Monday, April 07, 2008

Waiting on Godot : Or, what’s up with the NPR contest?

Waiting on Godot : Or, what’s up with the NPR contest?

Actually the question should be what’s up with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Public Radio Xchange? But most people don’t know that, neither did I till a year ago. Everyone and their momma has been asking me what’s up with my radio show. So I figured I’d write a post to catch everyone up to speed. The stuff you hear on your local public radio station is usually a conglomeration of a few different organizations, the best known of these is NPR, but there is also American Public Media and a few others. All of these organizations get funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

PRX is an organization that primarily distributes content, a couple years ago they came up with an idea to find new hosts and shows. They got the CPB involved, and two contests were created, LAUNCH, and the Public Radio Talent Quest. Out of these two contests winners would be picked and the funding would be given from CPB to support the chosen shows. CPB could pick as many shows as they wanted, or they could chose to not pick any (unlikely). After talking to the President of CPB a couple months ago, I got the impression that they would do more then one, probably 2-3. But who knows.

LAUNCH’s approach was to take three well known and respected Producers of Public Radio and start a search for celebrities to make their shows. Maybe celebrity is a little too big of a word… people from other mediums that the public might already be familiar with? I don’t know. I’ve heard this described as a top down approach. The three that were chosen are food writer Mark Bittman, activist and speaker Majora Carter, and actress/comedian Julia Sweeney. Very interesting group of people, and I dig all of their work. How will what they do translate into radio? Who knows?

PRX was tasked with the Public Radio Quest which was as grassroots as it can get. They created a website and asked for submissions. 1400 people applied out of that 1400, I was chosen after a long series of tasks to be one of the three winners. It was a grueling process that started in April of 07 and didn’t finish until December 07’. I’ve blogged about the experience before so I won’t bore you with the details of all the work. I’ll just say I was glad when it was over.

The three finalist received funding to create a pilot which in turn would be what CPB used to determine who was going to get the funding. The show I created is entitled State of the Re:UNION. At it’s essence, SOTRU is about bringing people together. The method the show uses to accomplish that goal is by traveling to a different city every week and asking the questions, what makes community? Who are the people that help define it? What brings people together, and what pulls them apart? The hope is by focusing on different cities, this big country of ours doesn’t seem so big anymore, that people in Walla Walla Washington hear the show and recognize that people in Charlotte NC have the same struggles, the same hopes and dreams. All things that separate us are so much smaller than the things that bring us together. There is one America, if we will it to be so. Lofty goals for a radio show, but if you read the blog a lot you know lofty goals are my thing.

So back the original question, what’s going on now? The answer is nothing and everything. We’ve done all the work, turned in the pilot in December, and now must wait on CPB. The LAUNCH crew didn’t have to have their pilot in until February so CPB didn’t start listening to them until March. They formed a committee of industry professionals to judge the programs, make recommendations, and then they would decided on who gets the funding. At this time the panel has convened, and CPB has informed us that they will be looking at those recommendations for the rest of the month. At the end of the month they will decide who gets the funding. I’ve set a date in my mind of May 15th as to when I’ll know. I needed a date. So I figured I’d give them an additional two weeks.

Honestly, they whole process is driving me nuts. I’d be nice to know what the future holds as far as radio is concerned, but like everything it all takes time, and patience, (something that I am not the best at) is a virtue.

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