Toward a local-national-global model
3. A philosophical foundation:
USA: The SmallBusinessSchool (SBS) campaign to identify 400,000 small business owners to each donate $1000 to their local public television station is making progress. Currently the total budget for Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is just over $400M for the entire Public Broadcasting System (PBS) which includes about 178 member stations. Small business owners are being actively encouraged to get involved to protect the future of public television because it is one of the very few places within television focused on continuing education and the public good.
In several open letters², the producers say that most television encourages the weak in spirit, confuses the marginal, and weakens the strong. As the #1 export of the USA, most television does not portray the heart and character of the country! So driven by the bottom line, much of commercial television is very dark. When told by small business owners that PBS is anti-business, SBS tells them, "Get over it. Join the station, and teach them about small business integrity, and help them chart a future. Most will welcome the help."
Your local station needs you. Our very ambitious goal¹ is to encourage upwards of 4M small businesses owners to join their local station at the $100 rate. Along that path we hope to find 400,000 who will join their station's Producers' Club ($1000 per year) for the following purposes:
1. Local budgets for local productions. We will change the nature of television as we begin working together to change the business model. Many local stations want to produce new episodes. In every local market there are excellent independent producers (we have worked with dozens over the years), and they are also anxious to help. With budget constraints, many stations have cut back their production department, but those formulas can change. And, they will. Our long-term goal is to have 100 stations producing 13 episodes per year. Our vision is to have as many as 13 local episodes in every one of the 210 Designated Market Areas (DMA). That is very ambitious.
In discussions with the president/CEO of several of our local stations, we have been looking at ways to fund these local productions. There are many possibilities:
(a) 10% of the new memberships for local productions: In most every market, there are at least a thousand small businesses that could contribute between $100 and $1000 to their local station each year. Most of these stations would be quite willing to use 10% of that amount for local productions.
(b) Local Business Associations. We encourage people to join-join-join at least one local business association. The Chamber and the Better Business Bureau are high on our lists. We are encouraging every business association listed and linked here set aside 10% of the new membership fees for local episodes about one of the outstanding members.
(c) 10% of the local sponsorships of the show. The goal is to have the show "over-subscribed." Banks, utility companies, CPAs, lawyers, business brokers, Realtors, restaurants, retailers and most successful small businesses are all willing to be among the sponsorship team. They need to be asked. And, most stations have said that they would gladly place 10% of those monies into a local production budget.
(d) Twelve national sponsors of the show. Over $1M per year will be taken from the national budget to match monies for those episodes selected to air through the national syndication. Also, local foundations will contribute to local production budgets.
2. Small Business Producers' Club. In most public television stations, there is a Producers' Club for those people who contribute $1000 or more during the year. One of our primary goals is to increase quite dramatically the total number of small business owners within that club.
So, join your local station. The small business owners that ante up tell us, just by that fact alone, that they are on the side of learning and not exploitation. All of these businesses should automatically be included on our lists for selection. You are all people who are well-known by the community and all of us have a story that could be told. Of course, there are some who will need help to cultivate their story and that could take a few years.
Everybody is a producer. Not only has the cost come down, it is easier than ever to craft a very good production. Many are learning this talent, and often the public television stations are just the ones to help all of us learn more. Wouldn't it be wonderful if each stations used part of that $1000 a year to teach these new members about production values and the work of being a producer. We even have a working name for that class; we call it the Saturday-Morning-Live Production Class! Bring the business founder/owners and become the star of a production class with the local station's professionals!
3. Professional producers and producing stations. In most every part of the USA there is an advertising-public relations business and within that business there are producers and first-class production facilities. Some are excellent. Most are expensive. Yet, those stations without production-editing services can participate because most of these people will be anxious to cooperate.
In every community there are stories that will jump off the page. These stories should be told first and we should be taking our limited production dollars to focus on getting those stories produced.
We have over ten production teams that are ready to produce episodes for their local stations. Of all these locally produced episodes, a rotating group of ten programming directors per season will select the best episodes for the national and international syndication of SmallBusinessSchool. Each of the producing stations will participate and each station will be guaranteed an episode on the national feed every time their programming director is involved in making the selections for the other 12 episodes. Of course, there are 52 episodes per year.
In most markets we have already identified many small businesses to profile -- there is enough work for several years for every local PBS-member station. And, we will find additional production dollars from both local sponsors and national underwriters.
4. The role of the Public, Education, Government stations a/k/a PEG: PBS-member stations are held to very high standards. Productions by seasoned producers from WGBH-TV (Boston) and WNET-TV (NYC) raise the bar every year. Not all these local productions will be PBS-quality in their first iteration. Yet, there is another group in town dedicated to education and they are affectionately called the PEG stations. The City Channel. The local college channel. Each is required by law to open hours of their schedule to locally-originated productions. Sometimes the quality of these productions has been poor and the content a bit self-serving. But, that is all changing.
Many PEG stations have asked for the older shows of SmallBusinessSchool and in many markets where we do not have a relation with the PBS-affiliate, the PEG stations have aired the show. Now, many would like to try to produce a few episodes of the show for their local airtime. We have suggested to them, that if their quality is high enough, we will share it with the other PEG stations. If they use our production tool kit and exceed everybody's expectations, it could go out on the national syndication. There are many hundreds of PEG stations and collectively they could do up to 2000 profiles per year.³
Your comments and questions are invited. Thanks