Media and Technology Stats and Studies – May 20, 2013

A soon-to-be published University of Wisconsin-Madison meta-analysis of data on more than 10,000 children in 15 countries is expected to show viewing international co-productions of Sesame Street has a positive impact on learning in children around the world. According to the University of Wisconsin, the study will show an average 11.6 percentile difference between viewers and non-viewers on “cognitive outcomes (including literacy and numeracy), learning about the world (including health and safety knowledge), and social reasoning and attitudes.” An NTI/PBS study recently showed PBS Kids’ TV and online media outlets attract a higher proportion of African American, Hispanic and low-income households, compared to their proportion of the overall population. A 2010 study of 600 pre-school children showed children who viewed PBS’ Sesame Street increased their ability to articulate scientific concepts by 100%.

Media Matters for America released Diversity of Evening Cable News in 13 Charts. The report looked at the race, ethnicity and gender of 1,677 guests and found that women did not make up more than 33% of guests on any of the cable news channels. Media Matters also found that Fox News had the highest proportion of white guests (83%), with MSNBC having the lowest (73%), and that African Americans were the “largest non-white group on all of the networks,” as 19% of the non-white guests Media Matters reviewed were African American.

Netflix released its ranking of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) with the fastest speeds. Google Fiber ranked first with an average speed of 3.45 Mbps, with Cablevision, Cox, Suddenlink, Charter, Verizon-FIOS, MediaCom, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House, rounding out the Top 10.

NTIA reported that 18% of rural areas continue to lack access to download speeds of at least 6 Mbps, compared to 100% of urban residents.

The Center for Democracy and Technology has released a report explaining the technical reasons why the report’s authors believe the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s effort to step up Internet surveillance poses serious national security risks. Currently, the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) enables law enforcement officials to wiretap phone lines. The authority for tapping communications conducted via instant messaging platforms and VOIP platforms such as Skype is not as clear since these services rely on the Internet, rather than phone lines, to function. Among other things, the report concludes that requiring these service providers to build in intercept capabilities at endpoints exposes the United States to “serious consequences for the economic well-being and national security of the United States.”

A record year in political spending on local TV stations has led to a spate of broadcast mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity in the US TV broadcast industry. The revenues generated by local TV stations during the 2012 election cycle allowed them to make their balance sheets more attractive for investors. LIN Television, Nexstar Broadcasting, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and Tribune are among the largest groups leading this new wave of consolidation, the value of which could exceed $6 billion through 2014, according to Moody’s.

Clear Channel reports its iHeartRadio service has reached 30 million registered users. This is compared to 200 million registered users for Pandora, the Internet radio market leader. Clear Channel also reported 60 million unique users per month, compared to 67 million active Pandora users. Clear Channel attributes this difference to the fact that Clear Channel users can always turn to local FM radio stations for local content.

Media and Technology Stats and Studies – April 15, 2013

Several civil rights groups urged the FCC to complete its diversity studies before departing Chairman Julius Genachowski leaves office. The Chairman delayed the release of long-awaited rule changes, pending the release of a separate study being conducted by the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council (MMTC), which MMTC has said would evaluate the effect a proposed rule to relax the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rule would have on female and minority broadcasters. The civil rights groups noted that the MMTC study is much narrower in scope than the diversity studies the FCC is required to conduct before changing any of its media ownership rules and that the MMTC study alone would not provide a sufficient basis for relaxing the rules. The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies filed a letter with the FCC in December urging the agency to delay relaxing the media ownership rules before developing a robust empirical basis for doing so.

President Obama released his 2014 budget proposal containing, among other items, provisions for increased investments in education. If approved by Congress, the budget would increase the Department of Education’s discretionary spending budget by 4.6% to $71.2 billion. The budget contains a number of proposals aimed at addressing STEM achievement gaps, including a proposal to streamline existing STEM programs, funds for expanding access to pre-school to all four-year-olds, improving high schools, encouraging public-private partnerships between schools and employers, and rewarding states for making public higher education more affordable.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting lauded President Obama for including in his budget proposal full advance funding for CPB through 2016. CPB CEO Patricia Harrison said the $445 million appropriation proposal for CPB funding “reinforces the value of public media’s in-depth news reporting, our commitment to providing a safe place where children can learn, on-air, online, and in the community, and our commitment to lifelong learning through initiatives such as ‘American Graduate’ helping to keep America’s young people on the path to a high school diploma.”  An NTI/PBS study recently showed PBS Kids’ TV and online media outlets attract a higher proportion of African American, Hispanic, and low-income households compared to their proportion of the overall population. A 2010 study of 600 pre-school children showed children who viewed PBS’ Sesame Street increased their ability to articulate scientific concepts by 100%.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam stated in a speech at the National Association of Broadcasters’ conference last week that 50% of Verizon’s wireless traffic comes from video. Mr. McAdam expects video to make up two-thirds of Verizon’s wireless traffic by 2017.

Video services firm Ooyala reported that consumers watch live video 2.5 times longer than they spend watching Video-on-Demand (VOD).

A neurological study conducted by WPP, Australian TV network 7, and market research firm Neuro-Insight found that dual-screen viewers returned to TV screens 9% more engaged after shifting their attention to their tablets. 

Market research firm Canalys reported that, among Google Play, Apple’s App Store, the Microsoft Windows Phone Store, and Research in Motion’s Blackberry World, Google Play showed the highest number of app downloads (51%) with Apple taking 74% of more than $2.2 billion in app revenues among the 4 companies.

The magazine industry has shown sharp declines in ad pages, but data collected by Adobe via its Data Publishing Suite, combined with research from the Pew Research Center, show a few bright spots in the digital edition magazine market which may help offset declines in print revenues. Overall, the number of pages devoted to print advertising in magazines declined 4.8% in the first quarter. However, spending on advertising on digital platforms in magazines grew by 22% ($1.3 billion) last year.

Paula Kerger Quietly Leads the Way

by Joseph Miller, Esq.

Last week, I had the privilege of sitting down with Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS. We met at her office at PBS headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. 

This is a serene office. I noticed your guitar by the window. Do you play?

The guitar was a gift from our station in Buffalo, WNED, who were instrumental (pun intended) in organizing that city’s guitar festival. Our colleagues at the station were aware of my adolescent ambition to be the next Joni Mitchell. This was only an ambition, however, as my guitar skills are quite limited and my voice is suited only for the shower.

PBS won 32 Emmy Awards last year. What do you attribute that success to?

PBS is dedicated to harnessing the power of media to change lives. That has been our mission for more than 40 years and it guides our work every day. It leads us to present the best content we can offer in every genre. This includes substantive, in-depth journalism; thought-provoking history and science; and arts programming that allows everyone to have a front seat to outstanding work from across the country and around the world, as well as curriculum-based, research-driven programming that helps children build critical skills, preparing them succeed in school and life.

Our content is unlike anything offered elsewhere in the television landscape. We are honored that the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized this so generously. I was particularly proud that the Emmys we won were for many types of programming – 12 Daytime Emmys for children’s series, 14 Primetime Emmys for everything from drama and arts to history, and six News and Documentary Emmys.

You were the Station Manager of Channel Thirteen in New York for thirteen years. Now you are President and CEO of PBS in Washington. Media is a competitive industry. How has the way you have navigated your career been different between the two cities?  Is the nature of competition different between the two cities?

Washington and New York are indeed two very different cities, but my work at PBS is actually more focused nationally. Most of my time is spent considering what will best serve our public television audience in communities across the country, ensuring that the work we deliver meets the needs of citizens.

Let’s talk about Independent Lens and POV. There have been some schedule changes to those shows recently. They were shifted from Tuesday nights at 10 PM to Thursday nights at 10 PM, which is viewed as a less desirable timeslot. Some have said this is evidence that PBS is falling on its sword, so to speak, and reneging on its commitment to independent programming in favor of mass appeal shows. What’s your perspective on that? 

PBS is fully dedicated to independent film and the diversity of content they provide. Just last year, approximately 120 independent productions appeared in the PBS primetime schedule. For decades, PBS has been a destination for a wide spectrum of voices, points of view, and distinctive visions.

We recognize the many outstanding awards earned by the independent filmmakers we have presented. Their acclaimed work contributes immeasurably to our schedule.

PBS, POV, and ITVS share a common commitment to independent film and are dedicated to working together towards our shared goals. Our recent joint conversations have been productive and we agreed to alternative scheduling options for Independent Lens and POV.  We plan to discuss these updates at PBS’ Annual Meeting, which is May 14-17 in Denver, CO.

I’m proud that five of the six News & Documentary Emmys I mentioned earlier were for POV – which won four awards – and Independent Lens. And earlier this month, PBS garnered seven George Foster Peabody Awards, more than any other organization. This is a competition for television and radio that recognizes “excellence, distinguished achievement, and meritorious public service.” Two honors went to POV and one to Independent Lens this year.

Gwen Ifill was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Hall of Fame this year. Jim Lehrer recently announced his retirement after 37 years as the lead anchor of Newshour. What are the plans for Newshour going forward?

One of the best aspects of my job is that I get to work with such talented, committed people. Gwen and Jim are incomparable journalists and I am so grateful for their work and all that they bring to PBS. While Jim has retired, he is still an integral part of PBS Newshour.

The series has undergone a number of successful transitions in its long history. It first launched in 1975 and has grown and changed over the years while retaining a steadfast commitment to outstanding reporting that has never altered.

I am confident in the show’s future because of the outstanding leadership there. Not only does Jim continue to guide the series, even though he has stepped out of his daily role, the recent appointment of Bo Jones as the CEO last October demonstrates that the program is in good hands.

And, of course, Newshour continues to boast one of the most talented, hard-working, and respected journalistic teams on television. The work that Jeffrey Brown, Gwen, Hari Sreenivasan, Ray Suarez, Margaret Warner, Judy Woodruff, and the rest of the Newshour team do every day continues to meet the very high expectations viewers have had of the program for decades.

PBS has done a fantastic job with children’s programming–it won 15 Parents’ Choice Awards last year. And the beauty of it is that you and PBS have had laser-like focus on addressing the developmental and social needs of all children, especially those in low-income communities. One study even showed a positive correlation between Super WHY! and higher test scores. Tell me more about PBS’ strategy for children’s programming and how it plays into improving educational outcomes in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

First of all, thank you.

As I said earlier, PBS’ mission is to harness the power of media to change lives. Of course, television has tremendous power to reach children – especially those who can’t attend preschool.

We have all read that millions of children lack the basic early math and literacy skills necessary to succeed in school. We’ve been working with the Department of Education and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for a number of years on the Ready to Learn (RTL) Initiative to develop curriculum-based programming that helps children build critical skills. We work with independent researches to ensure that our content measurably improves children’s proficiency in fundamental areas.

You mentioned the Super WHY! research, but actually there are several independent studies that empirically demonstrate that PBS programs help to close the achievement gap in a measurable way.

We have developed in innovative blend of media across all platforms – TV, online, mobile, and more – and related community engagement activities that help children learn to read with series such as The Electric Company, Martha Speaks, Sesame Street, and Super WHY!

Aided by an additional round of funding from the Department of Education, we are taking what we’ve learned about teaching literacy skills and applying it to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Science) curriculum, the mastery of which will be of critical importance to the future of today’s children.

Programs such as The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about That, Curious George, Dinosaur Train, and others open up the worlds of math and engineering to children with content that teaches numbers, counting, addition, subtraction, data analysis, graphing, measurement, shape recognition, pattern creation, and other key topics.

We also offer a wealth of tools for parents and teachers – in both English and Spanish – that offers information and advice about using our content at home or in the classroom to get the most out of our programming, online games, apps and other content with such resources as PBS KIDS Lab and PBS KIDS Island.

One thing we never lose sight of is that the content has to be entertaining as well as educational. If the program, game or app doesn’t draw the child in, it doesn’t matter how effective the curriculum is. That’s why I am so proud of our announcement earlier this week that in February 2012 the current PBS KIDS weekday block of preschool programming took the top four spots for kids ages two to five for the first time, according to Nielsen NPower national program ratings. Among kids ages two to five, Curious George was number one, The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot about That and Super WHY! tied for second place and Dinosaur Train placed fourth.

PBS KIDS also drew record audiences online that month; February marked the first time PBSKIDS.org was the number one kids’ site for both unique viewers and videos viewed.

Reach is a key factor in our mission. Not every child has access to a computer or even, necessarily, to school in the earliest years, but almost every child in America has access to a television. In fact, according to Nielsen reports, 79% of all children ages two to 11 watch PBS in the course of a year.

Is there is one thing you would like to tell policymakers in Washington about public broadcasting, what would it be?

That we are here to help meet the nation’s priorities in a way that delivers outstanding return on the federal investment.

Each day, the effective, efficient work of PBS stations help educate America’s children, train teachers, assist communities and first responders during local emergencies, present in-depth journalism that informs citizens about important issues in their neighborhoods and the around the globe, make the arts accessible to all citizens regardless of where they live, and more. We provide a place where ideas can be explored and discussed in respectful, civil way, which is a critical role in any democracy.

Public broadcasting’s local/national structure has both the broad reach and deep local roots to serve Americans in a way no other enterprise can match. Earlier, I mentioned the number of children who watch PBS in a year. It’s also worth noting that Nielsen data show that 91% of all US television households tune into PBS local stations over a twelve-month period.

In short, we are the nation’s largest classroom, its biggest stage for the arts, and a trusted window to the world, all for the cost of about $1.35 per person.

This is a cost that the American public call the second best use of their tax dollars, outranked only by military defense in a recent national study. This research also found PBS is considered the most trusted public institution in the country.

We are grateful for the trust the American public places in our work and are proud of the way we leverage the nation’s investment to deliver content and services that so many people rely on each day.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today, Paula.

You’re welcome.

Joseph Miller, Esq. is Deputy Director and Senior Policy Director of the Media and Technology Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, DC.  More information on Mr. Miller and his work can be found at the Joint Center website.

Jazz Has Endured Despite the Odds, Can Public Media?

by Joseph Miller, Esq

The FCC’s media ownership rules have never resulted in commercial programming that fully reflects local communities.  Local newscasts make up only a small portion of local radio and television broadcast schedules.  The vast majority of other programming is national, network programming and syndicated shows.  While radio stations have more of a “local feel” than television, their most popular news programming is often syndicated, and music formats are programmed based on national sales of music recordings.

Public media is critical to filling the void left by commercial broadcasters.  But several structural changes have threatened the ability of public media to thrive and provide local content.

Newark, New Jersey’s WBGO 88.3FM “Jazz 88” is a prime example both of public media done well and what we stand to lose if public broadcasting is not preserved.  Founded in 1979, WBGO was New Jersey’s first public radio station.  While WBGO is based in the predominantly African-American city of Newark, it can be heard in all five New York City boroughs, north of the city in Rockland and Westchester Counties, Long Island, and parts of Connecticut.  The station now streams its broadcasts on the Internet and boasts membership from listeners around the world.  Despite its far flung reach, WBGO has never lost sight of its mission to provide programming aimed at residents of the City of Newark.

But WBGO has also moved its antennae transmitter to Manhattan.  Some are worried the move will result in less Newark-specific programming.  This is not inconceivable.  The precipitous decline in the mainstream popularity in jazz (see the latest Recording Industry Association of America data here) and resulting listening attrition could pressure WBGO to seek to widen its audience base by increasing its New York-specific content.  But this hasn’t happened – yet.

Meanwhile, the state of New Jersey has decided to exit the public broadcasting business altogether.  Earlier this year, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed off on a deal to transfer the operations of the New Jersey Public Television Network to New York’s WNET.  New York Public Radio has also acquired four of New Jersey’s state-owned radio licenses.  Philadelphia’s WHYY has acquired another five of those licenses.  Some advocates have fought to ensure the new owners will continue to program these properties with local, New Jersey content.  WNET is contractually required to program New Jersey Public Television and Radio (“NJN”) with New Jersey-based content.  But the term of the deal is only five years.  What happens after those five years have expired is anyone’s guess, and the fates of the radio properties now owned by entities in New York and Philadelphia remain uncertain.

Congress has also sought to end public broadcasting.  Last year, Republican legislators pushed two bills to defund National Public Radio (NPR) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).  The bills failed after significant public outcry, but the effort brought public broadcasting to a precipice, and there is no reason to conclude that Congress will pass up the next opportunity to defund public broadcasting.

The incentives for public media and those of commercial media are quite different. Media companies must program their stations in a way that generates profits, and with advertising dollars moving farther away from traditional, broadcast-only media outlets, especially radio, and toward multi-platform brands that engage across different platforms, one can expect less localism from the private sector – not more. Public broadcasting doesn’t have those same kinds of constraints because their mandate is to fill the void left by commercial media in exchange for tax incentives.

Mass appeal formatting is a no-brainer for large media companies—it is easy to produce and control. Reinforcing this is the fact that our public institutions–courts–have deemed mass-appeal approaches to be most consistent with what the Founders envisioned.

In Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod v. FCC, Judge Silberman, writing for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, struck down the FCC’s Equal Employment Opportunity rules, reasoning that even considering racially based differences among station owners is antithetical to the Constitution and to democracy.  In her famous dissent in Metro Broadcasting v. FCC, Justice O’Connor questioned whether diverse media ownership correlates with diverse programming. Justice O’Connor reasoned that broadcasters, irrespective of their race, would respond to what the market dictates.  But the commercial market dictates mass appeal content.

Meanwhile, commercial media has become less local not more.  If we lose public broadcasting, we will lose an important source of local content that is unconstrained by the need to be mass appeal.

Joseph Miller, Esq. is Deputy Director and Senior Policy Director of the Media and Technology Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, DC.  More information on Joseph Miller and his work can be found at the Joint Center website.