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Bill Baker's Blog

Perspectives on the Media from New York Public Television

Media Briefing for Monday, February 28th

Michael Hurtig | February 28th, 2011

Studio Bid to Sue Australian ISP Over Copyright Infringement Dismissed IPBRIEF

Toronto-based Company Wins Advertising Contest – To Form The Digital Works Workshop, a Nonprofit Focused on the Digital Arts and Sciences NYTIMES

Book Sales Aren’t Down Everywhere: How Specialty Vendors Can Be Good for Book Publishers NYTIMES

Lionsgate May Be Planning to Spin Off Some of its Digital Assets BLOOMBERG

Obama Administration Revisiting TV Rating Guidelines TV WEEK

Media Briefing for Friday, February 25th

Michael Hurtig | February 25th, 2011

Google Announces That Their Effort to Improve the Quality of the Sites Retrieved in Search. Following recent commentary from Google on its efforts to weed out ‘content farm’ style sites that offer what they essentially deemed lower quality web content, the company has modified its algorithm to evade such sites. Read more: NYTIMES , PCWORLD

With the Early Cancellation of Two and a Half Men, CBS and Warner Bros. Are Losing the Top-Rated Sitcom of the Season. How Charlie Sheen’s Commentary and Recent Actions Ended the Show: WSJ

Media Briefing for Thursday, February 24th

Michael Hurtig | February 24th, 2011

Publishing Industry Cautious On New Apple Subscription Service – PayPal Executive Sam Shrauger Says Publishers Not Likely to Buy In LATIMES

News Corp’s ‘Daily’ May Be On Android Tablets Soon FORTUNE

French Firm Lodges Antitrust Allegations, Joining Others in Ongoing European Commission Review of Google’s Search Practices ECOMMERCE TIMES

Internet TV Streaming Company, ivi, Shutdown By Court Order Over Copyright Infringement WIRED

Media Briefing for Wednesday, February 23rd

Michael Hurtig | February 23rd, 2011

Wired Magazine’s editor discussed the value of tablets to the future of magazines in a recent talk at Columbia University. He noted that users spend much longer on a tablet or smartphone than websites. Read more here: JOURNALISM.COLUMBIA.EDU

Rutgers-Camden Law Professor, Ellen Goodman, is Examining Public Media’s Place in the Digital Age and Policies for Future American Media RUTGERS

Is Your Cellphone Safe? A New Study, Though Inconclusive, Relates Heightened Brain Activity in the Area Closest to Phone Antennae NYTIMES

How Might Amazon’s New Streaming Service Affect Netflix? INT BUSINESS TIMES , ENGADGET, LATIMES

In Europe, New Antitrust Charges Surface Against Google NYTIMES

Media Briefing for Tuesday, February 22nd

Michael Hurtig | February 22nd, 2011

Why One News Editor Decided to Use the For-Profit Model in His Latest News Venture CJR

The Recent Removal of Figurative Art by Facebook Administrators Brings Controversy NYTIMES

News Corp Acquires Shine GUARDIAN

A Look at the Combined Audience Numbers for Huffington Post and AOL News and Media Sites NIELSENWIRE

TIME Looks at How Support for Al-Jazeera May Help the Network Make the Transition to US Television TIME

Congress Must Not Pull the Plug on PBS and NPR

Michael Hurtig | February 18th, 2011

My article, which appeared in the New York Daily News on Monday, February 7th, 2011

http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2011/02/07/2011-02-07_save_big_bird_nova_jim_lehrer.html

This month, there are four bills pending in Congress that would eliminate federal funding for the most trusted institution in America. For the last seven years, according to the annual Roper opinion poll, more Americans put their trust in this institution than any other. In 2010, it ranked two times higher than the criminal justice system, 2-1/2 times higher than network television and a whopping 7-1/2 times higher than Congress. One hundred and eleven million Americans use it every month, yet the U.S. spends less per capita on this institution than any other First World country spends on the equivalent. I am talking, of course, about public television.

Why cut off funds for PBS? In a recession and with unprecedented national debt, so the argument goes, America simply cannot afford to spend money on anything but the basics. Surely we can’t afford Big Bird when we have things like the military and the highway system to pay for first. Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), who introduced one of the bills targeting public broadcasting, has said “It is time for Congress to prioritize its spending to our nation’s most pressing needs. With the national debt over $13 trillion, the government cannot continue to fund nonessential services.”

But Lamborn presents a false choice. Combined funding for PBS and NPR is about $425 million per year, which might seem like a lot until you compare it to the rest of the federal budget. In Washington, $425 million will get you about 10 feet of an aircraft carrier, or less than a single day in Iraq. It costs $850 million just to staff and run the Senate for one year. For the cost of the AIG bailout, we could have funded public broadcasting at current levels for 155 years. Defunding America’s most trusted institution for such a tiny savings is a very bad deal for the American people.

So what’s really behind the current threat to PBS and NPR? The same thing that’s been behind all past threats: partisan political pressure.

Threats to defund PBS are nothing new. Richard Nixon, convinced that PBS news programming was biased against his administration, not only vetoed the 1972 budget for PBS, but used his influence to effectively pull all PBS news and public affairs programming from the entire 1972-73 TV season. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich famously tried to defund public media in the 1990s, claiming that federal money should not fund a “liberal” media outlet. Bill Clinton reportedly used his influence at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which funds NPR and PBS, to tone down criticism of the U.S. and NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.

Each time the threat is the same: Make shows in line with the party in power, or we’ll cut your funding. Like censorship, budget bullying is a cowardly thing to do. Congress should have the courage to fund public broadcasting with no strings attached, no matter who is in power. That would be the best way to assure that public TV and radio continue free of political influence from either the left or the right. Fortunately for those of us in this decade, threats in past decades have always been called off amid huge popular outcry. Let’s hope this time is no different.

But let’s imagine politicians really are going after PBS to trim the budget. What does this say about how much Washington respects the values that PBS stands for, and which so many Americans share: trust, excellence and universal access to culture and education?

During my 20 years as president of Channel 13, the nation’s flagship PBS station, I received tens of thousands of letters from parents thanking me for the safe haven my station provided for their kids, for being the one media destination where children can always find shows to help them learn and grow, free of any commercial agenda. I got letters from immigrants, grateful for programs that helped them learn about, respect and become Americans. I remember a woman in the last months of her life who painted all the numbers on her remote control black except for the “one” and the “three.” My daughter, who is a hospice nurse, has said to me, “You will never know how many dying people cling to your station in their last days.”

Tough times are when the people’s government should defend common values, not abandon them. When Lyndon Johnson signed the bill that created public broadcasting, he said, “It announces to the world that our nation wants more than just material wealth … we want most of all to enrich man’s spirit.” By eliminating funding for PBS and NPR, Congress would be telling the American people and the world just the opposite.

Media Briefing for Friday, February 18th

Michael Hurtig | February 18th, 2011

Although many people are talking about ‘cord-cutting’ – turning off the cable box in favor of finding programming online – Comcast has reported an increase in subscribers in the last quarter. Read more here PCWORLD

American Society of News Editors Announce Awards for ’2010′s Best Journalism’ ASNE.ORG

New York Times’ Media Decoder on the Google One Pass Versus the Apple iPad Subscription Plan NYTIMES

Is Hungary’s Media Law ‘Toned Down’ NYTIMES , Hungary Revises Controversial Media Law, Leaving Many Central Ideas Unchanged WSJ

Media Briefing for Thursday, February 17th

Michael Hurtig | February 17th, 2011

Democrats Join Arthur the Aardvark on Capitol Hill to Support Public Media MSNBC

A Review of Columbia University’s Recent Journalism Panel, “Information Wars” CJR

Google Jumping Into Digital Content Sales With New Payment System WSJNYTIMES – Take a Look at Google’s Promo Video on the Product GOOGLE

Newspaper Guild of NY Campaigning Against New York Times THE CUTLINE

Hungary Revises Controversial Media Law, Leaving Many Central Ideas Unchanged WSJ