Noncoms to choose a champion


Public TV organizations this week are expected to pick a lobbying firm to
fight for millions of dollars in federal higher-education funds that would help digital
stations to provide distance learning, work-force training and other new services.

Three firms were interviewed last week for the account.

Roughly 53 public stations, many of them university licensees, have ponied up
more than $370,000 to lobby Congress over the next three years for tax dollars
to pay for the rollout of new digital services, particularly in rural areas.

The launch of a targeted lobbying campaign is a recognition that the
GOP-dominated Congress, somewhat hostile to a perceived liberal programming
slant, is less willing to fund public broadcasters' general operations but might
be convinced to support defined operations.

"We realize there is ideological baggage involved with funding the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting, so we're looking at new sources of funds
tied to very specific services," said John Lawson, president of the Association
of Public Television Stations.