July 7, 2006


Conference call: Ad hoc. With Tom Thomas. Discussing CSI
July 7. 2006
12:30 EST

Patty arranged for a conference call with Tom Thomas of SRG to discuss the CPB CSI initiative.

Participating in the call were Tom Thomas, Patty Wente, Christina Kuzmych, Cleve Callison, Dan Skinner, Jon Shwartz, Tim Eby

There will be a panel meeting on Monday at CPB to make recommendations about the CSI project. Management will study data submitted and comments made, and make determination as to whether to continue or not.

It would be good if CPB would let the system know that a meeting is taking place and that the data from stations is being studied.

Group offered criticisms.

There are two broad issues. One of philosophy and one of methodology. The idea of CPB telling stations how to program is not a positive move in building station relations or building trust between CPB and stations. The methodology is not clear and the specificity is in question. The program is more along the lines of a punishment rather than an incentive to perform.

This is a very broad approach that may not fit individual stations. There is use of questionable data that has not been tested. For example, how do we know that programming three hours of continuous music is good for audience building?

The actual incentive areas are questionable in themselves. For example, there is an emphasis on major giving. Is this an area in which stations should start investing heavily? The major giving programs public television stations engaged in did not solve their fundamental problems. Another concern is that some of the specific areas will create more costs for stations. For example, starting an e-letter service for members may not be within the scope of a station’s budget. Adding the one-hour daily news program may not be good for all stations, and may not be financially possible for many. Further, who decided that having a one-hour daily public affairs program is more beneficial than having several short local features inserted into ME or ATC? This is the type of metrics/data that has not been adequately tested.

Tom Thomas: If Congress was inspired to provide more funding and CPB could create a scenario where no station would lose money, but high performing stations adhering to these new guidelines would gain, would it remove some of the hard feeling?

Comments: That would be a positive step, and would appear as if CPB was rewarding rather than penalizing. However, the metrics and testing is still in question and needs to be discussed.

An added concern: We already have a built-in factor in the matching aspect of the current CSG. This new program may cause stations to change operations not to serve the community but to meet CSI standards. We would in effect be engaging in reverse motivation.

Perhaps the incentive should be in the formation of collaborations, particularly in the “new” environment where smaller stations may not be able to keep up with technology or community service aspects. Dollars should be spent on improving the universal aspects of our industry, concentrating on service and efficiencies needed to provide that service.

Tom Thomas: Some of the CSI metrics may seem more based on assertion rather than facts. What would be the short list of things that we need to research more? If we want to make the system stronger, what tools should we be looking at?

Tom Thomas: Where are we heading in our strategies is important. Where do put ourselves into the new technology picture. There will be some discussion after the Monday (July 10) meeting, but he still doesn’t know how it will transpire.

Meeting ended.

July 7, 2006
Christina Kuzmych
PRIMA Secretary


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