Apr 30, 2008

Dropping BBC, WLIW will produce new news program

WLIW in New York is dropping BBC World News, which it has distributed to pubTV since 1998, and producing a new half-hour international news program for pubTV, working title Your World Tonight. KCET in Los Angeles will be the new distributor of the BBC nightly newscast. The BBC has been investing in a separate newscast on its own cable channel, BBC America, and had indicated it might limit the number of pubTV stations that could carry BBC World News, WNET president Neal Shapiro told The New York Times. "It would have meant 60 to 70 percent of the public broadcasting audience would lose access to the show," said Shapiro, and BBC execs made it "pretty clear that the future of the BBC was not intertwined with public broadcasting." BBC Worldwide America exec Michele Grant said the BBC doesn't want the pubTV and cable newscasts to compete for the same time slot but is still committed to keeping a broadcast on pubTV. Marc Rosenwasser, Shapiro's former colleague at NBC News, will produce the new WLIW program.

Apr 29, 2008

MPB reducing power to analog transmitters

Mississippi Public Broadcasting will reduce power to four of its eight analog transmitters before the Feb. 17, 2009 shut-off, starting with its Raymond site, according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. That signal currently reaches 50 miles from Raymond but will only reach around 20 miles from the city after the reduction, potentially making things tough for over-the-air viewers outside that radius. In the next few months, MPB will reduce analog power to stations in Bude, Greenwood and Meridian. "We're going to be able to save a couple hundred thousand dollars by doing it this way rather than doing it all at once," said Marie Antoon, MPB's executive director, told the newspaper.

NYT: A time of redefintion for pubradio

This Sunday Times article rounds up pubradio efforts to reignite the stalled growth of its audience, from WNYC's new The Takeaway to projects including the Public Radio Talent Quest and Chicago Public Radio's :Vocalo.

Aaron Brown to host Wide Angle

Former CNN anchor Aaron Brown is the new host of Wide Angle, PBS's international current affairs documentary series, produced by WNET in New York. The former host was Daljit Dhaliwal, who anchors the pubTV international news program Foreign Exchange and also the recent pilot of Global Watch, a program from KCET about international perceptions of the United States.

Philly's WYBE: All shorts, all the time

WYBE's new model, based on 5-minute programs that run online and on-air, aims for "a marriage of the often-frustrated community-TV ideal of locally produced original programming and the convenience and short-attention-span exuberance of free digital media-on-demand," reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. On the new Mind TV, paying WYBE members get production training and a platform for their videos, which station execs hope will provide about one-third of all content. The rest will be produced by station staff or chunked from existing pubTV programs. Resources for the change came in part from NBC, which--in exchange for one of WYBE's digital channels--provided the pubcaster with new studio equipment and training. (See Current's story on WYBE's revamp in the April 21 issue.)

Apr 23, 2008

PBS series spurs nationwide forums on health inequalities

Stanford  University is holding a public forum about health inequality in America, inspired by the recent PBS series Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? The series, which looks at how race and socioeconomic status--more than personal choices--impact Americans' health, has spawned or supplemented some 150 meetings and discussion forums in local government, philanthropic and medical institutions across the country. See Current's Q&A with executive producer Larry Adelman here.

Apr 21, 2008

Moyers to interview Jeremiah Wright

Bill Moyers will interview Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, on Bill Moyers Journal this Friday. The recently retired Wright, who was Barack Obama's pastor, has been in the media for controversial comments he made in his sermons about 9-11, racism and other topics. This is his first broadcast interview since.

Apr 17, 2008

WNYC's Lehrer: 'O'Reilly was great'

At a party last night for WNYC's new national morning show, The Takeaway, Studio 360 host and New York media wag-in-chief Kurt Andersen described the new offering as "the bastard child of Bill O'Reilly and, I don't know, Brian Lehrer," Mediabistro reports. Lehrer, a popular WNYC host, played along during a panel discussion: "Don't tell anyone... Bill O'Reilly was great." John Hockenberry and Adaora Udoji will host the PRI-distributed show, which debuts with one hour April 28 and will eventually expand to three or four. Hockenberry's concept for the show is somewhat loftier than Andersen's, according to Mediabistro. "It's not a new morning show per se," Hockenberry explained. "It's a new platform for discourse itself."

Ex-KRCL programmers coalesce around a new outlet, Internet-only Utah Free Media

As Salt Lake community radio station KRCL prepares for its May 5 format switch, displaced volunteer programmers and former staff are planning the launch of Utah Free Media, an Internet-only radio station that will stream on bandwidth donated by Utah ISP XMission. “We’re doing it more for the love of radio, and community and music,” says Troy Mumm, former KRCL operations director, in the Salt Lake City Weekly. “Our purpose is to have a continuation of grass-roots, volunteer-based radio." Donna Land Maldonado, KRCL g.m., tells the Salt Lake Tribune: "More power to them."

Golding brings back voices from the past

Barrett Golding of Hearing Voices is mining the audio vaults for examples of "What NPR Was"--creative non-fiction radio that drew you in with authentic voices and evocative sound. The first two audio postings are from the 1980s--a Morning Edition promo by Jesse Boogs and Death in Venice, produced by Larry Massett for the NPR series The Radio Experience.

Apr 16, 2008

Pope's UN address live on Religion & Ethics

Religion & Ethics Newsweekly will offer live coverage and analysis of the Pope's address to the UN General Assembly on Friday, to be broadcast on the digital channel PBS World. The public affairs program, based in D.C. and produced by WNET in New York, has been airing special reports on the Pope's U.S. visit.

Radio host ousted for anti-marijuana advocacy

Community radio station KZYX in Mendocino County, Calif., has ousted a newspaper editor from her weekly public affairs program because of her on-air advocacy, reports the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. K.C. Meadows, editor of the Ukiah Daily Journal, has helped lead a citizen campaign to repeal the county's liberal laws on personal marijuana use. The issue is on the June primary election ballot, and Meadows' advocacy violated KZYX's policy to provide a non-partisan forum, according to the station.

WYPR board meeting dissolves amidst a chorus of boos

The WYPR board of directors abruptly adjourned its public meeting yesterday after Chair Barbara Bozzuto declared the firing of former talk show host Marc Steiner "will not be undone." Steiner's supporters, who packed the meeting room of a Baltimore church, booed her down, according to the Save WYPR blog and Baltimore Sun.

WQED helps create Bermuda pubTV

WQED in Pittsburgh is helping Bermuda develop its first public television station, Community Information TV, run by the Government of Bermuda. CITV, which first went on the air in October 2007, offers public affairs, culture, history, science and health shows, produced with assistance from WQED staff. Go to CITV's website here.

Apr 14, 2008

LA Times: FCC indecency rules 'all bleeped-up'

The Supreme Court will soon consider a complaint by Fox against the FCC about a proposed indecency fine, leaving the commission in legal limbo until the Court hands down a decision -- its first indecency ruling in three decades -- probably early next year, the Los Angeles Times reports. The FCC and broadcasters have gone back and forth in federal court since the 2003 Bono ruling and early 2004 Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunction ushered in a more aggressive campaign against on-air naughtiness. Pubcasters have taken a number of steps to stay out of harm's way, but at least one, KCSM in San Mateo, got caught in the FCC's dragnet. An appeal on that case is still pending.

Magliozzis' wrench ready to turn

Click and Clack's As the Wrench Turns, the animated TV version of NPR's popular Car Talk, has its first 10 hour-long episodes in the can and is ready to debut in PBS primetime in July. The idea for an animated Car Talk series floated around for years but picked up momentum -- and crucially, funding -- after Paula Kerger arrived as president of PBS.

Apr 11, 2008

Way too wet in Tuscaloosa

A TV studio at the University of Alabama's Center for Public Television and Radio will be out of commission for months because a faulty sprinkler soaked the place after a fire alarm went off on Thursday, the Tuscaloosa News reported.

Apr 10, 2008

Study finds modest growth in online radio audience

Is the online radio audience growing or flat? Researchers behind The Infinite Dial 2008: Radio's Digital Platforms chart an "all-time high" in weekly listenership, but marketing strategist Mark Ramsey says the data "sure seems weird."

Menu planning for the Social Media Cafe

The Columbus Social Media Cafe, an endeavor to engage local bloggers in the creation of Web 2.0 public media that benefits the communities served by WOSU-TV/FM/AM, is planning a new website. Intended to be an "agora for information and communication," the website will aggregate content created by and about Central Ohio, creating a "loop of communication" between topics discussed on the Web and covered by the WOSU stations. Elements of the site, and video footage of the most recent Social Media Cafe meeting, are posted here. WOSU's Susan Meier discusses the ideas and how-to elements of the project here.

PRX gets MacArthur award

The Public Radio Exchange has received a MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, an annual $500,000 grant awarded only to previous MacArthur grantees with budgets of less than $2.5 million. “By gathering and distributing new programming and using technological innovation to expand content choices, PRX is leading public radio to become more interactive, diverse, and participatory,” the foundation said today in its release. PRX explains that it will use the money to upgrade its web service, encourage the development of new PRX content and create a capital reserve that will support the creation of an independent board of directors. More from the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Apr 9, 2008

APTS engages search firm for Lawson successor

Public TV's lobbying unit, the Association of Public Television Stations, said today it expects to hire a new president by September. The Boston-based search firm of Issacson, Miller, which specializes in nonprofit leadership posts, will conduct a nationwide hunt. Jane Gruenebaum, a onetime congressional staffer who was executive director of the League of Women Voters and c.o.o. of the Center for Policy Alternatives, is heading the search, working with Gail Gregory. In March, John Lawson left APTS after leading it for seven years.

Three Webby nominations for NPR Music

This year's slate of Webby nominees includes thirteen different public broadcasting websites and mobile services, as well as PBS Kids Sprout, the pubTV- affiliated digital channel. NPR Music's Project Song received three nominations in the online film and video division, and Frontline/World received three. Nominees in the Web division include Seattle music station KEXP, World Without Oil, and political coverage on Voting for the Webby People's Voice Awards closes on May 1; winners will be announced May 6.

Mr. McFeely: Behind the Music

A documentary about David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood and continues to makes in-character appearances 40 years later, premieres tomorrow in Pittsburgh. The doc, made on $4,000 by a 26-year-old who forged a friendship with Newell three years ago, follows the speedy delivery man--in and out of costume--through a summer of engagements, including one on a Mr. Rogers' replica set in Baltimore.

Adobe's new video player

Adobe has released its new, free Flash-based video player, which includes content from PBS and the Bay Area's KQED. Viewers can stream or download video, and they can watch while online or offline. The current business model relies on ads attached to videos, but Adobe may develop other models, such as paying to download or rent, reports CNET. Other content partners include CBS, MTV and Scripps Networks.

Apr 7, 2008

Record Web traffic for "Bush's War"

Frontline's "Bush's War" has garnered more than 1.5 million online views of all or part of the program. The website features an interactive timeline of the "war on terror" that incorporates 175 embedded video clips. Frontline recently built a new, full-screen video player with a grant from the MacArthur Foundation. [See New York Times story on the website here and Current's story on Frontline's war coverage here.]

Apr 3, 2008

APTS decamps to Crystal City

PubTV's government-relations unit, the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), will move its offices this weekend from downtown Washington to the same building across the Potomac where PBS is headquartered. As of Monday, April 7, APTS' address will be 2100 Crystal Drive, Suite 700, Arlington, VA 22202. Phone and fax numbers won't change.

NPR web chief moves to innovating crafts e-market

Maria Thomas, builder of NPR's web services since 2001, will return to cutting-edge e-commerce in May, reported Tuesday. She'll be chief operating officer of, a three-year-old Brooklyn-based online marketplace for handmade craft objects that recently sold more than 400,000 items worth $5.6 million in March. She came to NPR from "It is about an opportunity for me, and not much to do with NPR," Thomas told PaidContent. See press accounts of

Peabody Award to fired host revives protests

Yesterday's announcement that WYPR founder and former host Mark Steiner won a Peabody Award coincided with the station's on-air fundraising drive and reinvigorated the protesters camped outside its studios, according to the Baltimore Sun. "I called and told them there's no way I'm giving them any money," said Anita Lingan, a Steiner supporter who used to be a dollar-a-day WYPR member. "I want them to feel this."

Apr 2, 2008

Pubcasters win 14 Peabody Awards

Of the 35 George Foster Peabody Awards announced today, 14 went to programs produced and/or aired by public broadcasters. Winners, chosen by the Peabody Board as the best of electronic media in 2007 include: Design Squad, a reality TV show of engineering challenges for older kids; The MTT Files, a pubradio series featuring San Francisco Symphony Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas; and Just Words, created by former WYPR-FM host Marc Steiner to bring the voices of Baltimore's most under-privileged citizens to the air. Three of PBS's winning programs, including Design Squad, were produced by Boston's WGBH.

This American Life ... live ... in high-def ... in 317 theaters

On May 1, before its second season on the Showtime cable channel, This American Life will try a one-night-only live HD broadcast to 317 movie theaters around the country, satellite-fed through National Cinemedia. (The same company distributes live HD Metropolitan Opera broadcasts to theaters, including La Boheme, April 5.) The two-hour show will include previews of the upcoming TV season, also in HD, plus Ira Glass presenting a radio story and Q&A with the far-flung audience. Nearly 70 pubradio stations are promoting the event and using tickets as member premiums. It'll be 8 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. Central, 6 p.m. Mountain and tape-delayed to 8 Pacific time. Tickets go on sale April 4. Here's a video trailer. More about Glass's big broadcast in Current, April 7.

Caring for Your Parents: only the noble

"Caring for Your Parents leaves the impression that we all love our mothers and fathers without ambivalence or reservation" and will honorably care for them, writes Ginia Bellafonte in a New York Times review. A more realistic look, she says, would include the "ornery and selfish patriarch of The Savages, the recent fictional film that regarded the same subject with more complexity and skepticism, examining how grown children respond when they are obliged to care for parents who failed to care spectacularly for them." The PBS doc, produced by Michael Kirk for WGBH, airs tonight.