carbro

PBS in Peril

55 posts in this topic

These are savage cuts to several of PBS' outstanding performing arts shows. Write to the NEA, write to your congressman, write, write, write.....

It won't help to write to NEA. The most important people to contact, especially if you live in their congressional district, are the members of the House Subcommittee on Appropriations for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which oversees NEA (and NEH). The most effective letters are individually written on paper, giving specific examples of how important that funding is to you. If you are a teacher or live in a rural area without access to big city performances, talk about that, e.g. Congressional offices have a specific system for counting up constituent respones, and these letters count for much, much more than e-mail or petitions. Write to your own member of Congress and Senators, too, of course, but that committee is where the big decisions will be made.

Here's the membership list:

http://appropriation...Environment.htm

Republicans

  • Michael K. Simpson, Idaho
  • Jerry Lewis, California
  • Ken Calvert, California
  • Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio
  • Tom Cole, Oklahoma
  • Jeff Flake, Arizona
  • Cynthia M. Lummis, Wyoming

Democrats

  • James P. Moran, Virginia
  • Betty McCollum, Minnesota
  • Maurice D. Hinchey, New York
  • José E. Serrano, New York

Share this post


Link to post

Thanks, sandik, for that link - it also mentions Art21, a good show.

Share this post


Link to post

These are savage cuts to several of PBS' outstanding performing arts shows. Write to the NEA, write to your congressman, write, write, write.....

It won't help to write to NEA. The most important people to contact, especially if you live in their congressional district, are the members of the House Subcommittee on Appropriations for Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which oversees NEA (and NEH). The most effective letters are individually written on paper, giving specific examples of how important that funding is to you. If you are a teacher or live in a rural area without access to big city performances, talk about that, e.g. Congressional offices have a specific system for counting up constituent respones, and these letters count for much, much more than e-mail or petitions. Write to your own member of Congress and Senators, too, of course, but that committee is where the big decisions will be made.

Here's the membership list:

http://appropriation...Environment.htm

Republicans

  • Michael K. Simpson, Idaho
  • Jerry Lewis, California
  • Ken Calvert, California
  • Steven C. LaTourette, Ohio
  • Tom Cole, Oklahoma
  • Jeff Flake, Arizona
  • Cynthia M. Lummis, Wyoming

Democrats

  • James P. Moran, Virginia
  • Betty McCollum, Minnesota
  • Maurice D. Hinchey, New York
  • José E. Serrano, New York

I'm leaving the entire quote intact here, because this is such good advice -- letters of support to the agencies are cherished by the people who read them, but they are the equivalent of preaching to the choir -- the real work lies in persuading the men and women who control the purse strings. (a term which is even older than I am!)

Share this post


Link to post

I wasn't thinking of a letter of support, believe me.

Share this post


Link to post

I stopped watching TV and paying for cable altogether years ago.

Share this post


Link to post

I wasn't thinking of a letter of support, believe me.

I didn't mean to imply that letters of support to the people working in public television and radio were unnecessary, but that the hard job lies in convincing the people in power who do not believe that the services offered are unique enough to warrant continued funding. Honestly -- I think they all deserve to hear from us.

Share this post


Link to post

I stopped watching TV and paying for cable altogether years ago.

How do you watch sports? I am trying to get Mr. PT to drop pay tv, and cannot find a valid alternative for him.

Share this post


Link to post

I stopped watching TV and paying for cable altogether years ago.

How do you watch sports?

I don't watch sports! The only sport I watch during the Olympics-(as a lifetime practitioner/devotee)-, is the swimming, and then there's nothing after...I go online to watch the different international competitions.

Share this post


Link to post

It's done.

The National Endowment for the Arts made sweeping cuts in its support of established PBS shows on Wednesday, and for the first time awarded significant grants to an array of gaming, mobile and Web-based projects.

Among the PBS programs receiving significantly less financing under the 2012 Arts in Media grants were “Live From Lincoln Center,” which was awarded $100,000 last year and nothing this year.

Share this post


Link to post

I probably wouldn't have said this as recently as six months ago, but it's time for the performing arts to cut the PBS cord. In the age of broadband and live HD theater feeds they don't -- or at least very soon won't -- need traditional broadcast media any more than The Los Angeles Review of Books needs a printing press.

Share this post


Link to post

I would have to disagree and quite strongly. That time may come but it is not yet. Not everyone has broadband, not everyone gets to the theater at 10 am on Saturday or a weeknight (assuming the theater feeds are even making it to your area). PBS is still public television -- for everyone. You don't need cable, you don't need internet access, just a TV. The performing arts community should continue to have a presence there. People are still watching PBS, including older people, and they're not dead yet and they give money. We also don't know how people's habits may change as they age or how the technology will change.

Share this post


Link to post

There are two issues here: does PBS need to continue to exist? Does PBS need continued funding from NEA/NEH?

I did a little googling, and while the data are conflicting, it appears that 10-14% of American households get their TV over-the-air. That's at least 12 million households. It seems likely that a significant portion of them are people in financial trouble from the economic woes of the last decade, making PBS their only access to quality educational and cultural programming.

I suppose some could argue that such established programs as Great Performances no longer need NEA funding and should be able to raise what they need from private funders. But one of the great benefits of NEA (and NEH) is that they conduct extensive peer review for quality that only a handful of private foundations can match. It has long been the case that many private funders hold off until they see what the NEA/NEH review concluded about worthiness for additional funding. And both Endowments have always had ambitious matching programs that further encourage private participation in the funding. Even a well-known series can decline, so the NEA review from time to time continues to serve that important function.

When David Stockman (Reagan's first budget director) tried to cut both endowment by 50% in the early 1980s, staff argued that it would be better to maintain the review process even if they could only award token dollar amounts in the grants, precisely with the reasoning that the review process would give private funding sources the confidence to support those projects. (The 50% cuts never happened, but the reasoning is just as relevant today as then.)

Share this post


Link to post

It seems likely that a significant portion of them are people in financial trouble from the economic woes of the last decade, making PBS their only access to quality educational and cultural programming.

Thank you, California. Exactly.

I also note that even for people with more money, cable isn't exactly picking up the slack, even the channels like Ovation that are ostensibly devoted to arts programming (and the frequent and long commercial breaks make the shows almost unwatchable for this viewer).

Share this post


Link to post

Even with the plethora of self-help shows that appear on my public television stations (especially during pledge periods) they do much better cultural programming than any of the cable stations I receive (except the excerpts on Classic Arts Showcase) Cable is a for-profit endeavor, and despite the notion that there's a program for every niche, that has not proved itself so far. At one point, the "A" in A&E really did stand for Arts, but that has been gone for a long time. Bravo, the other "arts" station I get with my enhanced basic cable subscription, is also devoid of anything like arts programming. In order to get the Ovation channel, I would have to jump up several levels with my cable provider -- not quite double the cost, but a significant increase. (the fact that I don't want the majority of channels that come with that subscription doesn't seem to count for much). If we were to get true cafeteria programming at some point, then I might feel differently, but right now, PBS is the best choice I have.

Share this post


Link to post
......“Live From Lincoln Center,” which was awarded $100,000 last year and nothing this year.

Hmmmmm, let's see.......that's .00001% of the rough cost of a typical Middle East war. Way to go you fiscal conservatives in Washington!! We've got to knock down that GD deficit. Clearly, the arts are a great place to start.

Share this post


Link to post
In order to get the Ovation channel, I would have to jump up several levels with my cable provider -- not quite double the cost, but a significant increase.

It certainly wouldn't be worth it if Ovation is all you want - that's IMO, others may disagree. But I rarely watch the channel, the programming is just not that great. (That said, bundling is still generally cheaper for the consumer - for the most part it would be prohibitively expensive to pick and choose channels individually.)

Adding to my previous post that it's not that I don't see your point, Kathleen. Certainly the performing arts do have to look to the new media as well.

Share this post


Link to post

Note that I didn't say that the performing arts shouldn't be made available for free over broadcast TV, nor that programs like "Great Performers" and "Live from Lincoln Center" shouldn't get NEA / NEH funding. However, broadcast TV is going the way of the telephone land line. If I were in charge of a large performing arts organization and wanted to get a filmed version of a performance in front of the viewing public, I'd be paying more attention to Louis C. K. than pledge week. (For a less commercial model, I might look to what the humble little podcast has done for "Radiolab," "This American Life," and "On the Media.")

And, if I were on the board of NEA and was looking to cut a check to PBS, it wouldn't be for yet another one-time broadcast that would languish in the vaults for a generation after its brief run was over. I'd help pay for them to 1) lawyer up and finally secure the rights to the treasure trove of past performances currently mouldering in said vaults; 2) hire the technical staff they need to get that stuff promptly and properly digitized and on to spinning disks; and 3) make it accessible forever and always with two clicks of a mouse or two swipes on a touchscreen. Maybe for free, maybe for $1.99; maybe for free if you stream it and $1.99 if you want to download it onto your very own spinning disk. Whatever. But free to schools and libraries for sure. And If I were on the board of the NEH I'd pay scholars and educators to produce some first-rate materials to help teachers make those performances accessible to new audiences whenever it worked in the curriculum or whenever they were moved to do so. And note that that "new audience" could well be seniors taking a course in the arts at the local community college.

Share this post


Link to post

All very good points, especially the idea that the agencies could nudge them in the direction of new media distribution!

Share this post


Link to post

All very good points, especially the idea that the agencies could nudge them in the direction of new media distribution!

I like all these suggestions, too. But take a look at the most recent awards in the NEA category Arts in Media:

http://www.nea.gov/grants/recent/12grants/12aim.php

NEA is doing quite a bit to promote on-line and digital forms of distribution of arts material. One grant of special interest here:

Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Inc.

Becket, MA

$65,000

To support the expansion of Jacob's Pillow Dance Interactive. The online video exhibit currently gives access to more than 100 dance performances drawn from the Jacob's Pillow archive. Other project activities include developing an interactive dance company guessing game and creating a mobile version for smartphones and tablets.

We'll never know what private conversations NEA staff are having with PBS and other distributors/producers. They might well be nudging them to do more on new media distribution to be more competitive in future competitions.

Share this post


Link to post

California -- Many thanks for the link and the heads-up re the Jacobs Pillow Dance Interactive site! I took a quick tour, and it looks to be quite nicely done. Only excerpts, alas, but still a feast.

OT: I was pleased to see that the NPR Music website got some $$$; now if only they'd notice that, ummm, not all smart phones are iPhones and use some of the money to expand the app portfolio accordingly. (I pester WNYC on this point with a regularity that the listener support folks must find tedious.)

Share this post


Link to post
However, broadcast TV is going the way of the telephone land line.

Broadcast TV faces challenges, to be sure, but it's not breathing its last just yet although certainly that could happen. "This American Life" lasted only a couple of seasons on Showtime but I expect they'd still prefer to be there if they could.

All very good points, especially the idea that the agencies could nudge them in the direction of new media distribution!

Yes, indeed.

Share this post


Link to post
However, broadcast TV is going the way of the telephone land line.

Broadcast TV faces challenges, to be sure, but it's not breathing its last just yet although certainly that could happen. "This American Life" lasted only a couple of seasons on Showtime but I expect they'd still prefer to be there if they could.

Just to clarify: by "broadcast TV" I mean what gets beamed out over the airways, not what's ported in by cable or satellite.

There's a reason "This American Life" didn't last on Showtime: TV is absolutely the wrong medium for that show.

Edited to add: at some point, and probably not in the too-distant future, there's going to be a battle royal between the cable companies and the internet-based content providers who have begun to disrupt their business model.

Share this post


Link to post

I wasn't commenting on the suitability of "This American Life" for TV, although I quite agree with you on that point (I suspect the show would have lasted longer on HBO, say, which tends to give its failing shows more than two seasons unless it features racehorses that keep dropping dead). I merely meant that the creators of a series would still prefer to get on television in whatever way if that's an option for them. "This American Life" would never have made it to the networks but I expect those behind the series would have been thrilled if it could.

Share this post


Link to post

I wasn't commenting on the suitability of "This American Life" for TV, although I quite agree with you on that point (I suspect the show would have lasted longer on HBO, say, which tends to give its failing shows more than two seasons unless it features racehorses that keep dropping dead). I merely meant that the creators of a series would still prefer to get on television in whatever way if that's an option for them. "This American Life" would never have made it to the networks but I expect those behind the series would have been thrilled if it could.

Just curious - why do you think they'd prefer to be on TV? Bigger audience? Superior medium? More dollars?

I don't know how many people listen to the actual radio broadcast of TAL, but more than 500,000 people download the podcast each week. The top cable TV show last night (4/26/12) was "South Park" with a total live + SD (same day DVR) audience of 2.3 million. The total audience for an episode of the radio version TAL can't be too far behind that. (The top broadcast TV show last night was "American Idol" watched by a grand total of 16.8 million live and SD.)

Share this post


Link to post

I would think from most (not all) perspectives a successful show on the networks or cable remains for the present at least as desirable a platform as a podcast, but it could be me.

Share this post


Link to post