Jun 30, 2008

Akron licensee's new name harks waaaaay back

PBS 45 & 49, a public TV station covering northeast Ohio, including Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Youngstown, will reach back into the 17th century for a new name it will adopt this fall -- Western Reserve Public Media. The Western Reserve name, shared by a major Cleveland university, comes from a strip of Ohio claimed by Connecticut in the 1700s, when present-day Ohio was the frontier, according to Cleveland's Western Reserve Historical Society. By 1800, after a series of armed conflicts with Pennsylvania settlers, Connecticut had given up on its claims over a strip of land reaching to the Pacific. The pubTV operation said it will open a production hub in downtown Akron, jointly leasing space with public radio station WKSU and NBC affiliate WKYC. The pubTV licensee is owned by a consortium of the University of Akron, Kent State University (operator of WKSU) and Youngstown State University.

Jun 27, 2008

Signs point to financial crisis at Pacifica

Pacifica’s KPFT-FM in Houston has taken several steps to respond to what are being called “potentially crippling financial situations” throughout the network. KPFT’s board recently passed resolutions asking the Pacifica National Board to discontinue its in-person meetings as a cost-saving measure. The station board also asked Pacifica to allow “ethical sponsorships and underwriting” to boost station income. Pacifica does not now accept underwriting, relying on on-air fund drives for support. In a report to KPFT’s Board June 18, Duane Bradley, g.m., said, “It is the sense of the paid staff that the greatest threats to the network are the huge costs related to elections, national board meetings and lawsuits.” Meanwhile, Free Speech Radio News reports that Pacifica has cut its funding to the progressive news show.

KOCE observes 35th anniversary

On the occasion of its 35th anniversary, KOCE-TV in Orange County, Calif., is considering how it can add to its local coverage, reports the Orange County Register. “We’re not part of an institution like the community college district, we’re not being sued, and we can finally take off and be what the county needs us to be,” says Mel Rogers, g.m.

Takeaway producers search for new, interactive approaches

Fast Company focuses on the startup of public radio’s The Takeaway, which hinged on a collaborative effort with the design school at Stanford University. An observation: “Program directors are people who think of themselves as visionaries and like to be ahead of the curve, but they’re actually extraordinarily risk averse,” says WNYC’s Dean Cappello. (Via the PRPD blog.)

Streaming video of streaming lava

Want to see what molten lava looks like underwater, as it advances toward you on the ocean floor? WNET gives top priority to video on its new website, including an enhanced web experience for Nature fans. Preview the lava scene, shot for a future show on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. Paul Atkins swam into 100-degree water to film it in HD, writes Fred Kaufman, e.p. WNET is keeping the new sites easy to update for program staffers by organizing them in a multi-user version of WordPress, an open-source content management system widely used by bloggers, instead of a more complex CMS, says chief Dan Goldman.

Jun 26, 2008

Ad-free pubTV and radio in France: Sarkozy proposes tax on internet and telephone providers to offset revenue loss

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a new tax to offset revenue losses when advertising is eliminated from state-funded public radio and television, beginning Jan. 1, 2009. In addition to a 3 percent tax on private TV's ad revenues, the state will tax internet providers and telephone companies 0.9 percent to make up for the estimated $1.3 billion loss in revenue. Sarkozy announced in January that he wanted to eliminate ads to ensure quality programming, but critics say he's simply handing ad dollars to private channels. France's biggest private station, TF1, is owned by a close friend of Sarkozy. In February, pubTV and radio staff staged a strike against the plan.

Jun 25, 2008

Sometimes the whole is revealed as the pieces come together

Longtime PBS pledge guru Deepak Chopra is not pissed that Mike Myers' movie The Love Guru caricatures his subcontinent murmur, Chopra said Monday on PRI's Tavis Smiley Show. He's not cheesed off that Myers mimics his creation of self-help catch phrases such as "EGO, Edging God Out" (a real Chopraism) or "Ecumenical Intuitive Enlightenment Institute" or EIEIO (really Myers). On the contrary, Chopra says he's an advocate of laughter in his new book Why Is God Laughing? (foreword by Myers), and he's a longtime friend of Myers and an admirer of the movie's script, which he called "hilariously silly." The movie's silly, at least, according to critics: "Relentlessly juvenile," says Variety. "Developmentally stunted," says the Los Angeles Times. Current hasn't seen the movie, but Myers' droll promos on YouTube may be funnier.

Jim Lehrer returns to NewsHour tomorrow

Jim Lehrer will be back in the anchor seat tomorrow night after a nearly two-month absence following heart valve surgery. Lehrer will be anchoring the NewsHour part-time--two or three days a week--and moving toward a full time schedule. In August and September, he will report from the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

P.O.V.'s Traces of the Trade an honest discussion about race

Katrina Browne's P.O.V. documentary Traces of the Trade examines "what it might look like for whites to talk honestly with one another about racial history's implications for contemporary American lives and life chances," writes John L. Jackson, Jr., professor of communication and anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, in his Chronicle of Higher Education blog. The film, which follows Browne and her nine relatives as they travel to Ghana and Cuba to learn about their ancestors' slave-trading past, "helps to demonstrate why many of the dialogues we have about race and racism in America are not robust enough..." (See the film's website here.)

A new g.m. for WDAV, a retirement at KPBS

Benjamin Roe will succeed Kim Hodgson as general manager of classical music station WDAV-FM in Davidson, N.C. Roe, an award-winning producer and public media web strategist who directed NPR music initiatives from 1987-2007, led development of the blueprint for Meanwhile, Doug Myrland, longtime g.m. of KPBS/TV-FM in San Diego, announced that he'll be retiring a year earlier than planned, according to the Union-Tribune. He'll remain at the station as a consultant through next year until his successor is hired.

Jun 24, 2008

ITVS announces winner of Filmocracy mashup contest

ITVS and Independent Lens announced that Kylee Darcy, a 19-year-old attending UC Berkeley, is the grand prize winner of their first annual Filmocracy mashup contest. She wins $1000 for her short film King Corn Takes Over the World, which incorporates clips of the Independent Lens film King Corn. Her film will also play in various cities as part of Community Cinema, ITVS's free monthly screening series. Based on response from site visitors, the mashup "And So It Is" by Ananta was the most popular Filmocracy video and "The Politics of Food," by Brandon Savoie, was the highest rated.

Jun 20, 2008

FCC releases list of MX'd applications

This week the FCC released a list of applications for noncommercial FM stations entangled in mutually exclusive (MX) conflicts (list and Public Notice, both PDFs). Applicants have a month to work out settlements, after which the commission will begin resolving the conflicts by applying its point system. (Related coverage in Current.)

Jun 19, 2008

For radio, the basking may now commence

You may not have recognized it back then: April 2008 was Public Radio Recognition Month. The Senate adopted its resolution in March, but the U.S. House of Representatives followed up this week (the final bill omitting mention of any particular month). But Congress passes its budgets late, too, and it's the thought that counts. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Portland, Ore., and chair of the Public Broadcasting Caucus in the House, introduced the bill in February and made his floor speech Tuesday. PRPD should be pleased that the bills cited three of public radio's core values. [This item corrected after initial posting, thanks to NPR.]

Job cuts announced at Albany's WMHT-TV/FM

WMHT in Albany, N.Y., plans to cut ten jobs, six of which are full-time positions, according to the Times Union business news blog. The lay-offs, announced to staff yesterday, are part of a restructuring planned under new CEO Robert Altman. Subject to approval of the WMHT board, Altman proposes to bolster the station's online content next fiscal year by hiring several new staff for its web division.

A cure for newspapers: cut out that NPR-style intellectualism

Lee Abrams, former XM satellite radio programmer turned chief innovation officer for the Tribune Company, wrote up 15 ideas for growing newspapers, including this gem: "Newspapers strike me as being a little TOO NPR. I like NPR, and their shows like Morning Edition do well. But NPR can also be a bit elitist. Morning News Radio has a lot of similarities to papers: Similar target audience; Old Media; Time restraints. It's probably a good thing to study the feel of a well honed All News Radio station. Yeah, a different medium, but I sometimes get a slower more intellectual NPR feel from papers than a usually quicker paced and more mainstream News Radio delivery. It's all about being INTELLIGENT...not intellectual. [Punctuation and emphasis--skewered here by Nancy Nall--are all his.]

Jun 18, 2008

Caucus pushing for more minority-owned channels in proposed XM-Sirius merger

To garner FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's endorsement of their proposed merger, XM and Sirius satellite radio companies voluntarily agreed to reserve four percent of their satellite capacity for minority-owned programming. But, after Martin endorsed the compromise last weekend, members of the Congressional Black Caucus threatened to block the deal.

Jun 16, 2008

A subversive plan to influence pubradio programmers

Jesse Thorn of The Sound of Young America has a subversive new strategy to win airtime on public radio stations: he's offering free t-shirts to anyone who works at a station and likes his show. The catch: all recipients must agree to wear their t-shirts to work and "talk about the show when people looked at them funny," Thorn writes on his blog. The t-shirt campaign is already underway at one unnamed major market station. "Hopefully, the program director is noticing," he writes.

Jun 13, 2008

Three shows receive Beard awards

Two pubTV shows and a pubradio program were honored with James Beard Awards in the past week. Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie topped the Television Food Show contest. The program is produced by Ruth Reichl and distributed by American Public Television. WGBH’s longrunning The Victory Garden won in the Television Food Segment category. The James Beard Foundation credited host Michel Nischan and producers Laurie Donnelly, Hilary Finkel Buxton, Deborah Hurley, Craig Rogers, Cheryl Carlesimo and John McCally. In the Radio Food Show competition, the jurors picked American Public Media’s The Splendid Table. Host: Lynne Rossetto Kasper. Producers: Sally Swift and Jennifer Russell.

WNYC's move to new HQ almost complete

Sometime within the next week, New York's WNYC will begin broadcasting from its new headquarters in lower Manhattan. The New York Times marks the occasion with a feature recounting the station's history in city Municipal Building.

SRG publishes guide to improve pubradio fundraising

Although listeners contributed a total of $278 million to public radio stations in fiscal 2006, when adjusted for inflation the impressive sum was less than the year before, according to a report just published by Station Resource Group. The report, "Individual Giving to Public Radio: Analysis, Theory, Proven Practices and Good Ideas to Raise More Money," is a call to arms and tactical guide for public radio stations to improve their fundraising performance, combining analysis of the latest available financial data with shared wisdom of the field's development leaders and researchers.

Jun 11, 2008

Moyers and O'Reilly producer exchange words at media reform conference

At the National Conference for Media Reform last weekend in Minneapolis, O'Reilly Factor producer Porter Barry confronted keynote speaker Bill Moyers in the hallway about coming on Bill O'Reilly's show (see video of the encounter). Moyers had a few things to say about Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch: "I will come on the O'Reilly show first when Rupert Murdoch has explained why we're not getting $20-a-barrel oil...the Iraq war he said would deliver." Moyers asks Barry, "Why doesn't Bill do his own reporting?...Bill is not a journalist, he's a pugilist...I like to honor the people who do the real work in journalism, and that's producers and reporters. It isn't anchors, it isn't blowhards." Moyers repeatedly invites Barry--and O'Reilly--to come on his show, Barry repeatedly says he's there to get Moyers on O'Reilly Factor. The footage, and discussion of Moyers' body language, appeared on the Factor (video). Countdown with Keith Olbermann also used the footage in a segment (video). Watch video of Moyers' keynote address here.

Jun 10, 2008

Classical KUSC reaps audience gains

Recent audience gains for KUSC-FM in Los Angeles have boosted its weekly listenership to 525,800, bigger than all other public radio outlets in the market, according to diary-based Arbitron ratings reported in the Los Angeles Times. The Times attributes the growth to the live and local element of KUSC's drive-time broadcasts and the demise last year of K-Mozart, its one-time commercial classical competitor. KUSC plans to add more live-hosted time slots next month, after the syndicated Classical Public Radio Network goes dark.

Jun 9, 2008

It seemed like a good idea, but will PBS viewers agree?

"This could be one of those things where we slap our foreheads and say, 'It seemed like a good idea at the time,'" says PBS program exec John Wilson in the Boston Globe. "Or it could be the start of something big." He's describing the prospects for Click & Clack's As the Wrench Turns, an animated series debuting on PBS next month. The cartoon spin-off of NPR's Car Talk, which fictionalizes the personal lives of stars Tom and Ray Magliozzi, has been in the works for nearly seven years, and the Magliozzis are skeptical about whether the show will be a hit for humor-challenged PBS, according to the Globe. When asked whether the TV show could help improve PBS's image, Ray Magliozzi said: "I think they need to run and hide . . . . Because if they're putting their eggs in our basket, they're in deep doo-doo."

Jun 5, 2008

Wente defends leadership of KWMU

Patty Wente tells the St. Louis Business Journal that she is considering her legal options after the University of Missouri-St. Louis ended her employment this week as g.m. of its public radio station, KWMU. "There has been no financial mismanagement at KWMU, and the university knows everything that has transpired," she said. Wente also spoke with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "I'm a tough manager, and managers have to make tough decisions. When you make decisions, some people will be happy and some will not be happy."

Jun 4, 2008

Exxon returns to PBS

Exxon Mobil is returning to PBS as a national sponsor, four years after the company ended its 32-year sponsorship of Masterpiece Theatre (see Current story on loss of funding here). This time around, Exxon will be partially underwriting Nightly Business Report and NOVA, beginning June 9.