President & CEO’s Report
CPB fills a critical role in America. We steward the federal appropriation in ways that strengthen and advance public media so that America’s 1,300 public radio and television stations can continue serving Americans in every corner of our country, over multiple platforms through high quality trusted content that informs, educates, inspires, entertains, and enriches the lives of our citizens.
In 2010, we continued to build on our commitment to innovation ensuring that more Americans have access to free public media content.
CPB is tasked with taking a 30,000 foot view of public media—television, radio and online—to serve underserved and unserved audiences, to invest in state-of-the-art technology, and to strengthen our commitment to our core competencies: education and journalism.
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We led public media in developing a new Ready To Learn proposal, which focuses on improving early math and literacy skills, with our partners including PBS, Sesame Workshop, and other producers and researchers.
We then led an effort to educate key decision makers about the beneficial impact of Ready To Learn. We presented indisputable proof that Ready To Learn prepares young children, in high poverty neighborhoods, to be successful in school.
As a result, we secured a new five-year Ready To Learn grant that allows public media to develop transmedia approaches that help children learn.
During the next five years, we will add to the Ready To Learn curriculum, invest in math content, and expand our delivery platforms to reach children, parents, and teachers—both in and out of school.
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Throughout this year, we strengthened public media’s journalistic endeavors and nourished its engagement with the communities it serves.
We launched the Local Journalism Centers (LJCs), to strengthen local reporting and service. These LJCs, comprised of a collection of regional public television and radio stations, are collaborating with community organizations, hosting public forums, and providing on-air and online content in their specific issue areas.
We invested in a consortium of 10 Gulf Coast public radio and television stations to cover the economic, environmental, and cultural impact of the BP oil spill. The consortium will provide local news coverage addressing an important gap not filled by commercial media.
We made a long-term commitment to investigative journalism, through a grant to expand Frontline and its capacity to provide in-depth coverage of domestic and international stories.
Together with the Knight Foundation, we supported NPR’s Project Argo. Argo is now up and running with 12 new blog sites hosted by 14 stations.
We were deeply engaged with leaders from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), foundations, think tanks, members of Congress, and the administration in shaping perceptions about today’s public media and the role that it plays in informing the nation’s civic life.
We informed the FCC’s broadband and future of media policy discussions and the FTC’s Future of Journalism Project through white papers and meetings with principals and staff. Our work ensured that the FCC’s perspective is informed by the reality of the on-the-ground service our system provides.
Finally, we funded an Editorial Integrity for Public Media project to identify ways to affirm our commitment to transparency.
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In spite of economic fallout from the recession, we continued to help stations expand their delivery of key services to their communities.
As a result, CPB invested in research and planning to determine the viability of a Southern California Consortium, comprising all of the stations in the Los Angeles market, to reduce cost, build audience, increase revenue, and above all expand service. Our goal is to ensure that the people of Los Angeles will not be deprived of the high-quality content programs they support from PBS.
We also conducted a review of the television Community Service Grant (CSG) program. The CSG review was guided by system input and the need for change in a climate of economic and technological transformation. It resulted in policy revisions that will help stations adapt to their changing economic and service environment. In 2011, CPB will conduct a similar review of radio CSG policies.
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Overall, our day-to-day responsibilities ensure good stewardship of the CPB federal appropriation to strengthen and advance a robust public media. Within that context, my executive team and I began FY 2010 referencing our strategic framework—the Three Ds: diversity, digital, dialogue. We asked ourselves:
- Will this initiative or investment help public media better reflect and connect with their communities?
- Will this initiative result in a more inclusive and interactive public media?
- How can we encourage a more effective use of digital platforms?
- What can we do to strengthen public media’s local and national news and public affairs capacity?
- How can we assist stations in terms of increased collaboration and partnerships?
- How can we strengthen public media’s education service?
The projects we launched and the investments we made to answer these questions span a wide range of activities.
In education, we have received enthusiastic system support to bring public media’s power to bear on the nation’s dropout crisis. Millions of high-school dropouts are not prepared for work or life. This is a great challenge to America’s prosperity.
We believe the solution is to be found where the failure lies: within the community. CPB consulted with educators, education experts, and community and public media leaders.
Encouraged by Congress and the administration, we will launch a multifaceted public media initiative mobilizing the unique strengths of public broadcasting to identify and develop local strategies to keep kids in school. As part of this initiative, the National Center for Media Engagement will offer grants to public media stations committed to working with their communities to collaboratively address the dropout crisis.
We invested in locally focused initiatives such as the L.A. Media Project, Nashville Next Door Neighbors, and the LZ “Welcome Home” project for Vietnam-era veterans pioneered by our colleagues in Wisconsin.
We achieved a major milestone in 2010 with our American History and Civics project. Mission U.S. engages middle- and high-school students in American history by using animation and game technology to put them at the scene of seminal events of our country. Pilot research shows that this approach is attracting the interest of students for whom traditional textbook instruction is ineffective. More episodes will follow in 2011, as well as two new History and Civics projects.
In conjunction with PBS, we launched the Diversity and Innovation Fund with three programs: Slavery by Another Name, a documentary on involuntary servitude of African Americans until World War II; Not In Our Town, a broadcast series and engagement project on how communities can and have fought hate crimes against their neighbors; and The Longoria Affair, the story of how one incident jump-started a nascent Mexican-American civil rights movement and divided a small town forever. This fund will help identify new talent who can explore history to weave America’s past to its present and our ancestors to ourselves.
We began to build the American Archive. By 2012, we will have an inventory of public media’s content and will have digitized, and thereby preserved, 40,000 hours of audio and video content—an important step in creating a robust historical record of the second half of the 20th century.
Lastly, we invested in the public media digital platform, a collaboration of public media’s major producing organizations to ensure that content can be readily shared across all public media platforms and content outlets.
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Looking ahead, CPB will continue to play the lead role in articulating the value proposition represented by public media to the American people at a time when high quality and trusted content, available for free and over multiple platforms is more important than ever.
The uncertain economy continues to affect the financial health of public media stations. Scarcity of resources will continue to be an issue confronting stations. CPB will lead the public media system by encouraging collaborations that can improve efficiency and result in greater service in local communities.
At the same time, we will also communicate the importance of the federal appropriation, which is essential to sustain America’s uniquely entrepreneurial public media service.
The federal appropriation is a part, but not the whole, of the public media story. The story begins with the will of the people, through the U.S. government, validating public media as a benefit delivered to the American people in the form of content that educates, informs and inspires like no other.
This validation of public media’s essential and high value inspires citizens at all levels of society, locally and nationally to add their support, and in the process strengthen their communities and our civil society though their local stations and a vibrant public media service.
The American people working with their government have created the most successful example of a public-private partnership. Public media is owned by the American people and they are saying that public media is important to them on air, online and in the community.
CPB will continue to make strategic investments in local journalism and education. These investments will be informed by our commitment to diversity, digital, and dialogue. We will also embark on a new Ready To Learn grant and consider the role of public media in addressing the national dropout crisis.
The issues we will be addressing are complex ones, not only for CPB but also for public media at large. This is a challenging time for both public media and the national economy, calling for the Board and CPB management to work even more closely together as we help guide, advance, and strengthen public media.