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Apr 29, 2011

NPR selects Edward Schumacher-Matos as ombudsman

Edward Schumacher-Matos, a journalist, educator and columnist, is the new NPR ombudsman, the pubradio network announced today (April 29). He begins a three-year term on June 1.

Schumacher-Matos has been ombudsman for the Miami Herald since 2007. He founded Meximerica Media and Rumbo Newspapers in 2003, launching four Spanish-language daily newspapers in Houston, San Antonio, Austin and the Rio Grande Valley. He is also founding editor and associate publisher of Wall Street Journal Americas, the business newspaper's Spanish and Portuguese insert editions in Latin America, Spain and Portugal. Until recently he also wrote a syndicated column for the Washington Post.

Since January 2008, he has been at Harvard University as a Robert F. Kennedy visiting professor in Latin American studies; a Shorenstein Fellow on the press, politics and public policy; and a lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government.

Schumacher-Matos succeeds Alicia Shepard, NPR’s ombudsman since October 2007. She agreed to extend her two-year appointment in 2009.

Senate in South Carolina stands up to governor for pubcasting funding

The South Carolina Senate is fighting Gov. Nikki Haley's move to defund public broadcasting in the state, reports The State newspaper. The GOP-controlled Senate on Thursday (April 28) approved a measure 25-18 that uses general funds to pay for South Carolina ETV. It's part of the debate over the state's $5.8 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year. The governor also replaced the entire public broadcasting board last month.

NPR's succession plan put Slocum at the top

When NPR general counsel Joyce Slocum took over after Vivian Schiller's March departure, "the move was sudden, but not unscripted," notes Law.com. In 2009 NPR’s board of directors drew up a succession plan that designated Slocum as the replacement if Schiller left unexpectedly. Carol Cartwright, vice-chair of NPR’s board, says one of the main attractions was that Slocum didn't want the job. “We did not want an interim c.e.o. who would be actively pursuing the role on a permanent basis,” Cartwright says.

Apr 28, 2011

FCC receiving complaints on proposed sale of WMFE-TV

Several residents of the Orlando, Fla., area have contacted the Federal Communications Commission with their concerns about the sale of WMFE-TV (Current, April 18) to religious broadcaster Daystar, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Several noted that the community did not have advance warning of the sale, which WMFE management announced on April 1.

PBS NewsHour autism series stirs vaccine controversy

The PBS NewsHour's recent series on autism has reignited the debate on the role of vaccines in the childhood syndrome, reports the Los Angeles Times. It's a personal issue for former NewHour co-anchor Robert MacNeil: Viewers meet his grandson, Nick, who is on the autism spectrum.

Overseas Press Club Awards recognize five pubmedia reporting efforts

Public media outlets scored five honors in this year's Overseas Press Club Awards, announced today (April 28).

— The Lowell Thomas Award for radio news or interpretation of international affairs goes to David Baron, Patrick Cox and Sheri Fink of PRI’s The World for “Rationing Health: Who Lives? Who Decides?”

— The Carl Spielvogel Award for international reporting in the broadcast media showing a concern for the human condition goes to Landon van Soest and Jeremy Levine of Transient Pictures for American Documentary / P.O.V. on PBS, “Good Fortune,” on how efforts to eliminate poverty in Africa may be undermining communities.

— The Whitman Bassow Award for reporting in any medium on international environmental issues goes to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a project of the Center for Public Integrity, for “Looting the Seas: How Overfishing, Fraud and Negligence Plundered the Majestic Bluefin Tuna.”

The OPC Online Awards were presented for the first time this year. Winners include:

— The General Excellence Online Award for overall international coverage on a website goes to Dafna Linzer, Chisun Lee and Krista Kjellman-Schmidt of ProPublica for “The Detention Dilemma.”

— The Best Online Investigation of an International Issue or Event for coverage of a news event of international significance goes to Sebastian Rotella of ProPublica for “Mumbai Terror Attacks.”

The awards will be presented tonight by NBC News anchor Lester Holt at a dinner in New York.

A full list of the winners is here.

3D sound to premiere on Studio 360

Three-dimensional sound! That's what's coming this weekend on Studio 360 from PRI and WNYC. The show says in a statement that this will be "the exclusive radio debut of 3D sound."

"Until now, only a handful of audiophiles and industry insiders have had access to this emerging technology that makes surround sound seem ancient," it notes.

Host Kurt Anderson will be joined by Edgar Choueiri, a professor of applied physics at Princeton University, whose decades-long passion for recording technology led him to develop a digital filter that produces what he calls “pure stereo.” The filter will work on any stereo recording played through an ordinary pair of speakers. Andersen will give listeners instructions on placing their speakers to best appreciate the effect. They'll hear a fly buzzing 360 degrees around their heads, a roaring train pulling into a crowded station and a choral performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor.

Minnesota pubcasting fans gather for Public Radio Day at capitol

It was Public Radio Day at the Minnesota State Capitol Wednesday (April 27), as supporters gathered to ask legislators to continue funding Minnesota Public Radio. Standing in the rotunda, MPR founder and president Bill Kling told volunteers to wave their signs, bend the ears of legislators and "give them hell," according to the Star Tribune. The network is requesting $3.3 million over the next two years.

Apr 27, 2011

Jesse Thorn, waiting impatiently

What do young, up-and-coming public broadcasters dream about? The retirement of older public broadcasters. That's one of the many topics that Jesse Thorn, host of The Sound of Young America, discussed during an interview today (April 27) on the Nieman Journalism Lab site. As Thorn says: "I have these conversations with public radio people, and they say, 'Well, you know, Terry Gross is going to retire, and Diane Rehm is going to retire, and Garrison Keillor is going to retire, and they’re need a show with a proven track record to fill in.' And I’m like, Terry Gross is only like 50! She’s not 73. And it’s not as though she works at the sawmill where she has to retire because of her aches and pains." Truth be told, Gross is 60 and Thorn is a huge fan. After Mississippi Public Broadcasting canceled Fresh Air last July, Thorn banned himself from the station — which never ran his show anyway.

Proposed: a minute's quiet for the campus stations silenced

A campus broadcaster group has called for its constituency to observe a national "Minute of Silence" Thursday at noon, Central time, on Thursday (April 27) to raise awareness of college station closings.

"College broadcasters need to do a better job of explaining their value and purpose to the schools and communities they serve,” said Candace Walton, board president of College Broadcasters Inc. In many cases, she said, local programming is replaced by shows piped in from out of town.

Houston: Thursday is the day that Rice University student station KTRU-FM in Houston is to be transferred to pubradio station KUHF at the University of Houston. The students’ programs will continue to go out through the website KTRU.org and on KPFT’s HD Radio channel 2.

Nashville: At Vanderbilt University, it’s not the administration but Vanderbilt Student Communications that owns and proposes to sell student-run WRVU-FM, 10,000 watts at 90.1 MHz, hoping to get $3.5 million to $5 million to invest in an endowment to pay for student media. WRVU would continue to operate online. The nonprofit owner of WRVU, the student newspaper and other campus media, is run by a nine-member board with students holding six of the seats. The group’s FAQ notes that shrinking numbers of students listen to broadcast radio and anticipates that the student paper will lose ad revenue.

Also in Nashville: On Feb. 18, Trevecca Nazarene University’s contemporary Christian music station WNAZ, 89.1 MHz, gave way to WECV, a Christian talk station operated by the buyer, Community Radio Inc., the nonprofit branch of Bott Radio Network of Kansas City. WNRZ-FM, 91.5 MHz in Dickson, Tenn., and two translators were also parts of the $2 million sale.

Mobile, Ala.: On March 21, the University of Alabama approved purchase of WHIL-FM in Mobile, expanding the reach of the university’s Alabama Public Radio network based in Tuscaloosa. Spring Hill College sold the station for $1.1 million after operating it for 30 years. Alabama Public Radio will provide a classical-music/news schedule similar to WHIL’s.

San Francisco: Student station KUSF-FM went online-only in January when the University of San Francisco sold its frequency, 90.3 MHz, to the city’s classical radio station KDFC in a complex multistation deal. Los Angeles pubradio powerhouse KUSC bought two Bay Area frequencies when it acquired KDFC from Entercom Communications. Entercom exited the classical format, making off with KDFC’s former channel.

Viewers get to query Space Shuttle astronauts via NewsHour

Want to ask questions of the Space Shuttle Endeavour crew? PBS NewsHour, Google and YouTube are teaming up to give viewers that opportunity. The astronauts will respond to questions submitted by the public in a live interview to be moderated by NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien at 2 p.m. Eastern May 2 (subject to change, of course, as weather or technical problems could delay the launch or interview).

Participants may submit video or text questions by following a link at the show's website, clicking “submit a question” on its YouTube Channel, or sending a Tweet using the hashtag #utalk2nasa. The public will vote for the best questions for the astronauts; retweets count for one vote.

This is the second time PBS NewsHour has collaborated with Google and You Tube to offer the public direct access to newsmakers. In July 2010, during the Gulf oil spill crisis, the show took viewers inside BP’s Houston headquarters to ask Bob Dudley, the BP executive in charge of the clean up, their questions about the spill, in an exclusive hourlong interview moderated by NewsHour senior correspondent Ray Suarez.

Remember the DTV transition? Here comes another one

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) board, meeting in Washington in two weeks, will probably decide to go ahead with plans to develop a new standard for TV broadcasting in the next five to 10 years, reports TVNewsCheck's Harry Jessell. That will enable stations to broadcast more programming, more reliably to more places. But for viewers, it probably will also mean another messy transition similar to the June 2009 switch from analog to digital.

Jim Kutzner, PBS's chief engeineer and the ATSC’s next-gen planning committee, says it’s time. “If you don’t start now, many years down the road you’ll be in the same place.” He points out this move is a hedge against the FCC’s proposal to take big swatches of spectrum from broadcasters and make it available to wireless broadband providers. “If the broadcasters are consolidated down into a smaller amount of spectrum," he says, "then we will have far less spectrum to transition from where we are today to where we want to be in the future."

Apr 26, 2011

Frontline retooling for a "post-broadcast future"

Frontline is concentrating on repositioning the investigative show for a "post-broadcast future," reporting and packaging information in a multiplatform, digital-centered way. “As we expand to a year-round series and publish on more platforms — print, broadcast, radio, online — it’s become a whole new game,’’ Executive Producer David Fanning told the Boston Globe in a story today (April 26). They're working to retool the show’s content for devices like the iPad while breaking news 24/7. "Taking weeks or months to polish a story will no longer be the norm," the paper noted.

Equipment grantmaker PTFP will stop making grants but continue monitoring those already awarded

CPB's older sister in the federal grantmaking world, the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, died a month ago in the midst of the federal budget upheaval and finally posted its own obit yesterday, saying it will continue to monitor past grants to make sure grantees fulfill their obligations.

Ellen Rocco, g.m. of North Country Public Radio, says PTFP gave vital assistance to the regional broadcaster, which now covers the northern, rural one-third of New York state with 33 transmitters: "We simply couldn't have done it without them," Rocco wrote in her blog today. "Or, it would have taken several decades longer, so perhaps people in Old Forge or Newcomb or Glens Falls would be waiting until 2020 to hear our station." She thanked PTFP Director Bill Cooperman and the staff "who belie all the nasty stereotypes we hear about 'bureaucrats.'"

Apr 25, 2011

KCET finalizes sale of studio lot to Church of Scientology

KCET has completed the sale of its historic Sunset Boulevard studio lot to the Church of Scientology for an undisclosed sum. Al Jerome, president of the station that left PBS in January, said it will remain on the property for another year.

PBS, NPR explore possibilities of new Storify website

PBS and NPR were among news outlets that gave the Storify website a test run before its public launch today (April 25), according to the New York Times. Storify is one of several new sites (including Storyful and  Tumblr) that are developing ways to help journalists sift through online content and publish the most relevant information. NPR Twitter guru Andy Carvin, who recently drew raves from the online world for his social networking coverage of revolutions in the Middle East and northern Africa, first used Storify to cover the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January. “It quickly evolved into looking at how people were discussing the media coverage surrounding it and its potential political impact,” Carvin, senior strategist on NPR’s social media desk, told the Times. “There’s a big need for tools that allow people to collect bits of social media context and organize them in some fashion.”

WNET bids to manage NJN

WNET in New York City has submitted a bid to manage the television side of the New Jersey Network, "and is expecting to hear back next week," the Wall Street Journal is reporting (third item).The network has been in play since last year (Current, July 6, 2010), when Gov. Chris Christie decided the state must end its $11 million subsidy due to budget constraints. The Journal says other pubcasting stations interested in the network include WHYY in Philadelphia, and local groups such as WBGO, the Newark NPR affiliate. Transfer of NJN has been set for July 1. The state is seeking bidders to manage the TV network, and purchase or manage the radio network.

Louisville's WFPL drops local talk show, plans newsroom expansion

Louisville Public Media's WFPL is replacing its local midday talk program State of Affairs with Here & Now, the nationally syndicated show from WBUR in Boston. With the switch, WFPL plans to put more emphasis on in-depth news reporting and interviews that can be aired within Here & Now and other national programs.

The local news inserts "will be sort of like State of Affairs interviews except they will be a little shorter,” Todd Mundt, chief content officer, tells the Louisville Courier-Journal. “This allows us to delve into topics that maybe wouldn't get an hour but they're still important.” The WFPL news team also will report on important local topics for occasional hour-long news specials, which will preempt national shows.

The schedule change is part of a planned expansion of WFPL's news team, according to the Courier-Journal. State of Affairs host Julie Kredens continues to contribute to WFPL news programs, including State of the News, a news analysis show that held onto its Friday 1 p.m. timeslot.

NPR News reports on Gitmo detainees

NPR News is reporting new details about detainees from the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay prison. A series of investigative reports, mined from secret documents leaked last year to WikiLeaks, were published last night on NPR.org; NPR correspondents Tom Gjelten, Dina Temple-Raston and Margot Williams will report more findings on NPR News programs throughout the day. The New York Times, which received the cache of classified military documents from an anonymous source, shared them with NPR.

Huffington Post reports behind-the-scenes details of the race among major news outlets to publish their findings from the WikiLeaks Gitmo documents. Both the New York Times and NPR benefited from the expertise of Margot Williams, a former Times reporter now working in NPR's investigations unit. Williams, who maintained the Times database on Gitmo and continued to work on it after leaving the paper, has "absolutely encyclopedic" knowledge of the prisoners held there, NPR Executive Editor Dick Meyers tells HuffPo.

Meyers also responds to government officials who criticized news organizations for publishing the classified documents. "It's incredibly valuable and important material in giving insight into who the U.S. government has detained at Guantanamo Bay, who they've released, who is still there and why they're still there," Meyers said. "What are the problems with releasing them? What are the problems with putting them through any kind of trial or tribunal?"

"We are confident in reporting on them that we are not compromising national security or any methods or sources of intelligence gathering," he added.

Apr 23, 2011

NPR alum David Ensor named director of Voice of America

The Broadcasting Board of Governors has elected David Ensor, former NPR reporter, as the new director of Voice of America (VOA). Ensor's more than 30-year career includes reporting for the All Things Considered team in the 1970s, along with a winning a National Headliner award. He's been director of communications and public diplomacy for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, since January 2010 and will join VOA in June.

Apr 22, 2011

"Splendid Table" host to write column for HuffPost

Lynne Rossetto Kasper, host of American Public Media's The Splendid Table, will now also contribute to the Huffington Post. She'll write a weekly question-and-answer column for readers looking for culinary advice.

WTTW's McCarter dies at 81

Bill McCarter, president and g.m. of WTTW/Channel 11 in Chicago for 27 years before retiring in 1998, died of complications from cancer Thursday (April 21). He was 81.

Dan Schmidt, who succeeded McCarter as president and c.e.o. of Window to the World Communications, told his staff in an email Friday: “Bill left an indelible mark on WTTW, WFMT and public media nationally,” according to Chicago media columnist Robert Feder.

Before joining WTTW, McCarter ran WETA-TV in Washington, D.C., and was chairman of the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS). He also spent time at WHYY in Philadelphia and WNET in New York.
 
McCarter was an early advocate of private funding for stations. He created Washington Week in Review and The McLaughlin Group, and was a prime mover behind Sneak Previews, the first national showcase for movie critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, and Soundstage. During his tenure, WTTW and classical music WFMT-FM (98.7) won 12 George Foster Peabody Awards, five DuPont Columbia Journalism Awards, and 150 regional Emmy Awards.

McCarter began his career at WFIL in Philadelphia, where he worked with Dick Clark on American Bandstand, according to an obituary from WTTW. He graduated from Lafayette College and did his graduate work at Temple University. He also served as a decorated officer with the 45th Infantry Division during the Korean War.

McCarter was preceded in death by his his wife, Linda Warner McCarter. He is survived by his daughter Amy and her husband Jim Costello; daughter Juli McCarter and son Max McCarter; and grandchildren Emma, Ben and Charlie.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Apr 21, 2011

Donors will get a Pledge-Free Stream from KQED Public Radio

KQED is offering quite the thank-you gift to listeners: A Pledge-Free Stream. Beginning today (April 21), fans who donate at least $45 online before May 5 will receive access to a special programming stream to listen to KQED Public Radio on a computer or smartphone without interruption for the duration of the May fund drive.

"This is, we hope, only a step toward alternative funding models that generate significant donor revenue and enable uninterrupted access to great programming," Donald Derheim, station c.o.o., said in a statement. "We’re hopeful that what KQED does here in the Bay Area will spread everywhere to the benefit of public radio listeners around the world.”

KQED's innovations in fundraising — audience memberships, pledge nights, and televised auctions —  date to the 1950s. The first-ever on-air public broadcasting auction, on KQED in 1955, featured civic leaders, physicist Edward Teller and stripper Tempest Storm (Current, Feb. 3, 1997).

The new Pledge-Free Stream will be a second stream of KQED Public Radio with all regular programming including live news reports (except for traffic updates). It will be hosted by a separate team of on-air announcers, and will omit all fundraising breaks.

Grab new audiences on new platforms, Schiller advises public broadcasters

Vivian Schiller may no longer be president of NPR, but that isn't stopping her from making news with her views on public radio. “You are now competing in the big leagues and are no longer the scrappy underdog,” she said, addressing her remarks to former colleagues during a speech at Harvard's Shorenstein Center Wednesday (April 20). "You must become your own disruptors. If you don’t aggressively reach out to new audiences on new platforms, someone else will. There is no such thing as lasting media loyalty, especially in this age of media promiscuity.” She also said public radio needs to “let go of the nostalgia” of the craft. Schiller created a buzz within public broadcasting with similar remarks last year — that "radio towers are going away within 10 years, and Internet radio will take its place" — at her June 2 appearance at D8, the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital conference (Current, June 7, 2010).

"An American Family" producer: "What have I done?"

Craig Gilbert, who created TV's original reality series, An American Family, on WNET and PBS in 1973, said the experience "was pretty damn tumultuous, and I don’t want to go over it anymore.” But luckily for New Yorker readers he does, in the mag's current issue. He's displeased with HBO's upcoming Cinema Verite, which dramatizes the making of the controversial 12-part program focusing on the Loud family. “If you are given the assignment to write a two-hour film that exposes the making of An American Family, the only avenue to take is that the producer is corrupt,” Gilbert says.

The memory of a call from Pat Loud still stings. She was hurt by public reaction to her family — one critic called the family “affluent zombies.”

"Pat was screaming,” Gilbert says. “She’d taken a below-the-belt hit, and it hurt. That, right there, was the beginning of my own confusion. What have I done? What do I do?” He paused. “I’ve never resolved it. I didn’t know what I had wrought. I still don’t.”

Masterpiece's Eaton one of TIME's Top 100

TIME magazine has selected its Top 100 most influential people in the world, and it includes Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton. Her tribute is written by actress Gillian Anderson, who appeared in Any Human Heart on the pubcasting series. "As Masterpiece, still on a publicly funded network, celebrates this remarkable [40-year] anniversary, we Americans are fortunate to have Rebecca at the helm: someone committed to bringing great television drama to the widest possible audience, week after week," Anderson writes. Among Eaton's fellow honorees on the 2011 list: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Facebook c.e.o. Mark Zuckerberg, and Britain's Prince William and his fiancee, Kate Middleton.

Apr 20, 2011

Drug court judge challenges reporting behind "Very Tough Love"

A Georgia judge whose sentencing practices were scrutinized in "Very Tough Love," a recent edition of This American Life, has threatened to sue host Ira Glass and his public radio program for libel.

The March 25 episode examined the drug court administered by Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams for Georgia's Glynn, Camden and Wayne counties through the stories of three offenders who participated in the rehabilitation program, including a young woman who attempted suicide after Williams sentenced her to indefinite detention in solitary confinement. Glass contrasted the punitive sanctions that Williams imposed with national guidelines for drug court programs, concluding that the judge's approach is unduly harsh.

But a lawyer representing Williams has challenged the facts behind Glass's reporting, in both a 14-page letter threatening a lawsuit and a press release describing the story as malicious and Glass as an "admitted character assassin."

"I do not admit to being a character assassin," Glass wrote in response to Mercer University Law School Professor David Oedel, Williams' attorney. "Also: I am not a character assassin....My story was about how this particular drug court, run by Judge Williams, is not run like other drug courts. Nothing in Judge Williams' and Mr. Oedel's press release and letter contradicts that."

TAL
posted a clarification and correction to the original story, but is standing resolutely behind its reporting, armed with its own set of attorneys.

"Our clients' broadcast and related web publication are the product of intensive investigative journalism and, consistent with Mr. Glass's reputation, represent fair, accurate and unbiased reporting," wrote Michael Conway of Foley & Lardner, the Chicago-based firm representing Glass. "[Y]ou already well know that robust speech and communications about the conduct of governmental institutions and officials is the core value protected by the . . . First Amendment."

Additional coverage by ABA Journal; ATLaw, covering law issues in Georgia; Atlanta Creative Loafing; and Georgia Public Broadcasting.

KERA cuts staff and cancels its Think TV production

KERA in Dallas is eliminating six staff positions and ending its Think television production this week, the station announced today (April 20). (The radio version of the show, Think with Krys Boyd, continues on KERA-FM.) Mary Anne Alhadeff, KERA president, said in a statement that the organization has had a balanced budget for six consecutive years, "and it is important that continues.”

“The position reductions and the ending of Think TV are part of an ongoing management process to remain fiscally responsible and to move the organization forward in an ever-changing media landscape,” Alhadeff said. The statement cited uncertainty over federal public broadcasting funding for fiscal year 2012, which comes up for debate soon on Capitol Hill. CPB provides $1.8 million to the dual licensee, or about 11 percent of its operating budget.

Jon McTaggart steps into c.e.o role at American Public Media

Jon McTaggart, chief operating officer of American Public Media Group, parent company of Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Media. will take charge as c.e.o. July 1.  McTaggart was unanimously chosen by the board today (April 20) to succeed founder Bill Kling. See Current's story.

Sussman promoted to oversee "PRI's The World"

Andrew Sussman is the new executive producer of PRI's The World, Public Radio International announced today (April 20). He'll supervise all on-air and online components of the show, and lead the staff at headquarters in Boston as well as its London bureau. Sussman, senior program producer, has been with the show since its inception in 1995. He's also been a manager at the Russian daily Komsomolskaya Pravda, an editor at the English-language daily Moscow Times and a host and reporter for Radio France's European bureau.

Sell overlap stations to fund pubaffairs service built around NewsHour, Minow writes

Better funding to public television and radio is one of Newton Minow's six goals for the next 50 years in American telecommunications. In this month's Atlantic, the former Federal Communications Commission and PBS chairman reflects back over the half-century since he called television programming a "vast wasteland," in a speech on May 9, 1961, to the National Association of Broadcasters (audio and transcript here).

"The 'vast wasteland' was a metaphor for a particular time in our nation’s communications history, and to my surprise it became part of the American lexicon," he writes. "It has come to identify me. My daughters threaten to engrave on my tombstone: On to a Vaster Wasteland. But those were not the two words I intended to be remembered. The two words I wanted to endure were public interest."

He writes that public television and radio "have been starved for funds for decades." He notes that pubTV stations, "as I saw when I was the chairman of PBS, are overbuilt, sometimes with four competing in the same market. Where that is so, stations should be sold and the revenue dedicated to programming a national news and public-affairs service, built on the foundation of the splendid PBS NewsHour."

His other priorities: Expand freedom, improve education, improve and extend the reach of healthcare, build and maintain a new  public safety and local and national security system, and require broadcasters to offer free time to political candidates." If broadcasters are to continue as the lone beneficiaries of their valuable spectrum assignments, it is not too much to require that, as a public service, they provide time to candidates for public office. That time is not for the candidates. It is for the voters," he writes.

Apr 19, 2011

Lynn Allen dies; Idaho public broadcaster, Community Cinema pioneer

Lynn Allen of Boise, Idaho, a former longtime employee of Idaho Public Television, died unexpectedly March 28 on vacation in Mexico, after a sudden illness. She was 68.

In recent years, Allen coordinated the Independent Television Service’s Community Cinema program in the state for IdahoPTV. Boise, Idaho, was the launch city six years ago for the outreach, now the largest engagement initiative in pubcasting with 100 markets nationwide screening Independent Lens features and hosting discussions. ITVS compiled a short tribute video about Allen here.

Allen arrived at IdahoPTV in 1980 shortly before it became a statewide system. She worked four years as administrative assistant to the general manager before assuming duties as the system’s first personnel manager. She wrote the network’s original policy manual.

In 1987, Allen became station manager at KAID, IdahoPTV for southwest and central Idaho. By 1995 she took over as outreach director and Ready to Learn coordinator, responsible for statewide community activities. After leaving IdahoPTV as an employee in 2002, she contracted to manage grants for Ready to Learn and other educational programs for IdahoPTV, in addition to her work with ITVS.

“During her more than a quarter of a century of service to Idaho Public Television, Lynn brought great wisdom and knowledge to the educational mission of our statewide system,” IdahoPTV General Manager Peter Morrill said. “She will be sorely missed by her friends at IdahoPTV and across the state.”

She was born Nov. 11, 1942, in Indiana. She graduated from Leavenworth (Kan.) High School, and received a bachelor’s degree from University of Kansas in 1964. She was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

Allen was involved in “service organizations too numerous to mention,” according to her Idaho Statesman obituary, which also said she was an avid bridge player, loved traveling and was a champion for children's early learning.

Survivors include her husband, Dick C. Allen; two daughters, Lisa Hettinger and Christine Henkel; three grandchildren; and her brother, Charles F. Greever III. The family suggests memorials to Idaho Public Television, the Boise Women's and Children's Alliance, or the Kappa Kappa Gamma Foundation. A memorial is scheduled for April 30 at the Cathedral of the Rockies in Boise. (Image: ITVS)

Sale of Houston's KTRU clears FCC

The FCC rejected a petition to block the license transfer of Rice University's student-operated radio station KTRU-FM, clearing the way for the controversial $9.5 million sale to close later this month. The University of Houston's KUHF will take over the college station's 91.7 MHz frequency and launch a full-time classical music service under the call letters KUHC.

Friends of KTRU, a group of students, alumni and other supporters who mounted spirited protests of the sale last summer, took its challenge all the way to the FCC. But, in a decision released April 15, the commission dismissed the Friends' petition, which objected to the transfer as a set back for broadcast localism and diversity in noncommercial educational radio.

"The decision shows a lack of commitment on the part of the FCC to its own public statements regarding the importance of localism and diversity in American broadcast media," Friends of KTRU said in a statement.

Rice students will be giving up their analog broadcast channel, but not their station. They will continue to program KTRU as an Internet radio station and HD Radio channel of Pacifica's KPFT in Houston, broadcasting on 90.1-HD2 FM.

Classical KUHC will originate from KUHF's studios on campus and should launch within the next month, according to Richard Bonnin, U-Houston spokesman.

Radio Survivor published a detailed analysis of the FCC decision.

Washington University gets $550,000 grant to preserve "Eyes on the Prize"

The original Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965, the critically acclaimed 1987 documentary on PBS, will be preserved with a $550,000 donation from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Washington University in St. Louis Library announced today (April 19). The four-year grant will support work to copy the images from acetate-based film, highly susceptible to decay, to a more stable, polyester-based film. Included in the project are the documentary's complete, unedited interviews. The original film and interview footage were donated to the University Libraries in 2001 as part of the Henry Hampton Collection, one of the largest archives of civil rights media in the United States. The filmmaker is a native of St. Louis (Current's 1998 obituary). An updated version of the film, tracing the history up to 1985, ran last year on American Experience.

Apr 18, 2011

ProPublica's Pulitizer-winning financial coverage has public radio roots

ProPublica's Jesse Eisinger and Jake Bernstein, reporters who collaborated with This American Life and NPR's "Planet Money" to report on the 2008 financial meltdown, received the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Their award-winning coverage began with an in-depth story on the hedge fund Magnetar, which became the basis of This American Life's "Inside Job" episode. ProPublica acknowledged its public radio partners in a statement today: "Jesse and Jake's work was greatly augmented by partnerships with public radio's "Planet Money" and This American Life. While radio reporting is not eligible for the Pulitzer, we want to acknowledge a great debt to, and celebrate our partnership with, Adam Davidson and Ira Glass and their teams."

Deal for Pittsburgh's WDUQ: It's not done yet

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that the sale of WDUQ in Pittsburgh was delayed after negotiations over the asset purchase agreement extended beyond the 90-day deadline announced in January. Susan Harmon of the Public Media Company, the offshoot of Public Radio Capital that formed a partnership with Pittsburgh's WYEP-FM to buy WDUQ, said the contract should be signed within days. "There was one clarification that needed to happen on Friday," April 15, the day of the deadline, Harmon said, and the lawyer who needed to weigh in wasn't available.

Departing WDUQ G.M. Scott Hanley moved on ahead of schedule, signing on April 1 as communications chief for the Jewish Healthcare Foundation. In a farewell to colleagues after 30 years in pubradio, Hanley wrote about the leadership challenges ahead:

"Over the past decade, there was great fretting about how NPR was not a digital company - that people of our experience and age could only 'speak digital with an accent,'" Hanley wrote. "I think the greater concern is having leadership that is not fully immersed in the values and vision of NPR and public media. We cannot afford to 'speak mission with an accent.'"

Local orientation in news/talk reaps audience gains for WGBH-FM

Since launching an NPR news and local talk format on WGBH 89.7 FM in late 2009, the pubcaster has gained listenership at the expense of WBUR, Boston's dominant NPR News franchise, according to the Boston Globe. The audience shifts during the weekday noon timeslots -- when WGBH's locally focused Emily Rooney Show goes up against WBUR's national Here and Now -- suggest that 'GBH's gains have come at 'BUR's loss, Emerson College professor Jack Casey tells the Globe. WGBH also has the advantage of a powerful broadcast signal that reaches far beyond metropolitan Boston, where WBUR's audience is concentrated.

Father of South Dakota Public Broadcasting dies at 89

Martin Busch, the "father of South Dakota Public Broadcasting," died April 15 at his home in Atchison, Kan. He was 89.

Busch started as program director for KUSD-AM in 1954 at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, gradually working his way to director in 1960. Busch oversaw the establishment of KUSD-TV/Channel 2, which went on the air in 1961, the first educational television in the state "and part of his vision that everyone in the state, especially children in schools, should have access to educational programming," according to the Sioux City Journal. During his tenure, he also participated in the early development of similar state systems regionally, as well as national NPR and PBS.

Busch was also well-known for his radio show The Bookshop, which ran from 1956 to 2001. He was a member of the South Dakota Hall of Fame. In October 2010 the studios at SDPB were dedicated to his vision and service.

Busch was born on March 29, 1922, to Paul and Marie (Roemer) Busch in Wolsey, S.D. After graduating from Wolsey High School in 1940 he attended Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, S.D. He served as an officer in the U.S. Navy during WWII in the Pacific theater, enlisting in 1943. He was on active duty until 1946, when he returned to the University of South Dakota to earn his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1948 and a master's in music in 1954.  He remained with the Naval Reserves for 30 years, retiring with the rank of Lt. Commander.

He was a private pilot, and enjoyed riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

He is survived by three sons, David and Stephan (Rae Ellen), both of Atchison, Kan., and Harlan (Frances) Busch of La Cieba, Honduras; one daughter, Annalisa of Hastings, Minn; and four grandchildren. Memorials may be made to SDPB Friends, P.O. Box 5000, Brookings, S.D., 57006-5000. (Image: SDPB, 1982)

Apr 14, 2011

So much for "Something Different with Bill Moyers"

After PBS declined to designate the proposed show Something Different with Bill Moyers (w.t.) for common carriage, Moyers has withdrawn the program, according to the New York Times. Carnegie Corporation backed the concept with $2 million grant last month, opening the possibility that Moyers would come out of retirement to mount a new weekly production. "After discussions with my underwriters, we have decided to pursue other options and projects," Moyers explained in an e-mail to the Times. PBS plans to unveil its fall schedule to member stations next month, it said in a statement. "Until then, we'll continue to work with Bill and all of our talented producers to create an engaging and diverse program offering."

Bill on New Hampshire pubTV's state aid ruled "inexpedient"

Legislation to end state funding for New Hampshire Public Television got a thumbs-down recommendation from the Senate Finance Committee on April 13, according to Fosters.com. On a 4-3 vote, the panel ruled that H.B. 133 is "inexpedient to legislate." The bill would eliminate $2.7 million in state subsidies to NHPTV, roughly a third of its budget. The bill still goes before the full Senate; a vote is expected this month.

Growing Bolder — and looking for a presenting station

The impending sale of WMFE-TV in Orlando to religious broadcaster Daystar leaves Growing Bolder without a presenting station. It's WMFE's only local production, shining a light on the older yet vibrant folks among us. The series started last season on 20 pubTV stations and is now up to 275. "We’re looking at this as a chance to move to a presenting station in a bigger market with more infrastructure to promote and secure underwriting," former local anchor Marc Middleton, who now heads Growing Bolder Media, tells the Orlando Sentinel. "WMFE has been a great partner, but without any staff on the TV side, we’ve had to do all the sales and marketing on our own. We’re looking forward to moving to a partner who will assume some of those responsibilities.”

Ken Burns, on why he "wakes up the dead"

What drives PBS documentarian Ken Burns to poke at history's ghosts? In a revealing, low-key interview in the current New York magazine, he reveals that his mother died when he was 11 and his only memories of her are while she was gravely ill. It’s that pain that he says prompted him to making docs, a medium that “psychologically worked for me. Some of the things we do are to keep the wolf from the door.”

After a bit more prodding, the mag notes, "Burns goes full Freud."

"I mean, I’ve talked to a psychiatrist about this. He said, 'Well, look what you do for a living. You wake the dead. Who do you think you’re really trying to wake up?'"

Apr 13, 2011

Andy Carvin's relentless tweets as "another flavor of journalism"

There isn’t really a name for what Andy Carvin does, writes Paul Farhi in this Washington Post feature story on NPR's social media strategist. Are his relentless tweets on social unrest in the Middle East a form of curation, social media aggregation or interactive digital journalism? “I see it as another flavor of journalism,” Carvin says. “So I guess I’m another flavor of journalist.”

Small Texas pubradio station takes on coverage of huge wildfires

Tiny Marfa Public Radio — KRTS/93.5 FM in far west Texas — has "earned its spurs," writes Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy, as the only news station to sound the warning and then stay with the story Saturday (April 9) when wildfires burned through Fort Davis and the Big Bend. On Saturday afternoon, host and programming director Rachel Osier Lindley was on her way to her second job at a grocery and saw a house west of town ablaze. She called station General Manager Tom Michael, screaming that U.S. 90 was blocked and that she couldn't get to her own house. They reported the fire and posted a photo on Facebook. The station's transmitter lost power, so until help and a part arrived from Austin, KRTS posted updates by Web, Facebook and Twitter as the fire burned 50 homes in Fort Davis, a frontier town of about 1,000 residents. "We're the only broadcaster out here," Michael said. "Some of our volunteers lost their homes. We have just tried to give information and help share information." And they're still on the story, posting updates and dramatic photos.

Apr 12, 2011

Sutton sees pubradio's diversity problem as a failure of leadership

There's "a lot of truth" in Sue Schardt's recent speech about the lack of diversity in public radio, writes John Sutton, Maryland-based marketing consultant, on his blog. Schardt, executive director of Association for Independents in Public Radio, spoke passionately during a February NPR Board meeting, calling for the field to acknowledge its obligation to serve all of the American public, not just its core audience of highly educated, affluent, white listeners.

Sutton disagrees that public radio's focus on growing its core audience is a bad thing, but that's a subject for his blog on another day. He lays responsibility for the field's lack of diversity at the feet of its leadership.

"It turns out that the predominately well-educated, upper middle class white people in charge of public radio policy, funding, and programming are very, very good at making radio for their demographic peers and no one else," Sutton writes. The leadership talks about service to diverse audience, but has yet to deliver.

"After two decades of trying, public radio’s white leadership is incapable of diversifying the audience in any meaningful, measurable way," Sutton writes. "Just try and find an audience report from CPB or NPR that shows a diversity initiative that yielded audience growth among minority listeners."

PBS to start testing next-gen Emergency Alert System

PBS announced at the NAB Show in Las Vegas today (April 12) that later this year it will begin testing a next-generation emergency alert system to deliver multimedia alerts using video, audio, text and graphics to cellphones, tablets, laptops and netbooks, as well as in-car navigation systems. The pilot is part of work on  a new Mobile Emergency Alert System, the first major overhaul of the nation’s aging Emergency Alert System since the Cold War. PBS Chief Technology Officer John McCoskey said in a statement that PBS has been involved in testing digital broadcasting as a part of an upgraded emergency system since 2005. PBS plans to announce stations for the pilot project soon.

Budget agreement cuts three CPB funds, leaves NPR intact

As expected, CPB lost digital funding, recession aid to stations and radio interconnection money in the budget agreement for the remainder of the fiscal year, finally hammered out last week on Capitol Hill. The bill, H.R. 1473, zeros out $25 million in station "fiscal stabilization" grants and $25 million for replacement and upgrade of the radio infrastructure, and reduces digital spending from $36 million to $6 million. There's also a small — .2 percent — across-the-board trim for all non-defense discretionary spending. Main appropriation for FY11, $445 million. One reported sticking point in the contentious negotiations was a provision to prohibit federal funding for NPR; the Democrats managed to kill that.

Apr 11, 2011

Frontline creates managing editor role for former Washington Post newsman

Philip Bennett, a former Washington Post managing editor and current Duke University journalism professor, is joining Frontline in the new role of managing editor. Bennett will oversee program content across multiple platforms and help develop longterm editorial strategy for the series.

During 12 years at the Post, Bennett was deputy national editor and assistant managing editor for foreign news, supervising the newspaper's international coverage. He was named the Post's managing editor in 2005.

He joined the Duke faculty in 2009, and will continue in his role there. He'll also plan collaborations between the award-winning WGBH show and university.

Little hope of increased revenues for pubcasting system, early report data shows

Initial findings of a CPB-funded study on the potential impact of the reduction or loss of federal funding to the system anticipate further local production and staff cutbacks, as well as scant new revenue sources for stations, the CPB Board heard at its meeting in Washington, D.C. today (April 11). Matt McDonald of Hamilton Place Strategies, which also consulted on collaboration projects in New York and Illinois, presented the first phase of research, which looks at how stations have reacted to the recession. Using budget numbers from 2008 and '09, the report shows that on average station fundraising was cut 7.5 percent; local production, 7.1 percent; general operating/administration, 5.2 percent; broadcasting engineering, 4.4 percent; and other costs, 7.6 percent.

The report also examined the viability of other income sources to mitigate loss of federal cash. On the revenue side, McDonald said, "there are no easy, high-revenue options" — short of more commercial-like advertising. "The reality is that revenue increases won’t make up for cuts in federal spending."

"The strong message here," noted CPB President Pat Harrison, "is that the federal appropriation is the key, there isn't a silver-bullet fix out there" if that drops off. The numbers show that the argument by some on Capitol Hill that pubcasting could simply raise its own money "is false," she said, "and if in fact that were possible, we'd be called commercial media. There'd be no CPB, no oversight. In order to raise money, stations would have to give way to more commercial time."

McDonald anticipates completion of the first phase of the report within the next few weeks. The second phase will explore the fallout of losses in federal funds, including the impact that reduced local programming may have on member fundraising, and estimates of the number of stations at risk of closing or becoming pass-throughs.

Practical rift among journalists of color

The National Association of Black Journalists decided over the weekend to pull out of next year's panethnic Unity: Journalists of Color conference, Richard Prince's Journal-isms blog is reporting. One practical reason: Though NABJ members amount to half of Unity conference attendees in 2008, the association didn't share proportionately in Unity event revenues and will do better by holding a separate conference in 2012.

Unity conferences have been held every four or five years since the first in 1994. The participating groups have been NABJ, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association.

Separate meetings are held in other years, including those planned this year for NABJ, in Philadelphia, Aug. 3-7; the Hispanic association in Orlando, June 15-18; the Asian group, in Detroit, Aug. 10-13; and the Native American association, in Fort Lauderdate, Fla., July 13-17.

But the groups had planned to meet jointly next year for Unity, in Las Vegas, Aug. 1-4, 2012.

Blogger admonishes KUHF chief over "reckless" Facebook postings

The Houston Press hit KUHF President John Proffitt for H.L. Mencken quotes he posted on his Facebook page.

The quotes — "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public," and "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican" — "confirm every fanatical right-wing zealot's preconceptions of a public broadcasting muckety-muck," wrote blogger John Nova Lomax, who advised Proffitt to reconsider. Think of how elitist statements brought down NPR fundraising chief Ron Schiller and his boss, former NPR prez Vivian Schiller, Lomax pointed out.

"After what happened to the two Schillers, posting those quotes seemed to us downright punk-rock, reckless as a raised middle finger to the whole entire world. We told Proffitt that we feared this blog item might be received 'explosively' in some quarters in this post-Schiller environment. . . . We believed he was making the rabid right's case for them -- that all those in power at public radio view all but the well-heeled, college-educated, classical-loving as slack-jawed, dull-eyed mo-rons."

Profitt explained that he admired H.L. Mencken's ascerbic commentary, but heeded Lomax's warning. "I take your point," Proffitt said. "I honestly did not follow that line of reasoning before."

KUHF, which is planning a controversial signal expansion that will split its news and classical programming on two channels, is in its spring fundraiser.

Huffington challenges grantmakers to help revitalize local news with AOL's Patch network

Arianna Huffington, head of AOL’s Huffington Post Media Group, opened the second day of the Council on Foundations annual conference in Philadelphia today (April 11) with an invitation to more than 1,000 foundation execs to join with her in reshaping local news and information through social media. Criticizing the mainstream media’s preoccupation with institutional conflict, sensationalism and fear-mongering, Huffington referenced “the fourth instinct” — a need for spiritual fulfillment and community — that, she said, co-exists with the primal drives of survival, sex, and power. In a 25-minute speech that mixed business promotion with inspiring messages, Huffington encouraged the leaders of philanthropy to join with her in a revitalization of local news through Patch, AOL’s rapidly expanding network of local news sites.

Noting that Patch is now operating in 900 communities, Huffington presented it as a vehicle through which local civic leaders can “accelerate what is working and ... identify needs.” And she ended this section of her remarks with a direct invitation to the assembled grantmakers: “I would like to work with you on this,” presenting Patch as a way to make local problem-solving “scalable.” — Mark Fuerst in Philadelphia

WGBH to establish private trusts backing more of its programs

During a weekend symposium on non-profit investigative news, WGBH production chief Margaret Drain described how PBS's top producing station plans to fund its national series by creating private trusts aiding programs such as Frontline and Nova. Fundraising has always been a challenge for WGBH producers, Drain told participants, and she acknowledged feeling "not very optimistic about the future of PBS."

"The problem that PBS faces is the blurring between commercial and noncommercial broadcasting," Drain said, according to MediaShift's Mark Glaser, who reported from the Reva and David Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium in Berkeley, Calif. "I think we need to protect the noncommercial part of broadcasting. And it's all in the perception. We do take ads on our websites because monetization is an issue, but we don't want commercialization to foul our nest.

Drain was a panelist at the symposium, an invitation-only event convened by investigative reporter Lowell Bergman. Glaser filed several blog reports from the event: Day One, including an appearance by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange via Skype; and Day Two, sessions on open journalism collaborations [top item] and the panel on nonprofit investigative news on which Drain appeared with Robert Rosenthal of the Center for Investigative Reporting and Raney Aronson-Rath of Frontline, among others.

WGBH unveiled the Masterpiece Trust, backing production of the iconic British drama series, in January.

Apr 10, 2011

KPCC-FM programmer sparks controversy by halting Planned Parenthood spots

KPCC-FM's decision to pull Planned Parenthood spots last Friday is attracting criticism. Programmer Craig Curtis sent a memo that day to staff that landed on LA Observed, and made its way to the Nation's blog today (April 10). In it he said that “given that the budget debate in congress is focusing today on abortion in general and Planned Parenthood by extension,” running the spots “might raise questions in the mind of the reasonable listener regarding our editorial and sales practices.” On his LAWeekly blog, writer Dennis Romero noted, "We've never even heard a Planned Parenthood spot on the station. Oops, maybe this one backfired." The Nation said KPCC execs were unavailable for comment over the weekend.

Apr 9, 2011

NPR funding survives in 2011 budget; GOP had insisted on cut during negotiations

A Republican provision to cut all federal funding to NPR was dropped in Friday's (April 8) late-night deal on the fiscal 2011 budget, according to the Wall Street Journal. That funding, along with money for Planned Parenthood, became a sticking point in the tense standoff between the parties as they negotiated an agreement to keep the government open past a midnight deadline. Under the deal, the GOP won budget cuts of $39 billion for the remaining six months of the fiscal year, far more than either party had expected a few months ago.

Man pleads guilty to death threats against ATC hosts

A man accused of threatening to kill two All Things Considered hosts has agreed to plead guilty to the charges, the Associated Press is reporting. John Crosby, 38, formerly of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, was to go on trial in U.S. District Court in May on charges that he emailed dozens of threats to NPR's Melissa Block and Guy Raz through the network's website. Family members say Crosby suffers from mental illness. His attorney filed notice with the court Thursday (April 7) that Crosby will waive his right to trial and change his plea to guilty. It's not clear whether the move is part of a plea agreement, although acceptance of responsibility typically results in a lower sentence. A hearing on Crosby's change of plea is scheduled for April 15.

Apr 8, 2011

Pelosi stresses pubmedia support at Boston conference

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent an unequivocal message of support for public media to a crowd of some 2,000 participants at an afternoon plenary session of today's (April 8) National Conference on Media Reform in Boston. Pelosi enthusiastically cited a range of media reform objectives, including continued support for pubcasting. She said that Democrats and Free Press, the conference organizer, are working together to ensure funding to "NPR, PBS and their local affiliates," as well as expand low-power FM radio and fight for net neutrality.

Earlier in the day, Amy Goodman, host and co-producer of public broadcasting's Democracy Now!, presided over an international panel on "WikiLeaks, Journalism and Modern Day Muckraking" before an audience of around 500. Eight small cameras captured the presentations for later broadcast or streaming live to a secondary audience of activists following the conference online. Goodman's daily show, with roots in Pacifica radio, is heard almost everywhere in America, on hundreds of small stations and two satellite channels. Her impact and image has been magnified by the way that Democracy Now! has evolved from a radio program into a model for low-cost, multi-platform distribution.

The National Conference on Media Reform continues through Sunday. — Mark Fuerst

IRE salutes CPI's global investigations, ProPublica, NPR News

Investigative Reporters and Editors presented a 2010 IRE Medal, the top prize in its annual journalism competition, to a reporting collaboration between BBC International News Services and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a project of the Center for Public Integrity.

"Dangers in the Dust: Inside the Global Asbestos Trade," which exposed the international network that has kept asbestos on the market despite its known health risks, took the medal as the inaugural IRE winner for partnership/collaboration, new category in the annual competition. ICIJ also earned IRE honors for "Looting the Seas," an examination of the black market bluefin tuna trade.

ProPublica won for online reporting and innovations in watchdog journalism, and NPR News won for radio reporting with its two-part series, "Prison Profiting: Behind Arizona's Immigration Law," by correspondent Laura Sullivan. [PDF of 2010 IRE Award winners]

"This year's winners exemplify the profound difference journalism can make locally, nationally, and internationally," said Mark Horvit, IRE executive director.

Oklahoma lets pubcaster off the hook for legislative session coverage

The Oklamoma House of Representatives voted down a proposal Thursday (April 7) that would have required the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority to televise legislative sessions and committee meetings, calling it an unfunded mandate. Had the bill passed, OETA would have had to install cameras and other equipment and hire staff with no additional state money, the Oklahoman reports. State support for OETA this fiscal year was cut 6 percent, forcing it to decline contract renewals of three longtime anchors and put five local shows on hiatus. Its $4.2 million state allocation is expected to shrink by at least 7 percent for the 2012 fiscal year beginning July 1.

WNET, KOCE, World channel to run "American Family" marathon

A marathon of  PBS's original 1973 American Family documentary episodes begins at 11 p.m. April 23 on WNET/Thirteen in New York City, immediately following HBO's premiere of Cinema Verite, its docudrama on what happened behind the scenes of what is widely considered the first reality TV program. PBS SoCal/KOCE kicks off its American Family marathon at 11 p.m. Pacific, and the World multicast channel runs all 12 hours starting at noon April 24 with a re-air beginning at midnight April 25.

The groundbreaking and controversial documentary project chronicled the daily interactions of the Loud family (image: PBS) of Santa Barbara, Calif., including when wife Pat asked Bill for a separation. Son Lance was the subject of a followup 2003 PBS documentary, Lance Loud! A Death in an American Family, shot in 2001 when he was dying of hepatitis C and HIV.

The original American Family has not been seen in its entirety in more than 20 years (Current, Nov. 5, 1990). The new HBO film focuses on Alan and Susan Raymond, who filmed the original documentary for WNET.

Expansion of Native FMs at risk

Native Public Media has asked federal policymakers to extend the construction permit deadline for tribal groups to launch new noncommercial educational FM radio stations. The Federal Communications Commission awarded CPs for 38 tribal stations under its 2007 NCE filing window, potentially doubling the number of outlets broadcasting to Native communities.

"Because of the economic recession, and threatened cutbacks in federal funding to NTIA's Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, many of those permits are at risk of expiring," Loris Taylor, NPM executive director, said during an April 5 Senate hearing on broadband policy. "If these permits expire, the opportunity for reapplying is not likely to arise for many years to come."

NPM is requesting a one-year extension for permit-holders and preservation of congressional appropriations for PTFP and CPB. "Without continued support for station operations from CPB, all Native stations are in jeopardy," Taylor said.

On the broadband front, Taylor urged lawmakers to support recent FCC initiatives to provide access to digital media and basic telecommunications services in Native American communities. She called for the commission's Tribal Priority policy to be extended to landless tribes and for $1.5 million in funding for its new Office of Native Affairs and Policy. "We ask that you take this office and its functions as seriously as we do by assuring that it is adequately funded," she said. [PDF of Taylor's testimony]

Unique coloring book helps kids get ready for earthquakes

The nonprofit investigative news unit California Watch is distributing “Ready to Rumble,” a coloring and activity book to help kids prepare for an earthquake. It's part of “On Shaky Ground,” a 19-month investigation into the seismic safety at K-12 public schools in the state that reveals the Division of the State Architect approved at least 20,000 school buildings that lacked the final safety certification required by law. Underwriters for the coloring book, available in English, Spanish, traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese and Vietnamese, include KQED public radio and Public Insight Network. California Watch partners include the PBS NewsHour.

Conservative libertarian defends public broadcasting

Here's a look at public broadcasting funding from a unique point of view: a fiscal conservative who is also a social libertarian. Bill Shireman heads up Future 500, a nonprofit that works to "transform fruitless ideological battles by redirecting corporations and stakeholders to understanding the systemic roots of problems and their solutions." In his piece on Huffington Post, he admits there are plenty of good reasons to get government funding out of media. "But the realist in me — the one that actually listens to both commercial and public media — sees something different."

"The overwhelming onslaught of advertising leaves us impoverished, when it comes to thoughtful, humane programming," he writes. "We need genuine choice in media. Right now, public broadcasting offers one important choice."

"PBS is fundamentally different from Fox or MSNBC, the conservative and liberal champions of commercial media. It is calm, thoughtful, measured, and introspective. It triggers not my passions and impulses, but my intellect. Even if I disagree — as I often do — I feel like I am more grounded and thoughtful when I listen to PBS."

Media reformers gather in Boston

PBS President Paula Kerger, Frontline Executive Producer David Fanning and Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! will address the National Conference for Media Reform, kicking off today (April 8) in Boston sponsored by Free Press. Other speakers at the three-day event include U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, and craigslist founder Craig Newmark. More than 2,500 participants are expected at the confab, which features some 80 interactive sessions on topics including journalism, public media, technology, innovation, policy, arts, and social justice, along with musical performances and film screenings. Can't attend? Free Speech TV will be streaming live, and check out the conference website. (As of 9:30 a.m., Free Press was having difficulty handling excessive web traffic; spokeswoman Jenn Ettinger told Current that techs are on the job.)

Apr 7, 2011

St. Louis Beacon garners $2.6 million in donations

The nonprofit St. Louis Beacon, housed inside the city's PBS member station KETC (Current, March 30, 2009), has received $2.6 million in gifts and pledges. “These gifts don't eliminate our need to fund raise by any means," said Beacon g.m. Nicole Hollway. "We see it as an infusion of capital. These gifts give us the resources to invest in areas that tie directly to earned revenue.” The money will go toward business and technology infrastructure.

Former CPB Board vice-chair to head Winthrop Rockefeller Institute



Christy Carpenter, a former vice-chair of the board of directors of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, is the new c.e.o. of the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute in Morrilton, Ark. Carpenter recently served as e.v.p. and c.o.o of the Paley Center for Media, overseeing operations in New York and Los Angeles, and is a member of the KCET Board of Directors. Carpenter was appointed by President Clinton in 1998 to the CPB Board.

Public-access channel returning to Albany, N.Y., due to public demand

While many PEG (public, educational and government access) channels are going dark nationwide, the city of Albany, N.Y., is creating a new one. The Common Council approved assembling an 11-member Public, Education and Government Access Oversight Board for the development and operation of a public-access studio in the basement of the Albany Public Library's main branch, reports the local Times Union. "Residents have clamored for a public-access outlet in the city since its last station, also located at the library, shut down in the 1990s amid city budget cuts," the paper notes.

Virginia Senate spares pubcasters from deep funding cuts

The Virginia Senate voted to partially restore funding for public broadcasting yesterday, rejecting Gov. Bob McDonnell's proposal to cut $1.7 million supporting educational programming of the state's public TV stations, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Instead, aid to Virginia pubcasters will drop 10 percent. The governor's proposal to slash pubTV state subsidies by 50 percent was approved by the Virginia House of Delegates. WVPT President David Mullins told WSHV-TV News that his station, which serves Harrisonburg and the Shenandoah Valley, would have lost grants totaling $305,000.

Modern-day "Freedom Riders" selected to retrace route

American Experience has chosen 40 student Freedom Riders who will travel the original bus route of the legendary civil-rights activists who used public transportation to challenge segregation in the South in 1961. The students reflect the original Freedom Riders group, PBS said in a statement today (April 7): They are culturally diverse, come from 33 states and the District of Columbia, and attend various schools from community colleges to the Ivy League. All were selected through an essay competition with nearly 1,000 entries. From May 6-16, they'll retrace the route of the original Freedom Rides from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans, accompanied by filmmaker Stanley Nelson, several original Freedom Riders and others along the way. Nelson's "Freedom Riders" premieres on PBS on May 16.

New "Vine Talk" show makes conservative point that PBS is elitist, Slate review says

"Any budget-cutter or culture warrior hoping to rig an argument that federally funded television exists to serve the coastal elite need only have told her audience get a load of Vine Talk, debuting this month on PBS," writes Troy Patterson in Slate today (April 6). On the show, host Stanley Tucci and other celebs (such as writer Nora Ephron and actors John Lithgow and Julianne Moore) sample various wines, as a sommelier answers their questions and provides advice to them and the studio audience.

Don't miss the comments below the review, such as: "I think this article makes a great point — PBS's programming is generally geared towards the intellectual, more refined, probably wealthier crowd. Most conservative Republicans don't fall into that crowd, which is why there is the Hunting Channel."

Apr 6, 2011

Schiller asked to resign even before NPR board saw entire sting video, she says

NPR's former President Vivian Schiller told an audience at the Paley Center For Media that she was forced to resign even before its board had watched the entire undercover sting video that prompted her departure on March 9. She was interviewed on Tuesday (April 5) by Pat Mitchell, former head of PBS.

"The timing was, the edited video hit at about ten o'clock," Schiller said. "They released the two-hour version, I think it was about two o'clock in the afternoon. We rushed to get a rush transcript. But even a rush transcript — it was two hours, it takes two hours, at a minimum. So we were just getting our hands on that long one. But then, anyway, the board met and the rest is history." 

Attention RSSers

Don't miss the provocative commentary on Current's home page, "Future obituary? Public television, 50, dies of apprehensive innocuity." It's by Kit Lukas, a producer and program executive at WNDT/WNET 1963-71, and former chair of the Department of Communications at the City College of New York. He continues to make docs and is writing a book on public TV.

WMFE overlap stations don't jump at possible primary status

Reverberations from the impending sale of primary PBS affiliate WMFE in Orlando, Fla., continue. Secondary stations WDSC at Daytona State College and WBCC in Cocoa, run by Brevard Community College, are taking a wait-and-see approach. WDSC officials said they are "too busy trying to keep their own station going to consider taking on more programming from WMFE," reports the News-Journal in Daytona Beach. A statement from WBCC-TV said it is "considering all options." A PBS spokesperson told the paper that the local stations, not PBS, will make the decision as to which will be primary.

Slate columnist sees PBS as the "hideous, ugly televised brother" of NPR

"Save NPR! But please, put PBS out of its misery." That's quite the provocative headline, and the Slate piece by columnist and author Mark Oppenheimer continues to rack up comments.

Oppenheimer said while PBS was a powerhouse early in its existence, "today, it can be difficult to find what ambitious, interesting programming there is on PBS. Earlier this month, I tuned in a few times and was greeted by Antiques Roadshow, a doo-wop concert that I have seen before while channel-surfing, and — several times — the financial advice of Suze Orman. From those glimpses, it seemed that an average evening on PBS had all the intelligence of VH1 and all the youth appeal of CBS."

APTS President Pat Butler counts at least 10 Senate Republicans supporting pubcasting

Patrick Butler, in his speech at the annual Capitol Hill day sponsored by the Association of Public Television stations this week, had some good news for the station leaders gathered in D.C. to lobby their legislators. "A very senior Republican in the House of Representatives has told me in recent weeks that the [Democratic Rep. Earl] Blumenauer amendment to continue funding public broadcasting would have passed the House — with significant Republican support — if it had been properly offered under the rules of debate on HR 1." The amendment was killed on a procedural vote just before midnight on Feb. 16 (Current, Feb. 22).

Also, "I count at least 10 Republicans in the United States Senate who will stand with us for continued funding of public broadcasting, and depending on the final package of budget proposals having nothing to do with us, there may be more," he noted.

Five staffers gone from WMFE-TV, eight more to follow

Five staffers were laid off on April 1 from WMFE-TV in Orlando, Fla., the same day it announced the station was sold to a Christian broadcaster, pending FCC approval. Around eight more positions also will be affected in the coming weeks, Lorri Shaban of TW2 public relations in Orlando told Current. She declined further details.

The station also had a two-week staff furlough and wage freeze in October 2010, and laid off 28 percent of its employees in February 2009.

Apr 5, 2011

Studies show strength of Ready to Learn literacy initative

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Public Broadcasting Service on Monday (April 4) released a report, "Findings from Ready to Learn: 2005-2010," (PDF) that distills several research and evaluation studies of the early childhood literacy initiative funded by Congress and the U.S. Department of Education in 1992.

Among the findings:

— PBS shows featuring Ready to Learn concepts motivate children to request trips to bookstores or libraries for books;

— preschool-age children who watch Sesame Street spend more time reading for pleasure in high school, and they get better grades in English, math, and science than kids who don't;

— when Ready To Learn video, online, and print materials were combined with teacher training, lesson planning, and classroom instruction, kids from low-income backgrounds were able narrow or close the achievement gap with middle-class kids.

As part of its 2005-10 grant award to CPB and PBS, the Education Department required that at least one-fourth of Ready to Learn funding — more than $20 million of $72 million — be devoted to studies and evaluations of its programs.

Construction to start this month on new St. Louis Public Radio building

St. Louis Public Radio will break ground for its $10 million new home on April 15. General Manager Tim Eby says the three-story, 27,000-square-foot building is expected to take a year to complete. It'll be just east of the city's PBS member station KETC.

FCC launches beta version of latest website

The beta version of the Federal Communications Commission's new website is now live. "This beta launch isn’t a beta in a traditional sense," writes FCC Managing Director Steven VanRoekel on the Official FCC Blog page. "FCC.gov will change again — and quickly. It’s an approach that’s fairly foreign to the way most agencies work on the Web. But we’ll build this new experience on a solid, future-ready platform; we’re taking a page from the online entreprenuer’s playbook, releasing products quickly and often, and letting the many eyes of the Web drive the continuous improvement we hope FCC.gov will come to embody."

APTS salutes another champion: Sen. Harry Reid

America's Public Television Stations presented a Champion of Public Broadcasting Award to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), a key ally in the battle to preserve federal funding for public broadcasting.

Sen. Reid has been an advocate for increasing CPB aid and for preserving Ready to Learn, the federal program that provides funding for some PBS Kid shows. This year, Sen. Reid been an outspoken opponent of House Republicans' efforts to defund CPB and NPR.

After the House approved H.R. 1076 last month, Sen. Reid declared that the bill was "unlikely" to gain any traction among Senate lawmakers.

"Harry Reid steps in the ring every year on our behalf to 'float like a butterfly, and sting like a bee,'" said Tom Axtell, g.m. of Vegas PBS. APTS announced the award as it capped its annual Capitol Hill Day confab of legislative strategy sessions and Hill visits on April 5.

APTS reserves its Champion award for members of Congress and other individuals "who have had a tremendous impact on the ability of public television stations to meet the most critical needs of the communities they serve," according to its announcement. It named Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) as pubcasting champions last week.

Jim Lehrer wins National Press Club's prestigious Fourth Estate Award

PBS NewsHour newsman Jim Lehrer is this year's recipient of the Fourth Estate Award, the highest honor from the National Press Club. “Jim Lehrer has embodied the time-tested core values of journalism dating back to when many people had only black and white screens and continuing through today's era of high definition television and social media,” National Press Club President Mark Hamrick said in a statement. "Amid the cacophony of a sometimes shrill media landscape, he has remained the true voice of reason, balance and fairness.” Lehrer is the 39th recipient. Previous award winners include Walter Cronkite, Christiane Amanpour and David Broder. The club will present the honor at a dinner event later this year.

Apr 4, 2011

Feds investigating suspicious fire at KUAR-FM in Little Rock, Ark.

An April 2 fire at KUAR-FM in Little Rock, Ark., is being investigated as possible arson by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. When the station suddenly went off the air around 5:30 p.m. Saturday, the station’s engineer went to the transmitter site on Shinall Mountain to determine the problem. Smoke was pouring from the building but the lock on the front door had been changed so he couldn't enter. KUAR is currently using a standby transmitter to broadcast at a lower power, and General Manager Ben Fry estimates damages at between $100,000 and $200,000.

Center for Public Integrity to run iWatch News site

The Center for Public Integrity is launching the iWatch News site dedicated to nonprofit investigative journalism, the New York Times is reporting today (April 4). It'll be updated daily with 10 to 12 original investigative pieces and aggregated content from other sources on money and politics, government accountability, health care, the environment and national security.