Nov 29, 2007

Ex-PBS chief giving TV museum a makeover

For one thing, it doesn't claim to be a "museum" anymore, thanks to Pat Mitchell, former PBS c.e.o. and current head of the recently renamed Paley Center for Media. Mitchell left PBS last year to lead the institution known as the Museum of Television and Radio until Mitchell changed its name, Newsday reports. She made the switch because she wants the center to embrace online media as well. Mitchell told the paper she left PBS because she was exhausted by the demands of the job.

Nov 27, 2007

Most Hyundais, Fords, Chrysler cars will have satellite radios installed

Sirius Satellite Radio said today that Ford Motor Co. aims to put its receivers in 70 percent of 2009 Fords and Mercurys, not to mention all Lincolns and Range Rovers. Last summer Chrysler Group made the same prediction for the 2008 year; the radios are standard in Sebrings and some other mid-priced lines. They're standard on some sporty VWs, too. XM Satellite Radio receivers, meanwhile, will be standard on 95 percent of Hyundais this model year and on all Buicks, Hummers and Saabs this year, and optional on some Toyota Corollas next year, XM said.

For holiday giving, Sirius is selling an iPod-size $149.99 radio that receives its signal from either satellite or the Internet (via WiFi) or plays recorded broadcasts or MP3s.

Meet the ones who plant and herd your food

Six pubradio stations and other producing organizations will collaborate on a CPB-funded five-part doc, The Farm, headed by Executive Producer Wes Horner, who has led numerous series including NPR's Performance Today, and John Biewen, correspondent and producer with APM's American RadioWorks for eight years. Over the course of a farm year, the team will introduce listeners to the members of five farm families who plant, harvest and herd their food. Participants include WFCR in Amherst, Mass.; WBHM in Birmingham, Ala.; Iowa Public Radio; Native Public Media and KUYI on Arizona's Hopi reservation; Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, Calif.; and Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies, where Biewen is based. The host will be author and magazine editor William MacLeish, who presented a Nova documentary based on his book Encounters with the Blue God in 1989.

Arbitron delays people meter roll-out

Arbitron announced late yesterday that it has postponed roll-out of its portable people meter ratings system in New York and other top markets. The company's official announcement is here and a report in today's New York Times is here. Also, reporting by Associated Press, MediaDaily News and the Wall Street Journal.

Nov 21, 2007

PBS announces numbers on The War

37.8 million people tuned in to watch all or part of Ken Burns' series The War, announced PBS in a press release yesterday. The series won a 4.7 national average household rating, and on average, 7 million people were watching the saga at any given time.

Nov 20, 2007

PBS tech chief: Satellite transfer in second phase

PBS is in the middle of transitioning to server-based distribution, which is the second phase of its switch to the Next Generation Interconnection System, John McCoskey, PBS c.t.o, said in this edition (MP3) of Television Broadcast's Two-Minute Drill. Stations have mostly completed the hardware build-out, which was the first phase, but will have to point their antennas toward new satellites next year, McCoskey said. Only 19 pubTV stations have yet to switch to digital broadcasting but those will be ready to go by the February 2009 analog shut-off, he said. PBS is now shifting its DTV focus to consumer awareness efforts.

CPB seeks audience research analyst

CPB seeks a senior analyst to manage next year's pubTV Audience Awareness, Attitudes and Usage Study (RFP). Application deadline is Dec. 5.

Nov 19, 2007

Old Sesame Street a "frightening glimpse of simpler times"

"The old Sesame Street is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for softies born since 1998, when the chipper 'Elmo’s World' started. Anyone who considers bull markets normal, extracurricular activities sacrosanct and New York a tidy, governable place — well, the original Sesame Street might hurt your feelings," writes Virginian Heffernan in a New York Times Magazine article about how old school Sesame Street episodes, now available on DVD, "may not suit the needs of today's preschool child" and are a "frightening glimpse of simpler times."

San Diego city attorney withdraws KPBS records request

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre has withdrawn his request for KPBS records about programming decisions and its relationship with The San Diego Union-Tribune. "Aguirre made the decision after speaking with a First Amendment expert who advised him that his requests were inappropriate for a government official," reports the Union-Tribune. The investigation began in August after KPBS cancelled its local public affairs program Full Focus. Aguirre has maintained that the public needs to know why the show was cancelled. He accused the Union-Tribune, which he called a "conservative establishment newspaper," of influencing KPBS editorial content and decision-making, a charge the station has denied.

Public media encounters new media in Columbus

A social media gathering in Columbus, Ohio, last week brought local bloggers together to discuss how traditional and new media can collaborate to address community needs. WOSU and the Center for Science and Industry co-sponsored the event in their shared public space, WOSU@COSI.

Nov 14, 2007

Bryant Park co-host Burbank to depart

Luke Burbank, co-host of NPR's new morning show Bryant Park Project, told his listeners that he plans to return to his hometown of Seattle so that he can be closer to his daughter. Check out his "Long Goodbye" on yesterday's edition of BPP and this video blog entry with listeners' comments.

Nov 13, 2007

Martin proposes limits for cross-market ownership

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's proposal to allow cross-market ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations would limit acquisitions to certain conditions within the top 20 markets. Other pending proposals to change ownership rules for local radio and television stations apparently have been tabled. The FCC announced the proposal this morning and set a Dec. 11 deadline for comments. Free Press quickly dubbed the proposal "corporate welfare for big media" and said it appears to contain a loophole allowing consolidation in many more markets.

Columbia j-school honors PBS filmmaker Ofra Bikel

Tonight, Columbia University gives a black-tie salute to Frontline documentarian Ofra Bikel [profile]. She'll receive the $25,000 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism. Her investigations have freed 13 people who otherwise would have been jailed because of breakdowns in the justice system, including aggressive plea bargaining, rigid mandatory sentences and reliance on faulty testimony. Among those freed are Terence Garner, whose crime was to have a name similar to a suspect's. Betsy Kelly, one of seven North Carolinians sentenced for child abuse and freed after Bikel's Innocence Lost reporting, will attend the dinner. "Ofra Bikel’s work has shone a stark light on the realities of the American justice system," said Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia j-school.

Nov 12, 2007

Listeners lose out if Sirius and XM merge

What will happen if federal regulators allow Sirius and XM satellite radio to merge? Washington Post radio columnist Mark Fisher concludes that listeners will have fewer channels to choose from and low-rated channels such as Sirius's NPR Talk may not survive.

Nov 9, 2007

Check your 2008 conference dates

Next year's major get-togethers are planned, mostly. Among them: pubradio's Music Personnel Conference in Mobile, Ala., Feb. 17-29; NFCB's Community Radio Conference, March 26-29 in Atlanta; Public Radio News Directors, July 16-19 in D.C.; Grassroots Radio Conference, also in July, in Portland, Ore. See Current's Calendar for more.

Nov 8, 2007

FCC announces window for FM applicants to negotiate deals with competitors

In a public notice issued today, the FCC has given applicants for new noncommercial educational FM stations 60 days to work out settlements with competing applicants or make technical amendments that would resolve conflicts between their applications. Applicants must identify competitors within their community of license by searching the commission's database.

KMBH board members dismissed without explanation

"Three members of the KMBH-TV [Harlingen, Texas] board of directors were dismissed in August without explanation, according to information that recently became public," reports the local Valley Morning Star. "According to the articles of incorporation filed with the state of Texas in 1983, the bishop or administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville is the only member of RGV Educational Broadcasting [the station's owner]." Bishop Raymundo Peña dismissed the three board members--experienced pubcasters Bill Elliott, Chelse Benham and Betsy Price--without explanation. "Their dismissal reduced the board from its original seven members to four, one less than required by the station’s original articles of incorporation," reports the paper. KMBH had previously denied Star reporter Bruce Lee Smith financial documents, which are public, unless he revealed confidential sources at the station.

Nov 7, 2007

BitTorrent now offers pubTV downloads

PBS will make episodes of pubTV series including Nova, History Detectives and Teletubbies available as $1.99 downloads via, the two companies announced today. The same shows will be available at as well. BitTorrent is peer-to-peer file sharing protocol that reduces the hardware and bandwidth burden of sharing large media files, such as films, by breaking them down and using the various network clients to distribute bits of the file to one another. It is one of the most popular means of illicit online music and movie swapping, but the actual company, BitTorrent Inc., only offers licensed full-length films, TV shows and music videos from Fox, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and many other networks and cable channels.

KMBH refuses to turn over financials

KMBH in Harlingen, Texas, has refused to turn over financial documents to the local newspaper, the Valley Morning Star, unless a reporter at the paper reveals confidential sources who provided him with information about the station's finances, the Associated Press reported today. The station had earlier filed a police complaint against the reporter, accusing him of disorderly conduct and yelling at a receptionist while at the KMBH office, a charge the reporter denies. Currently on the KMBH website, there is posting titled "Financial Transparency Now Online," which invites visitors to "review our audited financial reports."

New PBS and CPB literacy initiative announced

PBS and CPB today announced a new literacy initiative, PBS Kids Raising Readers, to begin in January 2008. Supported by Ready to Learn funds from the U.S. Department of Education grant, the project will target 2-8-year-olds and feature on-air tips for caregivers, educational materials such as DVDs and books, and new Web content for kids and teachers, including a 32-week preschool curriculum and an online course for childcare providers.

Nov 5, 2007

Stations join NPR in launching music site

Promising "everyone from Aaron Copland to Aaron Neville," NPR and 12 producing stations released a beta version of the new NPR Music website today at Organized by genre, the site offers live and recorded performances, artist interviews, blogs and profiles, podcasts and more, tapping into the deejays, music archives and expertise of stations identified with music, including WBGO (jazz), WKSU (folk) and WXPN (Triple A). Other stations will be added as partners, NPR said. Websites of participating stations such as New York's WFUV feature links to items on the new site. One holdout was L.A.'s KCRW, Current reported in July. NPR also unveiled its new media player, based on Adobe Flash technology, that lets users create a queue of items to listen to.