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Oct 29, 2010

Does the future hold a digital-age Corporation for Public Media?

Check out "An open letter to the FCC about a media policy for the digital age," by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Coll, now president of the New America Foundation, via Columbia Journalism Review. One of Coll's ideas, for CPB: "I’ve heard suggestions that new funding should be linked to more pluralistic formulas, including a restructuring of CPB to encompass new digital entrants, such as ProPublica, for example, or local sites like the nonprofit Voice of San Diego — a change that might be signaled by renaming the entity as the Corporation for Public Media. That may be ambitious politically, but it is certainly the right strategic direction. Any new funding regime should be measured by whether or not it will produce more serious, independent, diverse, public-minded reporting."

"Any new funds routed through a reformed corporation should come with conditions. One should be that that PBS, NPR, and their member stations have incentives to work across digital media, and to embrace local reporting to a much greater degree than they do now (which is not much, overall; only 478 of the 901 stations airing NPR programming have staff of any kind, and only a fraction of those have a local news staff). The stations should also be given incentives to connect their audiences to other non-profit and commercial media outlets through open systems, just as web aggregators do, in order to strengthen innovators and new entrants."

KQED now on Google TV, too

San Francisco's KQED is the first pubTV affiliate, as well as first local TV station, to be featured on the new Google TV, the station revealed today (Oct. 29). Google TV allows viewers to use a standard remote-control to search and view Internet programs on television. KQED Interactive worked with Google to create a video portal for viewing KQED content on a large TV screen format, the announcement said. Check it out here.

KET gets "green" loan for network center updates

Kentucky Educational Television’s network center in Lexington has received a loan of nearly $2 million from the Green Bank of Kentucky program, according to the Business First website. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear announced Thursday (Oct. 28) that with the low-interest loan, KET will implement energy-efficiency and conservation measures, then the money saved through reductions in energy and utility costs will repay the loan. KET updates will include high-efficiency boilers and a system that will transfer heat generated in the studios and server rooms back into the building, high-efficiency light fixtures, and new water fixtures estimated to reduce annual water usage by about 50,000 gallons.

Oct 28, 2010

Bon AppeTweet!

Take an evening of local and national food programs, encourage viewers to interact via Twitter and what do you get? Bon AppeTweet. And HoustonPBS's social media experiment with that awesome name was a huge success Wednesday night (Oct. 7) reports station spokesperson Julie Coan. "We got so many Tweets that it crashed the software we set up to count them," she told Current.

Food programs are very popular on Channel 8, and lots of local "foodies" use Twitter to share local restaurant info, so the combo was a natural. National programs during Bon AppeTweet (seriously, is that the best name or what?) included several from WQED's food dude Rick Sebak, who also Tweeted along. Whole Foods Market issued a Tweet Challenge, donating $1 per Tweet to the station to support food-related shows, and the Houston Chowhounds hosted a viewing party/fundraiser at 14 Pews, a local microcinema in a converted church. "Not only was our hashtag #HoustonpbsEats trending in Houston, it was actually trending in Pittsburgh for a while last night, too!" Coan said. "WQED said we put the 'fun' back in fundraising."

Above, viewers at 14 Pews included, from left, Greg Morago, food editor for the Houston Chronicle; Penny De Los Santo, a  photojournalist with Saveur Magazine; Linda Salinas, event chair with the Houston Chowhounds; and her fellow foodie Dan Streetman. (Image: Cressandra Thibodeaux)

Pubstation, Miami Herald partner to request poems about LeBron James. Really.

Southern Florida dual-licensee WLRN and the Miami Herald are going where no media has gone before: They're sponsoring a LeBron James poetry contest. Yes, LeBron James as in the basketball superstar who broke the collective heart of Cleveland when he decamped for the Miami Heat. They're asking for six lines or fewer, "with six being the number on James's new uniform," reports the New Yorker in its current edition. A "mystery celebrity" will select the winner and is expected to read his or her poem on the air before the Nov. 2 game. As of late last week, the mag reports, they'd received several hundred entries, including a few "hate poems" from Cleveland.

Oct 27, 2010

World Series intro before first inning by "Tenth Inning" filmmaker Burns

Keep an ear open during tonight's (Oct. 27) Game 1 of baseball's World Series. Word is the opening segment was written by Tenth Inning filmmaker Ken Burns, and will be voiced by the doc's narrator Keith David. Game time 7:30 p.m. Eastern, on Fox.

WQED announces new CFO

WQED in Pittsburgh has named a member of its Board of Directors as vice president and chief financial officer, effective Nov. 3, the station said in an announcement today (Oct. 27). Carol Bailey will be responsible for all of WQED's finances. Her work on the board includes serving on the finance, business and operations committee since 2008. She is the president of Bailey Management Consulting, where she advises executives in financial and operations management.

Nature scores first-ever American top award from Wildscreen Festival

Here's a unique award for an icon series. Nature has won the prestigious Christopher Parsons Outstanding Achievement Award presented at the 2010 Wildscreen Festival earlier this month in Bristol, U.K. It's the first American production to be so honored in the festival’s 28-year history. It's the top prize in the awards, dubbed the Green Oscars for their equivalent of the Academy Awards. The Parsons honor goes to “an organization or individual that has made a globally significant contribution to wildlife filmmaking, conservation and/or the public’s understanding of the environment.” It's named for the late Christopher Parsons, Wildscreen’s founder, head of the BBC Natural History Unit and executive producer of Life on Earth. Previous Parsons award winners include Sir David Attenborough. Accepting the award, above, from left: Fred Kaufman, series executive producer; Janet Hess, series editor; and Bill Murphy, series producer. The presenter, right, is Brian Leith, producer of such films as Elsa's Legacy: The Born Free Story. (Image: Wildscreen)

Pledge now, or it's Scott Simon in a traffic 'copter

Actor Alec Baldwin is helping out public radio this pledge season with his own, um, "promos." Titles on the spots include "Ira Glass has been reassigned to a Spanish Pop station" and "Don't give." Baldwin also suggests moving Scott Simon to the traffic beat, "and keeping him there — until you give." Or how about putting Supreme Court reporter Nina Totenberg on sports? Baldwin explains various giving levels, including the "Hollywood Level, where Kai Ryssdal does your yardwork." The 30 Rock star is a big fan of NPR, and was active in Peconic Public Broadcasting's work to purchase WLIU-FM on Long Island.

Upcoming Virginia budget may zero out public radio, governor says

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell said Tuesday (Oct. 26) his next state budget might eliminate support for public radio in the state, according to Bloomberg Business Week. McDonnell is drafting amendments to the final year of the current two-year budget. McDonnell noted that the possibility of funding cuts had nothing to do with the recent controversy over NPR's firing of correspondent Juan Williams. "It's the principle of the thing: Do we need to subsidize a radio station when the free market is working very well?" McDonnell said. The current budget appropriates nearly $2 million for pubTV and pubradio, and another $2.2 million for educational telecommunications and radio reading services. McDonnell had previously attempted to zero out funding for all pubcasting in the state, but legislators restored the support in April.

APTS, NPR, PBS join in petition asking FCC to extend CAP regulation deadline

Forty-six broadcast and cable associations, including APTS, NPR and PBS, petitioned the FCC last week (Oct. 21) to extend the deadline to comply with new regulations for the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)-formatted Emergency Alert System (EAS) alerts by an additional 180 days, Broadcast Engineering is reporting. On Sept. 30, the Federal Emergency Management Agency published technical standards for CAP-formatted EAS alerts to be used for the Integrated Public Alert Warning System. That triggered a six-month clock — deadline March 29, 2011 — for stations to buy, install and test CAP-compliant equipment. The petition (PDF) requests that the commission extend the deadline until at least Sept. 30, 2011, noting that it is unlikely vendors will be able to meet demand for CAP-compliant equipment in time.

Oct 26, 2010

NPR headquarters gets bomb threat in the mail

The Washington Post is reporting that NPR headquarters today (Oct. 26) received a bomb threat in the mail. NPR sources told the paper that the letter was turned over to local police and the FBI. NPR did not publicly disclose details of the threat on the advice of law enforcement, the paper said. The letter didn't specifically reference the controversial firing of correspondent Juan Williams on Oct. 20, but NPR sources said the timing and tone suggested it was sent after his termination. NPR warned its employees Monday (Oct. 25) about a "security threat" in a staff memo, but did not provide specifics.

Activist alleges assault outside pubTV studio before election debate

Police are investigating an alleged assault outside the studios of Kentucky Educational Television in Lexington before a Congressional election debate Monday night (Oct. 25), reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. The incident occurred as Republican U.S. Senate nominee Rand Paul arrived at the KET studio to debate Attorney General Jack Conway, his Democratic opponent. Police say a Paul volunteer, Tim Proffitt, is being served with a criminal summons after he was seen on video stepping on Lauren Lizabeth Valle's head. Valle, an activist with the progressive group MoveOn.org, was trying to give Paul a fake award portraying him as a tool of big business. The Paul campaign later issued a statement saying it had "disassociated itself from the volunteer who took part in this incident, and once again urges all activists — on both sides — to remember that their political passions should never manifest themselves in physical altercations of any kind.” Valle received a concussion. "The stomping was one of two reported to Lexington police outside the debate," the paper noted.

Ombudsman tries to convince readers that PBS is not NPR

In today's (Oct. 26) column, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler attempts to remind folks that "PBS is not NPR, that Juan Williams does not work for PBS, that PBS did not fire him, and that both organizations, while part of public broadcasting in this country, are separate organizations and separate public media entities." Yes, in the wake of Williams' termination from pubradio, Getler received "several hundred" calls and e-mails to him, thinking PBS was NPR. Or vice-versa.

Foundation provides KCET with $1 million for its transition to independence

KCET in Los Angeles, which is dropping PBS membership as of Jan. 1, 2011 (Current, Oct. 18), has received a $1 million grant from the Ahmanson Foundation "for the purpose of converting KCET to an independent public television station," KCET announced today (Oct. 26). In the statement, KCET President Al Jerome said the foundation has provided grants for all three seasons of SoCal Connected and also has been a longtime local underwriter for Nova.

Knight Foundation receives $2 million from Google

Google has donated $2 million to the Knight Foundation to continue its media innovation work, the foundation announced today (Oct. 26). “Journalism is fundamental to a functioning democracy, and we want to do our part to help fulfill the promise of journalism in the digital age,” said Nikesh Arora, Google's president, global sales operations and business development. During the last five years, Knight Foundation has invested more than $100 million in national media policy, technology innovation, public media work and the evolution of the Web. Several public broadcasters have been awarded grants through its Knight News Challenge, its far-reaching media innovation contest.

"This is Shock and Claw": newslink round-up of Williams dismissal

A parody of NPR's firing of Juan Williams led last night's edition of The Daily Show, and Williams appeared on NPR's Diane Rehm Show this morning. [Scroll down to second segment.] Links to other recent coverage: a Fox News producer confronts NPR President Vivian Schiller in a field segment for O'Reilly Factor; New York University J-School Professor Jay Rosen questions NPR's stated objective of preserving journalistic standards of objectivity on WBUR's On Point; and, on last weekend's edition of On The Media, Slate's William Saletan describes how Williams' selectively edited remarks went viral as a selectively edited video blog post by ThinkProgress. Saletan drew parallels between Williams' firing and the right-wing's attack on Shirley Sherrod, the U.S. Agriculture Department employee who was fired, and later reinstated, for public remarks that were taken out of context and circulated on the blogosphere.

Fallout continues over Juan Williams' firing from NPR

More than 45,000 persons have joined Free Press's drive to send letters to Congress "defending public broadcasting and standing up to extremists" who want to de-fund NPR and PBS in the wake of the firing of longtime NPR commentator Juan Williams for his comments on Muslims.

The Association for Public Television Stations also issued a statement Monday (Oct. 25) countering calls to end the funding. "There is widespread understanding that public television exists to provide what the market does not," said Interim President Lonna Thompson, "reaching underserved audiences in communities across the nation."

And g.m.'s are weighing in on the controversy. Norm Silverstein, president of WXXI in Rochester, N.Y., wrote on its website: "Whether you agree with the firing or not, once NPR allowed Williams to take on a paid role as a commentator for Fox News, at the same time he was a news analyst for NPR, it was only a matter of time before there was an explosion." WJCT President Michael Boylan in Jacksonville, Fla., told station viewers and listeners in a blog entry, "I want to assure you that this decision was made by the management of NPR without input on the part of local stations. In many respects I and many of my colleagues throughout the system share the frustration as expressed by both regular and occasional listeners and have communicated such to NPR, specifically as to how the matter was handled."

Log on Wednesday for Public Media Corps webinar

The interesting work of the Public Media Corps is the subject of Wednesday's (Oct. 27) 1 p.m. (Eastern) webinar from the National Center for Media Engagement. Corps members are working in Washington, D.C., neighborhoods to determine community needs for digital media, and encourage use of technology. The webinar will provide stations with a mid-project update and advice on how the Corps' efforts can inform other community engagement projects. Register here.

PBS partners up with new Google TV

PBS is an official Google TV launch partner, reports media business site GigaOM. The service enables users with Google Chrome and Adobe Flash Player 10.1 to watch web content on TV. Many sites, including PBS Kids, are being optimized for television viewing. But Google TV is not without controversy: The Big Three networks are blocking access to their online content. Why? As GigaOM says, "when you make it drop-dead easy to watch a full-length web episode of Modern Family on the TV via the web, what’s to stop a user from skipping the broadcast altogether?" Here's more info on Google TV from PBS NewsHour, and "Five Obstacles to Google TV" from IT World.

Three workers hurt in fall from transmission tower

Three Alpha Antenna Services workers hired by PBS affiliate WCNY in Syracuse, N.Y., to repair its 350-foot transmission tower were injured in a fall, according to the Utica, N.Y., Observer-Dispatch. State police said accident occurred at about 11:45 a.m. Monday (Oct. 25) when an antenna atop of the tower buckled during the repairs. The three were 20 to 30 feet up when they fell, police said.William Fox, 49, suffered severe facial injures; Kelly Dougherty, 30, suffered a foot injury; and Gregory Campbell, 44, went to the hospital for evaluation and was discharged.

WXXI host retiring after 20 years of questions

WXXI's Homework Hotline is losing its co-creator and host, Carol Smith, who is retiring after 20 years with the program in Rochester, N.Y., reports the Daily News Online. The Hotline enables students in grades four through 12 to get help with homework problems live on the air. It has received numerous honors, including nine New York State Broadcasters Association awards for best program or series designed for children, and Silver and Bronze Tellys. Smith is also one of the founders of Rochester's Dial-A-Teacher program. She'll be honored on WXXI-AM's 1370 Connection at noon Wednesday (Oct. 27).

Oct 25, 2010

The Hub nonprofit news resource site now online

If you're interested in nonprofit news, be sure to check out the Hub. It's a new online resource from the Voice of San Diego, a successful indie public service news site, and professors from San Diego State University. The Hub is targeted at folks who want to start their own public service news organization, offering help including legal and tax tips, an editorial toolkit and sustainability strategies. As its creators say on the site, the Hub "is intended to be a lively forum for discussion and information. We depend on the entire virtual community to add to its content. Please share your stories, your challenges, and what’s working for you. We all learn from each other."

IdahoPTV debate clip used without permission in campaign ad

Some 45 seconds of a controversial 60-second ad in the heated election race for Idaho schools superintendent consists of copyrighted material from an Idaho Public TV debate, reports the Spokesman-Review. IPTV General Manager Peter Morrill told the paper the network will "vigorously" defend its copyright. “We are not issuing them a license to utilize footage for their campaign purposes and … we would ask them to cease and desist,” he said, adding that manipulations of the clip include slow motion, digital zoom and a digital insertion of an out-of-date Idaho Public TV logo.

The ad, for GOP Superintendent Tom Luna, criticizes his Democratic challenger, Stan Olson, recently retired superintendent of the Boise School District. In their recent debate on IPTV, Olson made reference to his difficulty with math. The personal care products company Melaleuca Inc., which paid for the ad, was denied permission from IPTV to use that copyrighted material. Its chief exec Frank VanderSloot told the paper he thought IPTV’s response was “way out of line,” decided to go ahead with the ad anyway, and has hired copyright attorneys to challenge the state.

ProPublica editor speaks out on new public media business models, funding

Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief of the indie nonprofit news source ProPublica, pointed out some of the many challenges that need to be addressed by members of the new public media, as part of the McGill lecture series at the University of Georgia last week (Oct. 21)."If we create business models that depend largely on page views," he said, "we should not be surprised if they drive publishers to favor content with a high prospect of 'going viral' over content that is primarily thought-provoking, or challenging, or discomfiting, or even educational." Also: "To sustain this kind of reporting as part of the fundamental underpinnings of our democracy, we need to nudge the sources of philanthropy in our society – ordinary citizens, foundations, and wealthy donors alike – to widen their view just a bit and see investigative reporting as a public service just as worthy of aid as museums, orchestras, ballet companies, clinics and private universities." His full speech is here.

PBS NewsHour goes live on-air and online for election night

PBS NewsHour has big plans for midterm election evening on Nov. 2. Anchor Jim Lehrer will host a live interactive special from 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. both on-air and online, according to a show statement. After 10 p.m. online there'll also be live blogging, interactive graphics, an election night mashup video and a social media stream highlighting comments on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and AIM.

Vocalo blogs shifting to WBEZ.org

Robert Feder, media blogger on Chicago Public Radio's Vocalo.org, writes that its blogs are taking "a short break" and will return in a week or two on the redesigned website of WBEZ.org.

Vocalo, which kicked off as a multimedia public-square discussion space in 2007, is having a rough go of it. A strategic plan (PDF) presented to Chicago Public Radio's board last October said, “As a website Vocalo must be seen as unsuccessful so far” (Current, Jan. 11, 2010).

Sesame Street via Christopher Street?

A Twitter from Sesame Street's Bert, longtime pal of Ernie, prompted Sesame Workshop to declare that, no, the two are not gay. In Bert's posting, he used the term "mo," referring to his hairstyle. In a Sunday (Oct. 24) story the Los Angeles Times reports: "Reading 'mo' as slang for homosexual, gay bloggers rejoiced." The paper notes that "the show's latest season feels more LGBT-friendly than ever," with guest stars including openly gay comic Wanda Sykes. But Ellen Lewis, Sesame Workshop's corporate communications v.p., told the Times that the show is not consciously trying to appeal to gay viewers. "We've always reached out to a variety of actors and athletes and celebrities to appear on the show, and our programming has always appealed to adults as much as children," she said. "Honestly, the idea that anyone would interpret [this season] that way never crossed our minds."

College students to accompany Freedom Riders for 50th anniversary trip as part of outreach

American Experience's "Freedom Riders" doc is giving 40 college students the chance to ride along with the civil rights activists on the route of their famous 1961 trip. Students will be on board May 6-16, 2011, the 50th anniversary of the freedom rides (background from the Civil Rights Movement Veterans). The trip is the centerpiece of the unique outreach for the series, airing that month. College students may apply here.

UPDATE: Also, don't miss the National Center for Media Engagement/WGBH webinar Nov. 10 on the Freedom Riders outreach; more here. NCME says it's streaming the entire program for station staff to preview leading up to as well as after the webinar.

ivi asks for change of venue in ongoing fight to stream TV signals, including pubcasters

In a U.S. District Court filing in New York on Friday (Oct. 22), ivi TV asked that the case against it by several broadcasters including PBS be moved to Seattle, where the company is based, reports Broadcasting and Cable. The broadcasters are asking the court to stop ivi's streaming of their TV signals online either by restraining order or preliminary injunction (Current, Oct. 4). ivi says online TV station streaming is legal with its license from the U.S. Copyright Office. Here's a copy of ivi's latest court filing (PDF).

CPB's Boles talks digital pubmedia innovation at FedTalks 2010

Rob Bole, CPB's v.p., digital media strategy, spoke on "Public Media in a Digital Age" Oct. 12 at the FedTalks 2010 confab. Innovators from sectors such as citizen engagement, cyber security and open government addressed administration officials and other government reps at the one-day event. Check out Boles's presentation here.

Seven ITVS films heading to prestigious film fest

The Independent Television Service (ITVS) reports that seven of its productions have been chosen as official selections for the 23rd International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Nov. 17-29, the world's largest doc showcase. Many ITVS films received critical acclaim at recent IDFA's, including last year’s best feature length film winner, Last Train Home, and The Most Dangerous Man in America, with its special jury award to a film not in competition. Here's a list of ITVS's 2010 IDFA films at the Beyond the Box blog.

NBR partnering with Planet Forward on environmental programs

Planet Forward, a multimedia environmental innovation project at George Washington University, will be collaborating with Nightly Business Report to develop environmental programming, NBR has announced.   Viewers will submit ideas to tackle energy and climate challenges through PlanetForward.org, and the partners will jointly produce stories around the most interesting. The series premiered Oct. 21 with Planet Forward host Frank Sesno appearing. The first episode looked at the new 100 percent electric Nissan Leaf.

Oct 24, 2010

Tomlinson now favors defunding CPB

Ken Tomlinson, the former CPB chair who was forced off the board after campaigning secretly and successfully to get two weekly political programs of his liking onto PBS, wrote in the Washington Examiner Friday (Oct. 22) that the public broadcasting he wanted can never be achieved: "I had long believed that the many tentacles of public broadcasting should be reformed — not defunded. I now realize I was wrong. Federal funding for NPR should be eliminated — as should handouts to CPB and PBS." NPR's firing of Juan Williams was "outrageous, but these people did the nation a favor," he wrote. "And after we defund public broadcasting, we will wonder why it took us so long."

Oct 21, 2010

NPR fires news analyst Juan Williams

NPR fired news analyst Juan Williams late yesterday over comments he made about Muslims during an Oct. 18 appearance on Fox News. Williams, a news pundit and commentator who had contracts with both networks, was reacting to remarks by Fox News host Bill O'Reilly when he said: "I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

In a joint statement issued yesterday, NPR President Vivian Schiller and News Chief Ellen Weiss said: "[W]e did not make this decision lightly or without regret. However, his remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a News Analyst with NPR."

Williams declined to comment in today's Washington Post story. "I better bite my tongue at this point," he said.

NPR.org's The Two-Way blog has links to blogosphere coverage and a comment thread that's approaching 100 postings. Politico reports that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who joined as a Fox News commentator after his 2008 run for the Republican presidential nomination, is calling for the new Congress to cut NPR's funding.

Oct 20, 2010

Vegas PBS wins TOBY Award for unique green station and building management

The Vegas PBS Educational Technology Campus has been awarded the Outstanding Building of the Year (TOBY) Award in the Earth category by the Building Owners and Managers Association, the station announced today (Oct. 20). The TOBY recognizes excellence in building management and acknowledges the Educational Technology Campus' green operations and maintenance practices. The Vegas PBS Educational Technology Campus is the first television building in the United States to receive LEED Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (Current, Jan. 8, 2010).

Oct 19, 2010

Ebert selects WTTW to record his latest series

The new Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies will be recorded at WTTW, "returning to the roots of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel’s original Sneak Previews program," the station announced today (Oct. 19). Production is expected to begin in January 2011 for the 26-episode season, which premieres Jan. 21. Series co-exec producers are Chaz and Roger Ebert. Former WBBM Assistant News Director Don Dupree returns to direct, after 15 years as a producer and director starting with Siskel & Ebert at the Movies.

Got a phone? Got NewsHour

Don't lose this number — 712-432-6610 — because that's yet another way to get PBS NewsHour. The show announced today (Oct. 19) that the audio is now available anytime via mobile or land line. AudioNow lets listeners hear the daily one-hour PBS NewsHour broadcast without downloads or data services.

LOL, it's the Pledgecats

Here's a quirky and hilarious pledge idea. By now you may be among the millions of fans of Lolcats, the silly "kittehs" captured in photographs, craving "cheezburgers" and speaking their own abbreviated language. You see this coming, right? Lolcats + pledge = Pledgecats. WYPR in Baltimore and Cheezburger Network have come up with kittehs asking for member support. As in, "You hasn't pledged? Srsly?"

FAIR examines pubcasting in latest issue; NewsHour, Need to Know lack diversity, it says

The November issue of Extra! from FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Media) takes on public broadcasting. There are stories on how the system "is stacked against fulfilling PBS’s mandate," and "Charlie Rose's Elite-Meet-and-Greet." Also, it's the third time since 1995 it's looked at sources on NewHour by gender, nationality, ethnicity, occupation and partisan affiliation; it also examined story choice. This time there's also a look at the new Need to Know  from the program’s debut on May 7 through July 30. In general, FAIR cites a lack of diversity in both shows. Here are FAIR's NewsHour findings from 2006.

KCET "has a chance to redefine" local broadcast media, analysts say

Two high-profile public media analysts are enthusiastically in KCET's corner after its decision to depart PBS membership. "KCET now has the chance to redefine what it means to be a local broadcast station in a digitally networked world," they write in the Los Angeles Daily News today (Oct. 19). They continue: "The old hub-and-spoke, national-to-local distribution model is outdated. Digital networks create new possibilities for production and content sharing from local-to-national and even local-to-local. Wildly diverse communities also create new needs that a national program service can't hope to meet, especially in markets like L.A.'s, which trends more multiethnic and younger." 

But how? "Public policy makers will need to translate old commitments to public broadcasting infrastructure to new commitments to broadband infrastructure and distributed public media funding. If this happens, KCET's experiment will herald a new beginning."

Oct 18, 2010

The future of pledge, a la KCET?

There's been no shortage of news coverage of KCET splitting from PBS as of Jan. 1. And now, a cartoon from L.A. Observed.

Pubmedia lecture service gets new Carnegie partner

The Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs is joining the Forum Network, a PBS and NPR free video lecture service. The Council's page will include offerings such as scholar Michael Mandelbaum on his book, The Frugal Superpower: America's Global Leadership in a Cash-Strapped Era; a panel discussion, "U.S. Military: Leading by Example," in which reps from the Navy, Marines, and Army Corps of Engineers illustrate how the U.S. military is developing renewable energy sources; and journalist Eliza Griswold talking about her book, The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line between Christianity and Islam.

Mixed news for pubcasters in Philanthropy 400

The Philanthropy 400, an annual donation overview of the 400 largest nonprofits, is out today (Oct. 18) from the Chronicle of Philanthropy. In general, bad news. Fiscal 2009 donations to those organizations dropped 11 percent from FY08. The 400 raised $68.6 billion in 2009; that drop was almost four times the 2.8 percent decrease in 2001, "when charities also struggled to raise money from recession-battered donors," the report says. The rankings are listed by amount of private support. No. 1 is United Way Worldwide, with $3.8 billion; No. 400 is Voice of the Martyrs in Bartlesville, Okla., with $41.3 million.

Eight pubcasters are in the 400. Best number: WETA, up 15 percent. Worst number: American Public Media, down 17 percent.

Details:

PBS is No. 53 with private support of $276.9 million in FY09, down 7.7 percent. It spends 0.1 percent of its private support on fundraising.

WGBH Educational Foundation, Boston, is No. 73 with private support of $231.4 million in FY08; no data for the previous year comparison. It spends 9.4 percent of its private support on fundraising.

WNET.org, New York, is No. 182 with private support of $105.7 million in FY09, down 5.6 percent. It spends 21.1 percent of its private support on fundraising.

WETA/Greater Washington Educational Telecommunications Association, Arlington, Va., is No. 232 with private support of $83.3 million in FY09, up 15 percent. It spends 12.5 percent of its private support on fundraising.

NPR, Washington, is No. 285 with private support of $64.7 million in FY09, down 9.2 percent. No data on fundraising percentage.

KCET/Community Television of Southern California, Los Angeles, is No. 337 with private support of $52.4 million in FY09, up 9.6 percent. It spends 16.8 percent of its private support on fundraising.

Northern California Public Broadcasting, San Francisco, is No. 357 with private support of $49.6 million in FY09, down 7.4 percent. It spends 27.4 percent of its private support on fundraising.

Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media, St. Paul, is No. 377 with private support of $45.5 million in FY09, down 17.0 percent. It spends 18.3 percent of its private support on fundraising.

More providers and devices are joining march toward mobile DTV

WGBH, one of the first pubcasting stations in the country to offer mobile DTV service to viewers (Current, Feb. 2, 2009) is now one of around 100 providers, reports the Boston Globe today (Oct. 18). But it's still a gamble: Just this month, Flo TV from Qualcomm ended sales of its devices, for which users paid $250, plus $15 monthly for service. Adding the capability to stations costs around $150,000 for equipment. Now that there's a technical standard, more providers are building out their systems, said Anne Schelle, executive director of the Open Mobile Video Coalition, a broadcasting industry trade group that counts CPB and PBS as members. And devices are beginning to proliferate. “I think you’re going to see some of the earlier products this Christmas season,’’ she added.

Sesame Workshop names new senior v.p. for international efforts

Dr. Charlotte Frances Cole is the new senior v.p., global education, for Sesame Workshop, it announced today (Oct. 18). Cole will oversee international strategies and lead development for all curriculum and research around the Workshop's international projects. Cole has been working with educators and production teams throughout the world for the Workshop since 1994, in Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and West Bank/Gaza. She is also a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Children and Media, and served as the publication’s founding Review and Commentary Editor.

Oct 17, 2010

NPR gets $1.8 million to put reporters in statehouses nationwide

NPR will develop a statehouse enterprise reporting project with a $1.8 million grant from the Open Society Foundations, the New York Times reported on Oct. 17. The initative, called Impact of Government, aims to add at least 100 journalists at NPR member stations in every state over the next three years beginning with an eight-state pilot in March 2011. NPR and the stations hope to raise about $17 million to expand the program, and between $18 million and $19 million annually to sustain it.

Hair, glorious Muppet hair!

"I just watched a Sesame Street video that left me in tears. Tears of joy, that is," writes Huffington Post blogger Michele Langevine Leiby. What thrilled her so is an adorable little musical number featuring a African American girl singing, "I love my hair, I really love my hair!" "How many adult African American women will shed a tear of joy, as I did," Leiby says, "remembering a very different world where Saturday mornings were spent fidgeting on a kitchen chair in mortal dread of the pressing comb and black hair, rather than a crowning glory, was a burden to be fried, dyed and laid to the side post-haste. Hats off to Sesame Street for making the world of little black girls just a little bit more positive." As one commenter noted, "I never met a Muppet I didn't like."

Oct 15, 2010

Major Market Group presents new namesake award to Bill Kobin

The Public Television Major Market Group honored Bill Kobin, outgoing MMG president, on Wednesday (Oct. 13) at its meeting in Denver, just in time for Kobin's second attempt to retire. Kobin originally retired in 1996 after a long and influential career in pubcasting, including positions at National Educational Television (forerunner of PBS), the Children's Television Workshop, and as CEO of KTCA in Minneapolis and KCET in Los Angeles. In 1996, Kobin decided to work for MMG "for awhile," incoming President Lloyd Wright of WFYI in Indianapolis told Current. "And 14 years later, he has announced his second retirement."

At the meeting the group also announced its new William Kobin Public Television Leadership Award. "We presented the first award to Bill himself, and plan on giving the award periodically to a worthy recipient who has impacted public television," Wright said.

New Jersey Network needs "reconfiguration," legislative committee recommends

In a 20-page report released today (Oct. 15), a 10-member bipartisan New Jersey Legislature committee called for "a dramatic reconfiguration" of New Jersey Network, reports the Star-Ledger in Newark. Gov. Chris Christie (R) earlier this year had recommended ending state funding (Current, July 6, 2010). The report also rejected Christie's deadline of Jan. 1, 2011, for a transfer of the state-supported pubcasting network to an independent entity. Also, the paper is reporting that there's plenty of activity behind the scenes. One possibility is a partnership between New Jersey broadcasters and WNET/Thirteen in New York City. Or Montclair State University could take a key role in production of NJN content. Steve Adubato Jr., president of Caucus Educational Corporation, a nonprofit producer of several pubaffairs shows on NJN and WNET, said the governor and members of the task force have expressed interest in his proposed consortium of WNET and other media outlets.

Ready to Learn gets nearly $72 million, CPB and PBS announce

CPB and PBS just announced (Oct. 15) almost $72 million in federal grants for the Ready to Learn early childhood literacy campaign from the U.S. Department of Education. The two submitted a joint application in June in response to an RFP to fund "research, development and deployment of transmedia content to improve the math and literacy skills of children ages 2-8, especially those living in poverty," according to the announcement. The grant provides around $15 million annually from 2010 to 2015. It's the fourth Ready to Learn grant to CPB and PBS since 1995 (Current, June 6, 1994). The money will fund multiplatform content to teach literacy skills to children 2 to 8 years old. PBS will work with affiliates, children's producers, educational technologists, university and community partners and researchers on projects. The money comes through the Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement.

Nova moving to Wednesdays, themed nights ahead for upcoming PBS primetime

Big changes are coming in PBS's winter/spring 2011 primetime schedule — including a shift for Nova from its longtime Tuesday slot to Wednesdays, and two themed content nights.

A Thursday (Oct. 14) memo to station execs and programmers says the weekly Nielsen ratings that PBS began using last year, an improvement over the previous monthly numbers, provided a "depth of audience data" to allow it to "better optimize audience potential for our content." In the case of Nova, additional research showed potential to expand its audience through the schedule change.

Nova's move to 9 p.m. Eastern Wednesdays will allow for two to three hours of themed content that evening on science, exploration and natural history. This winter, Nova will run after Nova scienceNOW; in the spring, Secrets of the Dead will be in that 8 p.m. Eastern slot. Tuesdays will feature historical and cultural documentaries, which research shows has a significant audience overlap with Frontline, the memo says. Tuesdays bring the second season of Pioneers of Primetime (with first season repeats) this winter, with Henry Louis Gates' Blacks in Latin America in the spring. "Thereafter," the memo says, "PBS's schedule on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. is a development opportunity for new series," including a show in early planning stages through the CPB/PBS Diversity and Innovation Fund.

The Thursday night feed also will shift to allow a repeat of Antiques Roadshow at 8 p.m., and The This Old House Hour feed at 10 p.m.

Pop-outs include a sesquicentennial encore presentation of the Ken Burns blockbuster, The Civil War.

"The Nova move and other structural schedule changes this winter also sets the stage for further potential PBS primetime schedule changes to come in future seasons," the memo notes.

Oct 14, 2010

WNET/WLIW's Teaching & Learning Celebration moves toward sixth edition

The annual conference of K-12 teachers and educational experts of various stripes has been scheduled for March 18-19 in New York. Last year, attendance approached 10,000 (video highlights). Again it will take over many rooms of the big New York Hilton in midtown.

Look at yourself, now back to this item, now back to yourself ...

By now you may very well be one of the 4 million viewers of the Sesame Street spoof of that cheeky Old Spice commercial on YouTube. Here's the behind-the-scenes story from Miles Ludwig, vice president and executive producer of Digital Media at Sesame Workshop, via Mashable, a social media and web tech news site. Ludwig says around 50 single-shot takes were recorded, with take 35 as the magic number.

Nova's "Emergency Mine Rescue," filmed at site of Chilean disaster, airs Oct. 26

A Nova film crew has been at the site of the Chilean mine disaster since Sept. 5, and the program will air its hourlong doc "Emergency Mine Rescue" on Oct. 26, the WGBH science show announced Wednesday (Oct. 13). Its Pioneer Productions crew conducted interviews that will provide an in-depth account of the scientific aspects of the rescue. Viewers will get a look at the engineering, biological, and geological factors, as well as the psychological and physiological toll the miners faced in their two-month captivity more than 2,000 feet underground. “Emergency Mine Rescue” premieres at 8 p.m. Eastern (check local listings).

Oct 13, 2010

Vegas PBS inundated with media credential requests for debate

Vegas PBS is Ground Zero for one of the most anticipated debates in the nation this election season: Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vs. GOP candidate Sharron Angle. It's their only face-off during the campaign. The station is approaching 85 requests for media credentials from the major networks (CNN, FOX News and MSNBC) as well as reporters from as far away as Japan, Germany, Netherlands,  England and France. The Thursday (Oct. 14) debate is being produced with the Nevada Broadcasters Association. Watch online here from 9 to 10 p.m. Eastern.

WFCR secures AM outlet for its news expansion

Massachusetts station WFCR is buying WNNZ, a 50,000-watt outlet on 640 AM, and converting it into noncommercial operation, the WFCR Foundation announced today. WFCR began programming NPR news and talk on WNNZ in 2007 under contract with Clear Channel Communications. The $600,000 purchase, to be initially financed through a four-year loan from Public Radio Capital, secures the AM outlet for WFCR's expanding news and information service. In August, the Amherst-based pubcaster acquired another channel for news -- WNNZ-FM, a 100-watt station on 91.7 MHz that was previously operated by prep-school students of the Deerfield Academy.

"Think twice" before attending Oct. 30 rallies, Schiller tells NPR staffers

In a memo to NPR employees today (Oct. 13) posted on the Poynter Online Romenesko journalism blog, President Vivian Schiller cautioned staffers against participation in the dueling rallies on the National Mall planned for Oct. 30 by Comedy Central's faux-news pundits, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. " ... [N]o matter where you work at NPR you should be very mindful that you represent the organization and its news coverage in the eyes of your friends, neighbors and others," she said in the memo, which was attached to a copy of NPR's News Ethics guidelines. "So please think twice about the message you may be sending about our objectivity before you attend a rally or post a bumper sticker or yard sign."


UPDATE: The memo has generated several hundred comments on HuffPost.

CPB's Harrison expects pubmedia news coverage to "gore people's oxen"

In an interview with the St. Louis Beacon, the nonprof news site partnering with St. Louis's KETC, CPB President Pat Harrison makes a strongly worded case for the corporation's involvement in funding news coverage. "My job is to invest in high quality journalism and let the chips fall where they may," Harrison said. "I don't even have to like it; I just have to make sure it gets funded. And I am dedicated to that. We are going to gore people's oxen. On any given day, I may have somebody from one side of the aisle complaining that we are very, very left, and another call that says we are too right. As long as those calls keep coming, that means we're doing a deep dive on all these issues and putting all that information out there, and people can bring their brains to the table and figure it all out."

LA Times TV critic ponders KCET's fundraising future without PBS shows

"KCET is dead; long live KCET," writes Los Angeles Times TV Critic Robert Lloyd in today's (Oct. 13) column. He's adopting a wait-and-see attitude toward the station's departure from PBS as of Jan. 1, 2011. "If, as the station has claimed, the economic downturn had made it difficult for KCET to raise the money PBS demanded from it, will it be any easier, without the lure of an Antiques Roadshow or American Masters, to raise the money to realize this unrevealed new vision?" Lloyd writes. "One can easily imagine, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor, a vicious circle of diminishing returns, in which cheaper programming leads to fewer pledges, which in turn leads to even cheaper programming, which leads to fewer pledges."

Meanwhile, viewers continue to comment on KCET President Al Jerome's Ask Al blog on the station website. One: "What a sad day. My four year old daughter is in tears because her beloved PBS shows will no longer be aired on KCET. I think this is a big mistake."

President appoints "Takeaway," Sesame Workshop contributor to financial board

President Barack Obama today (Oct. 13) announced his choice for appointments to several administration posts. Included is Beth Kobliner, to serve as a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability. The financial expert has a regular segment on public radio’s The Takeaway and is a content adviser to Sesame Workshop’s upcoming Financial Education Initiative, a bilingual outreach program to promote financial literacy in very young children. Here's a video interview of Kobliner at last year's TV Critics Press Tour, discussing her participation in the doc "Your Life, Your Money," which ran on PBS in April 2009.

Is an independent KCET an innovative concept, or doomed to failure?

Here's an interesting exchange on the future of soon-indie KCET between Doc Searls, head of Project VRM at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and John Proffitt, longtime public broadcaster and pubmedia analyst. "KCET has some faith — or at least a good idea — that Whatever Comes Next will be good enough for lots of people to watch," Searls writes on his blog. " ... Dumping PBS was a brave move by KCET. They deserve congratulations for it." But Proffitt predicts that the station will slowly become "a video production house for grant-funded film and commercial work where possible," and be gone in five years. Furthermore, Proffitt adds, "PBS simply needs to be replaced with a central corporation that doesn’t answer to the local stations."

Kling reveals his plan for regional news expansion

Just what does Minnesota Public Radio's Bill Kling have in mind for the regional news initiative announced last month as his next act? A $100 million expansion of newsgathering capacity at public radio stations in four to six major markets, reports Newsonomics blogger Ken Doctor. Minnesota Public Radio and KPCC in Los Angeles, sister stations in Kling's American Public Media family, are planning an alliance with New York's WNYC and Chicago's WBEZ. Each participating station would hire 100 reporters and editors.

"That’s 'public radio' grown into 'public media,' meaning that these news operations would be digital-first, text-heavy and video-ready, while porting over the audio from radio," Doctor writes. "In other words, not re-purposed 'radio' news, but the kind of standalone, multi-platform news operations we’re starting to see, as with TBD in Washington, D.C."

Kling hinted at the regional initiative last month when announcing his plans to retire and during a speech at the Aspen Institute in August. He described its broad outlines last fall during the Future of News Summit convened at MPR headquarters.

Oct 12, 2010

Forty years ago: KPFT bombed off the air twice in its first year

Pacifica Radio's KPFT in Houston "was the first radio station in the United States to be bombed off the air" in May 1970, soon after going on the air, recalled Rick Campbell in a Houston Chronicle blog. That October, 40 years ago this month, the station was dynamited into silence a second time during a broadcast of Arlo Guthrie's song "Alice's Restaurant."
Three members of the Ku Klux Klan were arrested; two got off by testifying against Jimmy Dale Hutto, who was convicted and sent to jail. He allegedly planned to bomb the Pacifica stations in Berkeley and Los Angeles.


When the station resumed broadcasting in January 1971, PBS's Great American Dream Machine covered the event live. "Outside this room, people are celebrating free speech," said station manager Larry Lee on PBS, "and something is wrong when free speech is a cause for celebration, and there are armed police out there guarding us." Guthrie wrote a song for the occasion, including these lyrics: "When I get to Houston, pull out my strings, walk to the station, you can hear me sing — you get bombed, all God's chillun get bombed."

How to use video games for more than fun

"Gaming for the Greater Good" is the intriguing title of the Wednesday (Oct. 13) webinar from the National Center for Media Engagement. Learn how video games can do much more than entertain. Online will be Gabrielle Cayton-Hodges, research fellow at the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop; Felix Brandon, general manager of MoneyIsland, an online financial literacy game; and Alexa Belajac, director of education and community engagement at WYEP-FM. Register here.

First Core Publisher news site explores upstate New York economy

The first Core Publisher news site from Public Interactive is up and running to "rave reviews" from sponsoring station WXXI in Rochester, N.Y., according to the Core blog. Innovation Trail is a collaboration among WXXI and four other upstate New York stations: WNED in Buffalo, WRVO in Oswego, WSKG in Bringhamton, and WMHT in Schenectady. The CPB-funded site focuses on the area economy. The blog says this is the "alpha version" of the website.

NPR study oversimplifies barriers to audience growth, Sutton says

NPR's latest audience study provides good insights for promotion, marketing and multi-platform service strategies, but its recommendation that NPR adopt a less formal presentation style "is an over-simplification that public radio cannot afford to accept," writes John Sutton, Maryland-based public radio marketing consultant, on his blog. Many programming changes over the past decade have moved public radio to a more conversational style that's accessible to a broader audience--from host changes at Morning Edition, launch of Public Radio International's The Takeaway, to the reinvention of economics reporting by This American Life and Planet Money, he notes. "Yet the latest research once again shows that public radio’s elite and highbrow sound remains a barrier to growth. Changing hosts and presentation style hasn’t changed the perception. Public radio’s audience has grown despite the perception among non-listeners that it is elite and highbrow. That doesn’t add up, unless the objections to public radio’s style are not the true barrier to listening."

Radio K at University of Minnesota loses CPB funding

CPB has cut $50,000 in funding from the University of Minnesota's Radio K due to low ratings, reports the school's Minnesota Daily newspaper. Radio K marketing director Alex Gaterud told the paper that the station gets about five times that much from student services fees, but it will still feel the loss. "In any public radio or public broadcasting setting, that’s a huge hit,” Gaterud said. “We’re confident we can deliver [an] excellent product continuously, but we’re still looking to fill that gap.” The ratings were gathered via Arbitron's Portable People Meters, which have been controversial in the past for producing much lower numbers than the previously used listener diaries (Current, Sept. 21, 2009). Radio K is currently in a pledge drive. Its homepage features a witty donation request: The big, bold words BE AWESOME, with a corresponding button to "Contribute now"; BE SLIGHTLY LESS AWESOME to continue to the website. In September, Radio K was voted one of the "40 Best Little Radio Stations in the U.S." by Paste, a culture mag, which points out it's the oldest station in Minnesota.

UPDATE: A CPB spokesman tells Current that Radio K (KUOM) has "for several years" met neither of the CSG Audience Service Criteria, of community financial support or measurable audience goals. Five years ago, CPB informed the station that funding would be discontinued for fiscal 2011 if the situation didn't change; the station received annual updates that it was not recovering. The station's FY10 CSG was $63,071.

Oct 11, 2010

Ron Hull, still busy in pubcasting after 55 years

Here's a tribute to public broadcasting at its best, through the experiences of longtime Nebraska Educational Television programmer Ron Hull, who just turned 80. Although Hull has come and gone from the station a few times, "he never really went away," the local Journal Star noted. He's now senior adviser to NET and professor emeritus of broadcasting at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and reports for work in his fourth-floor office at 6:30 every morning. "This place I love," he said — even after 55 years.

Knight News Challenge introduces new categories

The Knight Foundation announced four new categories for its next Knight News Challenge: mobile, authenticity, sustainability and community. Details at Knightblog and Neiman Labs. The window for entries opens Oct. 25 and closes Dec. 1. The competition backing innovations in news media has awarded $23 million to 56 projects in its first four years; WBUR in Boston and Public Radio Exchange were among this year's winners.

Four major pubmedia intiatives "suffer from similar limitations," blogger writes

PBCore, Public Media Platform, Argo and American Archive: "One or more may rock our world," writes Barrett Golding on Hacks/Hackers of the four ambitious pubmedia initiatives. However, "All four of the above projects are well-conceived, led and executed by consummate pros. . . . But all suffer from similar limitations: they’re top-down, closed, exclusive (some proprietary), and expensive." Golding, keeper of the PubMedia Commons blog, suggests another approach: "The bottom-up, grassroots, social inclusiveness of open-source projects — what in tech parlance is more bazaar than cathedral. Imagine some small-scale journocoder community solutions that deliver immediately useful results, cheaply and quickly." Golding will flesh out those ideas in part two of his essay.

Days after KCET's withdrawal from PBS, surprise and confusion

Although it had been negotiating with KCET for nearly a year over a dues disagreement, PBS was taken aback with the Oct. 8 announcement that the station was dropping its membership. "How quickly it happened was a surprise," PBS President Paula Kerger said in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday (Oct. 10).

The decision left confusion in its wake. KOCE President Mel Rogers says it has to "ramp up in a hurry" to assume primary station status. "It's in our interest to make sure viewers get the same content at the time they're accustomed to watching it," he said. "That's the goal we're shooting for." But Kerger would only say that KOCE will be the primary station "if that's what we need them to do."

Plus, KCET's participation in a four-station, resource-saving consortium (Current, Aug. 5) with area stations KOCE, KVCR and KLCS, is in up in the air. KCET President Al Jerome told Current he'd like the station to remain in the group; Larry Ciecalone, president of KVCR, said the group is continuing without KCET. "The collaboration would've been stronger with four stations, but the market will still win with three of us involved," Ciecalone said. However, Kerger said "the door is not shut at all" for KCET to play some role.


Additional coverage:

— Jerome told the New York Times Media Decoder blog: “I imagine there will be some loss in the donor base, but in the direction we’re headed, I’m very comfortable we’ll also re-establish our donor base.” Kerger said that allowing KCET to lower its dues was not possible because “all of our stations abide by the same dues structure, and it’s very difficult for us to make an exception.”

Oct 9, 2010

KOCE will step up to primary status in L.A. area, president Mel Rogers says

KOCE in Huntington Beach, Calif., will assume primary PBS station responsibilities in the Los Angeles area when KCET severs its ties with PBS, writes station president Mel Rogers in a short note on the KOCE website. Rogers also called area PBS affiliates KLCS and KVCR its "partner stations." He said the three will work together "to ensure all PBS shows are not only available, but are easy to find for our viewers." Those stations, along with KCET, have been discussing a four-way partnership in an attempt to solve the tricky overlap situation in the L.A. market (Current, Aug. 5). KCET President Al Jerome told Current just before the Oct. 8 announcement that the station still hopes to participate in that consortium.

Oct 8, 2010

KCET to drop PBS membership Jan. 1

KCET, public television's major station in the nation's second-largest media market, is dropping its PBS membership as of Jan. 1, 2011, station President Al Jerome told Current Friday (Oct. 8). The Los Angeles station will be the largest independent pubcaster in America. Jerome said he and Gordon Bava, chairman of KCET’s board of directors, came to the decision “very recently.” Jerome told his staff at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Friday, and also informed PBS that afternoon. The station had petitioned the PBS board for a dues reduction or a shift to PDP (Program Differentiation Plan) status but was rebuffed (Current, Aug. 9). Jerome said discussions with PBS have been ongoing for three years, with “intense negotiations” over the last 11 months. He said a consortium among KCET and the three remaining area PBS affiliates, KOCE, KVCR, and KLCS, is still in the works. The four stations meet again in early November.


In a statement, PBS said: “PBS was notified today of KCET’s intention to withdraw its membership. At issue were KCET’s repeated requests that it be allowed to operate as a PBS member station without abiding by PBS policies and paying the corresponding dues. The Board and senior management of PBS remain focused on ensuring the people of Los Angeles continue to benefit from the full range of high-quality PBS content and services. . . . PBS’s goal is to have a financially stable service in the Los Angeles market. PBS fully supports the idea of a Southern California consortium of stations and continues discussion with KOCE, KVCR, and KLCS, PBS’ additional stations serving the Los Angeles market.”


CPB issued a statement clarifying that KCET remains an FCC-licensed educational station and is still eligible for Community Service Grants and other funding.


In a statement from KCET, Jerome said: "Our plan is to become the media partner for the many diverse, creative voices in our community with stories to tell, art to exhibit, music or dance to perform and news to report. We will partner with other public service organizations so that our viewers can learn about the good work being done, but not often reported in the commercial media. We will use our broadcast spectrum and broadband capabilities to expand public service at a time in our history when people of all ages want to actively participate in the recovery and growth of our region."


Jerome also posted a letter to viewers on his Ask Al page on the station's website. And the station's Twitter feed is explaining that as of Dec. 31, KCET will no longer livestream PBS shows but that programming will be available on PBS's video site.


Additional coverage:


— KOCE President Mel Rogers in Huntington Beach, Calif., tells the Orange County Register that KCET has "done a good job for public television over the years and it's time for us to step into the breach" to carry the PBS programming lineup for area viewers.


— The Los Angeles Times Showtracker television blog quotes a media expert that KCET's departure signals to other PBS stations "that affiliation isn't that important anymore." Jeffrey McCall, a communications professor at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., also said that the move also increases doubts about the future of pubcasting. "PBS certainly does not play the essential role it once did in the nation's media landscape," McCall said. "For years, PBS provided things that couldn't be had from the traditional networks. Now, with cable outlets, not to mention the Internet, the public doesn't rely on PBS for such fare."


LA Observed is reporting that longtime KCET personality Huell Howser apparently is unsure of his future with the station, and told his Twitter followers to e-mail Jerome with any concerns.


— On a call-in show on Southern California Public Radio following the announcement, the score was negative calls, five; positive, one. The enthusiastic support came from a local woman who runs a broadcast production company.

WTIU's 'Friday Zone,' a rare local kids' show on pubTV, returns for 11th season

The 11th season of what may be the only locally produced kids' show on public TV premieres today (Oct. 8) on WTIU in Bloomington, Ind. The Friday Zone is a weekly program for children ages 8 to 11 with guests, projects and on-location segments -- the Thanksgiving edition includes a trip to an orchard and corn maze. Co-hosts are Indiana University students Emily Fergason, a junior, who returns from last season; and newcomer Taylor Crousore, a sophomore. The show won a regional Emmy last year. (Image: Scott Witzke, WTIU)

NPR and AFTRA strike deal for five-year contract

At 5:15 a.m. today (Oct. 8), NPR and AFTRA (the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) reached agreement on a five-year contract, NPR President Vivian Schiller told pubradio staff in an e-mail message. The deal is subject to ratification by the bargaining unit. Details later today, Schiller added, "after some of us get some sleep." Get a feel for how the deal unfolded on the NPR AFTRA Twitter feed.

So far, no funding for station CAP updates, FCC official says

Lisa Fowlkes, deputy chief of the FCC's Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, addressed the upcoming station Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) update at last week's Radio Show convention in D.C. Broadcasters must update to CAP within six months as part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) -- which could cost stations up to $2,000 per full-power transmitter. "Absent authority from Congress, the FCC has no authority to provide any type of funding, including credits from annual regulatory fees, for broadcasters to purchase new equipment, if that is necessary," Fowlkes said during the discussion moderated by a reporter from Radio World.

Oct 7, 2010

ITVS announces 12 films for its Global Perspectives Project

This year's 12 selections for the Independent Television Service's Global Perspectives Project tell stories in places as varied as Cambodia, Nicaragua, Iceland, Ethiopia and Uganda. The dozen films were selected from 489 submissions from 117 countries representing 75 languages, ITVS announced today (Oct. 7). The films will be featured on Independent Lens, P.O.V. and Global Voices, all on PBS. They'll also run on commercial outlets such as the Sundance Channel and HBO, and online. For details on the films, click here.

Hawaii PBS gets an especially touching donation

Leslie Wilcox, president of Hawaii PBS, blogs about a generous "major donor."

Tom Harkin: Senator, pubTV supporter, and now Super Reader

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), on Wednesday (Oct. 6) was declared an official Super Reader during a visit to Marshalltown, Iowa, to honor his work in promoting and helping fund public television, according to the local Times-Republican. As such, Harkin is now eligible to wear his very own Super Reader Cape. "Where I work, they will probably not let me wear it," Harkin told kids at the Marshalltown Public Library. "But when I go back to my office, I can wear it." Presenting the honor was Dan Wardell, Iowa Public Television Kids Club host. Super Reader is part of PBS's Super Why! literacy initative. (Image: Ken Black, Times-Republican)

Writers Guild wants Comcast to pay millions for pubaffairs programming via CPB

The Writers Guild of America East, which reps writers at several pubcasting stations, has written to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski with a suggestion: Comcast should donate $10 million annually over 10 years for news and public affairs programming as a requirement of its merger with NBC Universal. The Los Angeles Times reports that Michael Winship, president of the guild, and Lowell Peterson, its executive director, wrote that the merger "would further consolidate the production and distribution of news and public affairs programming relied on by the American public." So they think Comcast should "contribute significant resources to the production of truly independent content." The money should go through CPB or "another entity to be established for this purpose." Comcast responded by saying it was up to Congress and the public broadcasting community to figure out funding.

Oct 6, 2010

Fred Rogers Co. gets Department of Justice grant

Lots going on at Mister Rogers's production company in Pittsburgh. First, it's no longer known as Family Communications Inc.; it's now the Fred Rogers Co.  There's a website redesign. And it just received a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice's office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The $496,000 is for a nationwide roll-out of the company's video-based police training program, “One on One: Connecting Cops & Kids." It was one of only 19 recipients of 321 applications, and one of the four largest grants, according to the production company. It began developing "Cops & Kids" about a decade ago.

10 stations come together to cover aftermath of Gulf Coast oil spill

Several stations have joined to continue coverage of the BP oil spill in the Gulf Coast region, WBHM-FM in Birmingham, Ala., announced today (Oct. 6). Producing content under a $538,000 CPB grant are: lead station Louisiana Public Broadcasting; Alabama Public Television; Mississippi Public Broadcasting; WEDU-TV/FM, Tampa, Fla.; WUSF-TV/FM, Tampa; WWNO-FM, New Orleans; WSRE-TV/FM, Pensacola, Fla.; WVAS-FM, Montgomery, Ala.; and KRVS-FM in Lafayette, La. In addition to creating and sharing broadcast and digital content, the Gulf Coast Consortium will conduct community engagement activities through social media sites and town hall meetings.

PBS.org revamp is coming

The redesign of PBS.org will emphasize broadcast promotions, feature a “Today’s Video” clip for users to catch up on shows that have already aired, and offer web-only content from member stations, reports PaidContent.org, a news site on the economics of new media. There'll also be a new iPad app for users to preview shows and watch select full-length videos. No word yet from PBS on the launch date.

WNET employees get four-day holiday furlough

In a memo to staff today (Oct. 6), WNET/Thirteen President Neal Shapiro announced a four-day furlough for time during the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve. The savings in salaries and operational costs will amount to "upwards of $1 million," Shapiro said. Employees will take four days of unpaid leave between Dec. 27 and Dec. 30. The WNET workforce had a three-day furlough the same week last year.

Local control of pubcasting stations "profoundly important," Kerger says

"Public Media in a Digital Age" was the topic of the panel discussion Tuesday (Oct. 5) organized by Free Press at the New America Foundation in D.C. The conversation ranged from localism to relevance and funding of pubmedia. "It is profoundly important that local public broadcasting stations are controlled by people in their communities . . . That's where the funding comes from," PBS President Paula Kerger said. Also appearing was Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC. He noted that measuring share of audience isn't what ultimately matters in public broadcasting. "One program can change someone's life," he said. "You don't need a fortune to do one intimate radio program that matters. There's something to say about impact rather than scale." Also on the panel were Geneva Overholser, director of the Annenberg School of Journalism; and Nicholas Lemann, dean of Columbia University's graduate school of journalism. Moderating was Steve Coll, journalist and president of the New America Foundation.

Freakonomics Radio crunches homerun stats for its 'Marketplace' debut

Freakonomics Radio, a new co-production featuring journalist and Freakonomics co-author Stephen Dubner, unveiled its biweekly segment for Marketplace yesterday. The topic for the lead story? Major League Baseball. Specifically: whether the crackdown on steroid use is to blame for the decline in the number of home runs being hit.

During an appearance at the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Denver last month, Dubner said the show came into being after he told WNYC senior producer Collin Campbell that, as much as he enjoyed appearing on the station's PRI series The Takeaway, he couldn't deal with the early hours required for morning drive-time radio. "I said, 'I want to do a radio show,' and Collin came back with a show plan."

The Marketplace debut coincides with launch of biweekly podcasts, which take on "of the moment" topics and will scale up to weekly production in January, Dubner told PRPD attendees. Forthcoming radio specials will deal with "themes that are big enough to be dealt with in one hour," he said. "What we do is primarily story-telling based on a different way of looking at the world." Freakonomics Radio is a co-production of American Public Media and New York's WNYC.

Oct 5, 2010

WMFE plans two-week furloughs after membership and underwriting don't meet goals

WMFE/Public Media for Central Florida is instituting two-week furloughs for all 35 staffers, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Also, there's also no raises this fiscal year. Station President Jose Fajardo told the paper that membership and corporate underwriting goals are down by $250,000. WMFE is speaking with CPB about its Stations in Severe Financial Distress program, although it has not formally signed on, Fajardo told Current.

KETC/Channel 9 to become Nine Network of Public Media

CPB President Pat Harrison will be in St. Louis on Oct. 12 as KETC/Channel 9 unveils its new brand identity as the Nine Network of Public Media, the station announced today (Oct. 5). It's part of the celebration for the opening of its new digital facility, the Nine Center for Public Engagement. There'll be six interactive demonstration stations in the new building: nineVoices, a website where community members post videos with solutions to local problems; Homeland, an immigration initiative; nineAcademy, digital video storytelling; the Public Insight Network, a site where participants serve as resources for pubmedia news gatherers; and interactive experiences with Nine on Twitter and Facebook. The staff of KETC's news partner St. Louis Beacon, located in the new center, will also be there to discuss their work as a nonprofit online publication (Current, March 30, 2009).

Pubaffairs anchor departing Arizona Public Media for local radio

Bill Buckmaster announced Tuesday (Oct. 5) that he is leaving his the Arizona Illustrated anchor chair after 23 years on Arizona Public Media. His last day is Jan. 1. Two days later, he'll begin a pubaffairs radio show, Buckmaster, on AM 1330 KJLL. The Tucson Citizen website opined, "This will leave a gaping hole in our local television news. His knowledge, experience and professionalism were a far cry from the 'two years and I’m out of here' careers of too many people in our local television news." (Fascinating factoid: Buckmaster is one of only two broadcasters with an asteroid named after him. The other is Walter Cronkite.)

Survey explores whether public wants to have public-funded media

Is public funding of media a good idea? That's what Spot.us, an open source project to fuel “community powered reporting,” wanted to know. So it did an online survey with assistance from the Reynolds Journalism Institute and Free Press. Just over 400 web users participated to answer, among other things, how media should be financed. Would they support a pubmedia endowment to increase funding for educational programs, arts, and investigative journalism? Overwhelmingly, 84 percent, said yes; 3 percent said no; the rest were undecided. They also would overwhelmingly support (93 percent) the creation of a matching grant program that would combine foundation grants with public funding to support innovation and investment in local news and journalism. Details at MediaShift's Idea Lab.

Oct 4, 2010

NPR's Twitter audience: 30-somethings who get their news online

NPR's Twitter followers are "gadget hounds" and "news junkies," according to survey results released last week by NPR Research. Of the 10,244 NPR Twitter followers who completed the survey last month, more than three-quarters said they get all or most of their news online.

Nearly a third said they spend between one and two hours a day with NPR content but -- unlike Facebook fans that NPR surveyed this summer-- fewer Twitter users experience NPR content as radio listeners. Two-thirds of responding Twitter followers, or 67 percent, said they listen to NPR radio broadcasts, compared to three-quarters (76 percent) of Facebook fans.

More Twitter users turn to NPR's digital platforms, especially podcasts and iPhone apps. Thirty-nine percent of Twitter followers use NPR podcasts, compared with 29% of Facebook fans. The gap is wider for the NPR iPhone app: 32% for Twitter and 19% for Facebook.

With a median age of 35, NPR's Twitter community is a lot younger than its radio audience (median: 50) and its Facebook fans (median: 40) .

Mashable offers this observation: "Not to put too fine a point on it, the future of news media lies in successful integration of social media to get the attention (and click-throughs) of a younger generation — a generation whose news needs are vastly different than those of the generations that preceded it."

Oct 3, 2010

Partnership between Miami Herald and WLRN going strong after seven years

In the Miami Herald today (Oct. 3), Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal updates readers on its collaboration with WLRN, pubradio and TV for south Florida. The partnership began seven years ago with construction of a studio in the paper's newsroom. The radio staff is emphasizing breaking news, and two news-oriented broadcasts have been added each afternoon. (And we know what you're wondering. Yes, he is of that Gyllenhall family. Anders is the uncle of actors Jake and Maggie.)

Oct 1, 2010

Racy postcards in Mr. Hooper's store? Who knew?

Writer David Fagin doesn't quite understand the furor over pop star Katy Perry's bustier on Sesame Street. He worked for the show several years back and reveals in a column on the AOL News opinion page that life behind the scenes is not quite as innocent as viewers might expect. Like when "certain members of the crew used to place postcards containing images of scantily clad women on the rack inside Mr. Hooper's grocery store." Or when the prop department snuck boxes of condoms next to the cereal in the store. And then there were the holiday parties: "Elmo and his pals would perform R-rated skits that would leave the audience in stitches. One of my favorites was the time Ernie and Bert finally came out of the closet. Good times." Shocked? Too bad Fagin won't talk about the really great stuff. "I can't dish the best dirt that went on behind the scenes," he wrote, "for fear of going straight to Muppet hell."

Craigslist founder predicts that NPR will be reporting powerhouse

NPR will be a dominant force in media in 10 years because its membership-based funding model is "finely tuned to the habits of millennial news consumers," said Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist, at the Washington Ideas Forum Thursday (Sept. 30) at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. "I have a feeling that membership models and philanthropy models will be stronger than advertising-supported models, people will be willing to pay for news they can trust." Check out the video of his comments, as well as the entire session, on the Atlantic's website.

FEMA approves new emergency alert protocol; stations have 180 days to update

The Federal Emergency Management Agency on Thursday (Sept. 30) adopted the new digital message format for the Common Alerting Protocol standard, reports the Broadcast Law blog. That triggers the 180-day countdown for stations to update Emergency Alert System equipment to ensure that it is able to handle the new protocol. The format adoption is the latest step toward the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System, which expands the longtime alert system used by radio and television to other devices, including mobile phones and PC's. One pubradio staffer told Current that stations may pay up to $2,000 to update each full-power transmitter — "a pain for small operators who are struggling," he added.