The Washington-based Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), has elected Frank Cruz as chairman of their nine-member board.
Cruz, a California businessman and founder of Latin American broadcaster Telemundo, has served on the CPB board since 1994 and is the first Latino – or minority – chairman to be elected in the CPB’s history.
According to Cruz, his appointment signals a definite shift for the corporation. ‘In many ways it’s an important move because I think one of public broadcasting’s drives and agendas will be to try to broaden the viewing and listening base, both on NPR [National Public Radio] and PBS. We want to bring in more and more minority viewers. After all it is taxpayers’ dollars that fund public broadcasting – by and large we’re the single largest source – and I think that has to be more reflective of what America’s diversity base really is.’
A formidable challenge of late for the CPB has been the transition from analog to digital. More than 1,000 public radio and TV stations that fall under the CPB’s mandate are in the process of converting. According to Cruz, all public broadcasting stations have to phase out analog by a 2003 cut-off determined by the U.S. government (commercial stations have until 2006). As the primary catalyst in initiating the transition, the CPB sees the changeover and its high cost as a formidable challenge in the years ahead. Says Cruz, ‘There are only 1,600 [public and commercial terrestrial] broadcast stations in America and when the transition is made each one of those will have the capacity of five or six extra channels to broadcast. I’m hoping those extra channels will increase opportunities for women and minorities.’ He adds, ‘We also have to make sure that Congress gives us at least half of the total for the US$1.7 billion that it will cost to make the conversion.’ Under terms agreed to by both parties, the CPB is responsible for raising the second half of the hefty price tag.