WTMD became the go-to place for those who craved smart rock in Baltimore.  WTMD was named the Best of Baltimore several times.

He dramatically increased WTMD’s revenue, gained CPB funding and established WTMD as one of the leading noncom Triple A stations in the nation. Yasko hired great people and built many bridges in the community.  Because of Steve Yasko, WTMD became a Baltimore institution worthy of support.

A couple of years ago Yasko helped establish Towson University Public Media, a separate 501c3 to manage and govern the day-to-day operations of the WTMD.


Yasko will have no problem getting another gig because he is amazingly resilient. People in public media know him and respect him.  Witness Yasko’s experience at Pacifica before he came to WTMD.

In 2000 he became National Program Director at Pacifica – a job rumored to be one of the Rings of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. In an earlier post [link], we recommended to John Proffitt, the new Executive Director of Pacifica, he should learn from the way Yasko was treated and be prepared.  

Yasko took the Pacifica job because he saw the opportunity. Pacifica owns five full-power FM stations in New York, Los Angeles, Bay Area, Washington DC and Houston.  Yasko proposed programming improvements that would bring Pacifica back into the national conversation.

But Yasko failed to realize the then-current occupants at Pacifica were drunk on Lorenzo Milam’s kool-aid.  At Pacifica now and then, the things that matter are political purity, massive egos and hidden agendas. Pacifica doesn't serve listeners, it exists to serve itself.  [To learn more about Lorenzo Milam, check out our earlier post at link.]

Yasko's fatal move was to criticize radio princess Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! The story I’ve heard, I don’t know of it is true, is that a Pacifica affiliate in Kansas City had complained about the audio quality of Democracy Now! As the head of Pacifica’s national programming Yasko brought up the complaint with Goodman.  Goodman told Yasko was not her supervisor and his job did not matter to her.

After confronting Goodman, Yasko’s life became a living hell. Goodman and others filed grievances, lawsuits and undermined Yasko with the Pacifica Board. Around the same time, an anonymous agitator posted a vicious online smear campaign to embarrass and discredit Yasko.

Yasko posted this note when he left Pacifica:

Effective September 15, 2001, I will no longer be the National Program Director of Pacifica. Before you all gloat too much, I did not make this choice because of your attacks on me. I made this decision because Pacifica cannot move forward until it is free from persecution.

This persecution is executed by people who say they are champions of free speech and tolerance, but use the tactics of hate and bigotry to achieve their ends. I don’t know what drives you, but I choose not to be a part of it.