tv The Communicators CSPAN April 1, 2013 8:00am-8:30am EDT
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speakers include former white house counsel c. bodien gray who serve inside the george w. bush administration. that airs live at 4 p.m. eastern. >> host: well, we want to introduce you to patrick butler who is president and ceo of a group called the association of public television stations. mr. butler, welcome to "the communicators." >> guest: thank you very much. >> host: how do you define a public television station? >> guest: well, a public television station is defined by the public broadcasting act of 1967 as a noncommercial educational television station which has obligations under the law and under fcc regulations to provide educational, cultural and informational services to the communities that question serve, and we serve -- that we serve, and we serve virtually every american through 170 licensees operating 360 television stations. >> host: how are you funded?
>> guest: we're funded -- it's a little bit complex. the corporation for public broadcasting has foundation grants called community service grants for each of our stations, and that funds about an average of 15% of our station budgets. but the further away from the big cities you get, the more rural you get and so forth, the percentage of the cpb grant can get up to 40 or 50 or even a larger percentage than that. so that's the base grant, and on the basis of that, we have about a 6 to 1 ratio for private donations from corporations and foundations, state governments and viewers like you. so for every dollar of federal funding invested, we generate another $6 in nonfederal activity. >> host: well, if a station can't raise money privately, how then does it go off the air, or
does the cpb increase its donation? >> guest: well, the cpb grant will be a, it's a sliding, it's a sliding kind of formula. the larger stations need less, i peen, the cpb grant is less of a factor than it is in more rural stations. but we have a universal service requirement under the public broadcasting act and under fcc regulations, and so we are obliged to provide our service to everybody whether it's an economic winner or not. and so we serve native american reservations and the most rural areas where commercial brethren don't find it profitable to go. and is we go everywhere and serve everybody for free. >> host: mr. butler, does the federal government have any other role in your programming decisions besides the funding that the corporation for public
broadcasting does? >> guest: no. in fact, there's a firewall that is established for the corporation for public broadcasting which prohibits the federal government from being involved in programming decisions. and so cpb provides these grants and local stations together with pbs, our national programming service, make all of the programming decisions independently of the government. >> host: also want to introduce kamala lane of communications daily who is our guest reporter. >> thank you. patrick, the cpb allocation when broken down comes to about a dollar and some change per u.s. citizen, and that's not really a huge percentage of the federal budget. however, why i is that such a big deal to the public tv community considering you do have other sources of funding? >> guest: well, it's that foundational grant that makes possible everything else that we do. it's the platform on which we
base all of our local programming, all of our educational services, all of our homeland security and public safety services and other things that we do for veterans affairs and so forth and so on in our various communities. it's that foundation grant from the cpb that makes all the rest of this possible, and it makes, it makes the other funding possible as well. we can leverage the federal grant to obtain all this other funding from state governments and corporations and foundations and individuals, and the general accounting office or they call it the government accountability office now and many others have determined over the last several years that this federal grant is essential to the operation of our system. nobody in the foundation world or the corporate world wants to pay for our lights lights and or towers and so forth.
they want to devote their investments to programming and to good community services and so forth. and so the federal investment is literally the foundation that the platform on which everything else we do rests. >> and i know over the years including recently that aloe caution does -- allocation does become threatened, and if that allocation is zeroed out, can you give us an idea how public tv will be changed? will it just go away? >> guest: well, it'll be severely damaged. the first stations that would be affected most severely are the rural stations, the places where we go where nobody else goes, and then the problem is that because we have a system in which boston supports bozeman and nebraska supports new york because we're sharing revenues and programming ideas and
programming services and so forth, when this system breaks down because the smaller stations can't operate, then the bigger stations in boston and and washington and so forth won't have the distribution system that makes their programming possible and makes the service work for all americans. and so it's really important to have this federal contribution, small as it is in the grand scheme of things, we're one-hundredth of 1% of the federal budget, and we make a lot of that $1.35. the comparison with great britain, for example, is that they spend about $83 per citizen for public broadcasting. japan spends about $64 per citizen on public broadcasting. we spend $1.35. >> host: so, mr. butler, with the threat of sequester or the new budget that's coming up for this year, how does that affect
your member stations? >> guest: well, the sequester will reduce our grants by about 5% which roughly equates to $22 million or so which'll be distributed among the various licensees and stations that i've described. and so we have, we have, in fact, taken about a 13% cut in our overall federal funding over the last two years. and if the entire federal government had sustained the cuts that we'd sustained, the budget would be $500 billion smaller than it is now. so we feel like we've made a significant contribution to deficit reduction and retirement of the federal debt within our own context. and the sequester will be a further 5% reduction in our funding, and it hurts, but we understand that we've got to be
contributors to the solution, and so we have saluted smartly and taken our, taken our medicine with everybody else. but it'll hurt. >> host: what about when it comes to, like, the point mitt romney was making in the campaign? i love big bird, but i'm going to cut your funding? because of the budget crisis that the u.s. and the deficit that the u.s. is currently funding -- facing? >> guest: right. governor romney was just, he had his facts wrong, if i can put it bluntly. sesame street receives next to no federal funding to begin with. they have been remarkably successful in generating private funding and going global and so forth. so it's not a matter of the federal government sustaining "sesame street." what the federal government does is to sustain the distribution system over which "sesame street" can can reach every
american home. and that includes the 90 million, 90 million preschool students that we've been able to get ready to learn over the last 40 years, many of them from inner cities and from rural america and so forth. but getting them ready with language skills and math skills that "sesame street" imparts that has made a real difference in getting kids ready for success in school and in life. and so it's not a matter of putting corn flake commercials on "sesame street." that's not the point at all. the point is having a federal investment that a makes services like that available to everybody. >> host: but what about the commercial success of a "sesame street" where they're marketing products and licensing out things? they're making a profit. where does that money go? >> guest: all that money goes right back into programming, right back into programming which is why a federal investment directly into "sesame
street" is a fairly small number now, because "sesame street" has been so successful and these licensing and other business enterprises. sesame workshop is a nonprofit enterprise, so all the money they make from any place goes back into their programming and services. >> host: kamala lane. >> since you're on programming, patrick, how does public television keep itself relevant in a world where people can have access to hundreds of channels if they're pay tv subscribers or if they just stream content online? >> guest: uh-huh. well, it's an interesting question, and we get that a lot in our conversations on capitol hill, do we need to be providing a federal investment for one television service as opposed to all the others that are available? the difference with us is that we are education-oriented. we are providing the works of ken burns and the great
performances and american experience and nova. we have more science students watching nova on any given wednesday night than are in any science classroom in america. all of them combined. and so we are totally dedicated to the education mission, and we take our programming and put it through a process through pbs learning media under which digital learning objects are created that are curriculum-based and standards-based, and the teaching tools that we create with our own programming for use in k-12 classrooms, 28,000 home school students and others is an educational enterprise that is not duplicated anywhere in the commercial world. and so that's the principal distinction. we are in the education business, and nobody else is.
>> and how are public tv stations keeping themselves somewhat insulated from significant effects of sequester? how are those programs and that education mission still able to remain intact? >> guest: well, as i say, it will hurt, but it's 5%, and we think that we can make the adjustments we mode to make. what that means in practice is there'll be less local programming available for the next year or so while we're under this sequester, and this local programming is all about local history, local culture, local issues, whether it's integration issues in nashville, tennessee, or senior citizens' issues in minnesota or veterans' issues in connecticut, job training programs in nevada, vegas pbs is the largest job trainer if the entire state of
nevada -- in the entire state of nevada under a contract with the hospitality try out there. and so these kinds of services will be curtailed by the sequester. we hope things will get back to normal a bit once the sequester is completed, but this will hurt, and the quality -- the quantity of our service will be diminished. we don't think the quality will, but we won't be able to produce as push in programming and community service while we're in in this condition as we would other side be able to do. >> and how long would you say that public broadcasting is doing to keep up with how viewers access content on digital mat forms? >> guest: uh-huh. well, we have a good success story here. pbs.org is the most heavily trafficked internet site on the nonprofit side. it's the biggest dot-org web site in the country. pbskids.org is probably in the top five or so.
and when pbs contracts for programming, it contracts for use across 16 platforms now. not just broadcast, but across 16 internet and other kinds of distribution platforms. and so we're in mobile, we're on the internet, we're on television, we're in the classroom, and we're serving people where they are and giving them this valuable programming in the format that they most want to use it. >> host: you're watching c-span's "communicators" program. our guest this week is patrick butler who is the president and ceo of the association of public television stations. our guest reporter is kamala lane of "communications daily." >> if i could transition into a proceeding at the fcc that involves broadcast spectrum incentive auctions. i know that the apts is heavily involved in that proceeding. out of any options that have
been thrown out there, can you give us an idea what are the options public tv stations have in terms of that proceeding? >> guest: right. well, we have created a spectrum opportunities task force at my association to evaluate all of these opportunities and options on behalf of our public television stations. that includes offering spectrum in the auction itself, it includes channel showering and spectrum leasing -- sharing and spectrum leasing and other opportunities that may be available through private transactions that the spectrum auctions' rules will enable. and so we think that there are both opportunities for greater efficiency in our system and for greater revenue opportunities in our system associated with the spectrum auction proceeding. and we think this is a once many a lifetime -- in a lifetime opportunity to get all of the efficiencies and revenue opportunities that we've been kind of dreaming about for the
last several years actually accomplished over the next three or four or five years. >> host: has there been consideration of moving your channels to vhf? >> guest: some may be in position to do that. again, this is all local decisions. the great thing about public television is everything is locally owned, locally operated, and local stations make their own decisions about these things. but some will be interested in moving from a uhf to a vhf channel. some may be interested in combining some of their back office operations, the joint master control rooms and such with other public television stations or perhaps some commercial television stations. and so being able to be entrepreneurial and opportune u.s.ic about these, about these new options that are available to us is the spirit in which we're approaching the entire
spectrum auction issue. it may be that most of our stations don't have any interruption at all through this except for the repacking that will probably affect everybody in the television industry, commercial or public. but for those stations in the markets where spectrum auctions are going to be most important, they're considering all of their options, and i think they're going to have some interesting conclusions to draw. >> host: well, patrick butler, in this world of act acronyms, d you explain the relationship between cpb and pbs? >> guest: sure. the corporation for public broadcasting is owned by the american people which receives these federal appropriations every year, and they distribute that appropriation through a well-defined formula, 71% of these funds go to local television and radio, local public television and radio
stations, about 5% goes to their general administrative purpose, and the rest goes to special programming fish tyes and -- initiatives and distribution funds and so forth. so that's cpb. they're just the purveyor of federal funds. pbs is the national programming service, the national distribution service. they do a lot of work with local stations in terms of improving management and so forth -- >> host: and they're private. >> guest: they're also private and nonprofit. and the association of public television stations is the organization for the lie accept sees themselves -- licensees themselves, the people on the ground in hundreds of american communities who hold these licenses from the federal government and who provide all these local services, programming and education and other community services that we've described.
and it's my honor to represent all of them here in washington. >> host: now, one more question before we turn back to kamala lane. ken stern, npr, recently quoted in news max as saying perhaps npr would be better off without federal funding. what are your thoughts on that? >> guest: well, npr itself, again, doesn't receive much direct federal funding. the local public radio stations receive a fair amount of federal funding, and some of that money goes to npr for the purchase of programming services. but the typical breakdown for a local radio, public radio station is that they'll produce 28% of their own programming locally, they'll buy about 30% of their programming from npr, and they'll buy 42% or so from other public radio stations or other national programming services. and so it's, again, it's a local decision, and they can take as much or as little npr programming as they want.
this is the opposite of a top-down business model. this is all bottom-up, and they take what they want. >> host: kamala lane. >> it seems like over the last several years public broadcasting does have to go before congress and make a case for why the allocation should remain intact. of in recent years as your approach, your strategy in making your case changed at all? >> guest: well, in the two years that i've been here we've been trying to focus on letting congress understand better that we are public service media. which means that not only do we provide this high quality programming on television, but that we are, we are very actively engaged in the education enterprise, in homeland curt and other things -- security and other things in which a public investment is well justified. and the better we can tell that story and the stronger we can make that case as we did during
our public media summit in february, the more likely we think it is that congress is going to stay, -- to say, well, this is a worthwhile investment of federal funds. and that comports with the overwhelming majority of the american people who say that the federal investment in public broadcasting is the second best investment the federal government makes after national defense alone. that's how much they appreciate what we do on air, online and in the community. >> and how are your stations, your member stations going about finding new sources of funding? >> guest: well, we have a big contributor development partnership among our stations that has just gotten off the ground in the last couple of years, and we have found that if every public television station could do as well as the top 20% of our public television stations do in terms of
generating income from individual donors and foundations and corporations, we could generate an exrah $200 -- an extra $200 million a year in sponsorship revenue for our system. and so we are in the process of going as far as we can possibly go with this initiative, and i think that'll produce some very significant results. as i say, we have other entrepreneurial enterprises underway as well. we're doing a lot of fee-for-service kinds of work with the state of nebraska, for example. we are their data managers. in south carolina we are contracting with the state to do some very specific educational services. kentucky educational television has a wonderful ged program that they market around the country. and so there is a, this is for high school equivalency program. and so there are lots of things
like this. and vegas, as i said, vegas pbs has a business arrangement with the hospitality industry under which they are training 100,000 commercial food service workers every year for the largest industry in nevada. and so that entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in public television, and we're going to take it as far as it goes. >> host: and just to follow up on kamala's question regarding congress and your interaction there, you recently gave an award to representative greg walden, republican of oregon -- >> guest: yes. >> host: -- very influential when it comes to telecommunications policy because of his committee assignments. why did you give him an award, and how much outreach is there to members? >> guest: well, we gave congressman walden the award specifically for his work on the spectrum auction legislation. and he was a big supporter of the legislation and of public television's enter in the legislation -- interest in the
legislation. for example, the senate bill provided for a billion dollars in transition costs, mostly related to repacking once this auction is completed. and we had concluded that that wasn't nearly enough money to pay for all the transition costs that were going to be borne by both commercial and public television stations. and so congressman walden was able to add another $750 million to that transition cost budget which was a huge benefit to the public television station community as well as the commercial community. and so we thought he was well deserving of this award. he worked in a highly bipartisan way with ranking member anna eshoo of california and with other colleagues in the house. this was a real model for how good important legislation can be enacted in congress, and he took a very enlightened leadership role there. and we were happy to be able to give him our champion of public
broadcasting award as we gave it this year to senator barbara mikulski, the new chairwoman of the senate appropriations committee, who's been a steadfast supporter of public television for her entire distinguished career here in washington. as for the outreach to congress, we spent a lot of time talking with members of congress and their staff about what it is we're doing at the local level. we bring our station managers to washington as well as lay leaders who are community leaders who support our enterprise in local areas to tell them our stories about the community service that we provide. and we also ask members to come back to their stations in their local communities and see on the ground what it is that we're doing. and the more of that that they see, the better they like what we do. so we are encouraging more and more interaction, and the more we get, i think, the better off weaver going to be.
>> many of your congressional champions of public broadcasting funding are democrats. do you see the i i issue of funding becoming more bipartisan? >> guest: yes, i do. and is we just had a great public media summit at the end of february, the last day of which our members fanned out across the capitol to meet with their senators and representatives. and what we found was that there is a bit of a sea change here in terms of the bipartisan support that we can now count on. for the last couple of years, it's been very difficult for us, but we hi we've turned a page -- we think we've turned a page as one senator told us. so we're feeling that we're getting back to the tradition of bipartisan support that has been a hallmark of public television since president eisenhower first proposed educational television as a national solution to our science, technology, engineering and math challenge in the aftermath of the sputnik launch.
and so president eisenhower, president ford, president reagan and many other, barry goldwater got us the first grant for "sesame street." there's a long tradition of bipartisanship in public television, and we think we're on the point of restoring it pretty well. >> host: and, unfortunately, we're out of time. just a little bit about our guest, patrick butler, he's worked for former senate majority leader howard baker, and he served as consultant when he was white house chief of staff to president reagan, served as vice president of the rca corporation, a vice president of times mirror and was a speech writer for president gerald ford. very quickly, what's the importance of a popular program like "downton abbey" to your member stations? >> guest: well, it energizes our support and our donor base. we've gotten a nice ride out of the "downton abbey" in terms of
being able to generate new donors and additional toe nations from current donors, and the viewership has just been extraordinary. and i was talking with some of the cast not too long ago telling them that because of them, everybody is taking a new look at public television, and they're liking what they see. and so the more they can look at "downton abbey" and then see all the other good things we're doing in public television, the better off we are. >> host: patrick butler and california pal la lane of communications daily, this is "the communicators" on c-span. >> c-span, created by america's cable companies in 1979, brought to you as a public service by your it's provide -- television provider. >> just ahead on c-span2, a look at north korea relations with china including the ties between the two