Fourteen months after Comcast announced it would take over Time Warner Cable in February 2014, the $45 billion deal — which would have resulted in a mega-company controlling almost 60% of the broadband market and just under 30% of pay television — is dead. The takeover faced strong opposition from the outset: Netflix, Democratic senators including All Franken and Elizabeth Warren, and 56% of the general American public, among many others, expressed concerns that a bigger Comcast would have too much control over what Americans can do online or watch on TV. Even so, the merger had seemed inevitable until quite recently. First, the FCC issued a “hearing designation order” on April 22, a move that put the merger’s outcome in the hands of an administrative law judge and was seen by all as strong indication that the FCC did not see the deal as being in the public’s interest. After antitrust attorneys for the DOJ — in a conceptual shift — indicated they were prepared to block the deal, Comcast folded. The end came at a price: Comcast reportedly spent $336 million on “transaction-related costs,” and Time Warner another $219 million. Time Warner, for its part, seems to have wasted no time in jumping into bed with a new partner, rekindling merger talks with Charter Communications Inc.
New York City Catches Up With the Times, Orders a Cultural Plan: New York City’s dubious designation of being the only one of the country’s top ten municipalities without a cultural plan is slated to end. The majority-Democrat city council unanimously passed legislation to develop a comprehensive cultural plan this month. The law, introduced in August 2013, tasks the Department of Cultural Affairs with surveying the city’s five boroughs, and establishing a strategy to both meet the specified cultural needs of each community, increase cultural activity and economic impact citywide – all by July 1, 2017. To start, the DCA will establish a Citizens’ Advisory Committee, made up of at least 12 members from diverse cultural and geographic backgrounds, to assist it in soliciting feedback from citizens and implementing the plan. Meanwhile, in neighboring Boston, recently-elected Mayor Marty Walsh announced the details of his own $1.4 million cultural planning initiative. To start: an eighteen-month survey, nicknamed #BostonCreates, that will look at how different neighborhoods and their citizens define arts and culture.
Small Steps Forward for Arts Education at the Federal Level: This month the Senate’s new draft of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (popularly known as the No Child Left Behind Act) added writing and music to the list of disciplines it defines as “core academic subjects”. (The previous list had included the more general “arts” along with both “English” and “reading or language arts,” but did not explicitly break out writing and music as separate subjects.) In addition, although the bill does not scale back testing requirements, it includes several progressive components, including the clarification that Title I funds can be used for arts education and more holistic language throughout that implies a reduced emphasis on math, science, and language arts. The bill, introduced by Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., and dubbed the “Every Child Achieves Act of 2015,” was approved 22-0 by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee in mid-April. Though this is the third time the Senate has tried to reauthorize ESEA in the last several years, it is a positive step towards reauthorizing a bill first introduced in 1965.
LA’s 99-Seat Theaters Ordered to Pay Up: The people spoke, but the Actors Equity Association did not listen. Earlier this month, the AEA ordered small theaters in LA County (that’s theaters with fewer than 100 seats) to pay its actors a $9 hourly minimum wage. The decision came even after the Los Angeles AEA membership — some 3,000 people strong — voted 65.5% to 34.4% against adopting the new wages. In 1987, the AEA formally adopted the so-called “99 Seat Plan,” which allowed union actors to rehearse for up to eight weeks and to perform in up to eight shows in small LA County theaters, waiving their usual union salaries in return for small stipends. Although at first it seems strange—why would an actor willingly forgo her union benefits?—proponents of the plan argue that the system has been good for actors, and good for theater, allowing difficult plays—those with large casts, or new, and thus risky, works—to be staged for the love of it all, without the pressure of the bottom line. The debate heated up this month, with the #ILove99 camp literally taking to the streets, and prominent names weighing in (largely against the AEA.) In the end, the Actors Equity Association (mostly) stuck to its original plan, and it remains to be seen what effect, if any, the decision will have on LA. In the meantime, it’s worth considering the bigger picture: wealth inequality in the nonprofit theater world (heck, the nonprofit arts world).
FM Radio’s Days Are Numbered: FM Radio was patented in 1933, and although it took the medium four decades to become the international standard, no one would have disputed its dominance. Today, four more decades later, it looks like its days might finally be numbered. On January 11, 2017, Norway will flip the switch on frequency modified broadcasts, transitioning its entire country to digital radio. The move should come as no surprise in a country which boasts of 22 Digital Audio Broadcast stations (and only five FM ones) and where more than half the population listens to digital radio daily. Denmark, Sweden and the UK have made noise about a similar switch. The digital takeover is likely to be slow and meandering in the United States, however, where 92% of folks over 12 listen to terrestrial radio at least once a week. The main reason? The transition to digital would require an act of Congress, and with the majority of US FM stations privately held, we can imagine what might be involved.
MUSICAL CHAIRS / COOL JOBS
- Dr. Kathryn (Kit) Matthew, currently Chief Science Educator at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, was nominated by President Obama to lead the Institute of Museum and Library Services in March.
- The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies has appointed Pam Breaux its new CEO, effective July 15.
- Bahia Ramos, currently program director for community foundations at Miami’s John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will move into the role of arts program director at the foundation.
- June O’Neill has stepped down as executive director of the Philadelphia Cultural Fund after twelve years at its helm. Lois Welk, who led Dance USA/Philadelphia until its recent demise, has been named interim executive director, and a search is underway for O’Neill’s successor.
- Ken Berger, CEO of Charity Navigator, stepped down abruptly last month after its Board decided it needed leadership with more tech expertise.
- The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation is hiring a Program Assistant. Posted March 30; no closing date.
- The Bohemian Foundation in Fort Collins, CO is hiring a Music Programs Manager. Posted April 2; no closing date.
- The Boston Foundation seeks a Director of Arts and Culture. Posted April 3; no closing date.
- Bolder Giving, based in New York City, seeks an Executive Director. Posted April 14; no closing date.
- The Oregon Community Foundation is accepting applications for an Opportunity Fellow, an 18-month position offered in partnership with the Momentum Fellowship Program at Philanthropy Northwest. Posted April 17; deadline May 15.
- Slover Linett Audience Research is hiring a Chicago-based Associate/Senior Associate. Posted April 17; no closing date.
- CECP, a coalition of CEOs united in the belief that societal improvement is an essential measure of business performance, seeks a Manager, Data Insights. Posted April 24; no closing date.
- Applications for BuzzFeed’s (yes, that BuzzFeed) inaugural Emerging Writers Fellowship program are now open. Deadline is October 1.
NEW RESEARCH OF NOTE
- A survey from the Nonprofit Research Collaborative shows that 63% of US nonprofits saw a year-over-year increase in 2014 fundraising revenues, continuing a general upward trend. On the other hand, a new report from the Center for Effective Philanthropy found that across the board, nonprofits are in need of funding to collect and better assess their performance data.
- The Cultural Data Project released a new report, “Bridging the Capacity Gap: Cultural Practitioners’ Perspectives on Data,” looking at the challenges to using data to strengthen nonprofit decision-making. Related, the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits & Philanthropy published a resource guide for implementing a culture of continuous improvement at Head Start and Early Head Start programs, though the insights are applicable broadly.
- DanceUSA reviewed the National Endowment for the Arts’s recent reports on arts engagement, as well as its own audience engagement efforts, in an effort to better understand what works for dance.
- In the world of early education and the arts, three different papers presented at last month’s biennial research conference for the Society for Research in Child Development detail the ways in which the arts have a positive impact on early childhood development.
- Looking at the other end of the life cycle, a new report from the Mayo Clinic shows that making art consistently over the course of one’s life has significant positive cognitive implications in later life.
- The Government Accountability Office released a report indicating that the Library of Congress continues to be behind the digital times, and faults Librarian of Congress James H. Billington for failing to hire a chief information officer, which is required by law.
- According to The Art Newspaper’s annual survey of museum attendance, solo shows at US museums were dominated by artists from five of the world’s biggest galleries, accounting for nearly a third of solo shows between 2007 and 2013.