Oct 1, 2009

Frontline previews "Obama's War" online

A 24-minute rough cut of Frontline's season opener, "Obama's War," is now available online. Due to the breaking news surrounding America's eight-year conflict in Afghanistan, the film will not be completed until close to broadcast on Oct. 13th. In the program's announcement of the online preview, the project was called "one of the strongest pieces of war reportage Frontline has ever produced."

WGBH and partners produce STEM descriptions for sight-impaired readers

WGBH and its Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media have just issued a guidebook on how to translate STEM-related visuals to readers who are blind or sight-impaired, reports The Journal, an education news publication. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the book presents detailed verbal descriptions of materials related to Science, Technology, Education and Math initiatives. Included are bar charts, line graphs, Venn diagrams, tables, pie charts, flow charts and complex diagrams and illustrations.

Funding would eliminate "countless hours" of pledge, ex-WNET president says

William F. Baker, president emeritus of WNET, writes in a opinion piece in The Nation (via the CBS News site) that the way forward toward a vital public media is through existing pubcasting entities. Baker, the Bernard L. Schwartz Professor and Journalist-in-Residence at Fordham University, notes that for more than half a century, "the American people have shown, through their generous donations, that they support the idea and the reality of public media. The government should acknowledge those decades of widespread support by funding NPR and PBS both more extensively and more efficiently. By increasing direct allocations to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is responsible for disbursing funding to public TV and radio affiliates across America, the inherent inefficiencies of fundraising via public appeal would be eliminated, and countless hours of airtime would be liberated from pledge drives. It would also mean that Americans would get more in return for the money they already pay to maintain the public media distribution network, which delivers NPR and PBS to 100 percent of the country." Baker served as president and CEO of WNET from 1987 to 2007.

Two staffers cut from Idaho Public Television

Idaho Public Television has laid off two employees, according to The Idaho Statesman. A videographer/director and on-air operations center supervisor were let go Wednesday; the positions will remain vacant at least until the state legislature decides next year's funding. "We have been very successful in not laying people off to this point," G.M. Peter Morrill told the paper. Viewers may notice fewer primetime local shows and slower response to service problems, Morrill added. The layoffs are "stretching an already modest staff," he noted.

WUSF plans new production/performance studio

WUSF Public Broadcasting will spend $200,000 on a new television, video and radio facility for performance and production, at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus, reports The Bradenton Herald. A former computer lab will be renovated for the studio space. WUSF currently broadcasts from Tampa.

WNYC unveils its plans for classical WQXR

There's one week to go before New York's classical WQXR relaunches under the ownership of WNYC, and programmers are putting the finishing touches on the talent roster and playlist.

Current WQXR hosts Jeff Spurgeon, Midge Woolsey and Elliott Forrest have been retained for weekday and weekend airshifts. WNYC also hired Naomi Lewin, a host, producer and arts feature reporter for Cincinnati's WGUC, to anchor afternoon drive-time on the new WQXR.

Terence McKnight and David Garland, hosts of the eclectic and adventurous Evening Music broadcasts on WNYC-FM, will take over WQXR evening slots and program a more narrow range of music than what they've presented on WNYC. "There are philosophical differences in how we treat music programming as having a strong personality behind it," said Chris Bannon, p.d. The WNYC audience tunes in for hosts' voices and commentaries on the music they're playing, he said, whereas WQXR's listeners have an expectation that they can tune in at any time to "hear music that you know you're going to like. It's a music station, and, to the best of our ability we are going to make it a really good music station."

For music lovers seeking a wider-ranging playlist, McKnight will host Q2 on Saturday afternoons, a flagship show for the music stream to replace WNYC2, the "progressive classical" service now offered online and as an HD Radio channel. Q2 is "a rebranding of WNYC2 that acknowledges it's music from the canon and beyond and it's all housed at WQXR," said Laura Walker, WNYC president.

The new schedule for WNYC-FM, still being finalized, will feature more news and information programming, with a cultural bent of music-oriented shows after 10 pm; WNYC-AM is being reprogrammed in the evenings for "hard core news listeners," Bannon said.

As a public radio station, WQXR is selling four minutes of underwriting spots per hour, a third less than airing now as a commercial outlet, according to this morning's New York Times, which also reports details on the new WQXR playlist. News breaks will originate from WNYC's newsroom, rather than Bloomberg.

Business plans for WQXR project $4 million in revenues from underwriting, membership and grant support in its first year of operation as a public radio service, Walker said. "We'll see how that pans out." The first campaign for member support will be a one-day drive in December; a full-fledged pledge drive is scheduled for February. The $14 million capital campaign that WNYC launched to finance the purchase has raised $7.58 million, Walker said.

The new WQXR, which moves to 105.9 FM under WNYC's ownership, launches on Oct. 8 during a live performance at Carnegie Hall featuring the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The concert will be transmitted as a live webstream on and simulcast on WNYC-FM.