Mar 28, 2008
The financially pinched owner of Salt Lake City news station KCPW-AM/FM has signed a letter of intent to sell its two FM licenses to a new nonprofit started by the station’s g.m., Ed Sweeney, the station reported today. If Wasatch Public Media, the new nonprofit, can’t fulfill its bargain, however, the station will be sold to a big religious broadcaster, EMF Broadcasting. Wasatch agreed to pay $2.4 million. The AM channel will go to another religious broadcaster, IHR Educational Broadcasting, for $1.3 million. The seller, based at KPCW in nearby Park City, is taking a loss on the AM station; it spent $2.5 million to buy and build it. Selling the Salt Lake frequencies marks a major retreat for Park City’s Community Wireless, which was flying so high four years ago that it paid $1.1 million to its g.m. and his wife.
Posted by Steve at 11:51 AM
In his PBS ombudsman column, Michael Getler features nearly 30 of the letters he received about Frontline's two-part Iraq war retrospective, "Bush's War." One Alaska viewer writes, "Thank you for running the story about Bush's war. I serve in the U.S. Army. I will be starting my third tour in a month." But about half the letters are critical of the program for being either one-sided or not in-depth enough. Getler's take is that while the doc offered a "visual and audible whole that simply does not exist elsewhere," there were holes--more time should have been devoted to assessing the "surge," Gen. David Patraeus was noticeably absent, and the death toll isn't mentioned, among other things. Getler posts producer Michael Kirk's responses to his concerns. "Bush's War" reports what is known, says Kirk, and evaluation of the efficacy of the surge is outside the scope of the doc. (See Current's story on Frontline's war coverage here.)
Posted by Katy June-Friesen at 10:35 AM
Mar 26, 2008
Boston blogger, podcaster, magician, street juggler and skeptic Rebecca Watson -- one of the six finalists in the Public Radio Talent Quest, awaiting a CPB funding decision on a program pilot -- now has an asteroid named after her. The rock, 2.7 miles across and orbiting between Jupiter and Mars, was officially named by the International Astronomical Union on March 21. Jeff Medkeff was entitled to name asteroid No. 153289 for Watson because he co-discovered it in 2001. "Rebecca really deserves this honor. She has provided a much-needed injection of enthusiasm and humor into science education," Medkeff said. She reacts to the news on her blog. See also Current coverage of Talent Quest.
Posted by Steve at 11:50 AM
PBS and Oregon Public Broadcasting have announced a new primetime series, working title Time Team, USA, to air in 2009 or 2010. Based on the UK's Channel 4 series, the show follows a group of archaeologists who have 72 hours to unearth artifacts and other info from a dig site. Possible locations include the Indian Mounds of Mississippi and the earth pyramids near St. Louis, Mo. Producers from the UK series will team up with OPB, which produced History Detectives for PBS.
As TV viewing options explode and money for program production dries up, "small and midsize public television stations (not the rich behemoths like WGBH) that want to produce original programs of public value" have two paths to tread, writes Alaska Public Media's John Proffitt in his blog Gravity Medium. Big productions will be few, will "mostly involve outside contractors rather than inside employees, and will draw most of their funding from external one-off granting sources." Small, local productions will have to scale back to "one person + camera + laptop" and "must be aimed at multiplatform niche distribution rather than mass entertainment. In the end, 'TV' folks will either become multifunctional 'video' folks" or will leave to work at specialty video houses. Proffitt features YouTube video of producer Michael Rosenblum lecturing about TV's changing economics. "The demand for video is limitless," Rosenblum says.
Posted by Katy June-Friesen at 8:56 AM
Mar 25, 2008
"Peter and the Wolf," winner of this year's Academy Award as best animated short film, debuts tomorrow night on PBS's Great Performances.
Posted by Karen at 2:29 PM
Washington Post radio columnist Marc Fisher surveys the landscape of user-customized online music providers and finds that those proposing songs based on listener preferences aren't generating "exotic and creative" playlists. On the most popular sites, "the lists of most popular songs are almost indistinguishable from what's on most pop or hip-hop radio stations," he writes.
Posted by Karen at 10:27 AM
Citing the growth of digital audio choices for radio listeners, the Justice Department yesterday approved the proposed merger of the XM and Sirius satellite radio companies. The Washington Post and New York Times report on reactions from opponents to the merger, and what may happen when the FCC takes up the proposal. On Hear 2.0 radio researcher Mark Ramsey describes why the merger will have minimal consequences for the radio industry.
Posted by Karen at 9:21 AM
Mar 24, 2008
Conversation continues in the pages of the Monterey Herald about the failed merger between two local public radio stations, KAZU and KUSP. The newspaper opined in a March 2 editorial that the pro-merger campaign “seemed to have an unnecessarily aggressive edge” and added, “If there was good reason for that, it should be expressed openly and directly.” In an op-ed last week, an advocate for merging took to task California State University Monterey Bay, licensee of KAZU, which rejected the merger. “Thoughtful people may disagree about the recommendation to merge KAZU and KUSP, but everyone should be concerned that CSUMB made its decision without consulting the listening public or the task force that recommended the merger,” wrote Susie Franklin, a fundraising consultant.
Posted by Mike Janssen at 2:32 PM
Mar 19, 2008
In letters to PBS ombudsman Michael Getler (scroll down), a handful of viewers accused Gwen Ifill of being soft on Barack Obama during a Newshour interview on Monday. Getler agrees the interview was "somewhat disappointing," but he doesn't blame it entirely on the interviewer. "I don't know if Ifill could have extracted more from Obama or not," he writes, "because he seemed subdued in his responses."
Posted by Katy June-Friesen at 10:37 AM
Facing a $200 million budget shortfall, the Miami-Dade public school system will consider selling part or all of its WLRN-FM/TV duo, schools Supt. Rudy Crew told the Miami Herald editorial board. The stations are on reserved channels, the newspaper reported, so they could be sold only for noncommercial use.
Posted by Steve at 10:35 AM
In another story about the firing of WYPR's Marc Steiner, The Baltimore City Paper reports that President Anthony Brandon's "answers--and his nonanswers--during an hour of questions on March 13 suggest displeasure with not just Steiner's personality but also his unusual employment contract." Brandon says, "Marc was under contract for $125,000 per year to produce eight hours of programming a week. He was also given the latitude to operate other business ventures at the same time." Since Steiner stepped down as station v.p. in 2005, his paycheck has been written out to a company Steiner founded in 1998, Lasko Round Inc., reports the paper. "They wanted to get rid of me as v.p., so they had to give me the contract I wanted," says Steiner. The story also discusses the relationship between WYPR and Steiner's nonprofit, the Center for Emerging Media. See Current's story on Steiner's firing here.
Posted by Katy June-Friesen at 9:58 AM
WNIT, the pubTV station in South Bend, Ind., has discontinued analog broadcasting after its two major signal amplifiers failed, writes General Manager Mary Pruess in the South Bend Tribune today. If the expensive repairs wouldn't be obsolete within a year, when the FCC mandates the final analog sign-off, WNIT would do them immediately, she writes. WNIT offers a phone hotline and webpage for info about over-the-air viewers' options. In Tennessee, where cable carriage is limited, Cookeville's WCTE rented expensive equipment rather than turn off its analog signal this winter.
Posted by Steve at 9:39 AM
Mar 18, 2008
PBS Kids Play!, an Internet-based subscription educational gaming service for kids ages 3 to 6, officially launches today. The curriculum-based service, which has been in beta test for two months, features PBS Kids characters including Curious George and the Berenstain Bears. It costs $9.95 a month, or $79 a year, and includes a free 15-day trial.
Posted by Jeremy Egner at 11:23 AM
The Washington Post reports on the Supreme Court's announcement yesterday that it will take up the Fox Broadcasting lawsuit challenging FCC policy on indecent broadcasts. The case focuses on the commission's 2004 decision to fine broadcasters for "fleeting" use of expletives.
Posted by Karen at 9:08 AM
Mar 17, 2008
The program director of Pacifica station KPFT-FM in Houston spent some time recently with Nicole Sawaya, who recently recommitted to serving as the network's executive director, and he likes what he saw. "In virtually all our conversations the last few days, Nicole was quick to remind us that being into new media will be key to staying relevant," writes Ernesto Aguilar, who makes clear that he's equally bullish on the subject.
Posted by Mike Janssen at 4:52 PM
The g.m. of Boston's WBUR-FM tells the Boston Phoenix that he's been talking with Mike Barnicle, the local columnist who faced accusations of plagiarizing material in the late '90s. "I had nothing but the best of experiences with Mike for 23 years.... I think he's a voice that's missed in Boston," says Paul La Camera. On his blog, media watcher Dan Kennedy reminds readers that the most recent accusations "were only the latest in a quarter-century of similar, very credible complaints."
Posted by Mike Janssen at 11:22 AM
Andy Carvin calls attention to an e-mail fraud scheme that uses the name of Joan Kroc, the philanthropist who gave NPR more than $200 million. “The scam claims to be doling out cash to nonprofit groups,” Carvin writes. “If you respond, they’ll end up demanding a hefty processing fee or even direct access to your bank accounts.”
Posted by Mike Janssen at 10:16 AM
Mar 13, 2008
CPB, meeting with station leaders this week near Washington, announced extended funding for two pubTV stars, Ken Burns and Harvard's Henry Louis Gates Jr. PBS joined CPB in announcing three new Gates series: for 2010, The Faces of America, a four-parter about the ancestry of famed Americans; for 2011, the eight-part Searching for Our Roots: The History of the African American People, and for 2012, African American Lives III: Reclaiming Our Past. They will be produced by WNET in New York, Kunhardt Productions and Inkwell Films. New Ken Burns projects under consideration for the next decade include a joint bio of Teddy and Franklin Roosevelt and a series on the Vietnam War, according to CPB, which announced a funding agreement with Burns that runs through 2017. Also under consideration: the previously announced series on Prohibition, plus an update of Baseball called The Tenth Inning, which follows the sport from 1994 through 2009 against the social change of the period.
Posted by Steve at 7:16 PM
"In a moral sense or in a fair game sense, we who pledged on pledge drives and gave money to building the station deserve a chance to raise the money to buy it," says Steve Denkers, a philanthropist whose family foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Salt Lake City's KCPW, in today's Deseret Morning News. Denkers, a major contributor to public broadcasting outlets in Utah through the Stephen G. and Susan E. Denkers Family Foundation, was responding to recent news that KCPW licensee Community Wireless has demanded that Wasatch Public Media, a new local nonprofit, match the bid terms of California-based religious broadcasters. Supporters of the local effort to purchase KCPW and continue operating it an independent NPR news station rallied outside the KCPW on Tuesday, and many told the Morning News that neither Community Wireless board members nor KCPW staff are responding to their inquiries about the pending sale. "They are not returning calls, and that bothers me a great deal," said one donor.
Posted by Karen at 11:50 AM
Get My Vote, a new NPR website presenting user-generated content, launched in public beta yesterday. NPR's Andy Carvin, who led development of the site, explains the ideas behind Get My Vote and its various elements here.
Posted by Karen at 11:28 AM
"NPR's weakness is that is has too often undervalued the quality of radio-ness in building the organization," writes Jeffrey Dvorkin, former NPR News exec and ombudsman, in a blog commentary about Ken Stern's firing as NPR ceo. This was especially the case during the last decade with Stern at the helm, he writes, when NPR recruited "non-radio people" in false belief that "true journalistic legitimacy is found among the world of newspaper reporters and editors." NPR succeeded in attracting bigger news audiences, but "clarity of purpose of the organization became more confused" and Stern's vision for NPR diverged from that of stations. "Inevitably, these competing visions were bound to clash," Dvorkin writes. "Managers who ignore the reality that at NPR, the customers (the stations) own the company, do so at their peril."
Posted by Karen at 10:43 AM
Mar 12, 2008
It's inertia that's preventing the music labels and other rights holders from setting up a system to legally incorporate music into podcasts, according to David Oxenford of the Broadcast Law Blog. In a Q&A on Hear 2.0, Oxenford says it's not a simple process to set up fee schedules and make songs easily available for podcasts and other on-demand uses. "There’s no question it should be done. Right now, you have to go through each and every record company and negotiate separately for every song, and for the small guy it makes it almost impossible."
Posted by Karen at 9:20 AM
There's a bidding war going on for KCPW-FM/AM in Salt Lake City. Current licensee Community Wireless has told former g.m. Ed Sweeney that he needs to match a $3.7 million offer from religious broadcasters if the station is to remain a locally controlled NPR news outlet, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The Community Wireless board had given Sweeney until March 15 to mount a viable bid for the station. Last week, Wastach Public Media, a newly formed Utah non-profit established by Sweeney, offered to pay $2.4 million for KCPW-FM. "I feel betrayed," Sweeney tells Tribune blogger Glen Warchol. "I feel pissed off." In breaking the story on his blog yesterday, Warchol describes Community Wireless's actions as "perplexing show of arrogance" in which KCPW management appears to have turned its back "on the community that has supported them for two decades."
Posted by Karen at 8:23 AM
Mar 10, 2008
The FCC will process its backlog of mutually exclusive applications for noncommercial FM stations by identifying and working through groups of MXed applicants one at a time. First up are MX groups with four or fewer applicants, all 263 of whom are listed here. As of Friday, these applicants have 30 days to negotiate settlements. Afterwards, the commission will apply its point system before awarding licenses, according to this public notice. [Both links are PDF downloads.] The point system adopted by the FCC to evaluate MXed noncommercial applications is explained here and here.
Posted by Karen at 12:06 PM
Gravity Medium has compiled a list of news reports and blog commentary on Ken Stern's exit as NPR ceo. Here's one that's missing: Bob Garfield of On the Media interviews Current's Karen Everhart on Stern's troubled relationship with pubradio station managers.
Posted by Karen at 11:43 AM
"This is not a coup by Luddite station CEOs who want to stop or slow down effective responses to [the] very types of disruptive change we've been trying to strategically accommodate," writes NPR interim CEO Dennis Haarsager, in a blog post attempting to explain why Ken Stern is no longer at the helm of National Public Radio. Haarsager is responding in part to Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine, who characterized Stern's ouster as a protectionist takeover by "local yokel" stations that feared his digital distribution strategies. [Be sure to read the comments to both blog entries.] Responding to a request for the NPR Board to explain in more detail why Stern was forced out, Haarsager writes: "I cannot comment in detail on this personnel matter except to say that Mr. Stern chose the time and day when he left the building . . . . I've said repeatedly that no malfeasance or misfeasance should be imputed. Ken made many important contributions and should be remembered for those. Arguably, transparency is an important ideal; his privacy is a right."
Posted by Karen at 9:33 AM
Mar 7, 2008
Public radio’s Alix Spiegel has won a National Journalism Award from the Scripps Howard Foundation for “Stuck and Suicidal in a Post-Katrina Trailer Park”, a piece that aired last year on NPR’s All Things Considered. (Full list of award winners.)
Posted by Mike Janssen at 12:37 PM
Dick Meyer, editorial director at CBSNews.com, announced yesterday in his online column that he is moving to NPR. Meyer didn’t specify which post he’ll assume, but PaidContent.org reports that Meyer will serve as editorial director for digital media.
Posted by Mike Janssen at 11:49 AM
Variety reports a change in the top job at Hit Entertainment. CEO Bruce Steinberg is stepping down, and Jeffrey Dunn, a former c.o.o. at Nickelodeon, is taking over. Dunn created Noggin with Sesame Workshop while at Nickelodeon, the mag reports. Hit, a partner with PBS in Sprout, owns Barney and Bob the Builder, among other shows.
Posted by Mike Janssen at 11:33 AM
The dismissal of talk show host Marc Steiner from WYPR-FM in Baltimore was related to internal disagreements, reports the Baltimore Business Journal. “It became obvious that attempts to resolve disagreements on a variety of matters had failed,” wrote board chair Barbara Bozzuto in an e-mail to WYPR members. “Declining ratings were emphasized as the reason for the show’s cancellation out of a desire to avoid any public discussion of complicated personnel issues.” Steiner tells the paper he was unaware of the issues cited. In the Baltimore Sun, a WYPR board member defends the decision. "Board members were aware that this decision would likely engender a vocal, negative reaction," writes John Machen. "The decision was made mindful of these potential consequences."
Posted by Mike Janssen at 11:06 AM
Reasons for Stern's exit have more to do with dimensons of leadership than his stance on digital media
In a New York Times story on Ken Stern's departure from NPR, board Chairman and interim CEO Dennis Haarsager downplays the notion that Stern's undoing was his push to put NPR content on multiple digital media platforms. Haarsager agrees that Stern's digital agenda didn't have wide backing within pubradio, but says the digital issue was “not a source of tension” that led to his exit. “[T]here are about 20 different dimensions you evaluate leadership on,” Haarsager tells the Times. NPR has not conducted a national search for a top executive in 10 years and decided to do so "sooner rather than later." NPR's latest story adds some context. "Interviews with eight current and former public radio officials suggest Stern failed to convince local stations — and especially their representatives on the board — that he saw a clear and healthy role for them in the digital future." Robert Paterson offers some advice to the system on his blog: "Acknowledge that we are stuck and begin a conversation about why we are stuck and ask what would unstick us."
Posted by Karen at 9:34 AM
Mar 6, 2008
CEO Ken Stern is leaving NPR, the network's board of directors announced today. The board did not explain why Stern was leaving, but several unnamed sources suggested reasons to NPR's own Frank Langfitt. Dennis Haarsager, chair of NPR's board, is taking over as interim CEO. Washington Post: "NPR Leader Out After Board Clash." LA Observed has the memo from Haarsager.
Posted by Mike Janssen at 9:31 PM
The FCC will seek comment on a recommendation to reallocate television channels 5 and 6 for FM broadcasting, according to a notice released yesterday [scroll to page 35]. The proposal, advanced via a petition filed by Maryland-based Mullaney Engineering, addresses the "gigantic pent-up demand for additional FM spectrum" and will help redress the inefficient allocation of spectrum on TV channels 2-6, according to the Mullaney petition. Rec Networks reports that the proposed reallocation could open up an additional 60 FM channels. The FCC will not accept comments until the notice of proposed rulemaking on broadcast diversity (MB Docket 07-294) appears in the Federal Register.
Posted by Karen at 2:24 PM
NPR will not have to pay property taxes on its new home near Washington's Union Station for 20 years, reports the Washington Post. The tax abatement offered by the District of Columbia, worth an estimated $40 million, was a major reason NPR opted to remain in Washington, D.C., rather than move to nearby Silver Spring, Md., home of Discovery Communications. Mediabistro posted internal memos and an FAQ about the move here.
Posted by Jeremy Egner at 11:59 AM
The station manager charged with creating an independent nonprofit and viable financial plan to purchase KCPW in Salt Lake City launched a website appealing for public support. Ed Sweeney, who gave up his job at KCPW last week, established the Utah nonprofit Wasatch Public Media and is working with Public Radio Capital on a bid for the station. Even though Community Wireless, KCPW's current licensee, gave Sweeney first pass at creating a plan for KCPW to retain its staff and its current NPR news/information format, there's no guarantee that Sweeney's plan will be chosen over those of other potential buyers, he writes on the website. "Although Community Wireless has stated their preference for our purchase of KCPW, at this point, we have nothing in writing that allows that to occur," Sweeney writes. "We need to show Community Wireless NOW that there are others who support Wasatch Public Media's purchase of KCPW." Meanwhile, KCPW canceled a planned special broadcast on the station's future, which was to have featured an interview with Sweeney,
Posted by Karen at 11:31 AM
In a piece for the Los Angeles Times, Ken Burns responds to "grandstanding politicians who believe that public television must be de-funded" and "misguided cultural critics who mistake our mission and demand of us something we are not." PBS is "obligated to serve the public in a number of decidedly unsexy ways," he writes, and while it isn't as fast-paced as commercial TV, pubTV persists in "doing things well and doing things that last." In response to suggestions that PBS should have to compete in the marketplace like other media outlets, Burns writes, "Many blessing have flowed to America from that marketplace, but I am certain that none of the films I have made in the last nearly 30 years could have been produced anywhere but at PBS."
Posted by Katy June-Friesen at 10:57 AM
Mar 5, 2008
NPR will move into a new home in Washington's emerging mixed use NoMA (North of Massachusetts Avenue) neighborhood in 2012, the network and District of Columbia announced today (press release). The company will move its entire Washington-based operation from its current home on Massachusetts Avenue to 1111 N. Capitol St. NE, site of the historic former home of the Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company, built in1927 (map). Consistent with D.C. development practice, the original facade will be incorporated into the new 10-story office tower, which will include a 60,000 square foot newsroom for NPR's radio and multimedia ops and a public space for live shows and events. "A major factor in our decision was the opportunity to play a role in the revitalization of NoMA," said Ken Stern, c.e.o. NPR began its search for a new home 19 months ago and considered more than 100 sites in Washington, Maryland and Virginia before deciding on the spot located a little over a mile due north of the U.S. Capitol. "NPR is a Washington icon," said D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty. "Their decision to not only stay in the District, but to build their new headquarters in one of our most important emerging neighborhoods says a lot about how far we've come in transforming our city." Earlier: Other major relocating pubcasting orgs include PBS, APTS, WGBH and Minnesota Public Radio.
Posted by Jeremy Egner at 1:34 PM
Public broadcasting resembles the "live-in brother-in-law," writes The Heritage Foundation's Ken McIntyre in a column appearing in several newspapers. "For 40 years, taxpayers have paid the rent." McIntyre says it's time to cut pubradio and TV loose from government funding and let them "go it alone in the marketplace." If PBS and NPR had no government funding, he adds, they would be less self-indulgent. Also, viewers and listeners would be more likely to give them money. Echoing Charles McGrath's New York Times column "Is PBS Still Necessary," McIntyre writes, "The original mission - to provide quality educational, cultural and public affairs programs - is now the province of dozens of specialty networks."
Daljit Dhaliwal has been chosen to anchor KCET's upcoming Global Watch, an international news program premiering on PBS April 9. Dhaliwal is also anchor of Foreign Exchange, the international news program presented by Oregon Public Broadcasting and distributed by American Public Television. Global Watch, also streaming online, will examine perceptions of the U.S. abroad, incorporate reports from citizen journalists, and host discussion and gather stories online. Produced by KCET's Bret Marcus, the program was initially imagined as part of a public affairs block for the PBS World multicast channel, to be produced by California Fault Line Productions, a nonprofit formed by KCET, KQED and PBS and headed up by former CNN producer Sid Bedingfield. PBS then planned to launch it online as part of the PBS Engage web project, with an on-air program to follow.
Posted by Katy June-Friesen at 9:47 AM
Mar 4, 2008
Inadequate pay, burnout and overwhelming pressure to raise money are driving nonprofit executives to plot their exits within five years, and their potential successors describe these challenges as reasons why they don't aspire to top leadership positions, according to a recent national survey of emerging non-profit leaders. The Washington Post and the Chronicle of Philanthropy [subscription required] reported on the survey findings yesterday.
Posted by Karen at 9:52 AM
Mar 3, 2008
The FCC today approved new DTV consumer education and reporting requirements for broadcasters and cable and satellite companies (press release). Broadcasters must choose one of three different plans to educate viewers and must report to the FCC on their efforts each quarter. Broadcasters can 1.) air a combination of PSAs and screen crawls with increasing frequency as the shut-off date gets closer; 2.) follow an alternate schedule put forth by the National Association of Broadcasters that calls for an average of 16 PSAs and 16 crawls per week; or 3.) noncommercial broadcasters only can follow the APTS plan, which requires 60 seconds per day of on-air consumer education, including at least 7.5 minutes per month between 6 p.m. and midnight. This requirement doubles on May 1 and then again on Nov. 1, to 180 seconds per day and 22.5 minutes per month between 6 p.m. and midnight. Each of the education mandates expires March 31, 2009 (see also Broadcasting & Cable). Earlier: with less than a year until the analog shut-off, many pubcasters have begun their own DTV campaigns.
Posted by Jeremy Egner at 6:08 PM