Advertisement

Sep 30, 2010

Potential LA-area consortium stations meet

Execs from the four Los Angeles-area PBS affiliates considering a collaboration met Wednesday (Sept. 28) to discuss a restructuring plan, according to the Los Angeles Times. No update on the continuing countdown to the possibility of primary station KCET going independent as of Jan. 1, 2011 (Current, Aug. 5, 2010). Heads of KCET, KOCE, KVCR and KLCS got together at KOCE in Huntington Beach. "We're not spending a lot of time thinking about what this consortium would be like without [KCET] because we hope they're still part of it," said Larry Ciecalone, president of KVCR in San Bernardino. The group hopes to meet again in November. Meanwhile, KCET has shifted Masterpiece from Sunday to Thursday, drawing the ire of Los Angeles Times TV columnist Mary McNamara.

PBS North to premiere mental-health series tonight

An ambitious 18-part series of call-in shows on mental health premieres tonight (Sept. 30), produced by WDSE/WRPT PBS North, serving northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. The 30-minute Speak Your Mind, airing Thursday nights, aims to openly discuss mental health topics, increase public awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness. It’s hosted by psychologist Dr. Caroline Phelps and former local news anchor Pat Kelly. Topics include depression, managing stress, family issues, learning and behavioral problems in children, anxiety and eating disorders.

For 28 years the station has done Doctors on Call “to give the community the language they need to communicate with their doctors,” Juli Kellner, WDSE director of production and programming, told Current. “Just now we are moving into mental health and attempting to demystify that.”

The premiere will present the documentary “Look It in the Eye,” by filmmaker Dan Woods of Superior, Wisc., featuring two families confronting mental illness. Following the film, a panel of mental health professionals will answer viewer questions.

The project is produced in cooperation with the mental-health focused Human Development Center in Duluth, Minn., which provided funding, Kellner said. Local businesses also pitched in for supplies to build the set.

STEM Collaborative joins four pubTV stations in middle-school work

Four pubTV stations are joining in a STEM Collaborative to help middle-schoolers in science, technology, engineering and math, the stations announced today (Sept. 30). But this is no dry and dull initiative. Students will use geometry, algebra and proportional reasoning to build a skateboard ramp, measure a roller coaster, whip up recipes and plan a rock n' roll tour. Maryland Public Television, Alabama Public Television, Arkansas Educational Television Network and Kentucky Educational Television will develop the digital-media projects. Math By Design, Scale City, ProportionLand Park and Rock n' Roll Road Trip are all online at stemcollaborative.org, along with supporting materials for educators.

Still no decisions for New Jersey Network

New Jersey Network staffers, state officials, professors from Princeton and Rutgers, civic and union leaders and viewers and listeners spoke Wednesday (Sept. 29) in Trenton at yet another hearing on the future of NJN, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. The paper quipped that the 11-plus hours of testimony "were as static and repetitive as the network’s nightly programming." After the hearing, the 10-member task force seemed no closer to deciding how to wean the network from its state subsidy (Current, July 6). They're facing a Dec. 31 deadline, but even that may now be in doubt. NJN interim executive Janice Selinger said a treasury official told the network that the administration would be willing to extend that. Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex), the task force chairwoman, was not pleased. "The administration appeared to give some kind of commitment after January?" she asked Selinger. "As what board meeting and when?" The report of the bipartisan task force is due Oct. 15. It will recommend the process for converting the state-run NJN into a private entity. In his March budget address, Gov. Chris Christie said the state can no longer afford to support the network.

Sep 29, 2010

PBS, other broadcasters suing TV programming provider ivi

Several major broadcasters, including PBS, and other content providers filed a lawsuit in New York federal district court against ivi TV on Tuesday (Sept. 28), alleging copyright infringement, reports Broadcasting & Cable. ivi sells an app that allows subscribers to watch programming as broadcast from various stations for $4.99 a month. It says it can do so because it is an online cable provider but does not fall under the definition of a cable system as far as the need to negotiate retransmission consent from individual stations. The signals from WNET/Thirteen in New York City and KCTS in Seattle are being broadcast by ivi, which uses a teaser on its website that says, "Watch the Berenstain Bears on PBS!" An ivi spokesman told Current that it's adding new markets every 45 days, with Los Angeles and Chicago next. WNET and WGBH were signatories in recent cease and desist letters to Ivi.

Knight-sponsored courtroom project considers transparency vs. privacy

WBUR's Order in the Court 2.0, winner of a $250,000 Knight News Challenge grant, is working to set best practices for effective ways to cover courts using digital technology. It's moving ahead to create an area in the Quincy (Mass.) District Court for live blogging and live-streaming of the court's proceedings, along with a website for its daily docket. But all this raises issues of privacy vs. public interest. Project creator John Davidow, also exec director of WBUR.org, writes on MediaShift that he and his team met last week with Judge Andre Gelinas, a retired justice on the Massachusetts Appeals Court who is now special adviser to the chief justice for administration and management for information technology. They're tackling big questions: Would photographing alleged victims of domestic violence keep them from coming forward? How should discussions of a defendant's mental illness be handled? Should the project's video be archived? "The meeting made it clear that the work of Order in the Court 2.0 will be a useful resource for other projects that want to provide greater access to our nation's courts," Davidow said.

PBS viewers continue cleavage debate

The Great Sesame Street Katy Perry Cleavage Kerfuffle continues, with Team Perry taking the lead. PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler said that after an initial spate of disapproving letters, "mail to me is running heavily in favor of Katy and her dress." That would be the golden bustier-topped frock that sparked all this in the first place. (Check it out on YouTube, where her perky dance with Elmo is up to 4.3 million views.) One letter to Getler summed up the vibe: "Get a grip, prudes."

And speaking of cleavage, did you see Perry's now-notorious Elmo shirt sketch on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live? That video's up to 2 million hits. Warning: Kinda racy.

Pacific Islanders' "One Voice" takes to the skies

A 15-minute segment of One Voice, the latest doc from Minority Consortia group Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), is soaring high over the Pacific this month on Hawaiian Airlines. It's featured on the airline's "Hawaiian Skies" in-flight programming. The movie tells the story of the Kamehameha Schools Song Contest through its student directors. Every year, around 2,000 high schoolers compete in the competition, where teen leaders direct groups in Hawaiian four-part harmonies. The movie's local Facebook followers who correctly answer weekly trivia questions on the song contest win prizes and are eligible for a two-night stay at the Waikiki Beach Hotel for the Hawaii International Film Festival screening of One Voice on Oct. 15; folks overseas can win two roundtrip plane tickets from the continental U.S., American Samoa or Guam for the fest, which runs Oct. 14-24.

UPDATE: Amber McClure, content coordinator for PIC, reports from Honolulu that about 150 trivia contest entries have come in so far. "Many alumni of Kamehameha Schools have expressed their appreciation for the trivia questions and the opportunity for them to reminisce, reconnect with friends on Facebook, and look forward to the upcoming screenings of the film," she said. "We’ve also gotten comments from fans of Hawaiian music and dance from around the world, which has been really touching."

Sep 28, 2010

After three extensions, Peconic meets deadline with cash to buy WLIU's independence

With the help of $300,000 from two major donors and a bank loan of up to $337,000, WLIU-FM management is now prepared to buy the station's independence from longtime licensee Long Island University. The new nonprofit licensee, Peconic Public Broadcasting, said today it assembled the remaining $637,000 of the purchase price. Earlier this year, Peconic came up with a $213,000 down payment.

Six supporters guaranteed the $300,000 loan from Bridgehampton National Bank. Peconic plans to pay down the loan with its ongoing capital campaign. After assuming ownership, the station will be able to seek capital donations on the air for the first time, a spokesman said.

Though the station has a small translator at mid-island, most of its listeners live in the resort communities on the island’s eastern tip, where it faces competition from translators of larger Connecticut public radio stations. The university will be paid after the FCC license is transferred.

State broadcasting group takes precautions for Vegas PBS live campaign debate

Vegas PBS will produce the only live televised debate in the extremely contentious race between U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and GOP challenger Sharron Angle. And the Nevada Broadcasters Association is already ramping up security for the Oct. 14 event, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During the last campaign event Faith Lutheran High School, a fistfight broke out in the audience. Bob Fisher, president of the state association, said it is limiting each candidate to 12 accompanying persons instead of 40 to accommodate security as well as local, national and international media requests to cover the debate. There will be no public audience. Also, the relatively small studio contains expensive broadcast equipment. "We cannot afford to have an accident on live television," Fisher said. "It is a safety issue." The debate will run live statewide at 6 that evening, moderated by Mitch Fox, host of Nevada Week in Review.

Vegas PBS told Current in a statement: "Vegas PBS has been conducting political debates for almost 25 years and during that time created a process that is efficient and fair to the candidates participating in the debate.  The unfortunate episode that occurred during the Faith Lutheran event has no bearing on Vegas PBS' decision to not open the U.S. Senate, Gubernatorial or Congressional District 3 debates to the general public. These debates will be carried live on Vegas PBS channel 10 and it was always our intent that our audience view these debates via our website at VegasPBS.org or on television. Vegas PBS has always planned for adequate security to ensure the safety of our candidates, media and others participating in the democratic process.  We stand by our proven processes and procedures to produce quality and informational debates for our viewing audience."

NewsHour announces new science unit under former CNNer Miles O'Brien

PBS NewsHour isn't resting on its recent Emmy laurels. It's hired former CNN reporter Miles O'Brien to head a new science unit, reports the Associated Press. He'll be joined by producer Kate Tobin, also from CNN, and reporter Jenny Marder, reassigned from the NewsHour's national affairs unit. O'Brien left CNN in 2008 when the network disbanded its science and technology unit. NewsHour's science unit is being funded through a $350,000 grant from two foundations and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. More here.

Ten Indian stations among 31 signal expansion projects aided by NTIA

Thirty-one projects got matching Public Telecommunications Facilities Program grants to bring first public radio or TV service to a total of 500,000 people. Ten new stations will serve Indian reservations. Others will broadcast to communities as large as Honolulu, Portland (Maine) and Philadelphia. In all, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced yesterday it will spend $20.45 million in this year's grant round. NTIA committed $10 million for equipment replacement at 72 stations, $5.1 million for starting new stations and extending service, and $4.1 million for converting station facilities to digital — 16 in TV and three in radio. See lists of radio, television and nonbroadcast projects assisted.

Harvard professor who helped develop Sesame Workshop model dies at 84

Former Harvard professor and chairman of the Children's Television Workshop's board of advisors, Gerald Lesser, died Sept. 23, according to the Harvard Crimson. He was 84. His tenure with the Workshop, forerunner of Sesame Workshop, lasted from 1969 to 1996.  “He was instrumental in building the Sesame Workshop model, which was the bringing together of educators and researchers to work directly on a production process,” said Charlotte Cole, vice president of international education, research, and outreach at Sesame Workshop. “They were actually members of the production team.” Lesser had a great sense of humor, recalled Joseph Blatt, his former student and now director of Harvard education school's technology, innovation, and education masters program. "When I first saw a Harvard professor laugh out loud at Cookie Monster, I was hooked,” Blatt wrote in a tribute, “and as Gerry’s friends and students will understand, I learned that you could do important work while wearing sneakers everywhere.” Lesser's book, "Children and Television: Lessons from Sesame Street" was published in 1974.

Independent Filmmaker confab session definitely not "butt-clenchingly boring"

POV Series Producer Yance Ford moderated last week's (Sept. 19-23) Independent Filmmaker Conference panel with the intriguing title, "Cage Match: Filmmaking or Social Activism?" Journalist Tom Roston reports on the POV blog that in the session, Nick Fraser of BBC Storyville lamented the sorry state of the documentary medium, blaming funders for no appreciation for form, aesthetics, storytelling, or, as he put it, anything that is not "butt-clenchingly boring." But wait, Fraser wasn't done: "Doc makers are so desperate that if [Nazi Joseph] Goebbels was providing funding, there'd be a queue lined up around the block." As Roston quipped, "Fraser led by example by showing that a panel about documentary film can indeed be entertaining and a hell of a lot of fun."

Former NPR voice Ketzel Levine goes to the dogs

When NPR correspondent Ketzel Levine was laid off in 2008 after 30 years with the network, "the shock left me numb," she writes. "The numbness was a blessing. Until it wore off." Now the network's former Doyenne of Dirt has shifted her attention from nurturing plants to saving animals, she reveals in the latest All Animals magazine from the Humane Society of the United States. Several months ago, Levine says, she decided to travel to Ecuador — because she knew nothing about it. She enrolled in a language school in Cuenca, and volunteered at the animal shelter a few blocks from there. Walking between her apartment and school she got to know the local street dogs, "the Rasta-haired terrier mixes, the skinny, long-legged hounds, the happy packs of Mutts and Jeffs racing between cars." Through that experience, and her animal rescue work post-hurricane Katrina, " I began to sense a certain inevitability about where I was headed: the great wide world of animal activism, including rescue, welfare, and animal rights." So far she's raised a third of the budget for the ARCA (Activism, Rescue and Conscience for Animals) dog refuge in Ecuador. Check out more adventures in her blog, Kick 'N' Screamin' to Vegan.

PBS takes third place in News and Documentary Emmy Awards

In what the Hollywood Reporter is calling "an upset," both CBS and NBC beat out PBS, the usual top winner, for most News and Documentary Emmys at last night's (Sept. 27) ceremonies. CBS won seven; NBC, six; and PBS, five.

Nevertheless, PBS was well represented during the evening. The prestigious Chairman’s Award went to the PBS NewsHour. Roger Mudd, former Washington correspondent for CBS News, NBC News and the McNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS, presented the award to Robert MacNeil, Jim Lehrer, longtime executive producer Les Crystal, and current executive producer Linda Winslow. (Don't miss MacNeil's commentary on the award on the show's Rundown blog.)

PBS President Paula Kerger presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Frederick Wiseman "one of the most accomplished documentarians in the history of the medium," according to the Academy. Many of Wiseman's docs have aired on PBS. Perhaps the filmmaker's most famous work is 1967's groundbreaking and controversial "Titicut Follies," a graphic look at conditions inside the State Prison for the Criminally Insane at Bridgewater, Mass.

PBS winners:

-- Frontline won three Emmys: Investigative journalism in a news magazine for for "Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground" (by Frontline/World); continuing coverage of a news story, long form, "A Death in Tehran"; and investigative journalism, long form, "The Warning."
-- Bill Moyers Journal won for historical programming, long form, for "The Good Soldier."
-- POV took a statuette for science and technology programming for "The English Surgeon."

Visit the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences site for a full list of winners.

Sep 27, 2010

"Smiley & West" partners up pubcaster and Harvard professor

Public broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Cornel West are co-hosting the new radio show Smiley & West, premiering Oct. 1. The program was announced Sunday (Sept. 26) at the Public Radio Programming Conference in Denver. On the weekly hourlong PRI offering, Smiley and West will talk current affairs, politics and cultural news, especially focusing on stories not covered by the mainstream media. A segment titled "Take 'Em to Task" will let listeners interact with the two. The show concludes with a 30-minute conversation among the co-hosts and celebrities, politicians and other newsmakers. First up: New York Times columnist Frank Rich, and comedian, actor and writer Garry Shandling.

Imagine all the people!

The American Masters presentation of "LENNONYC" will have a free screening on Oct. 9, which would have been Lennon's 70th birthday, in New York City's Central Park. Onstage Sept. 24 to announce the event were New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Lennon's widow Yoko Ono and Neal Shapiro, c.e.o. of WNET/Thirteen. The screening will be at 7 p.m. (grounds open at 6) at Rumsey Playfield near the 69th Street and Fifth Avenue entrance, rain or shine.“LENNONYC,” written and directed by Michael Epstein and executive produced by Susan Lacy, premiered at the New York Film Festival on Sept. 25 and airs nationally Nov. 22 on PBS. Visit Thirteen.org for more on the Central Park screening.

Sep 24, 2010

Public media for young Angelenos: it's more than news

"For our target audience, entertainment is the gateway drug to news," said Nicole Childers of L.A. Public Media (LAPM) when she unveiled LA>Forward, the first content offering of Radio Bilingue's service for a new generation of young adults in Los Angeles. Childers, chief content officer of the CPB-backed start-up, presented the website and the research that informed its design Sept. 24 during a session at Public Radio Program Directors conference in Denver. The multimedia website launched Sept. 16 with coverage of news, entertainment and sports--key topics defined during seven months of research led by Paragon Media Strategies. Short-form video is key to reaching young Angelenos, Childers said, and she screened several that reflected the balance her editorial team is trying to strike between cultural relevance, news that directly impacts the lives of young Latinos, and passion for sports. LAPM is initially targeting Latinos but plans to expand its reach to other ethnic minorites, all of whom want a media service that represents their experiences as Angeleos and "the melting pot that is L.A.," Childers said. "We consider entertainment to be the lure for those in our target audience who would not ordinarily come to the site if we only offered news and information," she explained. The PRPD session was moderated by Paragon's Mike Henry and also featured two contemporary music stations making inroads in reaching younger, college educated adults, The Current in Minneapolis and Radio Milwaukee. Henry's presentation is downloadable here with free subscription to Paragon's website.

Here's a map to the public media network universe, without all those annoying folds

Do you feel caught in the kudzu of the public media 2.0 ecosystem as entities network and proliferate? Check out "A Guide to Rising Public Media Networks in the U.S.," courtesy of Jessica Clark at the Center for Media, via the MediaShift blog.

Library discovers film gems in PBS collection, turns over copies to British Film Institute

The Library of Congress is turning over to the British Film Institute more than 68 rare recordings from 1957 to 1969 that were discovered in the Library's National Educational Television Collection, reports the Government Video website. NET was the forerunner to PBS. PBS had donated its film and video holdings, some 20,000 reels, to the library through WNET/Thirteen in New York. For many years, NET imported a host of British teleplays and comedies -- still popular on PBS today. One gem that is typical of the collection: Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens in “Much Ado About Nothing,” stage-directed by Franco Zeffirelli, from 1967. “In the archival world, television repatriations are exceedingly rare," said Mike Mashon, head of the library’s Moving Image Section. He said the library is “delighted” to make high-quality preservation copies of those programs and share them with the BFI and the British public. “In the meantime, we’ll keep looking for more lost shows.”

Sep 23, 2010

PRSS posts a new version of its "Public Radio Resource Guide"

The Public Radio Satellite System has updated its “Public Radio Resource Guide," listing everything from technology and equipment services to training, funding and underwriting, membership organizations and conferences. “There is an overwhelming volume of information online of interest to the public radio community," Pete Loewenstein, NPR v.p. for distribution, said on the Radio World website. "Our new guide is an effort to put some of this information in a format that’s easier for stations and producers to access." And it's free.

WGBH's Dot Diva hopes to increase computer geekiness in young women

 The Sept. 27 launch of Dot Diva, a new initiative co-sponsored by WGBH to get young Massachusetts women interested in computing, is already sold out. The kickoff will be at the Microsoft New England Research & Development Center in Cambridge and feature an interactive fashion show, tech music demos, an "Artbotics" art installation and local college fair. It's funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to increase the number of college-bound girls studying for a career in computer science. Women are still underrepresented in the field, according to WGBH. The station, along with co-sponsors ACM (the Association for Computing Machinery), NCWIT (the National Center for Women & Information Technology), conducted a national online survey of more than 1,400 college-bound high school students, ages 13-17; that research indicated a significant gender gap in attitudes toward computer science.

NETA heading for Music City USA in January

Grab your guitars, the NETA Nashville 2011 conference registration is now officially open. Once you've registered for the January event you can visit the confab's Facebook page. Not sure what that means? Then you'd better stop by the conference Social Media Help Desk while you're at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel. That's a new kiosk that will be "staffed by friendly experts in the use of Facebook, Twitter, texting and all sorts of handheld devices, ready with advice or a helping hand."

WNET.org partners up for "At the Paley Center" interview show

Angela Lansbury, Jimmy Fallon, Brian Williams and Joel Grey are among celebrities set to appear on At the Paley Center, a new interview series produced by a partnership of Paley Center for Media and WNET.org’s Creative News Group, the two announced Wednesday (Sept. 22). Hosted by Pat Mitchell, president of the Paley Center and past president of PBS, returns to the network as host. Each half-hour program in the six-part series features a conversation with someone who has made a significant contribution to media, particularly television. First up is actor/activist Ted Danson on Oct. 1 (above, with Mitchell; image: Michael Priest Photography). Episodes of At the Paley Center will stream online after each week’s show. WNET.org/Creative News Group’s executive producer for the show is Mary Lockhart, with Stephen Segaller and Neal Shapiro as executives in charge.

Columbia U selects NPR's Siegel for John Chancellor Award

NPR's Robert Siegel, senior host of All Things Considered, will receive the 2010 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism, Columbia University announced today (Sept. 23). Siegel was chosen "in recognition of his extraordinary career at NPR where he has engaged millions of listeners with journalistic rigor and professionalism for more than 30 years," the announcement said. A nine-member committee selected Siegel for the award, which comes with a $25,000 prize. The honor will be presented Nov. 6 at a dinner at Columbia University’s Low Library in New York.

Autobiography by NPR's Michele Norris tackles tough memories

"The Grace of Silence," the new book by All Things Considered host Michele Norris, reveals painful parts of her family history, reports the Christian Science Monitor. While researching her ancestors, she discovered that soon after her father came back home to Alabama after World War II, he was grazed by a policeman's bullet. Norris said the title refers to her father's attitude after that incident. "He was part of a generation of black men and black veterans who were marginalized in the military and society and had every reason to be angry. It was easy to see how they'd become malcontents and grouse their way to their end of their lives. Instead, they decided to live these lives of utter rectitude. They set aside their personal grievances in order to help America become a better place, and that is an incredibly graceful act."

Break out those pink iPods for the NewsHour

PBS NewsHour's Jim Lehrer spoke on a panel Wednesday (Sept. 22) addressing "The Death of Old News" at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, reports the Las Vegas Sun. Lerher talked about how the program is partnering with news websites including ProPublica, GlobalPost and NPR to reach a broader audience.“I couldn’t care less if someone is watching the program on their pink iPod, just as long as they are watching,” Lerher said. The event was sponsored by the Black Mountain Institute, a center for writers and scholars at the university.

Pop star Katy Perry a little too "Hot" for Sesame Street

Katy Perry's snug-fitting gold bustier proved a bit much for her appearance on Sesame Street. Her "Hot & Cold" music video with Elmo has been pulled from an upcoming show, Us magazine reports. Sesame Workshop told the gossip mag that the decision was made following "feedback we've received" after the video went up on YouTube. It's since been removed from Sesame's YouTube channel, but is still available through Perry's channel. (Oh and by the way: Look closely and you'll see there's flesh-colored netting up to Perry's neck topped by a dainty bow.) The pop singer debuts on Sesame Street on Dec. 31.

Forget CliffsNotes, just call the pubcasting Homework Hotline

Starting Oct. 4, West Virginia students get help with their homework for free, says the Register-Herald in Beckley, W.V. The Homework Hotline show, approaching its 20th year, airs Mondays through Thursdays on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. It started out by offering assistance to students while the show was on the air. Now, teachers often later correspond with the kids by e-mail or phone to ensure everyone gets help. "The teachers that work with the show are very dedicated," said Dennis Adkins, executive director of West Virginia Public Broadcasting. "They stay and answer questions long after the cameras are turned off.” According to PBS, last year Hotline helped nearly 1,150 students who called from all over West Virginia and nearby states.

Candidate says request to alter speech for airing on WGTE showed bias

The Republican candidate for Lucas County (Ohio) auditor on Wednesday (Sept. 22) accused Toledo's WGTE-TV/Channel 30 of favoring the Democratic incumbent, according to the Toledo Blade. Gina Marie Kaczala said she was told by a WGTE production assistant that part of her two-minute campaign speech for broadcast was "inappropriate." Kaczala later discovered that the assistant's brother-in-law is on the staff of the incumbent, Anita Long. Marlon Kiser, president WGTE, denied Kaczala's charges. He said that part of her speech was negative, and the station does not allow attack statements in its candidate statement segments. Kiser told the paper that a station attorney who specializes in Federal Communications Commission regulations advised him to allow Kaczala to read the speech, which she did.

Sep 22, 2010

Television tower free-climb video generates talk among broadcast engineers

A seven-minute video of a free-climbing tower technician "has the broadcast engineering community abuzz," says the TV Broadcast website. Free climbing "meaning no safety lines are used,” the narrator says. “It’s easier, faster, and most tower workers climb this way. . . . Free climbing is dangerous, of course, but OSHA rules do allow for it." But a source in the story says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not consider free climbing an acceptable technique. In the video, an engineer takes an elevator to 1,600 feet, then free climbs the rest of the way to the top of the 1,768-foot TV tower. It was shot from a camera attached to his helmut. The engineer is not identified. Pubcasting engineers may recall Leo Deters, an industry veteran who worked for Iowa Public Television, whose 2006 death in a fall from a station tower is mentioned in the story.

Heat continues on university official who canceled TPT airing of agriculture doc

University of Minnesota Vice President Karen Himle, who pulled the plug on a documentary that was to run on Twin Cities Public Television in October, is being asked to resign by a sustainable agriculture advocacy organization, according to the local Star-Tribune. Himle canceled the broadcast of "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story," which was produced by the university. The paper reported that Himle is married to John Himle, c.e.o. of Himle Horner Inc., a PR firm that represents the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, an agribusiness advocacy association; he denied any role in the cancellation. The Land Stewardship Project is calling for her to step down. Himle has not spoken to the press but said through a university spokesperson that she made the decision after hearing concerns from faculty members about the science behind the film, which deals in part with agricultural pollution. University President Robert Bruininks issued a statement supporting Himle.

KET head bows out of Birthright fundraiser

Shae Hopkins, executive director of Kentucky Educational Television, has dropped out of a fundraiser for Birthright of Lexington, which provides assistance to women with unplanned pregnancies, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Unfortunately, a normal vetting process of this event was not taken," KET spokesperson Tim Bischoff told the newspaper in a statement. "Although Birthright International has a philosophy of avoiding direct involvement in political advocacy, after further consideration and out of concern that her participation could lead to the perception that she and/or KET are endorsing a particular cause, Ms. Hopkins has decided not to participate." Hopkins was scheduled to be a celebrity auctioneer for the nonprofit's Bid & Buy 2010 event on Nov. 6.

What are the odds?

It's a good thing Ken Burns brought his glove to the Orioles-Red Sox game in Boston on Tuesday (Sept. 21). Yup, he snagged a foul ball. Burns is on one of his amazingly energetic promotional tours (Current, Oct. 13, 2009) for his latest PBS doc, Tenth Inning, which airs Sept. 28 and 29.

Local flavors to new pubradio shows on KPCC, Public Radio Delmarva

"I want this show to always have one piece in it where someone listens to it and says, 'You know what I heard on the radio today?' and talks about it at the dinner table," Madeleine Brand says in a Los Angeles Times feature on the Sept. 20 debut of her new morning show for KPCC in Pasadena. "Intellectually stimulated and delighted at the same time," she says. "My goal is for it not to be reheated broccoli." The Madeleine Brand Show airs weekday mornings at 9 a.m. -- the same timeslot as Day to Day, the NPR newsmagazine that Brand cohosted until its cancellation last year. "The point of view is now unapologetically a Southern California point of view," KPCC Program Director Craig Curtis tells the Times.

Meanwhile, a pubradio outlet on the opposite coast just launched two new weekly programs. Public Radio Delmarva, which is competing against two distant pubradio stations that recently added stations on Maryland's Eastern shore, today debuted a show helmed by Marc Steiner, founder and former host of Baltimore's WYPR, On Delmarva. Last weekend the saucy Saturday broadcast 2 Boomer Babes, which pubradio "program doctor" Jim Russell had a hand in developing, began its run. 2 Boomer Babes previously aired on a commercial station.

KCET and WETA present awards on Cap Hill to child-care providers

Seventeen child-care providers were honored on Capitol Hill yesterday (Sept. 21) in ceremonies sponsored by KCET and WETA. It's the third such outreach event for KCET's A Place of Our Own and Los Ninos en Su Casa. Members of Congress helped present the awards, and PBS President Paula Kerger spoke. The child-care providers previously were selected as "Caregivers of the Week" by their local pubcasting stations.

New social media outlet for NPR

NPR's social media team launched the NPR Tumblr, a short-form blog that will feature photos and quotes that play to the strengths of the blogging platform. Tumblr launched in 2007 and has more than 8 million users; it's distinguished by its visual appeal and the ease with which users can post and share photos, text, links, music and video. In today's first post, featuring an arresting image of a monarch butterfly, NPR's Andy Carvin cites Fresh Air's Tumblr as the inspiration for the network's foray onto tumblelogging. In July, NPR hit a major social media milestone when its Facebook page surpassed one million fans.

Two major pubTV stations among 11 broadcasters protesting content use by ivi

WNET, WGBH and nine other broadcasters are signatories to several cease and desist letters to the Seattle startup ivi, which is selling Internet access to their live TV signals. And ivi has responded by filing a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment of Copyright Noninfringement (PDF) in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday (Sept. 20), in what it calls "a preemptive move to discourage needless litigation from big media." All that then prompted the National Association of Broadcasters to issue a strongly worded statement Tuesday (Sept. 21). "It is blatantly illegal to steal broadcasters' copyrighted works and signals," said NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton. "We strongly support broadcasters and their program suppliers in their efforts to combat copyright abuse and signal piracy."

The controversial company captures and encodes live television signals then routes the encrypted signals through an app to be viewed by consumers via a Windows, Macintosh or Linux computer. Mobile devices, tablets, and set-top-box integration are coming soon, according to ivi's website -- which includes the promo line, "Watch the Berenstain Bears on PBS!"


In addition to WNET and WGBH, broadcasters that sent letters of protest to ivi and are named as defendants in ivi's suit are: NBC-Universal, CBS, Disney, ABC, The CW Television Stations, Inc., Fox Television, Major League Baseball, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, and Fisher Communications.

A spokesman for ivi declined to tell Current if it has yet paid WGBH and WNET for content, and if so how much and when and how the payments were made. "Payments will be made in accordance with law," Hal Bringman said. He also declined to say how many users ivi currently has. The service launched Sept. 13.

UPDATE: WGBH has provided Current with this statement: "WGBH’s position is that unauthorized commercial exploitation of our copyrighted material, and the creative and financial resources that went into their production, is illegal. WGBH is working closely with WNET on this issue to protect public television programming assets."

Sep 21, 2010

Ira Glass on "The Simpsons"? As Montgomery Burns would say, "Excellent."

Rumor has it that Ira Glass of This American Life is making a cameo appearance on the season premiere of The Simpsons. "Elementary School Musical" also co-stars . . . Jemaine and Bret. All you Flight of the Conchords fans may commence squeals of joy, while you Ira Glass fans continue your enthusiastic applause.

"State of Public Television" report: Haven't hit financial bottom yet, CPB Board hears

The CPB Board today (Sept. 21) heard an ominous "State of Public Television" update that predicts that licensees haven't yet seen the worst of declines in state support, underwriting and philanthropic giving.

CPB management commissioned Public Radio Capital for a systemwide analysis of fiscal year 2008 and FY2009 to assess pubTV station solvency. During that time, non-federal funding fell 16 percent. Although federal support to stations increased, aggregate revenues "continued their steep downward trend," the report said. Community licensees saw a 22 percent decrease in corporate underwriting, with national producing stations particularly impacted. Individual philanthropy is down 11 percent regardless of licensee type or station size.

And according to CPB, three more stations have requested assistance through its Stations in Financial Distress program: WTCI/Tennessee Valley PBS in Chattanooga, Tenn.; WOUB in Athens, Ohio; and WMFE in Orlando, Fla. (UPDATE: In a statement to Current, WMFE President Jose A. Fajardo said, "WMFE-TV/FM has not filed for CPB's Stations in Financial Distress program. We have inquired about the program and have discussed this option with CPB, but have not officially filed any paperwork with CPB. To state so is premature.")

The only relatively positive news was that following their deep budget cuts, most pubTV stations "appear to have adequate levels of short-term cash to meet current obligations" — however, those reserves are down by an average 10 percent. Also, the number of stations with high levels of longterm debt is on the decline.

In other news, the board:

— Tabled a recommendation by the Community Service Grant policy review panel to raise the NFFS requirement to receive a CSG from $800,000 to $1 million (see story in the latest Current, Sept. 20). The board considered tackling the complex issue at its next meeting in November, or in a telephone meeting. "If this were a perfect world this would be done in a month and stations would know for budget planning purposes," Chairman Ernest Wilson said, "but my hunch is this will stay at $800,000 for the next year." The board also tabled the panel's suggestion for $2 million in additional funding for "minority qualified stations," pending a definition of those grantees and research into the legality of the set asides. The board passed the remaining CSG panel recommendations, most of which supported current policies;

— Approved CPB's request to the Office of Management and Budget for a $495 million advance appropriation for FY2014, up $35 million from the probable FY2013 funding; and $48 million for FY2012 digital support, up $12 million from that FY2011 appropriation;

— Heard from CPB President Pat Harrison that the corporation continues discussions with the Federal Communications Commission for its "Future of the Media" report due out in January 2011. That will contain FCC policy recommendations, Harrison said, "including possible revisions to the Public Broadcasting Act, which would have implications for CPB and public media."

— And received an update on the American Archive initiative from board member Bruce Ramer, who said law students at several universities in California, including Stanford and UCLA, are assisting the project with research on the tricky issue of copyright clearance for the massive amount of historic pubTV and radio content currently being inventoried.

"Big Uneasy" over NPR's response to Shearer film

Was NPR's decision not to devote more airtime to Harry Shearer's documentary on New Orleans--even if it was paid for as underwriting--a case of censorship, quibbling over credit language, or fainthearted journalistic commitment to covering problems with the levy system constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers? All three theories played out over the blogosphere after Shearer wrote for the Huffington Post about his difficulties in getting NPR's newsmagazines to report on his documentary The Big Uneasy and in placing underwriting spots promoting its Aug. 30 debut. "NPR has decided its initials stand for nothing," Shearer wrote, taking a jab at the network's recent decision to abbreviate its name on-air. "What the network itself stands for at this moment sounds a lot like censorship."

NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard looked into Shearer's complaints last week and found that his desire to promote himself from a guest on Talk of the Nation to Morning Edition or All Things Considered, the NPR shows with the biggest audiences, were misguided--and complaining about it in the Huffington Post was disingenuous. "But NPR has devoted extensive coverage over the past five years to Katrina and the aftermath. And NPR did cover Shearer’s new film – just not in the way he wanted it," Shepard wrote [emphasis in original]. His beef with NPR's legal team could have been avoided, she wrote, "if both sides had been willing to compromise."

But another public radio journalist/blogger, Molly Peterson of Southern California Public Radio's KPCC, says Shepard was too quick to defend NPR's post-Katrina coverage of New Orleans. Peterson ought to know--she's reported extensively on the failures of the levy system in the award-winning series Pumps Under Pressure. Like Shearer, she offered her investigative story to NPR and was rebuffed. "It is not generally speaking the custom of the station-based public radio reporter to out their inner workings with freelance pitches, particularly to NPR," Peterson writes in response to the "silly flap" over Shearer's censorship complaints. "I’ll make an exception to say that NPR was offered these pieces, or segments thereof, or a conversation about them. The message I received was that they had their own coverage plans, and anyway, there had been enough about Katrina around that ‘versary."

Bob Collins, author of MPR's News Cut blog, also has been following the controversy and generating lots of comments. Collins admitted last week that his initial blog post was too quick to dismiss Shearer's complaints about NPR, and he challenged Shepard to reengage in the online discussion.

University cancels ag doc to ensure it's "scientifically sound"; was to air on TPT

The decision by the University of Minnesota to cancel broadcast of the documentary "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story," continues to generate controversy. The film, exploring agricultural pollution and possible solutions, had been set to air on Twin Cities Public Television on Oct. 5. The story was broken by the Twin Cities Daily Planet, a local news site.

University News Service director Daniel Wolter told the Daily Planet that the Bell Museum is responsible for halting the release. That's part of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences, and where the film was to premiere on Oct. 3. "We are an academic and science-based institution, and we want to ensure a production like this is scientifically sound," Wolter said. The film's director, Larkin McPhee, told the Daily Planet in an email: "I do not understand why the University postponed the film's broadcast. I am, along with many others, awaiting explanation from the U."

But now the Star Tribune is reporting that Barbara Coffin, head of the film unit at the Bell Museum, calls the situation "our messy internal confusion." She adds: "Unfortunately, an impulsive late-hour decision to pull the film from broadcast was made without wide internal discussion."

Sep 20, 2010

HoustonPBS selects Torres-Burd as executive content director

Patricia Torres-Burd is the new executive director of content at HoustonPBS/KUHT, the licensee announced today (Sept. 20). She will develop and coordinate local, national and international content initiatives across multiple platforms. She previously worked as g.m. at Locke Bryan Productions, a film and video company. Between 1995 and 2008 she was with several international broadcasting ventures including Latin America Broadcasting and RTV B92 in Serbia. She also previously worked at the station as unit director and series producer from 1991 to 1995.

Management deal a likely outcome for WBFO in Buffalo

Two Buffalo pubradio licensees may be moving toward a licensee management agreement under which independent nonprofit WNED would operate the university-owned WBFO, the licensees announced Sept. 15. SUNY’s University at Buffalo, which owns the stronger news station, WBFO, “is committed to remaining as the license-holder for WBFO and its repeater stations,” according to the joint statement. But the university also wants to reduce its contribution to operating costs. When its station manager took another job last fall, the university didn’t hire a permanent successor. The two are continuing “cordial and collaborative” talks and expect to conclude them by year’s end, the statement said.

At least two dozen universities, squeezed by the recession, have also been considering the licensee management agreement option, or consolidating their stations with others, or selling them outright, according to a July survey by pubradio’s University Station Alliance. That was the situation reported by 26 stations, or nearly a fifth of those responding to the alliance survey.

Search is on for new NPR ombudsman

NPR is looking for a new ombudsman, reports the Ombuds Blog ("News and Information For and About Organizational Ombuds"). The blog says it's "one of the most high-profile News Ombuds in the U.S., and not the type of position for which there is often a public search." Current Ombudsman Alicia Shepard was appointed in October 2007 for a three-year term. Think you have what it takes to explain the network and its news-gathering issues to the public? Click here for more information and to apply.

Sep 17, 2010

Former Florida pubcaster now heads International Broadcasting Bureau

The U.S. Senate on Thursday (Sept. 16) confirmed Dick Lobo, former c.e.o. of WEDU in Tampa, Fla., as director of the International Broadcasting Bureau, reports the St. Petersburg Times. He'll oversee Voice of America and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which includes Radio and TV Marti; he ran the Cuba office in 1994 and '95 under President Bill Clinton. The International Broadcasting Bureau is part of the larger Broadcasting Board of Governors, which distributes programs in 59 languages (check out Alhurra Television, serving 22 countries in the Middle East). "We're trying to get out unfettered news and information about what our country's role in the world is," the 73-year-old Lobo said.

Kling supports net neutrality in letter to FCC

In a five-page letter Thursday (Sept. 16), outgoing Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media founder Bill Kling advises the FCC to ensure a “reasonable cost structure” and redirect Universal Service Funds (currently subsidizing phone access) “toward investment and innovation” for public broadband, reports MinnPost.com's David Brauer. Kling, who announced his retirement Sept. 10, predicts that "public media’s largest audiences in 10 years will be in automobiles with mobile Internet 'radios.' … As the 2011 model cars emerge with mobile Internet 'radios,' ISPs and device manufacturers are moving demand from broadcast to wireless broadband."

Kling also suggests that the FCC require ISPs that develop private broadband networks "carry all relevant applications and programming from Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) qualified public service media organizations at no cost to the content producer." This, he writes, will allow "consumer preference" to determine what amount of network capacity is set aside for public service content. Potential rules could require On-demand HD video services to carry PBS applications serving content from such programs as Frontline, Masterpiece and PBS Kids along with other local pubTV shows. "Even private gaming networks could benefit from the noncommercial games developed by or for public service media organizations," he noted.

Kachingle update: Not much to report

Remember Kachingle (Current, Nov. 23, 2009)? Seven months ago when the online micropayment service launched it was touted as a potential savior for cash-hungry online news entities. But Columbia Journalism Review checks in and doesn't find a lot of money Kachingling around. The Kachingle medallions are on about 300 sites but none are major news organizations. The nonprof local news site Chicagotalks has received about $50 total from its 15 “Kachinglers.” The multimedia producer Common Language Project has received $66.70 from 16 supporters.

Current checked back with a couple sources from our November 2009 story. "We think Kachingle has a lot of potential, and we have discussed with them how we might implement the service on MinnPost.com. For the time being, we decided to delay implementation," said Karl Pearson-Cater, operations director. And Teri Lamitie, WGBH's director of online marketing, said, "We haven’t tried it. I’d still like to give it a shot."

NJN, legislature unsure of strategy for network departure, paper says

Hearings continue on the fate of the New Jersey Network. A 10-member panel heard testimony Thursday (Sept. 16) at Stockton College in Pomona on a proposal to cut all state funding to the New Jersey Network's public radio and television and spin it off as an independent entity. "But after the second of three hearings, it was clear that neither lawmakers nor NJN executives had a solid strategy about turning the broadcaster into a money-maker," writes the the Press of Atlantic City. At the meeting, Janice Selinger, acting exec director of NJN, said the network assumed that the legislature and governor would come up with a plan. Because that's not clear, "I'm investigating what models in other states have been successful." The final public hearing is Sept. 23 at the Municipal Building in Montclair.

Sep 16, 2010

PBS needs to run American-made fiction programming, writer says

Where's the quality American dramas and comedies on PBS? That's what writer David Pierotti is wondering in the latest Independent online mag of indie production. He admits there is indeed fiction on PBS, but "it all comes with an accent. Every show references 'queues,' 'lorries,' 'bobbies,' 'bangers,' 'blokes" and 'bollocks.'" Why, he asks, "must the public station of the United States of America rely upon Britain’s hand-me-downs like some destitute street urchin?"

He also has a few suggestions, including PBS creating, say, a Law & Order: Pittsburgh. "Why can’t a community entertain its audience while supporting, encouraging and facilitating the development of local talent?"

Pierotti said he's not asking for a "dumbing down" or "injection of crassness" into PBS, "but rather an expansion of its identity. Because let's face it, the current programming lacks daring or originality."

President announces STEM Video Game Challenge, co-sponsored by Cooney Center

A competition co-sponsored by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop was announced by President Obama today (Sept. 16) at the White House, according to a press release from the center. The National STEM Video Game Challenge is part of the administration's “Educate to Innovate” campaign. The contest aims to motivate interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) via students’ passion for playing and making video games. "I applaud partners in the National STEM Video Game Challenge for lending their resources, expertise, and their enthusiasm to the task of strengthening America’s leadership in the 21st century by improving education in science, technology, engineering and math," the president said. Other competition sponsors include Microsoft, the American Library Association and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Lost in space? Check out pubcasting network's online geospatial project

Penn State Public Broadcasting’s interesting online series, “The Geospatial Revolution Project,” went online Wednesday (Sept. 15) to explore how geospatial information transforms lives. As the site says: "Geospatial information influences nearly everything. Seamless layers of satellites, surveillance, and location-based technologies create a worldwide geographic knowledge base vital to solving myriad social and environmental problems in the interconnected global community." The first of the four episodes focuses on how the technology aided first responders during the Haitian earthquake relief efforts. The 13-minute video explains how it all works, gives a brief history of the evolution of mapping, and ends with the practical application of crisis mapping and crowdsourcing used after the earthquake. Future episodes arrive Nov. 2; Feb. 1, 2011; and March 15, 2011.

Public Media Corps uses Cool Spots as hot spots for Wi-Fi and data

Public Media Corps (PMC), the New Media Institute's initiative to extend broadband adoption into underserved communities, has been plugging along since its launch in June in Washington, D.C., reports the MediaShift blog. The 15 fellows and their institutional partners are working in four neighborhoods of predominantly African American, Latino and immigrant communities. Part of the effort focuses on "Cool Spots," or mobile Internet access hubs, said Jacquie Jones, executive director of the National Black Programming Consortium, which is overseeing the work. "The fellows set up [Cool Spots] at block parties, festivals and outdoor markets and events where the public uses netbooks onsite to complete online surveys and learn more about the PMC," she said. "The Cool Spots are also 'hot spots' with free Wi-Fi to promote broadband use." Later this month (September) the PMC will use the data collected at Cool Spots to select three to four projects for the fellows and community partners to collaborate on.

HistoryMakers heading back to school for its 10th anniversary

The HistoryMakers, the largest archive of African-American recorded interviews in the world -- many airing as PBS specials -- is celebrating its 10th anniversary by partnering with schools nationwide. Starting Friday (Sept. 17) dozens of personalities included in the interview archives will be visiting their former classrooms to discuss their lives and stress the importance of education. Participants include former U.S. Senator and Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun, returning to her Paul Robeson High School; former Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes, speaking at the former school that was renamed for him and his brother, Carl and Louis Stokes High School; and actress Marla Gibbs ("The Jeffersons") going to Angela Mesa Elementary School in Los Angeles. In all, HistoryMakers will be speaking in 25 states and 50 cities.

Brand's new show from L.A. bows on Monday

A new morning newsmagazine will debut on Pasadena's KPCC on Monday (Sept. 20) --The Madeleine Brand Show, airing weekdays at 9 a.m. Brand, a former NPR correspondent and Day to Day co-host, will helm a one-hour program that covers news "using story-telling techniques familiar to radio listeners, but mixed together in a new way," according to a news release. The show team includes Kristen Muller, who joined KPCC from CBS; Sanden Totten, previously a reporter and producer for Minnesota Public Radio's In the Loop; and, Steve Proffitt, who was senior producer on Day to Day, one of two Los Angeles-based programs that NPR canceled last year. Producers plan to cover a mix of hard news and lifestyle topics: politics, business, food, art & culture, entertainment, popular culture and parenting.

Sep 15, 2010

Phoenix pubTV debate clip gets nearly 2 million hits on YouTube

The opening of a KAET gubernatorial debate earlier this month -- in which current Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer repeatedly stumbles over her words and then simply stops speaking -- is approaching 2 million hits on YouTube. KAET g.m. Kelly McCullough told Current that someone saw the debate, posted the minute-long portion on YouTube, local TV stations took note, then CNN, MSNBC and Fox followed. By that time the clip was the fourth most-watched on YouTube, and McCullough was hearing from folks as far away as London. "It's a good example of the multimedia nature of the world," as McCullough noted. The Sept. 1 debate is just one in this year's Vote 2010 series. The Phoenix station produces the "Clean Elections Debates" for its election web page and longtime pubaffairs show Horizon.

NewsHour helps amputee to dance again

A PBS NewsHour producer has helped a Haitian amputee receive a prosthesis, says the TV Newser, a blog in the MediaBistro network. Dancer and choreographer George Exantus lost his right leg below the knee while trapped in rubble following January's devastating earthquake in Haiti. After viewers saw his story on NewsHour, they wanted to assist. Producer Merrill Schwerin got Freedom Innovations to donate an artificial limb and now Exantus is dancing again.

Tower problems delay launch of new classical station

Launch of Tampa's new all-classical station WSMR has been delayed due to technical problems at its tower site, according to the Bradenton Herald. "We are very disappointed about this," says Joanne Urofsky, general manager. WUSF Public Media, which acquired the license to broadcast on 89.1 MHz in Sarasota this summer, didn't delay the format switch for its FM station in Tampa, which now devotes its daytime grids to news programs and nights to jazz. The classical service debuted today as an HD Radio channel of WUSF and as an Internet stream. Urofsky hopes that engineers will put WSMR-FM on the air within the next couple of days.

Pew paper explores how app-happy cell phone users are (hint: well, sorta)

A new Pew research report reveals that while 35 percent of U.S. adults have apps on their cell phones, only 24 percent actually use them. "The Rise of Apps Culture" released Tuesday (Sept. 14) by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Nielsen also shows that app use scores at the bottom of a list of what people do with their phones, just 29 percent. Taking photos is atop that list, at 6 percent . Other cell-phone uses include texting, 72 percent; accessing the Internet, 38 percent; and sending or receiving e-mail, 34 percent. Games, news/weather, and mapping apps are most popular. The research was conducted via a telephone survey of 2,252 U.S. adults age 18 and older between April 29 and May 30, 2010. The sample included 1,917 adult cell phone users, 744 of whom were contacted on those phones. The 46 page-study is online here (PDF).

Revamp continues at KIXE in Redding, Calif.

Big changes are under way at KIXE in Redding, Calif. Philip Smith, who came on as g.m. in July, is restructuring the station and has done away with the positions of corporate support, production manager and community affairs coordinator, reports the local Record Searchlight. Smith plans to immediately hire a development director to handle the corporate support and community affairs duties. The production manager’s position will be redefined to include work that is much broader than traditional TV production, Smith told the paper; that new hire is several months off. In a programming change in August, KIXE dropped Democracy Now!, sparking a local controversy. Before he arrived at the station, Smith spent four years as senior vice president of operations at Austin, Texas-based KLRU-TV.

FCC brings online its database of licensees

The Federal Communications Commission is now offering a searchable online license database, the commission announced today (Sept. 15). FCC License View lets users peruse more than 3 million FCC licensees, around 2 million of which are active. Search by licensee name, call sign or FCC registration number to reveal interesting facts such as: WGBH holds 58 licenses.

ITVS film event on Capitol Hill draws attention to violence against women

The Independent Television Service is bringing the PBS film "Pushing the Elephant" to Capitol Hill Thursday (Sept. 16) to raise awareness of violence against women and girls around the globe, according to ITVS. Speaking after the film will be its subject, Congolese refugee Rose Mapendo, who escaped from the genocidal war in the Democratic Republic of Congo in February 2000. PBS President Paula Kerger also will address the audience on the network's role in bringing new and underserved voices to viewers. The event, at 8:30 a.m. in the Rayburn Office Building, is in cooperation with Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-Illinois) and Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas). A coalition of NGOs including Amnesty International, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, Women Thrive Worldwide and Refugees International are co-hosts.

Sep 14, 2010

Ex-NFCB president to receive Parker Award

Carol Pierson, former president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters, will receive the Everett C. Parker Award at the United Church of Christ's 28th annual Parker Lecture in Ethics and Telecommunications on Sept. 29 in Washington, reports Broadcasting & Cable. The event was created in 1983 to recognize the media activist's work as an advocate for public rights in broadcasting. Presenting the main lecture this year is FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. Pierson is being honored for her 30-year career in public broadcasting and her work to help ensure that pubcasting serves people of color and other underserved communities.

Future of NJN now up for debate

The first of three hearings to decide the fate of the New Jersey Network are under way today at the statehouse, reports the Bergen Record. Gov. Chris Christie (R) has proposed ending the state's $11 million subsidy and transferring NJN's operations, licenses and equipment to a nongovernmental entity, most likely an independent, nonprofit (Current, July 6, 2010). So far, Democrats are emphasizing the need for a statewide television network; Republicans agree but are stressing the state’s fiscal difficulties.

APM partners up for Carolinas Public Insight Network

The Charlotte Observer, American Public Media and the Charlotte Viewpoint website last weekend (Sept. 11) launched its citizen-sourced Carolinas Public Insight Network. It's a confidential database of volunteer news sources, according to the site. "You connect with our newsroom through the Web, and then agree on occasion to receive an e-mail asking for your insights and expertise," explained Observer editor Rick Thames. Longtime Observer editor Cindy Montgomery is heading up the effort.

CPB's Bole to speak at FedTalks tech conference

Rob Bole, CPB's v.p. digital media strategy, is among the speakers at the Oct. 12 FedTalks 2010, a D.C. confab that bills itself as "a gathering of 500 of the most influential government leaders, industry executives, and media giants of our time, brought together to share their thoughts on how technology can change government." Other speakers include Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post; Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist; and Chris Kemp, chief technology officer of NASA.

Classical WSMR goes on the air Wednesday

Sarasota's WSMR debuts Wednesday (Sept. 15), bringing 24-hour classical music to South Florida, according to the Bradenton Herald. Renovations continue on its $150,000 studio at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee. WUSF in Tampa recently purchased WSMR for $1.275 million on a 10-year loan from the University of South Florida Foundation, an affiliate of its licensee (Current, Aug. 9, 2010). WUSF-FM will be news in the daytime and remain jazz at night. The performance studio at USF is designed for television, video and radio production and live performances; work is expected to be done in late December. JoAnn Urofsky, general manager of WUSF Public Media, told the paper, “This is going to be a very big change.”

East Tennessee adds PBS to name

East Tennessee Public Television is now East Tennessee PBS, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel. "To cover our large viewing area of more than 925,000 households in East Tennessee, we've added two broadcast towers over the years, which is why we have two sets of call letters: WKOP in Knoxville and WETP in Sneedville," said Teresa James, ETPBS g.m. The station had been using the former name for more than 40 years.

Sep 13, 2010

Getler, PBS ombudsman, wades deeper into Nova climate-change controversy

"Warning: This Is a Long Column," writes PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler. It's his second piece on viewers raising questions about the financial support of billionaire David H. Koch for Nova's "Becoming Human" series. The issue is a complicated one, with Nova raising the ire of several letter writers by using a Smithsonian scientist to address the issue of climate change, when the Smithsonian's David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins was founded by Koch -- who is a skeptic that global warming is occurring.

Pubcasters get part of Knight Foundation's $3.14 million for 19 community initiatives

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today (Sept. 13) announced $3.14 million in matching grants for 19 more community-based projects as part of its five-year Knight Community Information Challenge. More than 75 other initiatives have been funded so far.

Several public broadcasters are recipients or partners in this third round of funding, including:

-- Hiki No, PBS Hawaii, $240,500: To create a statewide student news network linking middle and high schools across the islands. Called Hiki No, Hawaiian for “can do,” the journalism network, in partnership with the PBS affiliate, will produce newscasts on air and online.

-- NOWCastSA/Texas Week, KLRN-TV, San Antonio, $205,500: Local news site and previous challenge winner, NowCastSA, will partner with the PBS affiliate to increase the site’s visibility and use.

-- Alaska Public Telecommunications Inc., $175,500: The state’s public radio and TV stations will create an online news hub to host hyperlocal blogs and virtual community “think tanks” on arts and culture, Alaskan natives and local business. Organizers will make a special push to include the voices and contributions of rural Alaskans.

Pew finds blending of digital and traditional news sources in media consumption

Instead of replacing their traditional news outlets, Americans are actually integrating new technologies into their media habits, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. More than 36 percent of Americans got news from both digital and traditional sources the day before they were surveyed, which is just under the number who relied solely on traditional sources, 39 percent.

And news audiences are drawn to different sources for different reasons, the survey points out: Headlines, entertainment, in-depth reporting, views and opinions, or a combination. For regular NPR listeners, for instance, "no single reason stands out as to why people watch, read or listen," the survey says. Some 28 percent of regular NPR listeners cite several, or all, of the reasons listed, while nearly as many say they listen for the latest news 21 percent or for in-depth reporting 20 percent.

Another interesting finding: Men and women differ in their news consumption on digital platforms. Around 50 percent of men and 39 percent of women get news on the Internet and mobile technology on any given day. Men are more likely to get news by cell phone, email, RSS feeds or podcasts than are women; men and women are equally likely to get news through Twitter or social networking sites.

The biennial news consumption survey was conducted June 8-28 on cell phones and landlines among 3,006 adults; more on methodology here.

WNET puzzled by use of its content on new live TV app from Seattle's ivi

The Seattle based ivi today (Sept. 13) launched an app that it claims will provide subscribers live access to more than 20 channels including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, the CW and PBS for $4.99 a month. One catch: Networks that are "involved" with this that were contacted by the Wrap entertainment and media news website knew nothing of their inclusion, much less had even heard of ivi.

"Clearly, ivi is operating in a legal gray area," the Wrap said. "It argues that its status as a cable company allows it to have servers set up in several markets -- initially New York and Seattle -- that receive transmissions of television signals that originated with other servers and then retransmit them through their app. Yet, because it is online only, ivi maintains it is not governed by the Federal Communication Commission and consequently does not have to pay retransmission fees in the way that a Comcast or Cablevision would."

WNET's programming is included in the schedule on ivi's website. Kellie Specter, spokesperson for Thirteen in New York City, told Current: "WNET doesn't have a partnership with ivi, so we're not sure why our content would be in their channel guide or listings."

Kevin Dando, PBS's director, digital and education communications, also told Current that PBS has no relationship with ivi.

On its website, ivi explains: "Since 2007, ivi has been hard at work innovating the way to bring TV online with the professional quality the very word television entails. ivi has patents pending for its content protection and consistent television viewing technologies, and is bringing TV online, wherever you want to be."

Sep 12, 2010

Happy 50th, KPBS!

Supporters of the San Diego State University licensee will gather for a private gala Tuesday night (Sept. 14) to celebrate the Golden Anniversary, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. PBS NewsHour's Judy Woodruff will speak, and the station will announce its KPBS Hall of Fame's first 13 inductees, honoring station pioneers and key donors. And the paper reports that a $3.2 million renovation of the newsroom begins soon. (All that news generated several online comments, including one that said in part: "KPBS is a fistula of lies from the white upper middle class coupled with the moronic linkage to a failing community college that pretends to be a university." Well.)

Sep 11, 2010

Rolling Stone magazine calls Frontline's Lyman "The Voice"

Frontline's authoritative baritone, that uber-narrator Will Lyman, is one of Rolling Stone magazine's "Best Characters and Most Memorable Scene-Stealers" for the fall TV season. Rolling Stone dubbed him "The Voice." As Frontline Executive Producer David Fanning told the mag, "Will Lyman could read the phone book and make it feel like it's important to the country." Other honorees include Leopold "Butters" Scotch from South Park and the awkward teenage vampire Jessica on True Blood.

Kentucky network lays off 13 staffers

Kentucky Educational Television last week (Sept. 9) laid off 13 employees, the Lexington Herald-Leader is reporting. Network spokesperson Tim Bischoff declined to identify the employees. The paper said KET's full-time staff is now 152, down from 223 during fiscal 2008. "That's clearly left some voids in very critical positions," he said. Bischoff noted that KET operating revenue has declined from from $27.8 million in fiscal 2008 to a projected $23 million for fiscal 2011. In that same time, state general funds to KET have fallen from $15 million to $12 million.

Sep 10, 2010

Guess who's coming back to his original home on PBS?

Legendary film critic Roger Ebert returns to Chicago's WTTW, original home of the pubcasting fave At the Movies, in January 2011 with Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. This time around, Ebert is producing. Co-hosting will be Christy Lemire, film critic of The Associated Press, and Elvis Mitchell of KCRW's The Treatment. In addition to reviewing new releases, the two will comment on new media, classics, on-demand viewing and genres, and there'll be more on the show's website. The program will use the famous (and copyrighted) "Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down" format invented by Ebert and his longtime collaborator, Gene Siskel, who died in 1999.

Kling to retire from MPR, build regional news initiative

Bill Kling will retire from Minnesota Public Radio and the American Public Media Group, the public radio network and national production company that he founded, built and ran for more than 40 years, APM announced today.

Kling, whose commitment to improving public radio service for listeners extended beyond Minnesota and encompassed both news and music formats, plans to leave APM in June 2011 to develop a new initiative aimed at building public media's regional news services.

"Most c.e.o.s count their years in office on the fingers of one hand," said Randall Hogan, MPR and APM board chair and c.e.o. of Minnesota-based Pentair, Inc. "Bill has twice run out of fingers and toes to mark his years of service but is nowhere out of ideas, commitment or passion."

"Journalism is at a crossroads and it's clearer every day that public media has a bigger role to play," Kling said. "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to collaborate with public broadcasting leaders across the country on ideas to strengthen public media's regional newsgathering capacity."

"Sooner or later there has to be a transition, so this is the time when you would want to do it," Kling said in an MPR NewsQ story. "We have a balanced budget. We have a surplus this year. You wouldn't want to do it under difficult circumstances, so I think that makes sense."

The APM board has already initiated a search for Kling's successor by appointing a special committee and retaining an executive search team to identify internal and external candidates for the c.e.o. position. "We expect our search will attract a range of exceptional candidates--from within the company and elsewhere--who understand the landscape, who see the opportunities and who appreciate the special culture and team that has made 44 years of success possible and that is also key to our future," said Ian Friendly, chair of the succession committee and c.o.o. of U.S. retail for General Mills, Inc.

Additional links: Kling's 2007 benediction to Public Radio Program Directors conference, "Why haven't we grown more?"

Sep 9, 2010

Did your pubTV site make Beer's list?

Take a gander at a few of the best web sites in pubTV, as per pubmedia blogger Chris Beer, who's also a developer with WGBH Interactive. Sites Beer liked the most had "a mix of good design aesthetic, highlighted local content, and some element of current-ness."

Writers Guild members approve four-year pubTV contract

Made-for-Internet programming is covered for the first time under a new collective bargaining agreement unanimously approved by the Writers Guild of America for public TV writers. A guild statement Wednesday (Sept. 8) also said the contract preserves payments for digital reuse. WGA employees working at WGBH, WNET and KCET will receive rate increases of 2 percent in the second year and 2.75 percent in the third and fourth years of the four-year agreement. Writers at "numerous other, smaller production companies that produce content for PBS" are also covered, according to the statement.

Political junkies, rejoice: NewsHour now has a web page for you

PBS NewsHour has posted a new web page, PBS NewsHour Politics, with stories, video and analysis on daily political developments. There's a morning blog, top 25 political Twitter feeds and interactive calendar of political events. The program's David Chalian, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff will also be there in a web-only Monday daybook previewing news of the week.

CPB's Curren among international broadcasting heads speaking at IBC

CPB Chief Operating Officer Vinnie Curren joined BBC Trust Chairman Michael Lyons, European Broadcasting Union Director General Ingrid Deltenre and NHK Japan Vice President Yoshinori Imai for a keynote session Wednesday (Sept. 8) to open the huge annual IBC media confab in Amsterdam. Indian Television reports that Curren spoke on the importance of localism to public service broadcasters, and cited Wisconsin Public Television's LZ Lambeau (Current, June 7, 2010) as one good example. The IBC calls itself "the premier annual event for professionals engaged in the creation, management and delivery of entertainment and news content worldwide." More than 45,000 participants from 140 countries attended last year's meeting. It runs through Sept. 14.

Mississippi pubTV head departs in wake of Fresh Air controversy

Judith Lewis has resigned as executive director of the Mississippi Authority for Educational Television, nine weeks after Mississippi Public Broadcasting abruptly dropped Fresh Air from its radio schedule July 8, citing “recurring inappropriate content” in the show. In the announcement of her departure, the Authority Board of Directors said it is in the process of filling the position. "Business as usual continues at MPB," it added.

The July 8 move was the the second time in nine months that MPB had yanked Gross’s cultural talk show from the air (Current, July 26, 2010).

Also, an MPB reporter's leak to a local alternative paper of the internal memo discussing the Fresh Air situation cost him his job. Carl Gibson sent the memo from his newsroom computer. The memo revealed that the network canceled the show within 24 hours of the broadcast of the interview in question.

WAMU news decisions not influenced by p.d.'s relationships, Mathes says

In a statement issued yesterday, WAMU General Manager Caryn Mathes responded to the perceived conflicts of interested cited as examples of questionable journalistic ethics in Tuesday's Washington Post.

The Post pointed to personal and business relationships of Program Director Mark McDonald, who is married to Melinda Wittstock of Capitol News Connection, a D.C.-based news bureau that produces news segments airing on WAMU. He also operates Pundit Media Consulting, a media training service. McDonald disclosed the conflicts of interest in accordance with WAMU policy and is recused from all editorial and business decisions regarding Capitol News Connection, and his consulting practice is separate business from Pundit Productions, the parent company of CNC that Wittstock owns, Mathes said in the statement.

Post media reporter Paul Farhi also pointed to WAMU commentaries by Brooks Rainwater, director of local relations for the American Institute of Architects, who received media training from McDonald's consultancy. Rainwater "independently" pitched his commentaries to WAMU News Director Asendio, Mathes said. "The audition was successful, and three commentaries from Mr. Brooks Rainwater were used. WAMU 88.5 editorial decisions are made independently."

"WAMU 88.5 management states unequivocally that neither Mr. McDonald’s marital relationship nor his personal business have influenced or impacted station coverage," Mathes said.