Friday, May 27, 2016


One of public media’s lesser-known but highly influential organizations – PBMA – is holding their annual conference Tuesday May 31 – Friday June 3 in New Orleans [link].  The theme of the conference is Shaping the Future of Public Media. The PBMA is meeting at the JW Marriott on Canal Street near the heart of the French Quarter.

JW Marriott, New Orleans
PBMA has been taking a larger and more visible role in the development of public media. Since the Public Radio Conference (PRC) was discontinued in the early 2000s public broadcasting has needed a conference devoted to financial, governance, internal station operations and “big-picture” issues. 

PBMA is a unique amalgamation that brings together public radio and public television broadcasters, two distinct groups that probably should have met jointly in the past. Of course, what brings public radio and television together is the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) aka “the folks with the money.”

Many of the conference sessions deal with CPB compliance and policy. For example CPB is holding a workshop to assist grantees complete their annual Station Activities Survey (for radio stations) and the Station Activities Benchmarking Study (for PBS stations).  Though this sounds mundane, it is important for continued CPB funding.
Jim Taszarek, Jr

PMBA Board chair Mark Leonard, GM & CEO of Nebraska ETV and consultant Jim Taszarek, Jr, Chair, Content & Knowledge Committee have organized a comprehensive agenda for the expected 200 attendees. Here are some session I recommend:

Wednesday 6/1 1:00pm – 2:15pm
Nick Spitzer, Host & Executive Producer American Routes

Nick Spitzer
Spitzer will discuss the incredible story of New Orleans’ cultural growth and transformation since Katrina flooding. He will also share songs and stories about NOLA music and cultures — the “roots”— of American Routes. Spitzer will talk about the mingling of French and African/Caribbean influences in the city and will take attendees on a sonic journey through NOLA past and present. Expect site-seeing tips. [Disclosure: I am a paid consultant for American Routes.]

Wednesday 6/1 4:00pm – 5:15pm
Craig Beeby, Executive Director – University Station Alliance
Ernest Sanchez, Communications Attorney – The Sanchez Law Firm
Wally Smith, President – Peconic Public Broadcasting

These dudes know their stuff from personal experience. An increasing number of long-time public broadcasting licensees are spinning off their public stations – sometimes with shockingly little advance notice. Learn about the dynamics and motivations of these spinoffs. Attendees will hear key survival strategies for planned and unforeseen licensee changes.

Friday 6/3 8:45am – 10:00am
Vibha Jain Miller, Vice President, Human Resources – WETA
Carol Sober, Director, Professional Development – PBS

Vibha Jain Miller

The next generation of public media leaders may be already working at your station. Who are they and how can you identify them? How do you keep them at your station, engaged in the work and mission and prepare them for the next steps in their career? How to create and support a talent pipeline.

Friday 6/3 10:15am – 11:30am
Jake Shapiro, New CEO, RadioPublic & Former CEO, Public Radio Exchange 



As you may recall, when we last reported on KUSP, Santa Cruz [link] the station fired almost its entire staff after failing to meet its pledge drive goal for their new Triple A format. The station’s governing Board is now exploring its options including selling the license.

Meanwhile, life goes on.  According to an excellent post on Radio Survivor by Matthew Lasar, KUSP is still on the air playing Triple A music. Two paid employees remain and the programming comes from an iPad on “shuffle.” Please read Lasar’s essay at [link]. 

Thursday, May 26, 2016


Northern Kentucky University (NKU) in Highland Heights, Kentucky (and in the Cincinnati market) is what I call “ASO” – Accidental Station Owner. Many licensees of noncommercial stations got into the radio biz by accident.  They built their stations in the 1970s and 1980s when there was much less money at risk.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) upped the stakes (and programming quality) when they required a substantial local financial commitment to qualify for CPB funds. Such is the case at WNKU.  After years of support for WNKU, the university is facing unprecedented statewide higher education budget cuts.  Now the “inner ASO” of the university is showing up and WNKU is likely to the block.

All of this was kicked into a higher gear last week when a Kentucky judge ruled that Republican Gov. Matt Bevin can cut the budgets of public colleges and universities without the approval of the state legislature. The operating budget at NKU will be reduced by $8 million. This means there will be job cuts for staff and faculty. WNKU has become an expense item NKU says they can no longer afford.


As we reported in April [link] Northern Kentucky University has provided an annual subsidy that amounted to $900,000 in 2015. The station needed the subsidies to pay back a $6.75 million loan from 2011. Back them WNKU’s management purchased three commercial stations outside of the Cincinnati metro to repeat WNKU’s programming.

Though the new stations added a lot of coverage territory for WNKU, it didn’t add many listeners or supporters. Ironically this was part of an over-aggressive plan to make WNKU self-supporting.  Since the university is ultimately on the hook for the dough, they felt they needed to act now.


According to a report last weekend on Cincinnati’s WLWT-TV thousands of people are fighting to save WNKU from a possible sale. The effort is being led by local indie music site

Triple A consultant Mike Henry of Paragon Media added his support for the SAVE WNKU! campaign [link]. In his letter of support, Henry said:

“Music and radio usually live in an entertainment bubble away from politics. Unfortunately, the waves of a new budget slashing [by the] governor of Kentucky have washed ashore on noncom Music Discovery WNKU-FM. Now a fire sale of WNKU is on the table, and local supporters of WNKU are quickly lining up to help save the invaluable and unreplaceable local community service.”

Cincy resident Charles Auerbach, father of the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, said NKU should keep the station:

“Because it’s the best radio station in the Midwest.

But I think SAVE WNKU! needs to quit focusing on the university and work wth an actual broadcaster – not an ASO – to operate the station.


Cincinnati is home to one of the best noncommercial broadcasters in the nation: Cincinnati Public Radio (CPR). CPR now operates two excellent noncom stations: WVXU (NPR News) and WGUC (Classical music).

Richard Eiswerth
The prime mover in the creation of CPR is Richard Eiswerth.  Since he became manager of WGUC in 1998, Eiswerth has done wonders. He led WGUC’s successful acquisition of WVXU from Xavier University. He streamlined the sound of both stations. He assembled a management and programming team that helped CPR grow to an annual revenue of $8.2 million. In FY 2015 CPR’s net assets were worth over $25.5 million. This is the type of organization that WNKU needs and WNKU can benefit CPR.

I’ve met Eiswerth several times over the years.  I am sending him this email:

To: Rich Eiswerth, CEO Cincinnati Public Radio

Hi Rich –

I hope all is well with you.  I believe we last spoke at a PRIMA meeting in New Orleans.  I am writing to you day to express my concern about the fate of WNKU. I am certain you know about the current situation regarding WNKU and Northern Kentucky University.

I will get right to the point: If possible CPR should take the reins of WNKU by a purchase or LMA.  Why?

WNKU survival is part of the progress and preservation of public media. The Triple A aka Music Discovery format has become an important generator of listener and public service growth.  Look at the benefits American Public Media has had with 89.3 The Current. The Current now is their number one source of new members and underwriting revenue. You can have this success in Cincinnati.

You are probably wondering if WNKU can become sustainable. There are several excellent Triple A stations in markets similar to Cincinnati: WYEP in Pittsburgh, WYMS in Milwaukee and WFPK in Louisville. The Triple A community is ready and able to help secure the success of WNKU as part of CPR.

Thank you for listening.  Ken Mills.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016



Peter Stebbins
Peter Stebbins, founder and president of WMIV in Miami has a problem: His new LPFM station Shake 108 (107.9 FM) failed an inspection by the FCC. If the station can’t fix the problems it faces possible license revocation.

Recently Shake 108 [link] had a routine visit by a FCC field agent. The agent found that the stations equipment didn’t have FCC certification. Without a new FM transmitter and an Emergency Broadcast System decoder the station could be shut down.

Stebbins told station volunteers “It’s all my fault.” Now Shake 108 needs $5,000 pronto for the new gear. To raise the dough Shake 108 is having a party. Stebbins told Miami New Times [link]:

 “People had been bugging us to throw a festival for a while. We decided we better do it before the FCC shuts us down. A lot of people are coming together to save this little station.”

The inaugural Shake 108 FM Music & Comedy Festival was held last Saturday 5/21 at Miami party venue Wynwood Yard. According the station’s page at [link] the event raised $4,698.  Way to go Miami Shakers!

Shake 108 is just the kind of local voice folks had in mind when LPFM began. The format is hard to define. I’d call it Triple A with a Caribbean flair – lots of reggae, ska and hard driving roots rock. Like many LPFMs, Shake 108 was founded on a wish and a prayer. Not enough attention was paid to finances and FCC standard practices. The station began broadcasting on March 5, 2014

Stebbins and the volunteers have no shortage of enthusiasm, but they are broadcasting newbies. Mistake #1 was buying the transmitter off eBay from a company in China.


AIR (Audio Independents In Radio) is launching a new collaborative documentary platform called Finding America [link]. The multi-platform effort brings together fifteen Localore producers telling stories about overlooked neighborhoods where Americans live, work and play.

Localore is a highly praised initiative where indie producers are embedded at a partner station for six to nine months to produce content for all platforms. The stations participating are an impressive group.  Localore partners range from public radio biggies such as WAMU, WHYY, WUNC, WHBM and WWNO, to emerging shops like KBCS (Bellevue, Washington), KOSU (Stillwater, Oklahoma) and KNBA (Anchorage). Here is a map showing participating stations:

The new Finding America site provides updates on stories, connections between the various neighborhoods and news about future Localore opportunities.

Principal funding for Localore comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the Wyncote Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and AIR’s network of more than 1,100 producers in 47 states and 30 countries. For more information contact AIR’s Executive Director Sue Schardt at


It allows you to listen to WBEZ anytime, almost anywhere you want. It lets you save your favorite shows for future listening. It has a revolutionary replay feature that allows you to go back in time and re-listen to a past driveway moment.  It slices and dices.

But wait, there is more!

The new WBEZ Mobile App [link] matches your mood and suggests curated lists of shows and topics from WBEZ reporters and editors. 

Best of all the app is free and is available now for both iOS and Android users.

Monday, May 23, 2016


New noncommercial media initiatives sometimes are slow to surface and take a long time to become sustainable, if they do become sustainable.  Public Radio Exchange (PRX) is a notable exception.  Since it began in 2003, PRX has redefined noncom radio networks, perfected new ways to distribute content, brought many independent producers into the mix and created podcast provider Radiotopia [link]. 

 On Friday 5/20/16 PRX announced a new major for-profit initiative called RadioPublic [link]. The mission of RadioPublic is to fuse the simplicity and reach of radio with the excitement and versatility of podcasts, particularly for mobile devices. RadioPublic is developing new apps that will expand the circulation of PRX’s huge catalog of work from independent producers, public radio programs and podcasts.

[Disclosure: I have worked as a paid consultant for PRX but I have no involvement with RadioPublic.]

Jake Shapiro
Founding PRX CEO Jake Shapiro is the new CEO of RadioPublic. Shapiro told the Poynter Institute:

“We believe RadioPublic can be radio rethought. We think that there’s something extraordinarily powerful and simple and beautiful and coherent about radio that needs to be transformed for how people are using and accessing information.”

Kerri Hoffman

The way most people are using and accessing information today are smartphones and tablets, the primary destination of RadioPublic’s new apps. 

Longtime PRX executive Kerri Hoffman is replacing Shapiro as PRX’s CEO.  PRX's focus will be to shape the future of public media content, talent and technology. John Barth, Chief of Content and Andrew Kuklewicz Chief Technology Officer will continue their leadership roles at PRX.  

RadioPublic is a public-benefit corporation that merges the sense of purpose of a noncom with the fundraising potential of traditional corporation. The goal is to do good work while maximizing profit for shareholders.

RadioPublic is being funded by private investors.  Businesses that have pledged undisclosed sums include The New York Times, Knight Foundation Enterprise Fund, Project 11, Graham Holdings and McClatchy Newspapers. This will allow Shapiro and the company to access substantial investment capital necessary for the process of developing and testing apps.

RadioPublic is led by Shapiro, chief product officer Matt MacDonald, and Chief architect Chris Roden. In addition to surfacing more content the apps also provide analytics data that was not previously available to audio producers.

RadioPublic's app is currently being in development for beta-testing on iOS and Android devices.


Keith Goldstein, the award-winning news director at KCSN-FM 88.5, Northridge passed away from complications from influenza on Friday 5/20/16. He was one of best news reporters and teachers I ever met.

Keith Goldstein
Goldstein moved to Los Angeles in 1987 and remained at California State University – Northridge (CSUN) for almost three decades. Keith and I became friends when I joined KCSN in 1989 as General Manager. At that time KCSN was in bureaucratic gridlock because CSUN filled the station with “problem” employees whom they couldn’t fire.

Goldstein was not a part of the riff-raff.  Instead he focused on his work reporting news on KCSN while training hundreds of journalists. He had a zen-like quality that I admired.  You knew you could trust Goldstein and he delivered results.

Over the years of his work at CSUN he and/or his students received around 500 radio news awards, often beating entries from news giants such as KNX, KFWB and KABC.

CSUN spokeswoman Carmen Ramos Chandler, who knew Goldstein for decades, called him “priceless, irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind [who] trained hundreds of journalists now in newsrooms across the country and the world.”

Goldstein was an old-school journalist, a purist who focused on the facts, told stories and put news into context. In 2015 the Greater Los Angeles Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (CPJ) honored him with its prestigious Distinguished Journalist Award.

After I left KCSN in 1991 Keith and I kept in touch.  Every year of two he would ask me for advice about an open news position somewhere in the country. A part of him wanted to get back into doing what he enjoyed the most: reporting. Over time I realized that Goldstein really didn’t want to relocate. Los Angeles, CSUN and KCSN were his homes. I will miss Keith Goldstein.

Goldstein was a native of Philadelphia, who graduated from Temple University.
He honed his on-air chops by reading newspapers to the blind. Some his best work was about the 1994 Northridge earthquake despite the fact the earthquake damaged the apartment where he and his family lived. CSUN is organizing a tribute to him.