Friday, November 11, 2016

RETRO FRIDAY: SENATOR LARRY PRESSLER VS. CPB


As Donald Trump’s resurgent Republican Party plans an aggressive and sweeping program to systematically dismantle much of the federal government, memory of an incident two decades ago provides an example of what can happen in a new era of conservative governance.

Today’s story has a positive ending because the 1990s incident failed because of its overreach.  It provides lessons about what public media may face from the new administration and GOP Congress.

Senator Larry Pressler
In the fall of 1994, Congress came under the control of Republicans promising a new “Contract With America.” The Contracts’ many targets included the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The leaders of the effort to erase funding for CPB were House Majority Leader Newt Gingrich (R-GA) and Senator Larry Pressler (R-SD), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

Pressler was a true believer in unrestrained private business. He was the author of theTelecommunications Act of 1996. The Act opened the door to hyper consolidation of media ownership. Pressler's goal was to “privatize” public broadcasting and eliminate CPB.

Pressler hid his true agenda in high-minded rhetoric about deficit reduction. But, he actually thought public broadcasting was too liberal and it threatened his own conservative agenda.

THE PRESSLER QUESTIONNAIRE

As part of the Commerce Committee investigation of public broadcasting, in early 1995 Pressler sent a a 16-page, 168-point questionnaire to CPB. Pressler’s questions included:

• What is the commercial value of the current public broadcasting system? That is, what is the comparative value of the hardware–satellite transponders, transmitters, studio, etc.–and software–library of programs belonging to system producers, goodwill, etc.?

(CPB answered that it "does not own the assets of public broadcasting.)

• Please provide a list of all political contributions over $250 made by individuals employed by or working under contract for CPB-funded entities.

• How many members of the staff at National Public Radio, if any, had “previously worked for Evangelical Christian associations or the Pacifica Foundation.

• What are the salaries for public radio "celebrities” such as All Things Considered host Robert Siegel (answer: $97,805) that year; Morning Edition host Bob Edwards, ($95,337), "ATC's" Noah Adams, ($90,9940), newscaster Carl Kasell ($90,953), ATC host Linda Wertheimer ($90,921) and Senior news analyst Daniel Schorr, ($100,025 as a private contractor.)

• Because public broadcasting benefits from the sales of products related to its programming, what is the total gross sales figure for goods and services connected to public broadcasting? Please break down by radio or television and also itemize by program and product.

In 1992 Republicans on Capitol Hill–pushed through a statutory requirement that CPB enforce “balance and objectivity.”– Rather than protecting public broadcasters from government pressure, CPB’s job was seen in Congress as the enforcement of official ideological boundaries.

Many of the questions dealt with “balance and objectivity" of specific programs:

• Please describe the changes PBS required in Michael Pack’s film Campus Culture Wars and give the reason for each change. Please describe the changes PBS is requiring in the second episode of Reverse Angle and the reasons for each change. (Campus Culture Wars and Reverse Angle were controversial PBS programs at the time.)

IMPACT OF THE COMMERCE COMMITTEE ON CPB

The inquiries threatened the founding concept that CPB would be a “heat-shield,” protecting public TV and radio from the control of elected officials and government bureaucrats. The role of CPB was reversed by Pressler and company. Rather than protecting public broadcasters from government pressure, CPB’s job was now seen in Congress as the enforcement of official ideological boundaries.

Pressler and the Commerce Committee failed in their objective to defund CPB, though they cut CPB’s budget. CPB had bi-partisan support in Congress and many members personally disliked Pressler.

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND

Pressler was widely criticized for the nature of the survey's questions. Influential  conservative pundit William F. Buckley called the questionnaire "Orwellian persecution, pure and simple."

Back home in South Dakota, Pressler’s effort to defund CPB was a major campaign issue. Public broadcasting was (and still is) highly regarded in far-flung South Dakota where few things tie people together. Pressler was defeated by Democrat Tim Johnson in 1996.



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A TIME OF RECKONING


Wednesday, November 9, 2016
11:30am

I’ve been having difficulty concentrating on my work given the shock of the results of Tuesday's election. I want to get how I feel off my chest so I am posting my Thursday (11/10) column early.

I have avoided political commentary on my blog but today the situation is different. 

I strongly dislike Donald Trump.  Even worse than The Donald are his associates. Combined with the Republican majorities in the House and Senate, political agendas will be played out soon. I fear there will be another attempt to defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).


The new administration has made no secret of its dislike of Planned Parenthood and a long list of other “targets.” Funding the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and even climate science are at risk. Prepare now because I sense a flood on the horizon.

Public media successfully defended CPB in the 1990s and early 2000s, but things have changed since then. In earlier challenges to CPB funding there were "moderate" Republicans that stood up for public radio and TV. No more.

In 2011, as part of a larger “compromise” package, the House defunded the National Telecommunications & Information Administration’s (NTIA) Public Telecom Facilities Program (PTFP). PTFP provided grants to many public broadcasters for the equipment and facility upgrades that made their public service possible.

While it is true that some public radio stations have the money to continue operations independent of CPB funding, many stations need CPB assistance to continue their work. Stations in rural areas and smaller cities are the most likely to get hurt. This could compromise public radio’s national presence and perhaps NPR itself.

My advice is to starting preparing now.

Ken Mills.

NEW "SHARE OF EAR" REPORTS: RADIO IS STILL “KING OF THE CAR”


Edison Research recently released studies that show the majority of in-vehicle audio listening is to traditional AM/FM radio. Edison’s Share of Ear for the 2nd quarter of 2016 and a Share of Music special report demonstrate AM/FM's impact in what is becoming an increasingly competitive environment.


You can download the information at [link].  


Edison estimates that time-spent-listening (TSL) to audio from any source when in any place is just over four hours per day. Seventy-nine percent of the TSL consists of listening to music, 9% of listening is to news, 9% of listening is to talk personalities and 3% of listening is to sports.

Here are slides showing information I found particularly interesting:

• AM/FM RADIO IS STILL THE MOST LISTENED TO PLATFORM IN VEHICLES



• AM/FM RADIO IS THE TOP LISTENING CHOICE FOR ALL AGE GROUPS



Note that listening to SiriusXM by respondents ages 13 – 34 is considerable lower than for older demos. I noticed this same trend in Jacob’s Media’s Public Radio Tech Survey 8, where listening to SiriusXM also lagged behind other groups.

• IN-VEHICLE LEADS LISTENING TO AUDIO FROM ANY SOURCE

  
• MUSIC IS THE NUMBER ONE TYPE OF CONTENT IN VEHICLES


• ALL MUSIC LISTENING TO MUSIC FROM ANY SOURCE PEAKS IN THE MORNING
 #21

The high point for music listening is between 9am and 1pm. Please keep in mind that this is listening to music from any source in any place.

• AM/FM RADIO HAS THE MOST MUSIC LISTENING BY PLATFORM


 
• PANDORA, APPLE MUSIC & iHEART RADIO LEAD IN STREAMING AUDIO BRAND AWARENESS


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

APM SPINS “IN THE DARK” INTO A PUBLIC RADIO SPECIAL SERIES


American Public Media (APM) announced last week [link] that it’s highly praised podcast series In the Dark is available exclusively to affiliates nationwide. APM edited material from the nine-part podcast series into five, hour-long radio programs. In the Dark is available at no charge to APM stations.

Jacob Wetterling

In the Dark examines how law enforcement handled the kidnapping of 11-year Jacob Wetterling. The case went unsolved for nearly 27 years.  


In the Dark not only shines new light on the case, it led to the creation of the federal sex offender registry and caused changes in how law enforcement handles similar situations.



Madeleine Baran
The podcast and radio series were produced by a team led by reporter Madeleine Baran, who won a Peabody Award for her reporting on clergy sexual abuse in Minnesota.

According to APM, there have been more than 3.5 million downloads of In the Dark since September. In the Dark has been praised around the world.

Columbia Journalism Review said it “exhibits the very best of audio storytelling: detailed reporting, slick production, and a suspenseful narrative.”

Vox.com [link] said: “In the Dark goes beyond the typical manhunt. It figures out why authorities so badly bungled the investigation in the first place.”

According to the reviewer for Esquire: “In the Dark is easily the best true crime podcast since Serial—even better, if you ask me.”

The Guardian’s reviewer cautioned [link]:

“Be warned: I found parts of In the Dark almost impossible to listen to. Not because of its violence, but because of the innocence of the children and adults affected in the case.

Jacob was walking home from a video store with two friends when he was taken and we hear, back then, his brother talking about what happened when Heinrich [the abducter] stopped them. We hear his parents, interviewed recently by Baran, trying to recall exactly what happened, bickering over details. Gradually, as the podcast continues, we begin to understand the vast fallout of Jacob’s disappearance, the lives it turned inside out and wrecked, how it altered the local community, changed US laws.” 

The radio version of In the Dark also includes a follow up discussion with Baran and APM Reports’ producer Samara Freemark, hosted by Marketplace Weekend’s Lizzie O’Leary.

Make certain your local NPR News station airs In the Dark.

WHY THE RADIO VERSION OF IN THE DARK MATTERS

Public radio does NOT have enough compelling new programs in the pipeline. Resources are too often going solely for not-for-broadcast vehicles. Though there are important differences between the production of podcasts and radio programs, the topics and source material are easily adapted for radio.

The close relationship between radio and podcasts is well known. Many of the biggest fans of podcasts are also core listeners to public radio. Keep in mind that Serial began as an episode of This American Life. The play on TAL exposed Serial to a couple of million listeners, a major factor in that series success.

CORRECTION:  ATK’s FORMER HOST IS “CHRISTOPHER KIMBALL”


An alert SPARK! reader notified me that I mistakenly used the name “Gordon Kimball” in Friday’s post [link] about America’s Test Kitchen (ATK). The name of the former ATK host is actually “Christopher Kimball.”

I apologize for the error, particularly to other bloggers and reporters who re-posted my article.


Monday, November 7, 2016

ARE MILLENIALS DIFFERENT FROM EVERYBODY ELSE?


Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media Strategies recently posted on his blog [link] a reality check about stereotyping people by their age cohort. In his post Jacobs said:

The stereotypes, misconceptions, and overall media coverage of Millennials conveniently and often incorrectly pigeon holes these young consumers. No generation likes to be lumped together and discussed, parsed, and analyzed like cattle. There [are] very distinct age and lifestyle groups within the years marketers define as the Millennial group. In fact, they are as different and hard to label as we were, whether you are an Xer or a Boomer.

Jacobs knows what he is talking about. His company has taken the lead in examining media usage, lifestyle traits and consumer preferences of Millennial age folks and other demographic and psychographic groups. Jacobs’ research was the centerpiece of the recent PRPD Content Conference in Phoenix.

Maybe enough is enough. To me, the PRPD may be overly obsessed with Millennials.  I (joking) wondered if they would have a few Millennials on display, perhaps in dioramas, like they were from another planet. Are Millennials really so different from other generations?

On the right is a chart we published last month showing media device and platform usage by various cohorts from Jacobs’ Public Radio Tech Survey 8 (PRTS 8). The data shows that Millennial-age respondents do tend to exceed other cohorts in the consumption of podcasts, use of streaming video and participation in social networks. But Millennials also hear a lot of radio and watch quite a bit of TV.

When I look at the PRTS 8 results, I see the many more similarities than differences in the various cohorts. Millennials are just beginning their lives. Just as Millennials will bury us Boomers, their children and grandchildren will bury them. We are all on the wheel of life. Our wants, needs, desires and dreams are the same.

In his blog post, Jacobs observes that Millennials aren’t the first generation to be classified by stereotypes:

“I remember all too well how the Greatest Generation stereotyped us. And they were just as wrong-headed about it. Not all kids who were born in the late 40’s, 50’s, and early 60’s turned out to be hippies. Some went into the army, some never smoked weed, and many didn’t “drop out” or run away to “go find themselves.”

“But we were grouped together in much the same way that analysts and marketers generationally stereotype Millennials.”

"The next time you hear someone raving about “those entitled Millennials,” remind them about the foolhardiness of generational grouping, and how it can obscure a true understanding of trends, cultures, and....people.”

LOOK AT THE PSYCHOGRAPHICS

Kurt Salmon is a researcher and blogger who specializes in retail consumer behavior [link]. He believes it is vital to look deeper than age demographics. Salmon recommends looking at psychographics to help explain motivations, interests, attitudes and lifestyle:

In reality, Millennials are not a monolith. Beneath the surface of this huge demographic cohort, there are massively different drivers and behaviors at work. As such, retailers and consumer brands that treat Millennials as a homogeneous group are missing out on the ability to forge more genuine connections with their consumers and drive not only short-term sales, but also lifetime value and long-term loyalty.

As an example, Salmon cites a recent study about retail clothing customers. As the chart on the left shows, psychographic segmentation does a better job of explaining the differences in shopping than age demographics.

Salmon does believe that the age of shoppers is an important variable because use of media devices and platforms varies by age. However, the messages delivered by whatever media source are the most effective when they are shaped by consumer psychographics. Salmon cautions:

Clearly, Millennials should not be targeted as a homogeneous group. Understand their behavioral and attitudinal differences. Don’t make the mistake of treating the 75 million individuals in the United States… as if they were all the same.

The takeaway for those of us working in public media, particularly in public radio, is not to be obsessed with age differences. Focus on the shared points of view and common needs of the people you want to reach. The core attributes of public radio listeners and supporters are defined more by education and experience than the age of the listener. Same as it ever was...