Jul 6, 2010

Hughes to depart leadership of Public Interactive next month

After what she termed a "difficult deliberation," NPR v.p. Debra May Hughes is leaving the network and her post at the top of Public Interactive, which offers website development services to the pubcasting community. Her departure is effective Aug. 31.

Hughes said in a letter to colleagues that "the time is right to step down from the helm of Public Interactive and chart a new course," but didn't mention what that would be. Hughes began her pubcasting career 14 years ago by launching Car Talk's site and steered PI through transitions to new parent companies Public Radio International and NPR. Hughes headed PI since 2005, as president and COO and then as an NPR vice president. She was an executive in PI’s predecessor company, New Market Network in Boston, from 1996, and involved in the founding of PI in 1999. "Of course, my stilettos will be difficult ones to fill, but I’m confident the transition will be smooth prior and during the appointment of a new vice president, which is likely to occur early this fall," she added.

In an accompanying note, Kinsey Wilson, senior v.p. and g.m. of NPR Digital Media, said a job description for interested applicants will be posted soon.

PBS to partner on upcoming package of Documentaries On-Demand

Documentaries On-Demand, featuring PBS programming, will begin this autumn, reports Multichannel News. It's a partnership with content distributor Gravitas Ventures. The package will offer 30 hours of PBS-distributed docs and indie titles including those from American Experience and Independent Lens. Some will debut on VOD ahead of their PBS broadcasts and before DVD release. No word on pricing.

Nigerian Sesame Street to feature Muppet with HIV

An HIV-positive Muppet will be a co-host of the new Nigerian Sesame Street, reports the international entertainment news site The show is a coproduction of Sesame Workshop and Nigeria's Ileke Media. It'll be a three-year run funded by a grant from the United States Agency for International Development. A portion of the money also will go to outreach for the nation's 25 million preschool children. One host of the 30-minute show will be an HIV-positive girl named Kami. The other is a boy Muppet whose name will be chosen through a national text-message vote. "It is our hope that the series will make a strong impact among Nigerian children and their families, addressing relevant social issues, as well as providing them with a strong foundation of basic literacy and numeracy that will instill an interest in and lifelong love of learning," said Sesame Street Nigeria exec producer and director of business development Yemisi Ilo.

Meanwhile, in France . . .

In international pubcasting news, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has selected a new head of France's pubTV network -- after changing a law to do so, according to He named Remy Pflimlin, 56, of the press distribution company Presstalis, to lead France Televisions. The move aggravated several lawmakers. "The naming of the president of public television by the chairman of the republic is the crowning of a process of putting France Televisions under political and financial control," Socialist Senator David Assouline said. Previous leaders of France Televisions were selected by an independent regulator; last year, Sarkozy passed a reform allowing the president to choose pubmedia execs. Radio France, headed by a Sarkozy appointment, has drawn criticism in recent weeks for firing two comedians who had lampooned various French political figures -- including the president.

Pennsylvania's WVIA turns around budget after 18 percent state cut

After losing 18 percent of its budget in state funding cuts last year, WVIA in Pittston, Pa., ended its fiscal year 2010 on June 30 with a surplus, reports the Times-Leader newspaper. “We’ve got a better station today than we had a year ago,” President and CEO Bill Kelly told the paper. “If you had told me that a year ago, I’d have told you you were nuts.” It hasn't been an easy journey, however. More than seven positions were eliminated and the remaining 38 full-time staffers took a 5 percent pay cut and furloughs. Kelly took a 15 percent salary reduction and management took 12 percent. On the programming side, The Ballroom Dancing Show and Pennsylvania Polka ended, as well as the station's Pennsylvania Independent Film Festival. Some $35,000 in revenue came from a new “video for hire” service. Listeners stepped up donations, particularly on the radio side, nearly offsetting the funding drop by contributing $718,000. Of the experience, Kelly said: “It was a culture change, of which we had no choice.”