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Mar 31, 2010

Take an afternoon music video break, courtesy of WETA

It's cherry blossom (and pledge) time in Washington, D.C., and WETA is offering an e-card on its website to share a bit of the springtime splendor. The images and music are part of the station's The Washington Cherry Blossoms: Beauty on the Basin program -- available for a $60 pledge, WETA reminds visitors.

It's a national nosh for POV's "Food, Inc."

Planning to watch Food, Inc., on April 21 on PBS? Great opportunity for a potluck, POV points out. It's encouraging viewers nationwide to meet, eat and watch the Oscar-nominated doc. Potluck hosts can register for prizes including books, gift cards and sustainable food items (dub those winners "potlucky"). Don't know what dish to bring? Fear not, there are recipes too. The POV staff is throwing its own potluck next week in the office, sort of a test run for the big event. Simon Kilmurry, POV's executive director, tells Current he's bringing cloth napkins to ensure it's a classy affair. No word on whether he'll also bring the Parsnip Pancakes.

Jaime Escalante dies; inspirational educator had PBS show

Famed educator Jaime Escalante, of PBS's Futures with Jaime Escalante, died early yesterday morning, reports the Associated Press. He was 79. Escalante also appeared in two PBS specials, "Math...Who Needs It?!" and "Living and Working in Space: The Countdown Has Begun." He received more than 50 awards for his PBS work, including a Peabody. Escalante was portrayed by Edward James Olmos in the 1988 hit film "Stand and Deliver." In a statement, Olmos said: "The best way to honor the life and work of this great man is to keep it going and I, along with others whose lives he touched, intend to do that."

Independence or merger for Pittsburgh's WDUQ?

The editorial pages of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have become a battleground over the future of WDUQ, the NPR News and jazz station recently offered for sale by Duquesne University. Supporters of WDUQ's current management, who formed the nonprofit Pittsburgh Public Media to buy the station and preserve its service on 90.5 FM, are fending off a take-over bid by WQED-TV/FM, which has been public about its interest in picking up NPR News programming should PPM fail. "Unless 90.5 FM is taken over by an entity with a financially solid base, such as WQED, I'm worried that the station would not be able to afford the high standards of national and local news programming to which we've become accustomed," William Byham, a WQED board member, editorialized on March 24. Today, two PPM board members defend WDUQ's legacy and paint a different picture of the proposed merger: "The merger of two public radio stations . . . would forever change the culture and character of both stations," PPM's Joe Kelly and Andrea Fitting wrote. "This would be a case where the sum becomes less than the parts and the loser is the listening public. Suggesting a merger also doesn't address the realities of funding. The license is not going to be given away; it's being sold."

Peabody Awards across the nation for public broadcasting

Pubcasters are celebrating lots of George Foster Peabody Awards today. PBS received six -- double the amount won by any other organization. Those winners are: “Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About” on American Masters; "The Madoff Affair" on Frontline; two for Independent Lens, "The Order of Myths" and "Between the Folds"; "Endgame" from Masterpiece; and KCET's "Inventing LA: The Chandlers and their Times." KCET also scored for "Up in Smoke," on medical marijuana. Other pubcasting winners: Sesame Street; “The Great Textbook War,” from West Virginia Public Broadcasting; "Hard Times" from Oregon Public Radio; Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson's coverage of Afghanistan for National Public Radio; WAMU-FM's The Diane Rehm Show; and NPR.org (" . . . one of the great one-stop websites. And there’s music you can dance to," noted the Peabody announcement); and The awards will be presented May 17 at a luncheon at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Diane Sawyer will host. The full list of winners is available on the Peabody website.

Marketplace host turned blogger bids farewell

Scott Jagow, author of Marketplace's Scratch Pad blog since last February, will write his final post today. "The grant paying for my position is running out, and it won’t be renewed. Such are the times," he explained to readers yesterday. The blog, funded through a CPB initiative for web-based economics coverage, will end. Matt Berger, the new web producer for Marketplace.org, plans to add more contributors, new multimedia features, and updates to the homepage and site design. Jagow, who gave up his job hosting Marketplace Morning Report to create the blog, is off "to new and exciting adventures."

"Eyes on the Prize" triumphs over copyright complications

The critically acclaimed documentary Eyes on the Prize is returning to PBS next month. DVDs will also be available for the first six programs. For years, rights clearance complications had prevented broadcast or video sales of both of Henry Hampton’s famed civil rights history series (Washington Post, Jan. 17, 2005; Current, Nov. 21, 2005). In January 2005, the copyright advocacy organization Downhill Battle initiated its Eyes on the Screen project, "a nationwide campaign to distribute digital versions of Eyes on the Prize -- the most important civil rights documentary ever made -- and have screenings of it in towns and cities across the US on February 8th at 8PM," in defiance of copyright laws. But Blackside, Hampton's production company, objected that the event positioned the film as a focal point for copyright reform. Downhill Battle ultimately backed down (background, Wikipedia). The doc last aired in 2006; PBS built a website to accompany that presentation (Current, Aug. 21, 2006).

Mar 30, 2010

New Jersey governor endorses spinoff of NJN

Two years ago New Jersey Network leaders couldn’t get the state to transfer operation of the network to a nonprofit, as Oregon and Hawaii have done, but last week Gov. Chris Christie (R) got behind the move, according to an NJN news release. The proposed state budget for fiscal 2011 calls for the public TV and radio networks to be moved out of the budget by Jan. 1, so it allots only $2 million — half of this year’s state appropriation. Former NJN Executive Director Elizabeth Christopherson couldn’t win the support of former Gov. Jon Corzine (D) or the legislature before she left the job (Current, May 12, 2008). Interim Executive Director Howard Blumenthal said in the release: “Our goal is to provide anytime / anywhere service, incorporating television, radio, Internet, mobile devices and live events to engage a technologically-savvy, 21st century audience." Notable: the governor's chief of staff, Richard Bagger, is a former trustee of the NJN Foundation and retired longtime NJN news anchor Kent Manahan is chair of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority.

PubTV in New Hampshire part of state broadband request

New Hampshire Public Television is part of a $66 million broadband grant proposal, reports the New Hampshire Business Review. The request is being spearheaded by Network New Hampshire Now, a collaboration led by the University of New Hampshire and the Department of Resources and Economic Development. The proposal to the National Telecommunications & Information Administration's Broadband Technology Opportunities Program would be to fund a "critically needed broadband expansion" in the state. Part of the plan includes construction of a middle-mile microwave network for public safety, pubTV broadcasts, and mobile broadband communications on mountaintops.

Nonprofits can't revive journalism, media analyst insists

Can nonprofit news orgs step up and rescue American journalism? CPB just announced five local journalism centers in one of many efforts nationwide. It's a grant of some $10.5 million, "with an expectation that each Center will become self-sustaining by the end of the two-year funding period," according to CPB. But at least one media analyst says, nonprofits just can't achieve what needs to be done. In fact, Alan D. Mutter, a longtime newspaper editor and adjunct faculty member of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California-Berkeley, titled his blog post today, "Non-profits can’t possibly save the news." He says he can prove it using "simple math." He's calculated that "it would take $88 billion – or nearly a third of all the $307.7 billion donated to charity in 2008 – to fund the reporting still being done at America’s seriously straitened newspapers."

Wildlife engineering challenge for Public Radio Delmarva

A family ospreys nesting on an antenna tower are disrupting broadcasts of Public Radio Delmarva, which serves the Eastern shore of Maryland. The birds, also known as sea hawks, have lived on the tower for years, but the signal disruptions have become so frequent this spring that listeners are calling the station to complain, Gerry Weston, g.m., tells the Delmarva Daily Times. Problems occur when the birds use a rod at the top of the transmitter link to teach their young to fly. With its spring pledge drive only weeks away, Public Radio Delmarva has come up with an engineering fix intended to minimize disruption to the ospreys. "We don't want to harm the birds, but we want to prevent them from perching on the rod," Weston said. "We have been concerned about what effect this will have on our listening audience."

Mar 29, 2010

Pubmedia mapping projects should mesh, analyst says

Public media entities need to better work together to coordinate mapping efforts, writes Jessica Clark, director of the Center for Social Media's Future of Media project, on MediaShift. One project she cited is the CPB-funded map being developed by the National Center for Media Engagement. The NCME is using Google Maps to layer common interests among funders, public media and communities. The New America Foundation also has started analyzing local media and government ecologies. And the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication is mapping ethnic media, "a crucial missing layer," as Clark says. Now, if only all of them could cooperate: "Right now, communications researchers are still asking very different questions, and attending to different priorities. Developing common questions and data collection standards will require time, effort and focused collaboration."

NPR's Schiller is keynote speaker at "Transforming Journalism" event today

NPR President Vivian Schiller will give the keynote address at today's "Transforming Journalism: The State of the News Media 2010" event. It's a followup to the new "State of the News Media 2010" report from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. Schiller will speak at 3 p.m. Eastern, it's streaming here. The event is co-sponsored by Pew, George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs, the Newseum.

CPB news initiative announcement program now online

The big announcement of CPB's five local journalism centers last week at the Newseum is now available for online viewing. Access the archived two-hour program here.

Rifts widen, again, at KPFK in Los Angeles

What will become of Pacifica's KPFK, wracked as it is by infighting over its programming, fundraising tactics and the process of selecting a new general manager? The Los Angeles Times reports that recent program changes have helped to bolster KPFK's audience, yet the station's latest funddrive was extreme "for its great length and its embrace of the conspiracy-addled fringe." Critics of the format changes are targeting Ian Masters, a longtime host who brings a deep knowledge of foreign affairs to KPFK's airwaves on weekday evenings. Meanwhile, meetings of its Local Station Board, which must appoint a committee to lead the search for a new general manager, dissolve into shouting matches. "It's very frustrating, very frustrating," an 80-year-old KPFK stalwart tells the Times. "We won't ever make any progress until we stop this internecine fighting."

Indiana's WNIT to move from Elkhart to South Bend

WNIT in Elkhart, Ind., soon will double its space in a new location in South Bend. When it moves May 3 it'll be the first time its offices and studio are in the same building, reports the local Tribune Business Weekly. The building had been home to CBS affiliate WSBT. “Since it was an existing television station, remodeling it to become a new television station made the best use of our financial and ecological resources,” said WNIT Board Chairman Glenn Killoren. A major gift and $1 million in TIF (Tax Incremental Financing) helped with the $6.5 million renovation cost.

Mar 26, 2010

A positive 'Wow' from a critic of journalism-as-usual

Pat Aufderheide, advocate for Public Media 2.0 at American University, says in a blog that she loved every minute of CPB's Local Journalism Centers announcement at the Newseum in D.C. yesterday. For instance, she quotes PBS President Paula Kerger: "News has become a social experience . . . Journalism must rebuild itself from the bottom up, beginning with the citizen journalist."

"Wow," Aufderheide responds, continuing: "NPR’s Kinsey Wilson, digital media guru at NPR, said, 'This is about reinventing the news business,' and 'This is about connecting the audience with each other.'"

Though Aufderheide is eager to see these developments, she's not under any illusion that they're easy to pull off. She writes that citizen journalist efforts will be "full of people who don’t have any real practice in responsive, respectful, informed engagement on gnarly topics. Public broadcasting is in new territory here. But it’s great territory to be in."

For more about Public Media 2.0, see the February 2009 report by Aufderheide and Jessica Clark of AU's Center for Social Media.

WGBH steps into the future with mobile DTV simulcasts

WGBH is going where no station has gone before: This week it launched the first mobile DTV service in the system. The station is simulcasting its main HD channel along with its 'GBH Kids Channel and two audio program streams. It's the first of nine stations that announced in February 2009 their plans to begin using the technology (Current, Feb. 2, 2009). “We’re very excited to be the first in our market to offer Mobile DTV services to our audience,” WGBH’s Chief Technology Officer Joe Igoe said in a statement. “We see Mobile DTV as a way to expand our ability to deliver services to a broader geographic area on a wider range of devices." PBS Board members, meeting this week in Arlington, Va., also had an opportunity to take mobile DTV for a test drive during an evening gathering Thursday -- which came in handy for at least one March Madness fan. Public broadcasting's interest in mobile DTV goes back several years (Current, May 27, 2008), and pubcasters heard a lot about it at the NETA confab this January (Current, Jan. 25). Details there included the Open Mobile Video Coalition's plans for an upcoming mobile DTV demonstration. Eight stations are participating, including PBS affiliate WHUT in D.C., and MHz Networks’ WNVT in suburban Virginia.

PBS's Kerger mentions to Board a "very large grant" coming in next year

Will a grant from a large but little-known foundation help PBS in a big way within the next year? PBS President Paula Kerger, speaking to the PBS Board at its meeting today at headquarters in Arlington, hinted at a possible "very large grant" from the Anne Ray Charitable Trust, one of three entities under the Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies. It's named for the granddaughter of the founder of agricultural products giant. MinnPost reports that Margaret Cargill was known as the "silent philanthropist," because she made more than $200 million in anonymous donations to charities before her death in 2006. According to the Foundation Center, the trust's $2.12 billion in assets make it the twenty-second largest foundation in the nation. The organization's website notes that it "does not accept unsolicited requests for support. The foundation is responsible for identifying appropriate charitable organizations and making grants." Cargill specified that the trust direct its philanthropy to a broad range of issues--including the environment, the arts, disaster relief, children, education, tolerance and conflict resolution, animal care, American Indian culture, and the elderly. The grant could be among the first achievements of PBS's renewed focus on the PBS Foundation as an avenue for bolstering funding. The Foundation began with a 2004 task force investigating how to attract more “top-of-mind consideration” among philanthropists (Current, April 12, 2004).

The hoped-for Cargill grant may somewhat ease the Board's budget concerns. PBS hasn't raised station dues in two years, and at least one Board member is worried about the long-term affects of that. Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, said that it's "imperative" that PBS be investing in new technology. "I wonder what the implications are for us as we look to the future" with such funding restraints. Kerger replied that "these are pivotal issues we're wrestling with." It's important that the system be aware "that we can't continue to go down this path," reaching deeper into new technologies while holding the line on station dues, she said. Kerger plans to convene a panel of stakeholders to brainstorm potential revenue sources for digital media. There are great opportunities for PBS in digital media, Kerger said, "but we need to have resources. We would not want anyone to assume that somehow we can continue with business as usual, that's not going to take us anywhere."

NPR's API adds station content, blogs

NPR has added ingest capabilities to its open Application Programming Interface, the technical system for distributing NPR content on the web that first launched in 2008. "Until today, the NPR API has been a one-way fire hose of content, pushing hundreds of thousands of stories from NPR and the twelve NPR Music partner stations out to the world," blogs NPR's Daniel Jacobson, director of application development. "Now the API is read-write, allowing authorized external parties to post stories to the NPR API." For the first phase of API Ingest Project, released on March 24, Oregon Public Broadcasting and the Northwest News Network are posting stories to the API. Three additional pilot stations--San Francisco's KQED, Boston's WBUR and Philly's WXPN--are next in line to begin uploading their stories. "Thereafter, our intent is to stabilize the system, scale it, and reach out to more public media organizations who are interested in participating," Jacobson writes. Under a prototyping grant announced by CPB yesterday, NPR and other pubcasting networks begin planning an even bigger expansion for the API-- as a shared web distribution platform for the entire public broadcasting system.

With the new API release, NPR also added three blogs to the API, one of which debuted to web audiences yesterday. Go Figure!, by NPR's audience research team, has come out from behind the walls of NPR's internal Intranet. "[W]e want to connect with and learn from the NPR audience, our public media colleagues at stations and elsewhere, and our research and media colleagues," blogs Lori Kaplan, director of the research group. "Maybe you'll learn something and we'll learn something and have some fun doing it." The research team plans to post two times a week. "We are not editorial talent, so please have mercy on us as we build our skills!" she writes. Inside NPR.org, the blog for NPR's web team, and All Tech Considered, the companion blog for the weekly All Things Considered segment, also are now fed through the API.

Mar 25, 2010

Lawson asserts he's not in running for APTS presidency

On March 14, Larry Sidman, president of APTS, announced his departure. On March 24, John Lawson, former president of APTS, announced his departure from ION Media Networks. The timing has some in the system wondering — could Lawson be returning to the APTS helm? Not so, Lawson tells Current: "I can confirm that I will not be a candidate for the CEO position at APTS."

"Need to Know"? Need for better planning and money management, blogger says

Michael Rosenblum, former WNET worker and now "on the cutting edge of the digital videojournalist revolution" (he's worked for BBC, Voice of America, New York Times television) is vehemently proclaiming that he no longer contributes to PBS. He's particularly annoyed — well, far past annoyed — by Thirteen's forthcoming Need to Know pubaffairs show (Current, March 22, 2010). One problem, he writes: "Three years! The show has been in the planning phase for three years! . . . Please note that it took Marc Zuckerman two months to conceive of, build and launch Facebook."

"Sneak Previews" commercial successor succumbs to low ratings

At the Movies, the latest incarnation of WTTW's PBS show Sneak Previews, is ending due to low ratings. Disney-ABC Domestic Television and ABC Media Productions made the announcement today. The show lasted 24 seasons, according to the Chicago Tribune's media writer Phil Rosenthal. WTTW first paired Gene Siskel, who was reviewing films for the Tribune and the local CBS affiliate, with Pulitzer Prize-winner Roger Ebert, for Opening Soon ... at a Theater Near You in 1975; about three years later it went nationwide on PBS as Sneak Previews. "It was one of the most popular shows in PBS history," Rosenthal noted. A dispute with WTTW led Siskel and Ebert to commercial television in 1982. Siskel died in 1999. Ebert has struggled with cancer for several years and lost his ability to speak, but has found another career as a wildly popular blogger.

PBS Board committee advises continuing "one station, one vote" governance

After more than three years of task force analysis, a PBS Board Nominating and Corporate Governance committee will recommend to the full board that it continue "one station, one vote" representation. The alternative would be giving large stations more votes on the PBS Board. Chair Jennifer Lawson told the panel today at headquarters in Arlington, Va., that data from professional director elections was tracked to see if there would have been different results with weighted voting, and how that would have affected composition of the board. Research showed that votes weighted by station size would not have had significant impact on the board composition; 3 percent of elections would have been affected. Lawson added that station surveys indicate lack of support for weighted voting, and a nonprofit governance expert discouraged weighted voting. Jim Pagliarini, chair of the Major Market Group of stations, said that while there are still "strong voices" in the system who feel that voting should be weighted, "it's never bubbled up as an issue of the day" at meetings of the Affinity Group Coalition, where groups of small and large stations have representatives.

WLIU-FM moves into new studios

WLIU 88.3FM is now ensconced in new Southampton, NY, studios, with only three hours of dead air while transmitting equipment was move, reports the Southampton Press. The station moved from the Stony Brook Southampton college campus, its home for the last 20 years. The university agreed in October to sell the station to Peconic Public Broadcasting (Current, Oct. 13, 2009) but Peconic has run into challenges along the way (Current, Aug. 24, 2009; Feb. 17, 2010).

CPB backs five local media start-ups, prototyping of a pubmedia platform

CPB is about to announce funding for five new media start-ups to be operated by public broadcasting stations and for an NPR-led project to begin planning a shared web platform for public media's digital content.

The projects, to be unveiled at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. this morning, aim to build pubcasting's newsgathering capacity and create a more efficient and flexible technical system for distributing content.

Twenty-seven different pubcasting stations will collaborate in creating the five local journalism centers; CPB is seeking proposals to establish two additional LJCs in coming months. At each center, multimedia teams of journalists will produce reporting on topics of particular interest to that region. The LJC for the Plains States will report on agribusiness and farming practices, for example; in Upstate New York, the LJC will report on economic development efforts focussed on innovative technology.

"The Local Journalism Centers will enhance public media's ability to meet the information needs of local communities at a time when access to high quality, original reporting is declining," said CPB President Patricia Harrison. Over two years, CPB and participating stations will invest $10.5 million in building the centers, with the expectation that each will become self-supporting when grant funding ends.

The largest LJC will be located in the Southwest, where 7 stations will collaborate in building a bilingual reporting team to report on cultural shifts in the region, including Latino, Native American and border issues. In the Upper Midwest, an LJC built by three stations will report on economic redevelopment of the industrial heartland. Central Florida's LJC is a collaboration among six stations to produce reporting on health care issues. CPB is accepting LJC proposals from stations in the South and Northwest. The deadline for the next batch of proposals is April 14.

The Public Media Platform project to be managed by NPR will develop a prototype for a common technical system to be used by all of pubcasting's major program distributors and other producers in distributing web content. "The ultimate goal is to collect, distribute, present and monetize digital media content efficiently, allowing producers to devote their resources to reporting, content production, and community engagement," according to CPB.

Mar 24, 2010

Will budget woes force Louisiana pubcasting off the air two days a week?

In a message on its website, Louisiana Public Broadcasting tells visitors it may have to cut local programming, lay off 20 percent of its staff and possibly even "go off the air one or two days a week," possibly Monday and Friday, as it comes up against state funding cuts. The pubcaster is facing a $656,000 reduction before the end of June and a potential $2 million cut beginning in July. “It’s not anything we want to do. It’s not our choice,” Joe Traigle, LPB Foundation chairman, told the Advocate newspaper on Tuesday. The reporter got readers' attention by pointing out that no programming on Mondays and Fridays would mean -- gasp! -- that Antiques Roadshow wouldn't be on.

CPB event spotlighting journalism projects to be streamed live

CPB's announcement of a "major journalism initiative" on Thursday, March 25 will be streamed live from the Newseum in Washington, D.C., beginning at 10 a.m. ET. CPB President Patricia Harrison will be joined by top execs from PBS and NPR. After the announcement, a panel of pubcasting journalists will discuss public media's role in newsgathering. CPB's funding of five "local journalism centers," expected for months, will support more in-depth reporting by public radio stations on a regional basis.

Seattle's classical KING-FM to replace ad revenues with listener contributions

All-classical KING-FM in Seattle, one of the few remaining commercial classical stations in the country, plans to convert into a noncommercial, listener-supported public radio operation by July 2011. The station cited changes in media technology and declining ad revenues yesterday in announcing the change, which first must be approved by the IRS and the FCC. The station has suffered under Arbitron's new Portable People Meter ratings methodology, according to the Seattle Times. KING-FM is operated by Beethoven, a nonprofit owned by three Seattle arts organizations; over the years its revenues have been converted into dividends for the Seattle Opera, the Seattle Symphony and the Arts Fund. "That vision worked well for a time, but the handwriting is on the wall,” said Christopher Bayley, board president. “With all the changes in media in the United States, commercial advertising is no longer a fit for KING.” Public Radio Capital's Marc Hand tells the New York Times that the same audience demographics that undercut ad sales for classical radio stations make listener support a viable alternative. Older listeners are less appealing to advertisers but they are inclined to be loyal supporters of a classical public radio station. “I think this move really makes for a station that’s more economically viable,” Hand said.

Former APTS president Lawson departs ION Media Networks

John Lawson, former president of the Association of Public Television Stations, is leaving ION Media Networks to relaunch his consulting firm. He ran Convergence Services Inc. from 1993 to 2001, when he accepted the head position at APTS (Current, March 26, 2001). He oversaw the lobbying org until 2008, then departed for ION (Current, Feb. 19, 2008). Convergence Services will provide consulting for the digital media industry "at the intersection of business, technology and policy," Lawson said in a statement he distributed to pubcasting execs yesterday. He will focus on building mobile DTV networks and services, development of public media and deployment of next generation emergency alert systems. The company may seek financing for its own ventures, the statement added. APTS is currently searching for a president in the wake of Larry Sidman's departure (Current, March 14). Convergence Services Inc. officially reopens on April 19.

Minnesota lawmakers reject proposal to zero-out pubcasting

Both chambers of the Minnesota State Legislature have voted to restore general fund appropriations for public broadcasting, almost completely rolling back a proposal by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to zero-out $2.015 million in public media subsidies. Differences between House and Senate bills are yet to be reconciled, reports MinnPost's David Brauer, but the largest cut proposed for pubcasting totals $161,000 over the biennial budget cycle.

Frontline, Planet Money, PBS NewsHour to collaborate on Haiti coverage

Beginning later this week, Frontline, NPR's Planet Money and PBS NewsHour are partnering across platforms to report on post-earthquake life in Haiti. Planet Money will look at what new economies are emerging from the rubble in Port-au-Prince. That piece will develop into several Web-original Frontline video reports, TV segments on PBS NewsHour and companion radio on Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Planet Money's podcast. The project culminates in Frontline's broadcast next Tuesday, March 30, of "The Quake," examining the world's response to the catastrophe. Featured in that program are interviews including former President Bill Clinton, special envoy to Haiti; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Dr. Paul Farmer, deputy special envoy to Haiti.

Rising number of TV viewers also multitasking online, Nielsen reports

In the last three months of 2009, viewers had their eyes on both TV and the Internet -- at the same time -- for three and a half hours a month, up 35 percent from the previous quarter, according to the latest news from Nielsen's Three Screen Report.“The rise in simultaneous use of the web and TV gives the viewer a unique on-screen and off-screen relationship with TV programming,” said Nielsen spokesman Matt O’Grady. “The initial fear was that Internet and mobile video and entertainment would slowly cannibalize traditional TV viewing, but the steady trend of increased TV viewership alongside expanded simultaneous usage argues something quite different.”

Mar 23, 2010

"An American Family" heads back to 1973, once again

The stars of TV's very first reality series, PBS's An American Family, are reliving their 1973 lives as consultants on Cinema Verite, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of their family's groundbreaking doc. The Hollywood Reporter says that the film, written by David Seltzer (The Omen), will be directed by Shari Springer Berman and Bob Pulcini (American Splendor). HBO updated the family's story in 1983, and in 2003 PBS aired Lance Loud!: A Death in an American Family, which focused on the family during his final months. WNET rebroadcast the 1973 doc in 1990 (Current, Nov. 5, 1990).

Move carefully on spectrum, FCC commissioner warns Congress

FCC Commissioner Michael Copps advises Congress to move carefully in reclaiming spectrum from broadcasters because of the potential harm to a diversity of voices, reports Broadcasting & Cable. His comments come in his testimony prepared for a Thursday House Energy & Commerce Committee oversight hearing on the National Broadband Plan (Current, March 22 issue). "I will be urging great caution," he tells the committee, "because of the possibly detrimental effects of reallocating spectrum from those stations currently using it to serve diverse audiences. Every local voice that disappears runs against the grain of localism, diversity and competition." The Plan recommends that Congress set up a spectrum auction to gain bandwidth for the growing number of mobile devices.

Private nonprofit corporations: Tough to define

Rick Cohen of the Nonprofit Quarterly, who blogs on the intersection of nonprofs, politics and policy, asks the question: "When is a nonprofit organization sort of like a public agency for the purpose of levels of transparency and disclosure beyond what all nonprofits (above a specific threshold annual revenue level) provide to the Internal Revenue Service in their Form 990s?" The New Hampshire State Supreme Court recently ruled unanimously that nonprofit quasi-public corporations, such as the Local Government Center in Concord (providing advocacy support for municipal governments) are subject to that state's Right to Know, or "sunshine," law, reports the Nashua Telegraph. A justice wrote that while the Center's workers aren't public employees in a strict sense, their wages are paid mainly by tax dollars and much of their work is to benefit taxpayers. But the New Hampshire House just voted down legislation would have defined nonprofits as public agencies if they generated more than $100,000 in annual revenue and received at least half their funding from the state or local government, according to the Eagle Tribune.

Mar 22, 2010

TechCon attendees to examine NGIS

One theme of TechCon 2010, PBS's annual technical and management confab April 7-9, will be "doing more with less," PBS's Chief Technology Officer John McCoskey told TV Technology. Lots to cover in the meeting's nearly 50 tutorials, sessions and panels, including: automation, multiplatform distribution, quality assurance, file-based workflow and the Next Generation Interconnection System (NGIS). One focus this year is the non-real-time file-based distribution aspects of NGIS. “It’s complex, as we need a ‘one size fits all’ solution. ... unlike commercial, each PBS member station has complete autonomy over their infrastructure, workflow and subsystems, which makes it a challenging endeavor,” McCoskey said. Here's background on NGIS from the Aug. 29, 2005 issue of Current.

PBCore expands into 2.0 version

CPB today announced PBCore 2.0, a development project to improve pubcasting's metadata and cataloging resource since 2005. CPB is working to expand the metadata standard to help producers and distributors better classify and describe digital pubmedia content and assist audiences in finding that content across various platforms (Current, Dec. 17, 2007). PBCore 2.0 will be managed by WGBH, AudioVisual Preservation Solutions and Digital Dawn.

Mar 19, 2010

PBS arts programming disappoints columnist

In today's column Terry Teachout, the Wall Street Journal's drama critic, laments what he terms PBS's "slow but steady shrinkage of airtime devoted to the fine arts, and the increasing trivialization of such cultural programming as does manage to make it onto the network." Furthermore, "any TV network that claims to be 'public' should be offering more than the ultrasafe programming in which Great Performances specializes."

Will do-gooder pubcasters in South Dakota lose state money?

Now it's South Dakota pubcasting that may face state funding reductions. The Daily Republic in Mitchell, S.D., reports that Republican state legislator Noel Hamiel suggested this week at a town forum that the state consider pulling back funding to South Dakota Public Broadcasting, which he dubbed one of the capital's "sacred cows." He added: “I would like to see public broadcasting wean itself from public funding.” But Democrat Frank Kloucek quickly countered, “I think that sometimes we lose sight of what is for the public good. SDPB does a lot of good for our communities.”

System needs evolution, not revolution, writes digital strategist Rob Bole

Public broadcasting thought leader Rob Bole declares himself an evolutionist -- at least when it comes to the growth of the pubcasting system into the public media future. In a new post on his personal opinion blog, he writes: "The Rube Goldberg machine of public broadcasting is a strange creature and while it looks painful, for what we have asked of it, it has largely worked. Changing it too rapidly is a bad idea. Leaving it alone is even worse. ... My framework for governing the public broadcasting transformation is grounded in the belief that changes should be evolutionary, not revolutionary." Bole, CPB's v.p. for Digital Media Strategies, goes on to illustrate his point by referencing his father's old Buick, Scotty from Star Trek, the film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," and a horde of barbarians that issue forth "a collective full-throated ARRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!"

Newsweek editor, Bryant Park co-host are faces of new PBS Friday-night hour

WNET confirmed yesterday that Alison Stewart, former cohost of NPR’s Bryant Park Project, and Jon Meacham, editor of Newsweek, will be co-hosts of Need to Know, the new PBS newsmag that begins May 7. The program will fill 60 of the 90 minutes that PBS has allotted to Bill Moyers' Journal and Now on Friday evenings. Politically progressive fans of the two retiring shows flooded the in-box of PBS ombudsman Michael Getler with most of the past week’s 3,000 e-mails, Getler wrote yesterday. The e-mails seemed to be prompted, Getler said, by an alert from the liberal press watchdog FAIR tarring Meacham as “a consummate purveyor of middle-of-the-road conventional wisdom with a conservative slant,” judged unlikely to do the “hard-hitting” journalism of Now and Moyers. See Current's March 22 issue for more.

"Major news initiative" coming from CPB next week

CPB next Thursday announces a major news initiative to help stations produce more in-depth local journalism. CPB President Pat Harrison will detail the project, joined by the PBS President Paula Kerger and NPR President Vivian Schiller (via live video feed). Following will be a panel discussion on the role of pubmedia in reporting, with Hari Sreenivasan, PBS NewsHour correspondent; Tom Rosenstiel, director of PEW's Project for Excellence in Journalism; Nishat Kurwa, news director of Youth Media International; Tom Karlo, general manager of KPBS TV-FM; and Kinsey Wilson, NPR's senior v.p. and general manager of Digital Media. The event will be streamed live from the Newseum in Washington. Public broadcasting has been working to step into the widening news gap as newspaper staffs diminish. CPB has issued several RFPs on "strengthening local journalism," and a network of five local journalism centers is part of pubradio's Grow the Audience initiative (Current, Jan. 11).

Mar 18, 2010

If it's March, it's Muppet Madness time

This month the bracket brouhaha emerges once again, but forget all that March Madness b-ball boredom. This year, try a little Muppet Madness. It's brought to you by MuppetCast, the weekly podcast of all things Jim Henson and Muppets. Who will win in Miss Piggy vs. Pepe? Oscar vs. Big Bird? Bert & Ernie vs. The Count? (Hey, that's two against one ...) You may vote in all the matches each 12 hours until April 5.

Mobile DTV superior to broadband, coalition says

In reaction to the new National Broadband Plan, the Open Mobile Video Coalition told a teleconference of reporters today that mobile DTV is superior to broadband to deliver mobile video, reports TVNewsCheck. Brandon Burgess, CEO of Ion Media and coalition chair, said broadcasting can simultaneously deliver video to millions of viewers without overworking Internet and cellphone networks. "No other solution out there can really do that," he said. The coalition is made up of more than 800 private and public television stations in America, as well as PBS, CPB and APTS.

Leading Gen! series garners attention

The Leading Gen!, currently carried by some 120 PBS affiliates, seems to be on a publicity roll. Last month Daily Variety TV critic Brian Lowry described the 13-part series on aging, introducing readers to neurosurgeon James Ausman and wife Carolyn, producers, and adding that for PBS, " ... catering to those over 50 -- the people who are predominantly watching public TV anyway -- isn't just good business; it's a no-brainer." Last week the Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif., wrote that producing station KVCR-DT in San Bernardino calls it “the ultimate reality show,” and it's won two Telly Awards. And today, on the wildly popular blog the Daily Beast, gossip columnist Liz Smith talks about it in a piece headlined, "The great untapped 80-something market."

California's KOCE partnering with web news network

KOCE in Huntington Beach, Calif., is joining the Orange County Local News Network (OCLNN), owned by the for-profit web journalism chain United States Local News Network. OCLNN reporters will file stories for KOCE’s Real Orange news program, and its digital OC Channel. Some KOCE-produced content will also be at OCLNN.com. The two will also work together on local public affairs projects.

SXSW showcase a "plum gig" for Spoon & a coming out party for NPR Music

As the South by Southwest Music festival keeps getting bigger and bigger, the potential for bands to break through to commercial success diminish, observes New York Times ArtsBeat blogger Ben Sisario. He points to last night's opening showcase, sponsored by NPR Music and headlined by Austin's own Spoon, as a case in point: "It was a plum gig, reflecting not only Spoon’s preeminence but also the emergence of NPR as a major force in independent music. . . . [T]he band was received as heroes, symbolizing the best of what South by Southwest is about: artistic credibility, insouciant cool, left-of-the-dial independence. The implicit message was that Spoon are the top of the heap, the highest that a South by Southwest band can aspire to. But by the numbers, Spoon is still a startup: its new album, 'Transference' (Merge), has been out for eight weeks and sold 121,000 copies. And there are lots of Spoons out there, famous to small slivers of an audience but unknown to everybody else, and probably pretty comfortable that way, or at least used to it." Details and links to more SXSW music coverage from NPR and public radio stations are here.

Mar 17, 2010

Fellowship named in honor of reporter's sons

NPR and the Washington Post are offering an unusual joint fellowship honoring two sons of an NPR journalist. The six-month program, split between the two newsrooms, is seeking applicants by April 30 and will begin in the fall [more information]. The Stone & Holt Weeks Fellowship was created in memory of Stone Weeks, 24, and his brother Holt, 20, sons of Linton Weeks, an NPR reporter who formerly wrote for the Post, and Jan Taylor Weeks, an artist and teacher. The young men were both research assistants at Rice University in Houston. They were returning to their parents’ home in the Washington area July 23 when their car was struck by a truck in Virginia.

A music geek's guide to pubradio SXSW coverage

NPR Music's live coverage of the South by Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin begins with tonight's showcase headlined by Spoon, a hometown favorite kicking off their U.S. tour with this SXSW performance. Tune in at 9 p.m. ET to catch the full line-up including Visqueen, the Walkmen, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and Broken Bells. Tomorrow at 1:30 pm ET, NPR Music presents a daytime showcase of six acts headlined by the Sleigh Bells. Five public radio stations--The Current, KEXP, KUT, WFUV, and WXPN--are presenting SXSW coverage in partnership with NPR; most plan to broadcast and webcast their own live shows. In fact, this afternoon at 4 Austin's KUT offers a showcase featuring Nashville rocker Bobby Bare Jr., Jason Collett of Broken Social Scene and Nigerian soul songstress Nneka. The biggest pubradio-sponsored showcase of all appears to be WFMU's "massive, 14 band, two-stage" event on Friday from 8 pm-3 am. KCRW will bring SXSW to its listeners on Morning Becomes Eclectic and during a Saturday showcase featuring Rogue Wave. And this year, for the very first time, Radio Milwaukee sent a team to produce on-air and online SXSW coverage. Many pubradio personalities are tweeting from SXSW; for the refreshing perspectives of two bonafied rock chicks, follow Rita Houston of WFUV and Carrie Brownstein of NPR Music's Monitor Mix.

NewsHour producer herding 2,000 correspondents tonight

No kicking back with a green beer for PBS NewsHour Producer Linda Scott this St. Patrick's Day. She's in charge of organizing tonight's huge Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner in D.C. Some 2,000 guests are expected at the Washington Convention Center for one of the District's largest soirees. "We're going to pull out the stops and have a good time," Scott told the Washington Times. At the head table: Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Republican Sens. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. They'll nosh on a menu including ravioli garnished with lobster and crayfish.

Mar 16, 2010

Pubcasting leaders speak out on National Broadband Plan

Reactions are in from the G4-- CPB, PBS, APTS and NPR -- regarding today's historic National Broadband Plan release. Excerpts:

CPB:
"In particular, we appreciate the Taskforce’s recognition of public media’s important role in serving our democracy, as well as our role in America’s broadband future. We also appreciate the Taskforce’s recognition that, if public media is to continue to fulfill our statutory responsibility to provide every American with free educational and cultural programming in the digital age, more funding will be necessary. The report presents many interesting opportunities as well as challenges, both for our country and for public media."

PBS: The plan "will make a significant contribution to ensuring a diverse, digital media landscape in which the needs of local communities and, in particular, children are well served. PBS and its stations have substantially expanded the distribution of educational, noncommercial content by transitioning to digital platforms, including free and universal digital television, streaming video on pbs.org and pbskids.org, interactive educational video games, and mobile services." It adds that the "continued development of a robust digital public media ecosystem would be enhanced by the creation of sustainable funding sources dedicated to this important work."

APTS: “APTS is grateful to FCC Chairman [Julius] Genachowski and Blair Levin, executive director of the Omnibus Broadband Initiative at the FCC, for their dedication to the National Broadband Plan, and their recognition of the importance that public television plays in the national landscape of public media,” APTS President and CEO Larry Sidman said in its statement. “As America’s public television stations evolve from broadcast-centric organizations to anchor community institutions that create and distribute digital content across all platforms, they can play a key role in driving broadband adoption and utilization.”

NPR: "Public radio is off and running in pursuit of the 'robust digital media ecosystem' the Commission references. Our launch of the API, ARGO and applications for mobile devices that ease access to public radio content are reflective of our intentions and ambitions. NPR and its partner stations are eager to work with the Commission, the Congress and others in achieving the expanded public service vision of the National Broadband Plan."

Free airfare, hotel for two attending PBS Annual Meeting

Congrats to station reps Kelly McCarthy of Vegas PBS and Michelle Dillard of KTXT in Lubbock, Texas, who won goodies for the PBS Annual Meeting May 17-20 in Austin, Texas. McCarthy now has an American Airlines voucher for her flights, and Dillard scored three complimentary nights at the Hilton Austin where the meeting will take place.

FCC backs pubcasting trust fund in new National Broadband Plan

The FCC's National Broadband Plan has arrived (background: Current, Sept. 21, 2009) with its advice to Congress for expanding broadband reach across America. The FCC has posted it in searchable form. It advises that 500 megahertz of spectrum be made available for broadband within 10 years, of which 300 megahertz should be made available for mobile use within five years. The much anticipated pubcasting trust fund is indeed included. Public broadcasters could give up spectrum (Current, Feb. 8) and those proceeds would endow a trust "for the production, distribution and archiving of digital public media." It continues: "There would be multiple benefits to public television stations who participate in this auction. First, it could provide significant savings in operational expenses to stations that share transmission facilities. Second, 100% of proceeds from the public television spectrum auction would be used to fund digital multimedia content. The proceeds should be distributed so that a significant portion of revenues generated by the sale of spectrum go to public media in the communities from which spectrum was contributed." Examples of successful pubmedia projects cited include WGBH for its Teachers' Domain, a free service offering digital resources for students and instructors; and WHYY radio in Philadelphia's partnership with the Philadelphia Daily News on the City Howl, a multi-media civic engagement blog.

State audit alleges Maryland PubTV didn't properly bid $2 million in contracts

In a report released Monday (PDF), the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits contends that the state's Public Broadcasting Commission spent more than $2 million dollars on services without a competitive bidding process or working through the Board of Public Works, both violations of state procurement requirements, the Associated Press reports. The commission operates the six Maryland Public Television stations. MPT executive v.p. Larry Unger declined to identify the firm in question to the AP. A response from the commissioners said they consulted with Maryland's Department of Budget and Management officials about the payments and that the vendor is one of several companies that have worked for the pubcasters. "Under the circumstances, MPBC believes it acted properly," they wrote. The Baltimore City Paper ran several of the auditor's comments and commission responses from the 33-page report, quipping, "Who says there's no drama in public broadcasting?"

Retooling NPR.org for Apple's iPad

NPR's web team is racing to adapt NPR.org for the technical requirements of Apple's new iPad, which launches on April 3. Kinsey Wilson, senior v.p. of digital media, reassures Apple enthusiasts that NPR.org will be "optimized" for the iPad experience: "Features like the NPR audio player have been given greater visibility and adapted for the unique technical requirements of this new platform; we've modified the navigation and made the site more 'touch' friendly; and we've improved the sponsorship experience." NPR is simultaneously developing a companion iPad app. "Until we see how everyone uses it, it's anybody's guess as to what the best experience is," Wilson tells Poynter.org. "We think the app will be more about browsing and listening...a little more relaxed, a little more serendipitous." Peter Kafka of the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital reports that the re-engineering of NPR.org is much more comprehensive than that undertaken by other big publishers.

Mar 15, 2010

APTS President Larry Sidman will step down April 1

Larry Sidman, president of the Association of Public Television Stations for the past year, will resign as of April 1, he told Current today.

AE to make broadcast history with Facebook premiere of "Earth Days" doc

PBS will score a broadcast first when American Experience posts its "Earth Days" doc on Facebook before its broadcast premiere, reports the New York Times. Mark Samuels, American Experience e.p., said the showing -- which will include PBS underwriting credits -- is an experiment. “It’s an opportunity, we think, to engage with a new audience, an audience that we may not be bringing to PBS Monday nights at 9 o’clock,” he told the paper. It'll hit the social networking site April 11, and TV on April 18. Fans on Facebook will also be able to interact there with Samuels as well as the film's producer, Robert Stone.

Dire "State of News Media" provides in-depth look at revamped "PBS Newshour"

"State of the News Media 2010," this year's annual report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, warns that the "the losses suffered in traditional news gathering in the last year were so severe that by any accounting they overwhelm the innovations in the world of news and journalism." The massive report includes an analysis of the revamped PBS NewsHour, which recently melded its online and on-air coverage (Current, Jan. 11). The show had a 0.8 for the 2008-09 season, flat from 'o7-08. David Sit, v.p. of NewsHour and MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, told researchers that excluding a $5.2 million grant for coverage of the 2008 presidential election, the program budget for the fiscal year ending June 30 increased 15 percent, about $3.5 million, to $27.7 million. The budget increase was primarily due to more corporate underwriting in the 2009-10 fiscal year, which went from $5.7 million in '08-09 to $10 million in '09-10. Sit also said that in February 2010, website traffic had increased about 30 percent in year-over-year comparisons. Video downloads also doubled.

Battle of the roadshows: Antiques vs. Treasure Hunters, Round 2

WGBH has filed a federal lawsuit in Illinois, alleging that the Treasure Hunters Roadshow violates the Antiques Roadshow trademark and participates in unfair competition and unfair business practices. “We believe there are many people who have been confused and the things such as the prominent use of 'roadshow' and the 'treasure chest' are leading to that confusion,” Eric Brass, corporate counsel for the WGBH Educational Foundation, told the Mount Vernon Register-News. WGBH had filed a similar suit in 1999 against the International Toy Collectors Association, the precursor to Treasure Hunters Roadshow; that was settled out of court. Matt Enright, v.p. of media relations for THR & Associates, told the paper: "You can’t trademark the name roadshow. ... They don’t know anything about our business. I think they’re scared because we have a new show coming out in the fall. We have a better show and exciting event that people enjoy.”

Virginia reduces pubcasting funding 15 percent over two years

Virginia's General Assembly adjourned yesterday after approving a two-year budget that slashes millions from various services in the commonwealth, including pubcasting, reports the Washington Post. Community Idea Stations, in Richmond and Charlottesville, get a 15 percent drop in funds over the next two years. States nationwide are targeting pubcasting as budgets dwindle (Current, Jan. 25).

NABET workers to protest NPR contract demands

Broadcast technicians will mount a protest outside NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., at noon today. The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians-Communications Workers of America is negotiating on behalf of 65 employees whose union contract expires this month. Members of the unit agreed to deep wage and benefit cuts to help alleviate NPR's budget crisis last year. The union is objecting to NPR's demands for the next contract, which include a wage freeze, benefit reductions and proposals to remove bargaining rights over benefits and eliminate more than half of the bargaining unit's jobs, according to the NABET website.

Mar 14, 2010

Broadcasters may have to pay mandatory fees for keeping their spectrum

Broadcasters who decline to turn over spectrum for an upcoming auction may face fees for their decision, according to Broadcasting & Cable. Citing an unnamed source who has seen the National Broadband Plan that will be presented to Congress this week, the fees would be another tactic used by the feds to encourage give back of spectrum for auction. The FCC is looking to shift 500 MHz from traditional broadcast to wireless use (Current, Feb. 8, 2010).

Mar 12, 2010

Former FCC Chair Hundt says decision to favor Internet over TV was made in '94

In a speech that he described as "confession or admission," former FCC Chair Reed Hundt yesterday told a Columbia University audience that his decision to favor broadband over broadcast goes back to 1994, and that the March 17 National Broadband Plan "will reflect ... the end of the era of trying to maintain over-the-air broadcast as the common medium and the beginning of a very detailed, quite substantive, commitment to having broadband, the son of narrowband, be the common medium,"according to TV News Check. He also said the plan "will have in it a specific pathway to shrinking the amount of spectrum that broadcast will be able to use. In all previous eras, the government has expanded the spectrum for broadcast so as to give it a chance to thrive as it moved from analog to digital. Now, it's going to be moving in reverse." He added that he found it "simply astonishing" that the feds assisted broadcasters through the digital transition last year by subsidizing converter boxes for viewers. "Those people would have been much better off getting a voucher for broadband Internet subscriptions." Watch his entire hourlong speech here.

Sesame Workshop, PBS, get passing grades on children's food marketing report card

Sesame Workshop has received a grade of C and PBS a C+ from the Center for Science in the Public Interest on their marketing of food to children. While that sounds "average," of 128 firms surveyed more than 95 received a failing grade. The nonprofit group's Report Card on Food Marketing Policies (PDF) examines whether companies that market food to children have adopted a policy on marketing, and the adequacy of that policy. During research last year the center evaluated several elements of each company's approach to children, including the strength of its nutrition standards, the scope of media covered by its policies, and definitions for “child-directed” media. The report said that PBS and Sesame Workshop had "good policies for restricting food product placement through its programs or other media outlets."

Programming veteran Ron Hull details his first production

Here's an interesting video interview from the collegiate News Net Nebraska with longtime pubcaster Ron Hull, a passionate advocate for cultural and historical programming who helped start American Experience. In the interview, Hull recalls his first foray into television. It was in the Army, just after the Korean War armistice was signed in 1953. While stationed in Oklahoma, Hull was approached by a general looking for someone to produce a half-hour show. "He said, 'What do you know about TV?'" Hull recalled. "I didn't even have a set." Hull went to the local library and researched scriptwriting, then called the local TV station. "I don't know what cameras can do," he told an engineer. "It's easy," was the reply. His show -- "I made it up out of whole cloth" -- featured the 87th Army band and interviews with soldiers just back from the conflict. His career went on to include 47 years at the University of Nebraska’s public TV network, as well as a stint as director of the CPB Television Program Fund. Since his retirement in 2002, adventures have kept him busy: He just returned from a tour through the Himalayas in a Toyota Landcruiser. Hull turns 80 years old in May.

Mar 11, 2010

Fred Rogers Center to host confab on educational technology

More than 60 national leaders in education, research, technology, policy and children’s media will meet March 22 and 23 at the Fred Rogers Center in LaTrobe, Pa., to explore using new technologies and media in education. Representing pubcasting at the Fred Forward Conference on Creative Curiosity, New Media and Learning (PDF) will be CPB, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, PBS and Family Communications Inc., Rogers' production company that carries on the educational legacy of Mister Rogers.

Satellite carriage bill passes Senate, could be law by Easter Congressional break

The Senate yesterday passed the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act. The Association of Public Television Stations had backed passage of the bill, which was known as the Satellite Home Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act when it passed the House on Dec. 3. The bills allow satellite operators to carry out-of-market network TV station signals for viewers who don't receive an adequate signal from their nearby stations. In a statement, APTS President Larry Sidman praised Congressional leadership. “Working together on a bipartisan basis with each other and with their counterparts in the House, they have crafted legislation that serves consumers interests.” Next up: A joint conference committee to hammer out any differences in the bills. The statement added that APTS hopes the bill will be signed into law before the Easter recess.

Reeling from funding losses, WQUB seeks partnership with commercial operator

WQUB in Quincy, Ill., plans to dismiss its professional on-air staff as of June 1 and turn most of its operations over to WGEM, a commercial radio/TV outlet affilated with NBC. Quincy University, WQUB's licensee, is reducing its $250k subsidy for the NPR News and music station but doesn't want to sell it, says Bob Weirather, g.m. "That is not in their mind at all. What we're trying to do is get more community support for the station." The station doesn't qualify for state funding because Quincy is a private university. Last year, it fell out of CPB funding criteria and lost half of its $90,000 Community Service Grant, according to Weirather. It also was disqualified from funding by the Illinois Arts Council. The relationship with WGEM, reported March 9 by the Quincy-Herald Whig, is under negotiation, but Wierather expects that WGEM's talent will announce programming and student interns will continue to host air-shifts. "Our programming will be unchanged, but the voices may be different," Weirather said. "We will still determine the programming and content." WQUB's 28,000-watt signal broadcasts to rural western Illinois and northeastern Missouri, reaching a potential audience of 119,000.

Mar 10, 2010

Pubmedia Chatters stifled by 140 characters now have Google Group

A Google group for pubmedia collaboration has sprung from the ongoing Pubmedia Chat Tweetfests on Monday evenings. Chris Beer, a web developer with WGBH Interactive, created the group to provide room for communication without a 140 character limit, he tells MediaShift. "I'm not particularly attached to the idea of a Google Group or a listserv, I just see a need for more collaboration outside of Monday at 8," Beer said. "Twitter is a fine medium for getting people talking, but I find it difficult to have a conversation, and I hope something like this can supplement the #pubmedia chat. I haven't found a place within public media to ask very practical questions around public media projects. Because setting something up takes all of five minutes, it seems silly not to experiment."

Madeleine Brand to helm new KPCC show

Pasadena's KPCC hired Madeleine Brand to host a new daily news magazine launching later this spring. The yet-to-be named show will bring a "distinctive Southern California perspective" to local and regional news and launch with a significant online component, according to a KPCC release. Brand, co-host of NPR's Day to Day until its cancellation last year, "has tremendous intellectual bandwidth, but doesn't take herself too seriously," said Bill Davis, KPCC president. The one-hour show will air at 9 a.m. PT, replacing BBC NewsHour. "Even though I'm part British and love the BBC, I think we need a little more California in that 9 am hour, and I'm excited to bring it," Brand said. On her twitter feed this morning, Brand quipped: Conan writers: Talk to me!

House committee approves bill to extend spectrum inventory deadline

The FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration would have four years instead of two to complete a spectrum inventory under a bill okayed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee today, reports Broadcasting & Cable. Rep. Rick Boucher, House Communications and Internet Subcommittee chairman and bill co-sponsor, has said he expects the FCC to wait until after the inventory to request or reclaim spectrum from broadcasters to meet growing demands for mobile device bandwidth. Any spectrum auction would leave pubcasters with a tough decision: Money soon, or frequency opportunities later (Current, Feb. 8).

"War room" was integral to Detroit PubTV's capital campaign efforts

A "war room" with white boards, dollar amounts and donor name targets helped Detroit Public Television/WTVS close out its 2009 $22 million capital campaign, station v.p. of development Kelley Hamilton revealed at a local nonprofit seminar this week. “In addition to the larger foundations, we had to go to the indigenous population of family foundations, largely unknown,” Board Chair Richard Rassel told Crain's Detroit Business. To encourage smaller donations, the station provided naming opportunities for everything from a light switch to the COO’s white board, cameras and editorial suites.

Idaho PTV dodges state funding phase-out

The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee of the Idaho legislature yesterday voted 19-0 to cut only 16 percent of Idaho Public Television's state funding, according to Associated Press. Gov. Butch Otter had previously sought a four-year total phaseout of funding. More good news: A House proposal would increase tax credits to IPTV and other agencies. “This would give more opportunity for donations, especially at the higher giving level, to see some positive tax credit,” IPTV G.M. Peter Morrill told the Idaho Reporter. The current limit for a tax credit is $100, that would increase to $500. The average gift to IPTV is $90.

NewsHour gets CPB grant for Student Reporting Lab

CPB has given the PBS NewsHour a $300,000 grant for a Student Reporting Lab project in six schools nationwide, reports Television Broadcast. From last month through January 2011, NewsHour journalists are providing footage, sources and mentors to the students, who will report on three topics. Their work will run on the NewsHour website and YouTube. A statement from NewsHour said the project will "examine how broadband connectivity, open-source platforms, and public media can help to produce an informed and engaged public."

South Dakota pubcasting faces 2 percent state funding cut

South Dakota is the latest state threatening cutbacks to pubcasting as part of overall budget tightening. A 2 percent cut to South Dakota Public Broadcasting might mean the loss of matching federal funds next year, according to the Argus Leader. The state budget is expected to run $36 million to $40 million; the Republican-led legislature has proposed $52.6 million in cuts and new revenues. The budget is scheduled to be finished today for consideration by the full Senate and House on Thursday or Friday. Pubcasters nationwide are facing similar cuts in state funding (Current, Jan. 25).

Mar 9, 2010

Wednesday webinar to explore Google broadband experiment

Pubcasters can learn more about Google’s Fiber for Communities during a webinar Wednesday sponsored by American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio and the National Center for Media Engagement. The project aims to test ultra-high speed broadband networks in one or more locations across the country. Intrigued? Log on at 2 p.m. Eastern to learn how to nominate your community with advice from Minnie Ingersoll, product manager of Google's Access team; Joanne Hovis, president of Columbia Telecommunications Corporation; Marnie Webb, co-CEO of TechSoup Global; Bernadine Joselyn, Director of Public Policy and Engagement for rural Minnesota's Blandin Foundation; and JoaquĆ­n Alvarado, veep for Digital Innovation for American Public Media. Register here.

In the Loop, a NextGen show from MPR, ends run

Minnesota Public Radio has canceled production of In the Loop, a show that migrated from the broadcast airwaves to engage its audience of young adults where they lived--in the realm of on-demand media and social networking web platforms. Hosted by the earnest and talented Jeff Horwich, ITL was smart, off-beat and entertaining. "I always appreciated ITL as a Skunk Works for the sub-Boomer set, full of sparky 'story slams,' interactivity and Horwich's funky but not frivolous news sense," writes MinnPost media critic David Brauer. Horwich explains as much as he can on this FAQ. Both Horwich and producer Sanden Totten have been reassigned to work on MPR's Public Insight Network.

Minnesota pubcasters, Georgia's WUGA targeted in state budget battles

“I don’t want to overstate the case, but this could lead to signals going dark,” Allen Harmon, g.m. of WSDE-TV in Duluth, says in this MinnPost report on Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposal to zero-out funding for public broadcasters in the fiscal year beginning July 1. The governor's spending plan would cut more than $2 million in general appropriations support for public broadcasting in fiscal 2011 and beyond. It hits Minnesota's six public TV stations the hardest, eliminating $1.361 million in general-fund appropriations. Community radio stations would lose $387,000; Minnesota Public Radio, $250,000; and, Twin Cities regional cable, $17,000. Pubcasters tell MinnPost media critic David Brauer that the Legacy Amendment funds they're receiving for arts and cultural programming won't make up the difference in lost general support. Meanwhile, the University of Georgia recently threatened to shut down WUGA-FM, a Georgia Public Broadcasting station located on its Athens campus, in a draconian budget-cutting plan unveiled last week. The station is part of the GPB Radio network but cuts away for local classical music and other programming. "It’s one of the signature stations in our network," said Nancy Zintak, GPB spokeswoman. The proposed WUGA shut-off is part of a controversial plan by the University of Georgia's financial planners to cut $600 million in spending. “This is like a death knell for public education, and we’re not going to stand for it,” a student leader tells the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "There's a little bit of saber-rattling and posturing and people are saying some dramatic things," Zintak told Current. "We have no idea how the legislature is going to come down on this." Zintak referred questions on WUGA funding to the university's press office, which did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Knight Foundation, FCC broadband summit brings together policymakers

Today the Knight Foundation and the FCC are sponsoring "America's Digital Inclusion Summit" at the Newseum in Washington, and satellite locations in Akron, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Philadelphia. Reps from an array of agencies and organizations advocating for universal broadband access are taking questions from the public at NewMedia(at)fcc.gov, or follow along at #BBPlan on Twitter. The summit is also streaming live and runs to 12:30 p.m. Eastern. Speakers include FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. (Photo: Robertson Adams, Knight Foundation) UPDATE: FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn has announced the agency's effort to create a Digital Literacy Media Corps, a nationwide outreach of computer training for persons in communities including low-income housing, rural towns, tribal lands and areas with many racial and ethnic residents. "Basic literacy must be supplementetd by digital literacy," Clyburn told the crowd. The Knight Foundation also announced a partnership with the FCC on an "Apps for Inclusion" Challenge, an offer of $100,000 from Knight to software developers who can provide easier online access to civic affairs information such as tracking Congressional voting records.

Mar 8, 2010

Broadcasters battle performance royalties while investment bankers court Pandora

The dispute over music performance royalties for radio airplay is heating up again, the New York Times reports. The MusicFirst Coalition, which represents record companies and artists, and the National Association of Broadcasters are duking it out via ad campaigns and old-fashioned lobbying. Talks between supporters and opponents, initiated last fall at the request of lawmakers, appear to have stalled. Meanwhile, the Times reports in a separate article, investment bankers are aggressively courting Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora. The Internet radio service reported its first profitable quarter last year, and usage among its 48 million listeners now averages 11.6 hours a month, according to the Times. "That could increase as Pandora strikes deals with the makers of cars, televisions and stereos that could one day, Pandora hopes, make it as ubiquitous as AM/FM radio."

Mar 5, 2010

Worldfocus to leave the air next month

WNET.org will discontinue Worldfocus [Word doc], its weeknight international news report as of April 2. The producing station was “a few million dollars short” of what it needed to keep Worldfocus on the air, President Neal Shapiro said in a release today. “We demonstrated that there is a demand for international news, but we had the misfortune of launching a brand new program into the teeth of the recession,” Shapiro said, adding, “… we were in the right place at the wrong time.” The station will put resources in its new weekly current affairs series Need to Know, which starts in early May, when Bill Moyers retires from his weekly show and Now on PBS ends its run. The station announced last week that Shelley Lewis, a former CNN and ABC executive producer, has that role for Need To Know. Lewis comes from Howdini.com, a how-to video website for women that she co-created; she also co-created Air America Radio and was its senior v.p. of programming. She was previously e.p. of CNN’s American Morning with Paula Zahn and Greenfield at Large, and before that was e.p. for ABC News Productions.

KUED sister agency receives broadband grant

Utah Education Network, a sister agency with KUED at the University of Utah, has received a $13.4 million federal Recovery Act grant to bring fast Internet service to 130 schools, libraries and other community institutions in the state, and it has been a partner with PBS in developing the Digital Learning Library. The state is putting in $3.5 million to match. UEN already serves 300 schools (its map). With the Utah grant announced last week, the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration had awarded grants totaling $610 million out of $7.2 billion allotted for NTIA- and Ag Department-funded broadband projects by the Recovery Act (this week's quarterly report to the House Commerce Committee). NTIA is accepting a second round of applications through March 15.

CJR delivers progress report on Vivian Schiller's agenda for NPR

“I’m not a command-and-control person,” Vivian Schiller tells the Columbia Journalism Review in a feature on her first year as NPR president. "I lead by building consensus." Schiller is addicted to her Blackberry, conducts lots of business via email and "has succeeded somewhat in piercing NPR's infamous bureaucracy," at least in the case of creating new business and reporting arrangements for Planet Money, the radio/online economics reporting collaboration with This American Life. CJR reporter Jill Drew also finds points of tension. Kevin Beesley, president of NPR's AFTRA unit, questions a "larding of the management ranks" with recent hires Keith Woods, v.p. of diversity, and Susanne Reber, deputy managing editor for investigations. "Beesley’s concern is that too much money is being spent on managers, leaving little to improve the lot of the people who create NPR’s content," CJR reports. And, among station leaders, not everyone has bought into Schiller's push for local-national collaboration in online news and fundraising. American Public Media President Bill Kling, for one, questions the campaign for mega-gifts that Ron Schiller, NPR senior v.p. of development, is planning. “If I found a $10-million donor and Ron Schiller came to town and said, ‘Let’s split that,’ I’d say no,” Kling tells CJR. “Here the most important thing to do next is to get Minnesota Public Radio up to its full potential in professional news collection and dissemination.”

Mar 4, 2010

State funding cuts pose "greatest immediate danger" to pubTV service in rural areas

Of all the public TV stations facing steep cuts in state funding this year, Idaho Public Television is among those in "greatest immediate danger," CPB Senior V.P. Mark Erstling tells Stateline.org. Idaho Gov. Butch Otter has proposed to zero-out the state network's funding over four years. For a station broadcasting to sparsely populated areas, there's no way to make up the difference with corporate underwriting or member donations. “You can really see a potential loss of service,” Erstling says. "We don't have enough funding to bail out all the stations that are coming to us asking for help and saying they're in financial distress." To adjust to the loss of $1.6 million annually, Idaho Public TV will have to cancel most of its local programming, close three studios and shut off its network of rural translators, among other service changes.

Mar 3, 2010

Smiley organizes panel this month to discuss "black agenda"

PBS talk host and activist Tavis Smiley may have recently ended his annual State of the Black Union events, but this month he's once again bringing together African Americans to press the case for a "black agenda," reports the Associated Press. Smiley told the AP he felt compelled to organize the discussion after statements from some black leaders downplaying the need for President Barack Obama to specifically help the African-Americans community. Scheduled to speak during the March 20 panel discussion at Chicago State University are advertising pioneer Tom Burrell, professors Michael Eric Dyson and Cornel West, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, and Bennett College President Julianne Malveaux. The gathering may be broadcast.