2019 Year-End Report to the Board

Jan 30, 2020

High interest in how public media outlets are operating – or could operate – differently in the current media environment are notably reflected in the social media metrics for the CPB Ombudsman Reports over the past six months.

Columns about how pubcasters are developing new revenue streams, how one public television outlet has launched a nightly newscast, and whether there is merit in an idea to direct more federal funds toward coverage of local news snagged the most impressions and engagement in this ombudsman’s Twitter account.

Overall, Twitter followers to @janjlab (the largest outreach platform) increased 25% to 1,878 since June 7, 2019, the date of the last mid-term report. These followers are drawn, not only from the public media world, but also from the media research, reporting and entrepreneurship arenas. Of note, some new followers themselves have sizable communities of followers, with a few numbering more than 80,000.

Subscribers to the other outreach platform, the Ombudsman Reports email listserv, are primarily people working in public media. The number of those email subscribers increased by nearly 16% to 395 during the last six months. The open rate also increased, from about 32% of emails received to just under 37%.

This ombudsman produced 12 reports between June 7, 2019, and January 9, 2020, continuing the pace of about two a month. Only three columns derived from the 56 emails received over that period. This requires the ombudsman to pay attention elsewhere to issues, trends and developments to generate new reports. Two reports  this period were developed from CPB news.

Of those 56 emails, eight came from one low-power radio station that objected to a finding that it did not meet the eligibility criteria for receiving a CPB Community Service Grant.

A continuing complaint again this period – 20 of the 56 emails – expressed concern over perceived bias, particularly an anti-Trump bias, in news reports on the "NewsHour" or on NPR. Most of these complaints were generalized opinions that did not cite a particular newscast. One exception was a "NewsHour" interview of Ken Cuccinelli, then-director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which elicited complaints and led to an Ombudsman Report.

Listener and viewer perceptions of bias remain on this ombudsman's radar for further monitoring and development.

You can subscribe to CPB Ombudsman Reports at https://www.cpb.org/subscribe. Read more CPB Ombudsman Reports here.