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May 31, 2011

Frontline website returns; e.p. Fanning calls hack "disappointing and irresponsible"

Frontline's website is back up after being hit by hackers over the weekend. The group Lulz Boat claimed responsibility on its Twitter account Sunday night (May 29), mentioning retaliation for Frontline's recent documentary, "WikiSecrets." Frontline Executive Producer David Fanning said in a statement on the attack, "We see it as a disappointing and irresponsible act. We have been very open to publishing criticism of the film, and the film itself included multiple points of view. Rather than engaging in that spirit, this is an attempt to chill independent journalism." The attack also involved PBS NewsHour and some PBS.org pages, which are still under repair but should be up soon. On Monday, NewsHour provided content to viewers via Tumblr.

UPDATE: PBS NewsHour is back up as of 4 p.m. Eastern.

Illinois Public Media continues search for station manager, hires development director

Kate Dobrovolny, former station manager at WILL-AM-FM-TV in Champaign, Ill., who retired in April after 31 years at the station, is spending her summer right where she wants to be: In her garden. Meanwhile, the local News-Gazette reports, Illinois Public Media is conducting a national search for her successor. It's also hired Debbie Hamlett as director of development to replace George Hauenstein, who left last fall. Hamlett was previously development and programming director at South Carolina ETV. Hamlett starts today (May 31).

UPDATE: Current just heard from Hauenstein, who points out he did not retire, as the News-Gazette report states, but instead departed to become chief development officer at Vermont Public Television. Current regrets the error, and now envies Hauenstein's views of fall foliage.

WFUV's Alternate Side gains drive-time slot on city-owned WNYE

The Alternate Side, an HD Radio channel and online stream programmed by New York contemporary music station WFUV-FM, is expanding its broadcast footprint into morning drive-time. A six-hour music show, co-hosted by Russ Borris and Alisa Ali, will air on WNYE 91.5 FM, beginning June 1 from 6 a.m. to noon.

The new programming deal supplants WNYE's three-year relationship with KEXP in Seattle, which brought simulcasts of KEXP's John in the Morning to New York's airwaves in 2008. WNYE is part of NYC Media, owned and operated by the New York City government.

The partnership with WFUV "provides the opportunity to improve our radio content and further workforce development in media at the same time," said Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment, which oversees the NYC Media group. It also "comes at no cost to the taxpayer," according to a WFUV's May 31 announcement.

WFUV created and launched The Alternate Side in 2008 as a channel showcasing indie music and new artists. It airs on WFUV's primary channel as a late-night show -- on weeknights from 10 p.m. to midnight.

"The Alternate Side is all about finding and supporting new artists," said Chuck Singleton, WFUV p.d., who led start-up of the service. "The more ways this programming gets out there, the better we're serving our listeners and the many talented bands we play."

Kerger: Aging is all about "testing the boundaries"

PBS President Paula Kerger, 53, is one of several women (including a 74-year-old bodybuilder!) featured in the Washington Post Magazine's May 29 cover story on women and aging. "So many people believe that when they get to a certain point in their lives, it's too late to do something new," she tells the mag. "I believe that testing the boundaries of what you're capable of is what aging is about." Training for and competing in triathalons is one way she's constantly challenging herself "to do something terrifying," she says.

Ibargüen on PBS break proposal: "It's too bad"

Reaction continues regarding PBS's upcoming experiment to interrupt programming four times an hour for underwriting or promotional spots. In a New York Times story Monday (May 31), feedback came from sources including Alberto Ibargüen, a former PBS board chairman and president and chief executive of the Knight Foundation, which finances pubcasting initiatives. “My first reaction is that in any kind of marketing opportunity, if you give up something that is desirable and differentiates you from your competition, it’s too bad, and that’s what this is,” Ibargüen said. However, he noted, "the people of PBS would not do this lightly." And Jon Abbott, president of producing powerhouse WGBH in Boston, said that “we have a lot of people who care about the work and care about our way of presenting work; that trust, the values that people place in public media are things that we are very attentive to and respectful of.”

May 30, 2011

PBS web pages hacked; group claims attack in response to "Frontline" on Wikileaks

Hackers attacked the PBS website late Sunday (May 29), posting a story on the PBS NewsHour page that dead rapper Tupac Shakur was "alive and well" and exposing username and password information for various PBS staff and stations, all reportedly in retaliation for a Frontline report on Wikileaks.

Online mischief makers Lulz Boat claimed responsibility on its Twitter page around 11 p.m. Sunday. It said in a Tweet that the attack was in response to the Frontline documentary "WikiSecrets," about the leaking of U.S. government secrets to WikiLeaks, its founder Julian Assange and the alleged leaker, former army intelligence officer Bradley Manning.

Teresa Gorman, a NewsHour social media and online production assistant, posted a series of Tweets in response early Monday morning. "Thanks for your concern guys — we are aware there is more than the Tupac story being hacked right now," she wrote. She also declined further comment to CNN.

PBS issued a statement Monday morning: "Last night there was an intrusion to PBS's servers. The erroneous information on the PBS NewsHour site has been corrected. The intruders also posted login information to two internal sites — one that press use to access PBS PressRoom and an internal communications website for stations. We're notifying stations and affected parties to advise them of the situation."

May 29, 2011

Management of New Jersey TV Network going to WNET/Thirteen in deal this week

New Jersey officials are finalizing a deal to allow WNET/Thirteen in New York City to run the New Jersey Network's television operation, the Star-Ledger is reporting today (May 29). State treasury officials are expected to announce the agreement this week. Sources tell the paper that WNET will incorporate a new nonprofit in New Jersey to manage the operation, and will work with several programmers, including Caucus Educational Corp., the nonprofit New Jersey production company run by Steve Adubato Jr., to provide local content. WNET will pay nothing to the state for the right to run the station. The state network also is auctioning off rights to purchase and/or run the radio operation. NJN recently was valued at $51.2 million for its four TV and nine radio stations. NJN asked for its independence three years ago (Current, May 12, 2008) and more recently Gov. Chris Christie decided the state can't afford the network anymore (Current, July 6, 2010).

Massachusetts town one of many forming nonprofits to run cable access channels

Franklin, Mass., is creating a nonprofit to run the town's public access channels, reports the local Milford Daily News today (May 29). The town's Cable Advisory Board hopes to increase public involvement, separate the channel from government entanglements and move it to a larger studio. Comcast stopped running the studio as part of the most recent license agreement the town signed last year. The town has since hired two part-time workers. In the past 10 years, Comcast has stopped running many cable access stations it inherited when it purchased AT&T Broadband, leaving towns to figure out how to keep providing those services, the paper notes.

May 28, 2011

Kansas pubcasters get state funds for next fiscal year, but warning about future

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a $13.8 billion budget Saturday (May 28) for the fiscal year beginning July 1, which includes $1.5 million in operating grants for public broadcasting stations. However, he also warned pubcasting stations that he intends to target the funding next year. He called on the stations to make what he called appropriate preparations for losing their state funding.

May 27, 2011

Phil Redo to oversee news and culture for WGBH-FM

The new managing director of news and culture for WGBH-FM/89.7 in Boston is Phil Redo. He'll guide the overall strategy of the NPR station's news and cultural programs and oversee WGBH-FM's editorial partnership with Public Radio International. Redo worked for WGBH as an independent media consultant and was instrumental last year in its purchase of WCRB-FM/99.5, the station said in a release. Redo was formerly vice president and general manager of Greater Media Boston, a five-station FM radio group, and v.p. of operations and strategy at WNYC, New York Public Radio.

Time-shifted radio arrives with DAR.fm

Here's a tantilizing development: a free TiVo for radio. That’s the promise of DAR.fm (for Digital Audio Recorder), a Web site that lists every single radio show on 1,800 AM and FM stations across the country. The New York Times reports that listeners can "search, sort, slice and dice those listings" by genre, radio station or search phrase, then request the program and "shortly thereafter, an e-mail message lets you know that your freshly baked show is ready for listening."

"It lets you time shift, of course, but also presents the entire universe of radio broadcasting in one tidy menu," it adds. "No longer must you gripe about the creeping commercialism that shut down, say, your town’s NPR affiliate or ’70s reggae station. Suddenly there are 1,800 radio stations in your town — and they program their shows according to your schedule, not theirs."

Public stations producing live webcasts from Primavera, Sasquatch Music festivals

Public media stations are producing live webcasts from two major music festivals this Memorial Day weekend. New Jersey's WFMU returns to Barcelona, Spain, for the Primavera Sound Festival, presenting two days of live concerts that began at 3 p.m. ET today with Suicide, the influential protopunk duo. (Listen and chat with other music fans here.) Seattle's KEXP and NPR Music launch three days of coverage of the Gorge Amphitheatre's Sasquatch Music Festival tomorrow at 3:25 ET.

This is the first time that NPR Music has taken its web listeners to Sasquatch. In addition to KEXP, three radio stations are participating in the festivalcast: KUT in Austin, Texas; Oregon's OPB Music; and The Current from Minneapolis.

WFMU has produced live coverage from Primavera for three years, and offers an archive of festival performances going back to 2009 here.

Supporters cheer as trustees approve new PBS station in Florida

After the University of Central Florida Board of Trustees approved the new WUCF-PBS on Thursday (May 26), "a small crowd at the meeting applauded loudly and cried out in celebration," according to the Orlando Sentinel. "We see this as an opportunity to step up and serve the community in a new way," said Grant Heston, UCF's assistant vice president for news, information and UCFTV. "We look forward to finalizing this with PBS in the coming days." The university is partnering with Brevard Community College in Cocoa. BCC operates public TV station WBCC, a secondary PBS station. Through an exisitng partnership with UCF, BCC broadcasts UCFTV. UCF and BCC have been working eight weeks on a deal to present full PBS service in Orlando to replace WMFE-TV, which is being sold to religious broadcaster Daystar.

May 26, 2011

Two Florida schools strike deal to bring PBS to Orlando via new station, WUCF-PBS

The University of Central Florida Board of Trustees today (May 26) gave its approval to become the PBS licensee for Orlando, the Orlando Business Journal is reporting. WUCF-PBS will launch when current affiliate WMFE-TV stops broadcasting July 1, following its sale to religious broadcaster Daystar. The deal includes a one-time, $1 million cash infusion to the station for HD. Both UCF and BCC already operate their own TV stations and would create content for the channel. UCF will commit $380,000 a year in personnel to the station.

Florida governor eliminates public radio and television funding

Florida public broadcasters are reeling after Republican Gov. Rick Scott vetoed all public radio and television Community Service Grants today (May 26). That's a loss of nearly $4.8 million in the next fiscal year, WMNF in Tampa reports. The governor kept funding for the Florida Channel, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the legislative sessions and Supreme Court hearings, Janyth Righter, executive director of Florida Public Broadcasting Service, tells Current. "Elimination of state funding will inevitably lead to the loss of programs, services, and jobs in communities across Florida," the pubcasting group said in a statement, adding that "supporters of local public broadcasting stations across the state are deeply dismayed" at the governor's decision.

WMFE Board hears opposition to sale

Eight persons showed up at a WMFE Board of Trustees meeting Wednesday night (May 25) to voice concerns about sale of the PBS affiliate's license to religious broadcaster Daystar. One was former Democratic U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson. “People spoke out against the sale,” Grayson told the Orlando Sentinel in an email. “I told them that they should ask for an FCC hearing on the transfer, and they should solicit competing offers from local groups that want to continue public broadcasting.” Station President Jose Fajardo also told the paper that proceeds from the $3 million sale "will help pay for any money that will need to be reimbursed to state or federal agencies.”

KCET raises more than $70,000 for Japanese disaster relief

KCET in Los Angeles raised $70,495 during its May 24 live televised benefit for Japan, 100 percent of which will go to relief efforts in the regions most affected by the earthquake and tsunami disasters, the station says. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa made a special appearance during the three-hour primetime show, which will be rebroadcast locally from 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday. KCET is working with U.S.-Japan Council to disburse funds to NGOs in Japan. Above, from left, KTLA’s Frank Buckley and actress Lily Mariye with Villaraigosa, L.A. Deputy Police Chief Terry Hara, actor George Takei, and U.S.-Japan Council’s Bryan Takeda during the telethon. (Image: KCET)

Sale closes on Palm Beach's WXEL-FM

Florida's WXEL-FM, the public radio station that broadcast on 90.7 FM in Palm Beach, has been converted into full-time music outlet WPBI, owned and operated by American Public Media's Classical South Florida.

The FCC approved the $3.85 million license transfer agreement last week, overruling objections from local groups who sought to prevent longtime owner Barry University from splitting the NPR news/classical music station from its public TV sibling. Sale opponents, including the WXEL Community Advisory Board, lobbied unsuccessfully to retain local control of both stations.

“This is an exciting day for public radio listeners across South Florida,” said Doug Evans, Classical South Florida president, in a news release announcing that the sale had closed. “We’re excited about the opportunity to serve the Palm Beaches and the Treasure Coast with high-quality public radio programming, and to strengthen the reach and quality of public radio throughout South Florida.

Under the sales contract, Classical South Florida has a one-year lease on the Boynton Beach studio facilities that housed both WXEL stations; the WXEL radio staff of seven full-time and four-part-time employees now work for new owner, the Palm Beach Post reports.

The future of WXEL-TV, which Barry University has been trying to sell since 2004, is unclear.

"NBR" to air on SiriusXM radio each weeknight

The Nightly Business Report will be broadcast by SiriusXM nationally five nights per week starting May 30, the Miami Herald is reporting today (May 26). SiriusXM will air the personal investment program at 7 p.m. Eastern weeknights on SiriusXM Public Radio (XM channel 121 and Sirius channel 205 with Sirius Premier), and again at 10 p.m.

“This is a big first step toward the goal we’ve set for ourselves, which is to build a global distribution for NBR on both television and radio,” Mykalai Kontilai, the former educational video businessman who acquired the show with partner Gary Ferrell from WPBT/PBS 2 nine months ago (Current, Aug. 23, 2010), told the paper. “For the first time, people will be able to tune into the show on radio.”

May 25, 2011

It's official: Pittsburgh's new pubradio FM to go all-news, jazz migrates to HD channel

Essential Public Media unveiled plans to operate 90.5 FM in Pittsburgh, the station now broadcasting NPR News and jazz as WDUQ, as an all-news station as of July 1.

Dennis Hamilton, a public radio veteran who is director of consulting for Public Radio Capital, will manage the new station on an interim basis.

Under a $6 million license transfer agreement now pending at the FCC, the station will get new call letters, and its new owners will reconfigure Pittsburgh's public radio landscape by launching the city's first all-news public radio service.

Jazz music programming, which fans of current format had hoped to preserve, will air on an HD Radio channel and Internet audio stream; six hours of jazz programming are slated for Saturday nights on the main broadcast channel. JazzWorks, the nationally syndicated jazz programming stream originating from WDUQ, will continue production under the new owners.

The partners behind the new station are Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting, licensee of Triple A station WYEP, and Public Media Company, a new subsidiary of Public Radio Capital. In addition, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Heinz Endowments, and the Pittsburgh Foundation have jointly committed more than $3 million towards its purchase and operations, according to a news release.

For the news service, EPM is developing two radio programs: Essential Pittsburgh, an hour-long interview call-in show; and Sounds of the City, a weekly news round-up. The line-up includes the pubradio mainstays already airing on WDUQ, such as NPR's news magazines, Fresh Air, Marketplace and This American Life.

The station will also publish news online at EssentialPublicMedia.org, and has forged a content partnership with PublicSource, a foundation-backed online news-start up run by Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

Wisconsin cuts public broadcasting funding — then cuts some more

The Wisconsin legislature's budget committee today (May 25) approved slicing an extra half-million dollars from an agency that helps deliver the broadcasts of Wisconsin Public Radio and Television, the Superior Telegraph is reporting. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the two-year cut to the Educational Communications Board is atop the roughly 10 percent reductions to most state agencies. The move passed on a 12-4 party-line vote. Across the country, states lawmakers continue to target pubcasting dollars (Current, April 18).

NPR Ombudsman: Criticism of Soros grant not confined to right-wing partisans

Outgoing NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard reviews the network's decision to accept an $1.8 million grant from George Soros's Open Society Foundations last fall -- a judgement call that, in the view of unnamed NPR journalists, put the news organization's credibility as an impartial, trusted news source at risk. "[A] deep current of concern has run through the newsroom about taking money from someone with a well-known, documented political agenda supporting Democrats and Democratic causes," Shepard writes. The two-year grant supports a worthy cause -- launch of the accountability journalism project Impact of Government -- but unwittingly opened NPR up to attacks from right-wing partisans. Shepard advises NPR to hurry up and announce additional funding for the project. "The sooner NPR can provide a varied list of funders . . . , the quicker valid concerns about perceptions and reality will diminish – if not go away."

KET pubcaster knows Oprah Winfrey as a doggone good host

All of America (well, nearly) is bracing for Oprah Winfrey's final talk show today (May 25). But Bill Goodman, host of Kentucky Tonight on Kentucky Educational Television, can say he personally knew her way back when. He was news producer and assignment editor at CBS affiliate WTVF-TV in Nashville when Winfrey, then a 19-year-old college sophomore, anchored its weekend newscast. He tells A.M. New York that even back then, Winfrey was "a perfectionist and she worked very hard. As one of the first African-American women on the air, she knew that a lot of people were watching her. She did not want to fail.” Winfrey even once volunteered to housesit for a week for Goodman and his wife, watching over their Cocker Spaniel.

Deal pending to bring PBS to Orlando via two universities

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that a deal has been reached to keep PBS service in Orlando after affiliate WMFE-TV's sale to religious broadcaster Daystar is finalized, perhaps as early as July 1. Under a proposed plan, columnist Hal Boedeker writes, the University of Central Florida in Orlando and Brevard Community College (home to PBS affiliate WBCC) in Cocoa will assume responsibility for broadcasting PBS in Orlando. Two UCF panels must agree. The university's advancement committee votes Thursday morning, and the full Board of Trustees meets Thursday afternoon. “PBS still needs to approve this action, should the UCF Board of Trustees approve it,” Grant Heston, assistant vice president of news and information at UCF, tells the paper. “This is a potential big step. We are not quite at the finish line yet.” The station is likely to have UCF in its call letters.

Social media magazine premieres at BlogWorld & New Media Expo

A new publication calling itself "the world’s first printed magazine dedicated to focus exclusively on the evolving technology area of social media" is launching at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2011, going on this week in New York City. The Social Media Monthly includes articles by the Heritage Foundation’s Rory Cooper and U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa David Huebner exploring the role of social media within the executive branch and diplomatic communications, and the cover interview with Duleepa Wijayawardhana, founder of Empire Avenue, a social media exchange. The premiere issue sports a specially designed cover by artist Yiying Lu, known for her famous drawings of the “Fail Whale” used by Twitter and the “Pale Whale” featuring Conan O’Brien.

May 24, 2011

Pubmedia journalists join Nieman Fellows

Three public media journalists are among the 24 new fellows selected by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. Jonathan Blakley, NPR foreign desk producer, will study history, politics and social media in sub-Saharan Africa, and  examine the media environment in the United States leading into the 2012 presidential election. Kristen Lombardi, staff writer at the Center for Public Integrity, will focus on legal and social conditions that promote wrongful convictions, particularly the impact of institutional misconduct and the consequences of systemic resistance to reform. And Jeff Young, senior correspondent with PRI’s Living on Earth, will look at the full costs of energy sources and how new media might convene a more meaningful discussion of energy choices. Established in 1938, the Nieman Foundation administers the oldest midcareer fellowship program for journalists in the world. Working journalists travel to Harvard for a year of study, seminars and special events. More than 1,300 journalists from 91 countries have received Nieman Fellowships.

Maryland Public Television selects its c.o.o., Larry Unger, as new president

Larry Unger, Maryland Public Television's current chief operating officer, has been named its new president. He'll take the helm on June 30, when current President Robert Shuman retires after a 15-year tenure. Unger joined the station in 1997. Before coming to pubTV, he spent 11 years as executive vice president and group executive for the Bank of Baltimore. Unger also served for more than five years as an officer of public TV’s Major Market Group, an organization of the industry’s top 30 stations, and was instrumental in MPT's digital transition. “The elevation of Larry Unger to the No. 1 spot at MPT resulted from an extensive nationwide search over the course of several months,'' Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission Chairman Edward Kaplan said in a statement. "While the pool of finalists was an impressive one, Larry’s credentials in the Maryland business community and in public television were second to none." Unger will be the fifth president in MPT's 41-year history.

"Short-form" pledge campaign nets KALW $300,000 and 900 new members

“We’re raising good will as well as money,” says Holly Kernan, news director and host at KALW/91.7 FM in San Francisco. Instead of interrupting programming for pledge spots, the station this month conducted a “short-form” campaign of 60- and 90-second spots, many of them humorous, featuring local celebrities, reports the Knight Digital Media Center. So how did it work? The station met its goal of $300,000 and gained 900 new members. Positive comments from listeners too, including: "“Love, love, love the new pledge drive format!"

PBS announces first-ever line of PBS Kids-themed toys

PBS launched its first PBS Kids line of preschool toys today (May 24), featuring 20 wooden playthings. They'll be available exclusively on a new retail page, PBSKIDSshop.com, through early fall, and sold through other online and in-store retailers later. The toys include a Sounds of the World Rhythm Set, one of several musical toys; a Puzzle Playset Safari; building and construction toys, such as Exploration Blocks: City (image, PBS); and Three-Layer Puzzles in barn, camping and other themes. In addition to the new toy line, the online shop offers educational books, games, toys, DVDs, customizable apparel and more based on PBS Kids programs. Proceeds from the PBS Kids Shop will help fund children's programming, PBS said. 

StoryCorps seeks Muslim voices over July 4th weekend

The StoryCorps listening project is partnering with My Faith My Voice, a platform dedicated to promoting the grassroots voice of Muslims in America, to record stories on July 4 weekend in Chicago. "The partnership will seek to humanize the American Muslim community and reflect the growing diversity of our country's national landscape," a statement said.

"Storytelling is a powerful way to break down barriers and strengthen connections between people," Haaris Ahmad, an MFMV Board Member, said in the statement. "It's time for the Muslim community to add its stories to the rich diversity and tradition of the rest of the American family."

May 23, 2011

Huffington Post survey taking temp of viewers on PBS breaks question

Current's coverage of PBS's announcement that it will begin an experiment this fall to insert local and national promo breaks into two shows has prompted a pro/con survey at Huffington Post. As of 2:10 p.m. Monday (May 23), "I hate it" has 72 percent of the votes, with "Whatever" claiming 28 percent.

"Sherlock" wins top drama, supporting actor BAFTAs; none for "Downton Abbey"

While the Masterpiece hit Downton Abbey failed to win BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) TV Awards for any of its three category nominations, its Sherlock grabbed two top trophies at ceremonies Sunday night in London, according to TV Squad. The detective show won best drama series and best supporting actor for Martin Freeman, who plays Watson.

Freeman's co-star Benedict Cumberbatch lost out in the best actor category to Daniel Rigby (Flyboys) for his role as legendary British comedian Eric Morecambe in Eric & Ernie. Rigby also beat out Doctor Who star Matt Smith.

Downton Abbey was nominated for three major awards — drama series, supporting actor and audience favorite — but failed to win any. Full list of winners here.

WTTW mulled leaving PBS; at least six other stations are "on the fence," NYT reports

PBS narrowly averted losing the membership of Chicago affiliate WTTW, the New York Times is reporting today (May 23). Earlier this year the board of WTTW-TV told management to consider withdrawing from the system, as KCET had done in January. “Our board, they are smart business people," says Dan Schmidt, WTTW president, "and when they look at our business model they scratch their heads and they say this is upside down from a business standpoint.” He says his station pays $4.5 million a year in PBS dues, and yet “viewers can see that content on other stations and increasingly, whenever they want to on PBS.org." WTTW had a $4.2 million operating deficit last year, Schmidt says.

The paper says there are "murmurs of half a dozen more stations, at least — no one will name them on the record — that are on the fence and could leave," depending on state and federal financing situations.

May 22, 2011

Marfa pubradio made "difference between life and death" in Texas wildfires, story says

Marfa Public Radio continues to win praise for its April coverage of massive wildfires, the latest coming via a Texas Tribune story in today's (May 22) New York Times. "Had MPR not been around on April 9, when an electrical malfunction in a former storefront less than two miles west of downtown Marfa ignited the largest wildfire in Texas history, it might have meant the difference between life and death for some West Texans," it notes.

“It was like standing at the mouth of hell,” said Anne Adkins, MPR’s office manager. “We didn’t have a news team, so we became the news team.”

According to the story, half of the station's $250,000 budget comes from CPB. A membership drive that was "all but derailed by the wildfire," the story says, actually turned out to be the station’s most successful ever, raising more than $85,000.

The station posted a wildfire wrapup on May 21.

May 21, 2011

Twitter becoming "real-time news wire for the world," analyst says

New media analyst Mathew Ingram writes on GigaOM that there's a growing demand not only for careful curation of news, but also "the need to start looking at news as a process and not as a pristine, finished product." He cites the BBC, which has staffers assigned to pull in reports from Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and other outlets for verification, similar to Andy Carvin's work for NPR. "Twitter is becoming the real-time news wire for the world, and we need people who can make use of it as such ... And we need new attitudes about how we look at journalism as well, now that everyone is doing it."

"The Fracking Song" is latest twist in explanatory journalism

A ProPublic series on the environmental threats of drilling for natural gas inspired a new kind of news explainer: A song. David Holmes, a journalism student in New York University’s Studio 20 program, which focuses on adapting news to the web in innovative ways, tells Poynter, "We were concerned with building a better entryway into that investigation and we figured a song would be the perfect way to do it — especially since it’s called fracking.”

"My Water's On Fire Tonight: The Fracking Song," has nearly 83,000 hits on YouTube since it was posted last week — along with lots of fans. "I don't understand how 'Charlie Bit Me' can have more views than this," quipped one.

Chicago's only noncom Latino radio station up for sale

WRTE/90.5 FM in Chicago, the city's only noncom Latino radio station, is for sale, and Chicago Public Media is interested. WRTE's licensee, the National Museum of Mexican Art, is parting with the youth-run station, known locally as Radio Arte, and the building housing it due to budget woes.

Museum President Carlos Tortolero tells WBEZ: “The funding, especially in radio, is going south. We have a building that’s costing us money. We tried to borrow some money to do some things and [banks] are saying, ‘No, no. You can’t.’ The banks are looking at us and saying, ‘Hey, you have to get rid of some of this stuff.’” Former Radio Arte volunteers are also forming a coop to attempt to buy the station.

"For all intents and purposes Radio Arte is the city of Chicago’s only true community radio station that isn’t affiliated with a college or university, and therefore more of a hybrid college/community station," notes Radio Survivor. "It is all the more unique because of its focus on Chicago’s large Latino population. Any significant change in programming brought on by a station sale would represent a real loss for the city."

May 20, 2011

P.O.V. opens call for entries

The call for entries for the 2012 season of P.O.V. is now open. Series producer Yance Ford offers some tips for filmmakers here.

New first for NPR's Andy Carvin: the Twitter interview

"[W]hat could be more dull than two Twitter geeks with their heads buried in their laptops as the interview subject patiently waits for us to type?" writes NPR's Andy Carvin in this detailed account of his May 19 Twitter interview with Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser and author of the speech that President Obama delivered on U.S. policy on the Middle East. The ground-breaking interview may have been visually dull to those who watched it on video stream, but the tactics that Carvin used to solicit and ask questions, and NPR's rationale for allowing him to accept the White House's invitation to host the chat, turned out to be of great interest to Twitter heads and journalists.

May 19, 2011

WTF, an insider's emotional journey through world of comedy, comes to public radio

WTF with Marc Maron, a twice-weekly podcast that regularly ranks among iTunes' most popular, has been adapted for public radio broadcast. The 10-episode series features startlingly honest conversations between Maron and top comedians and entertainers, including Judd Apatow, Conan O'Brien and Louis C.K.

Maron launched the podcast during a dark time in his life — in fall 2009, when he was in the midst of a divorce and had just lost his job at now-defunct Air America. "I was in a very bad place," Maron said. "My career was relatively washed up. I was broke. My heart was broken. My bank account was broken, and I didn't have anywhere to turn."

The turmoil of Maron's personal life, combined with the candidness that he naturally brings to comedic performance and his need to resolve issues in his career and relationships, shaped the creative arc of the show. It also attracted an audience of devoted fans, who send him gifts and emotionally loaded e-mails about their own personal struggles, Maron told Current.



"He has become this huge phenomenon in the last 18 months, and managed to capture the zeitgeist in a way that I never managed to do," said Jesse Thorn, host and producer of The Sound of Young America, who is producing WTF: The Public Radio Show and distributing it through Public Radio Exchange. "The emotional journeys of these interviews are, to me, totally amazing."

Ira Glass of This American Life began talking up WTF to pubradio insiders last fall, and he's helping market the show via PRX. "Marc himself is such a fiercely bare, honest performer, that his interviewees can't help but give him what he's putting out with them, and the result is amazingly raw conversation," Glass wrote in a letter to public radio program directors. "They're special shows, and they deserve a place on the radio." Glass also cut a series of WTF tune-in promos.

WDSC in Daytona may end PBS programming July 1, could close altogether

WDSC, the PBS affiliate at Daytona State College, is in jeopardy of closing, the local News-Journal is reporting today (May 19), further complicating the already messy pubTV situation in Florida, with WMFE-TV's sale to a religious broadcaster pending in Orlando (Current, April 18). Administrators say the college has already cut the $250,000 for PBS programming for the next fiscal year and is also struggling to pay $1.5 million overall to run the station.

May 18, 2011

Director experiences real Seoul at this year's INPUT

"Four jam packed days, dozens of films, discussions, debates, brutal honesty, humor mixed with painfully serious subject matter, and a delirious evening of Korea’s top musical acts in an eclectic concert in our honor and broadcast live." That's how Judy Erlich, director of the critically acclaimed Most Dangerous Man in America doc, describes the recent pubTV INPUT Festival in Seoul on ITVS's Beyond the Box blog.

"INPUT is all about culture clash and aesthetic variance," Erlich writes. "What works in Denmark may be completely inappropriate in Indonesia. The Islamic young woman sitting next to me literally covered her eyes during the opening event, which included a rather explicit sexual how-to sequence."

Overall, "INPUT had real Seoul."

Be More Award goes to Masterpiece's Rebecca Eaton

ORLANDO — Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton is this year's "Be More" Award recipient. Eaton has increased the icon show's audience by 54 percent over last year, and was named one of Time magazine's 2011 100 most influential people in the world. During the presentation at its national meeting here, PBS President Paula Kerger said Eaton "has committed herself to the highest standards of excellence and artistic expression for public broadcasting and has shepherded in a new generation of loyal viewers.” Previous recipients include docmaker Ken Burns, Sesame Workshop founder Joan Ganz Cooney, newsmen Jim Lehrer and Bill Moyers and children's champion Fred Rogers.

NewsHour's O'Brien to conduct live Space Shuttle interview

PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O'Brien will conduct a live interview with Commander Mark Kelly and the crew of the Space Shuttle Endeavour at 6 a.m. Eastern Thursday (May 19). Questions are coming from the public via YouTube, Twitter and Google's Moderator service. So far 2,254 people have submitted 1,839 questions and cast 13,421 votes for which to ask. The interview will run live on the NewsHour's website and YouTube channel. Inquiring minds (well, at least one Current reporter) want to know: Will O'Brien ask, ahem, that infamous question, whether astronauts fool around in space? "Negative," he replies.

May 17, 2011

KCET plans on-air fundraiser for Japan disaster relief

KCET in Los Angeles has received a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission to air a live pledge show for Japan earthquake and tsunami relief. A spokesperson for the FCC said about a dozen such waivers have been granted.

The fundraiser is from 8 to 11 p.m. Pacific May 24. It will feature guests from the Japanese-American community including actor George Takei, and a pre-taped interview with Gene Otani, lead anchor for Newsline, NHK’s weeknight English-language newscast. Also, on May 18, Otani will answer live questions via Ustream moderated by KCET’s editor-in-chief of blogs Zach Behrens that will run on KCET.org and KCET’s Facebook page during the 3 p.m. Pacific hour.

The station is working with the U.S.-Japan Council to allocate all money raised during the pledge to relief organizations in Japan including the Japan Platform and the Center for Public Resource Development.

PBS Digital Learning Library graduates into larger LearningMedia

ORLANDO — PBS and WGBH today (May 17) announced PBS LearningMedia, the next generation of the PBS Digital Learning Library. It'll be a digital media platform to "help re-imagine classroom learning, transform teaching, and more creatively engage students," the network said in a statement. “Digital media content – so pervasive in the lives of children – has the potential to dramatically change the way students learn and participate in a global society," PBS President Paula Kerger said. Including content from more than 55 member stations, independent producers and public institution partners, the first phase of development will combine existing infrastructure models from the PBS Digital Learning Library (formerly EDCAR) with local services from WGBH’s Teachers’ Domain and its partners, WNET/New York and Kentucky Educational Television (KET). PBS LearningMedia will be offered in two tiers from local member stations: a free version available to every teacher, and a premium service with features such as bulk registrations, analytics, integration with assessments, and credit-bearing professional development courses.

Education Department approves $27.3 million for Ready to Learn

Ready to Learn is safe. On Monday (May 16) the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS expressed appreciation to Congress and the U.S. Department of Education for providing $27.3 million in continued funding for the initiative, which helps public television stations develop educational resources on-air, online and on the ground that provide young children – especially those from low-income backgrounds – with fundamental reading and math skills. The project was endangered in recent budget rounds.

Australian newspaper hits back at ad breaks inserted into "PBS NewsHour" Down Under

ORLANDO — PBS's intention to insert underwriting spots into programming on a test basis beginning this fall, creating major buzz at its National Meeting here this week, comes just as an Australian newspaper is editorializing against new commercial breaks in PBS NewsHour on that country's SBS network. Those interruptions, which began earlier this month, prompted The Australian to write, "Not only is NewsHour now being interrupted with totally inappropriate advertising, but SBS appears to be amateurishly clipping its editorial segments in order to accommodate the ads." The paper also called NewsHour SBS's "most valuable program."

May 16, 2011

Surprise! Another GOP governor wants to eliminate state pubcasting funds

A proposal by Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) to zero-out nearly $2 million in annual funding for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network prompted hearings in the statehouse today. Citizens who testified before the Senate appropriations committee overwhelmingly opposed the measure. According to local news accounts, LePage's proposal surprised even top Republican lawmakers when it landed last week.

The governor is offering to restore public funding of gubernatorial campaigns, which he targeted in an earlier version of the two-year budget, by completely eliminating MPBN's annual subsidy. The Times Record of Brunswick, which published an op-ed today slamming the governor's trade-off, describes it as a "double-dare: Squawk too much about my MPBN cut and I’ll simply go back to Plan A and reinstate my proposed Clean Elections funding cut."

LePage has had a contentious relationship with MPBN, but he says he's trying to balance the budget, not settle old scores, according to Maine's Capitol News Service, which provides news to MPBN.

MPBN officials were also shocked by the proposal, and say they don't yet know what services or programs would be canceled if the governor's proposal is enacted. "My focus right now, my total energy, is on making sure we don't lose that money," Jim Dowe, MPBN president, told the Portland Press Herald. "If it did happen, there is no magic place to go to replace that money.

Pubcasting advocates have been fighting uphill battles to preserve state funding in many state capitals this year.

PBS previews new primetime architecture for PTPA in Orlando

Programmers got a look at PBS's new fall primetime architecture at the Public Television Programmers Association meeting taking place today (May 16) in Orlando, Fla., just before the PBS National Meeting.

PBS's John Wilson, s.v.p and chief programmer, and Shawn Halford, senior director of program scheduling, said the changes are taking place to better serve viewers looking for similar shows, build a larger potential membership base, create a stronger selling proposition for audience-focused underwriters and better leverage marketing and promotion.

Schedule changes include transitioning Nature from Sundays to Wednesdays, moving Frontline later on Tuesdays after December pledge and shifting Independent Lens and P.O.V. from Tuesdays to Thursdays. Beginning this winter, Sunday evenings will bring specials in first hour of prime, an Antiques Roadshow spinoff (still to be announced) in the second hour, and the Roadshow in hour three.

One item of discussion: PBS is shifting underwriting and station breaks from on-the-hour to several minutes into the program to pull audience along between shows. But won't that undermine one of the core values of PBS, the uninterrupted programs? Beth Walsh, senior director of PBS research, is crunching data from dial tests and focus groups held just last week, programmers were told, so more will be known once those numbers are out. A subcommittee of the PBS Board is working on how all the changes will affect common carriage.

May 13, 2011

It's in the New York Times, it must be true: Keillor is indeed leaving PHC

OK, it's really, truly, finally official: A Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor is indeed retiring. That's what he tells the New York Times, anyway. “In order to have some say about this and in order to maneuver this, I should do this sooner rather than later,” he says in today's (May 13) story. “One should not wait for the very last minute, when one has become a pitiful hulk shambling on and off stage exciting the sympathy of the audience. I don’t want to come to that point.” When Keillor told the AARP Bulletin in March that he was leaving, Minnesota Public Radio chief Bill Kling, who brought Prairie Home into national distribution, downplayed the announcement as a publicity stunt.

WFCR takes new name: New England Public Radio

Western Massachusetts broadcaster WFCR-FM has adopted a new name — one that seems to speak of ongoing expansion: New England Public Radio. CEO Martin Miller announced the plans at a station event Wednesday night.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the station announced it has arranged to buy new quarters in downtown Springfield, south of its longtime home in Amherst, and has bought a new FM frequency in the Berkshire Mountains town of Adams, northwest of Amherst.

The news and classical music station, licensed to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, added a second program schedule, all-news/talk, on a leased station in the 1990s and in October acquired WNNZ-AM for the schedule. By building translators in addition, one or both of its program streams now span from southern Vermont to northern Connecticut, New Hampshire to Albany, N.Y. Where it may encounter competition from another growing regional public radio franchise, Northeast Public Radio (WAMC).

New England Public Radio’s new logo features a grove of five vertical bars to the left of its name. The five represent the cluster of four colleges that founded WFCR 50 years ago and the fifth that joined later on.

The broadcaster is based in a 4,000-square-foot space on the UMass campus in Amherst, and has added a studio at Springfield public TV station WGBY and the new facility in a historic office block in downtown Springfield. A 50th anniversary capital campaign aims to raise $7 million for facilities and other needs.

Onstage monologue goes swimmingly for Walters of "Radiolab"

The fifth issue of Pop Up Magazine — self-described as "the world's first live magazine" — unfolded onstage in New York last night (May 12) with a 25-member cast that included WNYC's Radiolab producer Pat Walters.

In a May interview, Pop Up's Editor in Chief Dougal McGray explained the group's origin in 2009: "We're a small group of old friends — writers, editors and designers who have worked for the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, This American Life, The Atavist, Wired, Spin and Interview. On a whim, we decided to launch a magazine that would exist for just one night, live on stage. A live magazine. Nothing would get published, nothing would go online. Instead, we would present a rapid-fire series of new stories, images and ideas in an evening that unfolds like a classic print magazine."

Walters presented "One Breath," capturing the excitement and terror of freediving, or swimming underwater to enormous depths without using any breathing apparatus. (The world's record, by the way, is 288 feet in 3 minutes 30 seconds.) A review in AdAge said his was the "most interesting" offering of the evening.

The revue, at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, also garnered an enthusiastic review from Fishbowl NY on Mediabistro, which called it "a lot of fun."

Reminder: Current Readership Survey

Just a friendly reminder — if you have not already done so, please take our brief readership survey. Your opinion is needed to help shape future editorial resources at Current. You can find a link on Current.org, or simply click here.

Online viewers of PBS content complain to ombudsman over sponsorship "experiment"

Late last month, PBS began "experimenting" with a new sponsorship format for online videos of its major broadcast TV programs, writes PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler. And now Getler is receiving letters of complaint from online viewers.

Videos of shows such as Frontline and Masterpiece now have a couple 15- to 30-second sponsorship messages from commercial companies inserted within the program, not before or after as in TV broadcasts. While only a "handful" of people have written to Getler, " it struck me as a potentially fundamental change in approach that was worth recording."

Jason Seiken, s.v.p. for PBS Interactive, told Getler that this potential revenue stream is necessary because PBS.org has become, in a sense, "a victim of our own success," growing from two million to 115 million online video views monthly. He said PBS is "trying to be creative about offsetting those costs" with this trial run, which will last about six months.

May 12, 2011

Audie Cornish to helm NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday

In a long-anticipated news anchor succession at NPR, Audie Cornish will become host of Weekend Edition Sunday after Liane Hansen, who helmed the broadcast for two decades, retires.

"Audie is an outstanding journalist and wonderful storyteller," said Ellen McDonnell, executive director of news programming, in this morning's NPR announcement. "Audiences will connect with her warmth, curiosity and humor. We're thrilled she is taking on this new role."

Cornish, who now covers Capitol Hill and guest-hosts NPR newsmagazines as a substitute, is an experienced news and feature reporter. She covered the campaign trail during the 2008 presidential election and spent three years reporting from the south as NPR’s Nashville-based correspondent. Prior to joining NPR, she reported for Boston’s WBUR.

Hansen announced last May that she plans to retire this summer and move to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her last broadcast is May 29.

"I am honored and excited to follow in Liane Hansen's footsteps," Cornish said. "She has made Weekend Edition essential in the lives of millions of NPR listeners."

Cornish will continue reporting for NPR and appearing on WESUN through the summer, stepping into her full-time hosting role this fall.

Jim Lehrer to depart anchor desk at "PBS NewsHour"

Jim Lehrer, anchor of PBS NewsHour and its former incarnations for 36 years, is stepping away from the weeknight broadcast, the Washington Post is reporting. Lehrer, 76, said he would leave as anchor on June 6 but continue to appear on Fridays to moderate the show’s weekly news analysis segment featuring a panel of journalists. He will also continue to be involved with the program’s producer, MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, based in Arlington, Va.

In a statement, Lehrer said the timing was based on "the complete integration of the NewsHour's on-air and online operations" (Current, Jan. 11, 2010) and his "complete confidence in the current NewsHour team, both on-and-off-camera, to continue producing the nightly program and its companion website as a haven for 'MacNeil/Lehrer Journalism': serious, fair-minded daily reporting steeped in the traditions of the broadcast’s co-founders."

“I have been laboring in the glories of daily journalism for 52 years, 36 of them here at the NewsHour and its earlier incarnations," Lehrer said, "and there comes a time to step aside from the daily process, and that time has arrived.”

Now you too can sleep on, or autograph, Carl Kassell's head

This just in, the NPR Store is now offering a Carl Kassell Autograph Pillow and Pen, which it readily admits is an "odd homage" to the longtime NPR newscaster and Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! scorekeeper and answering machine voice. The item's existence immediately prompted a heartfelt apology from Cowering NPR on Twitter. The anonymous Tweeter/s also revealed that the eerie-looking pillow is actually last year's NPR Labs creation.

FCC receives more than 450 comments on upcoming sale of Orlando's WMFE-TV

The pending sale of WMFE-TV in Orlando to Daystar, a Texas-based religious broadcaster, has generated more than 450 comments to the FCC, the Orlando Sentinel reports today (May 12). Here's one: “The contemplation of this sale was never pre-announced to the general public by the current governing organization," writes Lawrence D. Stephey of Winter Park, Fla. "Had the public known, I’m sure a number of extraordinary fund raising campaigns would have been launched to preserve the frequency for educational use.”

Meanwhile, two University of Central Florida students have launched a web campaign to save the station, via a website and Facebook page. One, Anna Eskamani, told the Sentinel, "I’ve lived in Orlando my whole life. We didn’t have cable. PBS was the only thing I watched.”

May 11, 2011

Burns signs as regular guest on Olbermann’s Current TV series

Ken Burns, star PBS documentarian, and Michael Moore, a onetime sensation on PBS’s POV series, will among the regulars on Countdown with Keith Olbermann, scheduled to appear weeknightly on Al Gore’s Current TV channel starting June 20. Olbermann left the MSNBC cable channel in January after NBC execs discovered to their dismay that their lead anchorman, known for ceaseless, vehement criticism of the Bush administration, had contributed to Democratic campaigns. Current TV is carried on cable systems reaching 60 million households in this country and on its website, Current.com (or Current.tv). 

FCC commissioner heading for Comcast

Federal Communications Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker is leaving the agency to oversee government affairs for Comcast, the New York Times reports. The move comes just four months after Baker voted to approve the merger of Comcast and NBC Universal. Craig Aaron, president of the media reform group Free Press, said the departure is “just the latest, though perhaps most blatant, example of a so-called public servant cashing in at a company she is supposed to be regulating.”

PBS claims top spot in daytime Emmy nominations

Nominations for the 2011 Daytime Emmy Awards were announced today (May 11) and sitting atop the pack is PBS with 57 nods. Kids shows did well: Sesame Street had the third-highest total of nominations for a program, at 16; Electric Company, seven; Between the Lions, four; three each for Biz Kid$, FETCH! with Ruff Ruffman and SciGirls; and two each for The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That!, Dinosaur Train and Word Girl. America's Test Kitchen also got two nods. Awards will be presented on June 19 from Las Vegas. A full list from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is here.

KPBS Radio format change builds on news-driven gains in online audience

KPBS Radio in San Diego will go all-news, dropping classical music from its evening and overnight schedule as of May 23. The format change, announced late yesterday, includes an overhaul of its local midday talk show These Days, which will reduce its footprint to a one-hour broadcast and be re-titled Midday Edition. A Friday news round-up will scale back from a stand-alone show to a segment within Midday Edition.

The changes position KPBS's local talk show in the noon timeslot when more listeners tune in, and allow producers to focus the on news of the day, rather than news of yesterday, according to the Voice of San Diego. "We wanted to have more quality and less quantity" as KPBS's TV, web and radio operations work toward a vision of being the "premier source" of news in San Diego, KPBS chief Tom Karlo told the Voice.

KPBS is one of a handful of major market pubcasting stations that have made impressive gains in Web traffic by expanding their capacity for multi-platform news delivery. Public media analyst Mark Fuerst reported on the tactics behind KPBS's success in the May 2 edition of Current.

KPBS's classical music service, which is essentially a feed of American Public Media's Classical 24, has moved online and to an HD Radio channel. Programmers plan to feature local music performances on weekends.

May 10, 2011

Political ambitions, inconsistencies behind Gov. McDonnell's line-item veto

When Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell used his line-item veto to slash another $424,000 in state subsidies for public broadcasting, it played well to his Republican conservative base, but his decision to target public radio and television stations was fueled more by political ambitions than fiscal responsibility, according to newspaper columnists who weighed in on the last minute, irrevocable cut.

McDonnell's supporters were "thrilled by the veto," writes Peter Schapiro of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, but they probably don't recognize the inconsistencies in McDonnell's stances on various culture war issues. He pointed to McDonnell's endorsement of a $4.6 million package of tax breaks for a Stephen Spielberg movie about Abraham Lincoln that will be filmed in Virginia. Spielberg is "a symbol of the deep-pocketed, film-colony strain of Democratic liberalism that some conservatives say permeates public broadcasting," Schapiro wrote. Not only that, the moviemaker contributed more than $125,000 to Democratic candidates last year.

Roanoke Times columnist Dan Casey ridiculed McDonnell for the veto, comparing him to a screeching peacock with outspread tail feathers. "This is what passes for political machismo in national GOP politics these days," Casey wrote. "It's a ploy to get McDonnell maximum notice during the presidential primary season that begins in earnest later this year....McDonnell's action is wrong. It shortchanges everybody and rewards nobody. Except McDonnell -- it could buy him a slot on the Republican presidential ticket."

Op-ed writers for the Times-Dispatch described McDonnell's rationale for cutting deeper into pubcasting's state aid as sound and compelling, but wrote that governor undercut his credibility by shelling out so much corporate welfare in the new budget. Pointing the Spielberg film, they asked: "Shouldn't movies, like radio shows, also be left to the private sector?"

Create's "Avec Eric" wins James Beard Award

Avec Eric on the Create channel is a 2011 James Beard Award winner for on-location television programs. Host Eric Ripert congratulated his team via Twitter from Le Bernardin in New York.

Genachowski, Minow discuss "Vast Wasteland" speech

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and former FCC Chair Newt Minow met to discuss the state of the media on Monday (May 9) in Washington, D.C., to mark the 50th anniversary of Minow's famous "Vast Wasteland" speech.

Broadcasting & Cable reports that Minow said that the two words he wished had been remembered from that speech were "public interest." Genachowski said the speech is still relevant today because it is "a speech for all time," primarily about the power of technology and communications to connect and empower people.

The event, at the National Press Club, was sponsored by George Washington University's Global Media Institute.

Help Youth Radio investigative team pick up its Peabody Award

Youth Radio won a Peabody last month for its series on child sex trafficking, and its investigative team would like to show up to claim the honor. The judges called it "a wide-ranging expose of America’s child-sex trade made especially powerful by first-person accounts by teen victims."

But the young journos need $20,000 to travel to the awards presentation in New York. They're so close — just $5,000 more. And the May 23 ceremony is quickly approaching. Want to help? Click here. And here's a May 1999 story from Current's archives on Youth Radio's early days as a Berkeley, Calif.-based media training program for at-risk teenagers.

May 9, 2011

Upcoming PBS primetime lineup brings first Arts Fall Festival

PBS announced today (May 9) its primetime lineup for this fall, which includes its long-awaited arts initiative and a refocus for WNET's Need to Know.

The network's first Arts Fall Festival, on the drawing board at least since 2009, will begin Oct. 14 and air Fridays through December with broadcasts of classic and contemporary performances including Women Who Rock, inspired by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum exhibit; Give Me the Banjo, narrated by Steve Martin; and "The Little Mermaid" from the San Francisco Ballet on Great Performances. There'll also be artist and performer profiles, behind-the-scenes documentaries and mini-films about the art scenes in Miami, San Francisco, Cleveland, Chicago, the Blue Ridge Mountains and other areas of the country. Plans call for related online content educational tools.

The newsmag Need to Know relaunches on Sept. 16 "with a new format and focus," PBS said. The show will report on issues related to Election 2012. NTK has been retooling recently, dropping co-anchor Jon Meacham late in March. PBS said Meacham will continue to offer commentaries.

Schedule changes include pairing Nature and Nova on Wednesday nights.

The fall season officially premieres Oct. 2-4 with Prohibition from filmmakers Ken Burns and Lynn Novick. The series features music by Wynton Marsalis and the voices of Tom Hanks, Jeremy Irons, Paul Giamatti, Oliver Platt, John Lithgow, Samuel L. Jackson, Patricia Clarkson, Adam Arkin, Sam Waterston, Josh Lucas and others, with narration by Peter Coyote.

Physicist and author Brian Greene returns to Nova with “The Fabric of the Cosmos” on Wednesdays, Nov. 2-23. The four-part miniseries looks at how scientists are piecing together the most complete picture yet of space, time and the universe

Details on the schedule and programs, along with additional content and digital and children’s initiatives, will be announced May 16-19 at the national PBS meeting in Orlando, Fla.

Flooding is latest disaster for Gulf Coast pubcasting consortium to cover

Public Media Exchange, a consortium of 10 Gulf Coast pubTV and radio stations led by Louisiana Public Broadcasting, has expanded its website content to cover Mississippi River flooding and the aftermath of recent tornadoes that ripped through the South.

The GulfWatch section of the website was originally set up last year with a grant from CPB to examine the environmental, economic, legal and social implications of the massive BP oil spill. LPB is now providing live coverage of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's news conferences from the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness center. There are also updates on the potential record flooding along the Mississippi, and disaster resources on flooding and tornadoes.

Exchange members are Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi Public Broadcasting networks; WSRE-TV in Pensacola, Fla.; WEDU-TV and WUSF-TV in the Tampa, Fla., area; WWNO-FM in New Orleans; KRVS-FM in Lafayette, La.; WBHM-FM in Birmingham, Ala.; and WVAS-FM in Montgomery, Ala.

Casual visitors important even to top news websites, Pew discovers

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism today (May 9) released an in-depth study of Web news behavior, using detailed Nielsen audience statistics. The study examines the top 25 news websites in the United States, drilling down into four areas of audience actions: how users get to the top news sites, how long they stay, how deep they go into a site and where they go when they leave. Among the findings:

— Even top news sites depend greatly on “casual users,” those persons who visit a few times per month and spend only a few minutes on the site.
— An ongoing core of loyal and frequent visitors to news sites return more than 10 times per month and spend more than an hour there.
— At five of the top sites, Facebook is the second or third most important driver of traffic. Twitter, on the other hand, barely registers.

"All of this suggests that news organizations might need a layered and complex strategy for serving audiences and also for monetizing them," note the study's authors, Kenny Olmstead, Amy Mitchell and Tom Rosenstiel. "They may need, for instance, to develop one way to serve casual users and another way for power users. They may decide it makes sense to try to convert some of those in the middle to visit more often. Or they may try to make some of their loyal audience stay longer by creating special content."

Incoming journalists reflect on becoming reporters in the digital age

A group of young journalists finishing their studies at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism today (May 9) launch FastForwardNews.org, a collection of videos exploring the hurdles and possibilities for reporters in the digital age. In the videos, the 18 aspiring newsmakers examine subjects including the use of "crowdfunding" stories, computer-assisted reporting, content farms, the New York Times' new paywall, and the response to Al Jazeera English by American cable companies.

APTS, DEI get more than $920,000 from CPB to expand Grant Center

The Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) and DEI (Development Exchange Inc.) have received a $923,310, two-year CPB grant to expand their Grant Center (password protected). For the past 18 months the center has focused on identifying new sources of federal and foundation funding for pubcasters; now it will concentrate on assisting CPB-qualified pubTV and radio stations in applying for the support. Meegan White directs the Grant Center, coordinating with Amie Klempnauer Miller. White has been working with APTS since 2000 on federal grant strategy, grant writing and project management. Miller, DEI Foundation development adviser, has more than 20 years of experience in fundraising and has written successful grant proposals raising more than $20 million for public media.

Organic food advocates link "Marketplace" story to agribusiness sponsor

The Organic Consumers Association, an advocacy group that campaigns on food safety and agricultural sustainability issues, launched an online campaign objecting to a May 4 Marketplace story on how to feed the world's growing population. "The Non-Organic Future," reported by Adrienne Hill, concluded that organic food movement caters to a niche market, and that the future of farming involves wider acceptance of genetically modified foods and other commercial agricultural practices. The association described the report as a "biased and inaccurate story that sounds as if it was written by its major underwriter: Monsanto Inc," and urged its members to demand that local pubradio stations drop the program.

In an editor's note responding to the story's critics, Marketplace's George Judson urges listeners not to dismiss the show's credibility on the basis of one report. "In practice, Marketplace, like most news organizations, thinks of its coverage as ongoing and cumulative. We’ve aired scores of pieces on organic food and organic farming (do a search on Marketplace.org for “organic food,” for example), and we will do more." He doesn't respond to OCA's allegation of undue influence by agribusiness giant Monsanto, whose Marketplace sponsorship has been a source of controversy for years. [Links: NPR ombudsman column, GMO Journal.]

ITVS, CPB, PBS partner for Women and Girls Lead campaign

The Independent Television Service (ITVS), CPB and PBS announced today (May 9) the Women and Girls Lead initiative, a multi-year engagement campaign to focus independent documentaries on the leadership development of women and girls. CPB alone is investing $2.7 million in the project, in film financing and outreach work, according to the New York Times.


More than 50 related docs are scheduled to air on PBS over the next three years. ITVS also will soon announce a deal to bring Half The Sky, the bestseller by Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Pulitzer Prize winner Sheryl WuDunn, to PBS in fall 2012 as a four-hour prime-time special on Independent Lens. CPB President Pat Harrison will chair the project's advisory board with members including Kristof, Harvard economics professor and Nobel winner Amartya Sen, actresses Geena Davis and America Ferrera, Jordan's Queen Noor, PBS President Paula Kerger and designer Eileen Fisher. Partner organizations include CARE, World Vision and the Girl Scouts of America.


"We are living in a brand new age where citizens exchange media and ideas on a continuous basis," said Sally Jo Fifer, ITVS president. "Public media has a responsibility to lead our audiences to content that has the potential to lift us up and move us forward as a society."

May 8, 2011

Former CPB Board Chairman Howard Gutin dies at 80

Army Lt. Col. Howard Gutin, Ret., a former board chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Texas public broadcaster, died April 27 in Indialantic, Fla. He was 80.

Gutin became interested in broadcasting during his 32-year military career, serving as director of the Brooke Army Medical Center TV facility in San Antonio. After his 1979 retirement from the Army he spent seven years producing KLRU's popular Austin City Limits. He went on to head up the Southwest Texas Public Broadcasting Council.

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan appointed him to the CPB Board. Gutin was voted vice chairman in 1986 and was chairman from 1987 to '89. Upon his departure that year, the board honored him for his "selfless dedication, hard work, and effective contributions to the Corporation and the entire public broadcasting community."

Gutin was involved in the noisy 1985 controversy over a CPB trade delegation's trip to Moscow (Channels, July/August 1985, via Current archives) that led to the highly publicized resignation of its president, Edward Pfister.

He was born on Aug. 17, 1930, in Paterson, N.J. to Jacob and Esther Gutin. He joined the New Jersey National Guard and then the Army, serving in Europe, Korea, Vietnam and the United States. During his time in the military he also earned a degree from the University of Nebraska.

While in Vietnam he was exposed to Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant. His family told the San Antonio Express-News that led to a year's hospitalization and removal of his stomach.

He is survived by his wife, Carmen; son, Richard; daughter-in-law, Barbara; daughter, Lisa Hunt; son-in-law, Scott Hunt; stepdaughter, Dr. Inez M Dalton; and stepson, Alexander D. Tinsley and his wife, Colleen.

A service with military honors took place April 29 at Florida Memorial Gardens. In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations to Temple Beth Shalom, 5995 N. Wickham Road, Melbourne, Fla., 32940.

May 6, 2011

Rinzel to oversee digital content at WQXR

Michael Rinzel is the new director of digital content at Classical 105.9 FM WQXR in New York City. Rinzel will oversee the relaunch of WQXR.org, scheduled for this fall, and oversee web content generated through live productions from the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, WQXR’s multiplatform live event venue. Rinzel previously directed digital programming and production VH1’s TV programming at MTV Networks. Prior to VH1, Rinzel directed the digital team at Fuse, a music TV cable channel.

Minow pays tribute to WTTW's McCarter at memorial service

Friends and colleagues of the late Bill McCarter filled Kenilworth Union Church in the Chicago suburb "to hear tributes to the man credited with transforming WTTW-Channel 11 into one of the nation’s premier public television stations during his 27 years as president and general manager," writes Chicago media reporter Robert Feder today (May 6). One speaker was Newton Minow, the former FCC chairman who recruited McCarter to the post. Minow recalled a visit with McCarter to the station’s transmitter atop what was then the world’s tallest building, the Sears (now Willis) Tower: “That signal is pure, it is powerful, it is innovative, it is fair, it is trusted, and above all, it stands for public service," Minow said. "That signal is the legacy Bill leaves to all of us."

Word wonks rejoice, Media Cloud is back

Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society has launched its new-and-improved Media Cloud. According to the site, it's "an open source, open data platform that allows researchers to answer quantitative questions about the content of online media." It displays what stories media sources are covering, the language various media use to report the news, and how items spread from one outlet to another. For more than a year, the site has been tracking 50,000 English-language stories daily from 17,000 media sources, including major mainstream media outlets, left- and right-leaning American political blogs and 1,000 popular general-interest blogs. "We’ve used what we’ve discovered from this data to analyze the differences in coverage of international crises in professional and citizen media and to study the rapid shifts in media attention that have accompanied the flood of breaking news that’s characterized early 2011," the center said today (May 6) in a statement. The site originally launched in 2009.

PBS Hawaii welcomes new staffers


PBS Hawaii has hired two new staff members. Jared Kuroiwa is vice president of digital networking. He is a broadcast engineer with a background in web development, including social messaging. Roberta Wong Murray is vice president of programming and communications. She began her career as a news reporter and anchor at KRON-TV in San Francisco. She owned her own public relations firm, and was Hawaii’s media specialist for the U.S. Census in 2010.

Attention RSSers

Don't miss this week's intersection of British royalty and public broadcasting on Current's home page. Huzzah!

StoryCorps unveils new animated short

In the run-up to Mother's Day, StoryCorps released its latest heart-warming animated short. "No More Questions!" — featuring a strong-willed grandmother who reluctantly shared life stories with her son and grand-daughter in a StoryCorps recording booth — has topped 600,000 views since being featured on YouTube May 5. The animation is one of three to be featured on the upcoming season of P.O.V., PBS's summer showcase for independent film.

Bipartisan bill would require cable operators to fund, carry PEG channels

U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) have jointly introduced the Community Access Preservation Act (H.R. 1746), which would put content, reception and signal-quality requirements on carriage of public, educational and government access channels and require cable operators to pay for them, according to the Alliance for Community Media. The bill, introduced Thursday (May 5), would amend the Communications Act to require cable operators to carry PEG channels without alteration or degradation, and make them viewable without additional equipment charges to every subscriber.

American Community Television (ACT) , which advocates for PEG channel access, told Broadcasting & Cable that the bill is "critical to the survival of these important local television channels. We could be losing as many as 400 PEG channels, starting now and continuing through January 2012, if we don't solve these problems."

Former Florida congressman advises residents to protest upcoming sale of WMFE-TV

Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson is urging Florida residents to complain to the Federal Communications Commission regarding the upcoming sale of WMFE-TV, the Orlando Sentinel reports today (May 6). Grayson, a Democrat who served from 2009 to '11, is hoping to stop the pending sale of the PBS affiliate to Daystar Television Network, a Texas-based religious broadcaster (Current, April 18). “For 46 years, Orlando, Florida has enjoyed public television and radio," Grayson wrote in an email. "And if the Religious Right has its way, that’s over.” He urged recipients to submit comments to the FCC, which is soliciting public input on the license change.

Cleveland's WCLV becomes latest classical FM to shift to pubcasting ownership

Under a license transfer agreement announced this week, Cleveland's commercial classical music station WCLV will become a subsidiary of ideastream, the Northern Ohio pubcaster that operates WVIZ-TV and WCPN-FM. The transfer is a donation, not an acquisition, intended to preserve the existing service and staff by sharing facilities, services and programming, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "Both WCLV and ideastream are grounded in the same philosophy — that broadcasters have a great opportunity and hence a great responsibility to use the medium to enrich and enlarge the lives of the public they serve,” says Robert Conrad, WCLV president and co-founder, in Crain's Cleveland Business. The ownership transfer makes WCLV the fourth major market commercial classical music station to shift to pubcasting ownership since 2009.

Vermont Public Radio's Will Curtis dies; voice of "The Nature of Things"

Will Curtis, former voice of The Nature of Things on Vermont Public Radio, one of the first pubradio programs to address environmental concerns, died April 18 in his sleep at home in Woodstock, Vt. He was 94.

"Amid evocations of the state’s ever popular maple syrup and fall foliage, he would slip in a lesson on how to swing a scythe," the Boston Globe noted in a remembrance Friday (May 6). "Listening by satellite, everyone from farmers to urban dwellers thousands of miles away would marvel at how he turned the mechanics of mowing by hand into a kind of plainspoken poetry."

His commentaries began on VPR in 1978, with national syndication beginning in 1981. After funding for national distribution ended in 1998, his pieces continued on VPR until 2004. His work was compiled in two books, The Nature of Things (1988) and The Second Nature of Things (1992).

Willis Lansing Curtis was born Sept. 25, 1917, in Marlborough, Mass., son of John Arnold and Dorothy Rumsey Curtis. He attended Westminster School in Simsbury, Conn., and graduated from Vermont Academy in 1936. He married Jane Pitkin of Scituate, Mass., in 1940.

The couple moved to Vermont in the 1960s to raise Jersey cattle and run a dairy farm. They purchased the Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock. Curtis fell into his radio career while advertising for the bookshop on a local AM station.

He was preceded in death by four brothers and a daughter, Elizabeth. He is survived by his wife; daughter, Katherine (William) Donahue of Hartland; sister, Louise Hahn of Ontario, Canada; three grandsons, Thomas, Samuel, and James; great-granddaughter, Alex Helena Donahue-Ochoa; sister-in-law, Eleanore Marshall, and cousin, Virginia Clark, both of Marlborough, Mass.; and many nieces and nephews.

Services are 2 p.m. May 7 at St. James Episcopal Church, Woodstock. The family requests donations to the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, 6565 Woodstock Road, Rte. 4, P.O. Box 1281, Quechee, VT 05059; or to the Woodstock Historical Society, 26 Elm Street, Woodstock, VT 05091 An online guestbook is here.

WLRN, Miami Herald expose problems in Florida's assisted living facilities

"Neglected to Death," an investigative reporting series launched by WLRN-FM and the Miami Herald this week, uncovered problems in the regulation of Florida's assisted living facilities, including questionable deaths and cases of abuse and neglect of the elderly and mentally ill. The investigative team built a database that expanded upon incomplete and missing records from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration;the computer-assisted reporting allowed the team to piece together detailed histories of assisted living facilities and identify the most troubled homes. The Herald reports details of how the investigative reporting was done in this story; its multimedia reporting package is here.

"Florida remains a retirement destination for tens of thousands of our nation's elderly," says Dan Grech, WLRN Radio news director. "This series has important national implications about how we care for one of our county's most vulnerable populations."

NPR ran the first installment of the series on Morning Edition today. The 7-minute report focuses on the questionable death of Aurora Navas, an Alzheimer's patient who was a resident of Isabel Adult Care III, a six-bed assisted living facility in Southern Miami-Dade County, when she drowned.