Friday, 5 June 2009

Remarks to Independent Radio Producers from AIR President


From: Nan Rubin <>
Date: 2009/6/5
Subject: [Stubblefield] Remarks to Independent Radio Producers from AIR President

"There Is a Great Reshaping Going On"

AIR Executive Director's Remarks to Producers at the
Virtual Annual Membership Meeting
Sue Schardt, Executive Director

Boston:  Thanks to the members of the board of AIR for their support and efforts over this last year. Sid Selvidge, Amy Mayer, Jim Russell, Karen Lewellen, Robynn Takayama, our out-going Treasurer Joan Rabinowitz, and – especially thanks to David Freedman for his commitment and leadership. As David has mentioned, it has been a year of very hard work, and we work to make improvements to the organization to best serve our 773 members, and position ourselves as a willing partner to those throughout public radio and beyond.

Thanks especially to you all coming to this meeting tonight. With 773 members in 44 states and 11 countries, AIR has achieved historic numbers. We have record high numbers of members at this meeting tonight, as well.

I want start by sharing my views about the state of the industry and producers.

We know well about the impact the economy is having on stations, on the networks. Over these last months, my focus has been on the impact on producers… the "untold" story of the economic downturn.  Here's what we know.  

There is a crisis in the public radio that must be urgently addressed -- the loss of the talent pool.  The cancellation of Weekend America, Day to Day, and the loss of funding for Hearing Voices amounts to the loss of $700,000 in acquisition fees to producers… just from those programs alone.  This creates a tremendous vacuum in an already fragile economy.

We also know that we are at risk of squandering significant investments that have been made to cultivate talent over the last 6-7 years. We have a bright crop of producers working inside and outside of public radio that have been fed and cultivated over nearly a decade.  These are the new crop of up and comers, who have been mentored by many of you here; who have been inspired by the work of our most venerated producers. Many have been groomed at the Salt Institute, and Duke's Center for Documentary Studies. There is, of course, the Third Coast Festival, which has germinated so much work and talent.  

There has been significant editorial and training investment at the networks to cultivate more than a hundred producers. There have been significant financial investments by CPB, and by stations that paid to carry the cancelled programs. If we can't find a way to sustain our talent pool, we risk squandering these investments.

Then there are our veteran producers, those of you who know best what boot-strapping and endurance means; those who have created some of the most brilliant, moving work we know; who have inspired so many of us, and so many lis teners with your work.  These producers among us have on-going businesses to support, and are facing very tough times, with cutbacks from traditional funders and clients, and with sources of support and new business in a holding pattern. I know the future is very uncertain and at times frightening for you, too.

There are no simple or easy answers.  AIR has a broad and extremely diverse constituency to serve. We are all – producers, stations, investors, the networks – we are all facing difficulty.

Here's the bottom line.  The threat to our talent pool comes at a time when the industry is in most need of its most inspired and creative thinkers and makers.  This is where our opportunity lies.

There is a great reshaping going on. This represents great opportunity for AIR, and – I believe – for all of you – producers – who are key to fueling the creative engine of media making.  This is a time of invention.  It is a "time of the maker" – you – who are essential to whatever the future holds.  

AIR is working as never before to influence and contribute to this reshaping. I believe we have the opportunity as never before to bring producers onto equal footing with the networks and stations, as the "third estate" that makes the industry tick.   

My commitment to you is to do whatever I can to make sure this story of this threat to the industry – these consequences of the loss of the talent pool that I'm sharing with you tonight – are part of the bigger picture of what is happening as a consequence of the shake-out in the economy.

My commitment to you is to work with you, with our board, staff and partners to do everything we can to secure the talent pool that's at risk right now. To work to make sure people understand that this reality is not just AIR's concern. It is a concern shared by everyone in public radio and beyond who have invested in talent. It is the concern of everyone who recognizes that brilliant, inventive producers are critical to the survival of this industry.

We have opportunity, as never before, to forge a new productivity, and new relationships between producers, the stations, and the networks; to bring great new diversity in the form of new producers who can lead us to places we've never been…places we don't know about.

New priorities are being set at every level. There is great receptivity. People are hungry for answers.  We must – all of us – take advantage of this time by leading with our ideas. They're eager for finding new ways of doing things.  

So the onus is on us to put ourselves forward… each one of us… as a bottomless font of new ideas. We must work to inspire others with our work. We must focus relentlessly on the th ings that inspire us.  These are the things that will carry us forward.

Sue Schardt, Executive Director


* * * * * * *
Nan Rubin
Community Media Services
4700 Broadway #2J
NYC NY USA 10040

"The first hurdle is the people who
will not accept the change that's already
happened." -- Joss Whedon

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