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Apr 30, 2004

NPR has created a tribute page to Bob Edwards, who leaves Morning Edition today.

Apr 29, 2004

The Agriculture Department has named a second round of rural public TV stations awarded DTV conversion aid. Eighteen stations received $14 million, including WVPT in Harrisonburg, Va. and Wyoming PTV, which got $2 million each, and KIXE in Redding, Calif., which got $1.5 million. South Dakota ETV and WSKG in Binghamton, N.Y., each received $1.2 million.
In a Star Tribune op-ed, chairs of Minnesota Public Radio's corporate boards explain and defend the network's unorthodox use of funds from for-profit sister ventures (reg. req.).
In its early days, KQED was "boiling with ideas," says an old timer in the San Francisco Chronicle's series marking the station's 50th anniversary this week. [See also David Stewart's retrospective from Current.] The first public TV station, KUHT, celebrated its 50th last year. Also turning 50 this year are stations in East Lansing, Mich.; Pittsburgh; Madison, Wis.; Cincinnati; St. Louis; Lincoln, Neb.; and Seattle.
It's Bob Edwards' final week on Morning Edition, and articles in Newsday and the Washington Post highlight the impending change. NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin addresses the persisting woes of Edwards' fans: "In some cases, listeners ended their messages to me in tears, unable to go on." (More in the Houston Chronicle.)

Apr 27, 2004

In case you can't remember what cicadas sound like, the University of Michigan offers audio files along with close-up photos and detailed text. Public broadcasters will have to put up with it just like everybody else.
Not waiting until Morning Edition's 25th anniversary to reassign host Bob Edwards made NPR executives looked as if "we didn't care about Bob," says NPR Executive Vice President Ken Stern in the Philadelphia Inquirer (reg. req.).
A Japanese company will sponsor a British knight's series on American innovators. WGBH says Olympus backed Sir Harold Evans' They Made America, on PBS in November.

Apr 26, 2004

Apr 21, 2004

Some NPR listeners thought Don Gonyea, the network's White House reporter, was rude to the President last week. Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin says in his latest column that Gonyea was "well within the bounds of fair journalistic practice." (Via Romenesko.) Also: Ketzel Levine's interview with Laura Bush, and 35,000 e-mails about Bob.
The FCC's April 15 request for comments on rule changes required for digital radio is online. (PDF.)
Former WFMU DJ Douglas Wolk looks at filthy words and the FCC's shifting definition of profanity in this Village Voice essay.

Apr 20, 2004

The FCC will hold an auction for nonreserved FM spectrum Nov. 3 that was postponed from 2001. (PDF.) The auction was delayed while the FCC and broadcasters debated how to handle cases in which noncommercial broadcasters apply for nonreserved spectrum. They resolved that muddle last year. Noncommercial broadcasters have tried to reserve frequencies at stake in the November auction, as detailed in FCC releases (3/24, 4/2, 4/12, 4/14).
Roger Chesser, outgoing g.m. of WUKY-FM in Lexington, Ky., looks back on his career in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Apr 19, 2004

BBC America reaches less than half of US cable homes but it's earning notice with its mix of edgy British fare. "We found a way to bring some of the best British television to America," says chief executive Paul Lee in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Apr 17, 2004

Arguing that cable must-carry rules for DTV would be a huge giveaway to broadcasters, progressive groups are asking Congress and the FCC to set minimum standards for broadcasters' coverage of elections and civic affairs. That's the point of an online petition by Common Cause, for example. In Columbia Journalism Review, Neil Hickey watches as media reformers enter what was previously a joust between two media industries.
Orlando Sentinel TV critic Hal Boedeker urges anyone with $6 million in spare change to aid Masterpiece Theatre: "Won't someone step forward and save TV's classiest program?"

Apr 16, 2004

Lefty columnist Norman Soloman challenges Jim Lehrer to "set the factual record straight" on a (mis)statement he made during an April 7 NewsHour interview.
Thirteen stations around the country are using KQED's "You Decide" feature on their websites, says the University of Maryland's J-Lab Director Jan Schaffer. The interactive doodad asks you to take a position on questions like "Should Saddam be executed?" and then systematically argues the other side against you. The feature doesn't take sides--it's ready to debate you either way.

Apr 15, 2004

The FCC asked for comments today on the rule changes required as radio moves to digital broadcasting. (PDF.) The commission specifically asked for comments on whether it should allow supplemental channels, and how digital broadcasting will affect noncommercial stations and LPFMs. The FCC's site links to commissioners' statements. Also today, CPB announced more than $5 million in grants helping 76 public radio stations convert to digital broadcasting.
NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin sizes up Air America, the liberal talk radio network, in his latest column: "NPR would do well to pay close attention to Air America's fortunes to see if monolithic and conservative commercial radio has begun to run its course."
Democracy Now host Amy Goodman talks with "Book Babe" Margo Hammond: "The media has simply served as a conveyer belt for the lies of the administration."
Sponsorship Group for Public Television, WGBH's new national underwriting sales group, launched a new website at sgptv.org. The group reps Sesame Street and Barney & Friends as well as WGBH's own shows.
Two segments from a new pilot episode of Public Radio Weekend have been added to the show's website.

Apr 14, 2004

PBS and APTS announced today that Cox Communications, the fourth largest cable operator, has agreed to carry pubTV stations' HD and multicast digital signals.
The Village Voice reports that a subcontractor to McWane Corporation, the subject of a major investigative reporting series last year by the New York Times, Frontline and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, filed a libel suit against the three news organizations. Last week the Times won a Pulitzer Prize for public service journalism with its reporting on worker injuries and deaths at plants owned by McWane.
Helen Mirren talks with the New York Times about getting naked on screen.
NPR acknowledges in the Washington Post that it's polling listeners about whether Bob Edwards' departure from Morning Edition will affect their tuning in.

Apr 12, 2004

Ira Glass toiled at humdrum radio stories for eight years before he showed any sign of developing a unique voice, he tells the Los Angeles Daily News.
An aggressive ad campaign touts WEIU, a tiny public TV station in eastern Illinois, as "your new choice for PBS." The slogan annoys its northern public TV neighbor WILL to no end, according to the Campaign News-Gazette.
The PBS broadcast of Shroud of Christ?, presented April 7 on Secrets of the Dead, has drawn complaints from the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. The presentation was "a study in pseudoscience, faulty logic, and the suppression of historical facts," writes a CSICOP senior researcher. "The intellectual incompetence or outright dishonesty of the show's producers is matched only by that of the PBS executives who foisted it on a credulous Easter-season audience."
The Washington Post tries adding some perspective to the reassignment of Bob Edwards, but makes little progress in untangling the PR web behind it. (Reg. req.) "We have all heard of people rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic," writes a Louisville Courier-Journal columnist. "[NPR's Jay] Kernis is throwing deck chairs overboard from the company flagship." (More in the San Francisco Chronicle.)
Was Emma Goldman a fraud, a killer or a real revolutionary? PBS viewers won't find the answer in tonight's American Experience, writes a New York Times reviewer. By ignoring the question, the film "forgoes an opportunity to illuminate the link between idealism and terrorism and to gauge the relevance of Goldman to our accursed world."

Apr 9, 2004

Louis Schwartz, an attorney active in public broadcasting for three decades and a partner in Schwartz, Woods & Miller, died March 31. His family is holding a memorial service Saturday, April 10, at the River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda, Md.
WAMU-FM in Washington, D.C., has received the largest donation in its history, a $250,000 bequest from late journalist and communications professional Ellen Wadley Roper.

Apr 8, 2004

An editorial cartoonist imagines mornings without Bob.
New BBC Chairman Michael Grade doesn't have an easy choice of a man to fill the director general post, reports David Cox in London's New Statesman. The job might go to a woman for the first time. (May require subscription.)
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that an anonymous "friend" of KCTS is lending the station $7 million to pay off its creditors, including PBS.

Apr 7, 2004

Listeners remain steamed about losing Bob Edwards, says NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin, and NPR has erred by not reporting more extensively on the departure of the Morning Edition host. Cokie Roberts tells the Philadelphia Inquirer that NPR goofed: "When you have 10,000 listeners saying it's a mistake, it's probably a mistake." (Req. req. Via Romenesko.) One general manager says in the Houston Chronicle that NPR's claim that stations pushed for the change could be called "a bald-faced lie."

Apr 6, 2004

Pittsburgh's WQED announced today that it will lease out its second channel to HSN's America's Store shopping network for three years, retaining the right to air some public TV programs and promos on the channel. Rumbles of a new deal were heard in March by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which said the station has tried several plans to "unload" the station and bolster its revenues since 1996. The station signed to sell it to a California broadcaster in 2001, but the deal fell through in 2002.
Execs at WOUB-FM in Athens, Ohio, changed the station's format from news/classical to all-news in response to financial pressures, reports the Athens News. The station has suffered cuts in CPB funding due to its small audience and low membership income.

Apr 5, 2004

Jay Kernis, NPR's senior v.p. of programming, answered questions about Bob Edwards from listeners today in an online chat. "The news demands of the broadcast require more than one host to keep the program timely every morning," he said. Kernis has also written an FAQ: "Twenty-five years ago, Morning Edition was created with a single, in-studio host. That model is no longer sufficient to bring the weight of credible, in-depth reporting that we are demanding of ourselves."
Monkey, a devoted public radio supporter, recently went on a tour of NPR's headquarters (and sent this Current editor a postcard while in town).
A few months after listener complaints provoked "Car Talk" to switch its streaming audio to Windows Media Player, the program has returned its stream to Real Player. According to hosts Tom and Ray Magliozzi, Real has promised to eliminate pop-up ads, make its free player easier to access, and otherwise address the issues that fueled listeners' web rage.
In an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, NPR President Kevin Klose talks publicly about the reassignment of Bob Edwards—though he says little that other NPR execs haven't already said: "Edwards' strengths are actually anchoring from the studio. What we're looking for is more diversity in our studio hosting and a kind of knowledge of what is happening in places that may be very far away from the studio."
Michael Skoler, managing editor of news at Minnesota Public Radio, talks with Leonard Witt about the network's efforts to involve the public in its reporting.

Apr 2, 2004

Jay Kernis, NPR's senior v.p. of programming, will answer questions about Bob Edwards' reassignment in a live chat on NPR's website, Monday at 1 p.m. EDT.
Bill Marimow, incoming managing editor at NPR, tells the Buffalo News he wants to stress "excellent reporting, investigative and enterprise stories and in-depth work" at his new job.
Queen Elizabeth, among others, has signed off on the hiring of Michael Grade as BBC chairman, the London Telegraph reported today. Grade, a former BBC program exec, spent eight years at semi-public Channel 4, earning the nickname "Michael de-Grade" for his racy program choices. Both BBC's chairman and its director general resigned in the Iraq reporting scandal. [Washington Post report.]
The organizer of the "Save Bob!" petition is now urging Bob's backers to boycott NPR underwriters. He also wants them to ask lawmakers to cut NPR's funding and limit underwriting credit language. Columnist Ellen Goodman calls Edwards' removal a "wake-up call" to an aging America. Another columnist says NPR "is acting like any other big, powerful, dumb, clumsy, unfeeling, implacable, stonewalling, soulless bureaucracy." And at KUER-FM in Salt Lake City, Morning Edition is bringing in half its usual on-air fundraising take.

Apr 1, 2004

In letters to listeners posted on their websites, public radio stations are discussing the departure of Bob Edwards from Morning Edition. Jim King, director of WVXU in Cincinnati, is particularly blunt: "...[I]t is impossible for me to convey my own sense of outrage and betrayal by the network we supposedly 'own' as member stations."
"We have listened to a lot of Bob Edwards' Morning Edition lying down in our beds but we should not take this dismissal from Morning Edition lying down," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in the Senate March 24. (His comments start three paragraphs down on this page.)
Romanesko of Poyntless Online reports that Bob Edwards will deliver the voice of NPR's telephone system after leaving Morning Edition.
More about Bob Edwards in the Chicago Tribune (reg. req.), in USA Today, on NPR's On the Media and from the network's ombudsman.
The weblog Brand Autopsy is devoted to public radio this week, with discussion of fund drive no-nos, Bob Edwards and other topics.
Gregory Nava turns the new season of American Family into a 13-part movie, sending the eldest Gonzalez son into the Iraq War, says Seattle P-I critic Melanie McFarland. She predicts a heart-wrenching season.
A dozen supporters of Bob Edwards broke into NPR headquarters before dawn this morning to protest his reassignment, the Washington Post website reported. The women seized programmer Jay Kernis when he arrived and locked him in a utility closet, but not before running their fingers through his hair. Edwards, who had bemoaned the loss of the singles atmosphere of NPR's early days, was reported missing after the protesters left.