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Jun 30, 2011

In South Carolina, GOP lawmakers stand up for ETV

Lawmakers rebuked South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for vetoing $5.9 million in state funding for ETV, the statewide network of public TV and radio stations, taking three separate votes on June 29 to restore all of the subsidies. Legislators then proceeded to override nearly all of Haley's vetoes, adding more than $200 million to programs that the governor had targeted with her veto pen, according to the State, the Columbia-based daily newspaper. House Majority Leader Kenny Bingham -- a Republican, like Haley -- delivered an angry speech on the House floor, complaining that Gov. Haley reneged on an agreement to restructure state funding for ETV. Haley's veto would have eliminated more than 60 percent of ETV's $9.6 million budget.

Wildfires down KSFR's tower, but its news crews keep on reporting

The news staff at KSFR in Santa Fe, N.M., continues reporting on the wildfires that knocked out the station's tower last week. Newscasts are only streaming online, "which is a big blow," KSFR reporter Charles Maynard told WBUR's Here & Now, because the station has the largest radio news department in the state. KSFR's tower is on the Pajarito Mountain in the area of the Las Conchas fire near the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

KMBH in Harlingen, Texas, gets third c.e.o. in two years

Robert Gutierrez is the new president and c.e.o. of KMBH in Harlingen, Texas. The Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, which owns RGV Educational Broadcasting, announced the appointment Thursday (June 30). Gutierrez is the third person to hold the position in two years, notes the Valley Morning Star. He succeeds John Ross, who resigned in April after four months as interim president and c.e.o, and before that, the controversial Monsignor Pedro Briseño (Current, March 16, 2009), who was removed and reassigned to full-time parish ministry in April 2010. Gutierrez formerly worked as director of sales and marketing for Gateway Printing & Office Supply Inc. in Edinburg, Texas, and general sales manager and acting g.m. for KVEO, the NBC affiliate in the Rio Grande Valley.

WGCU to reduce local programs in wake of Florida budget cut

WGCU, one of the Florida stations coping with total loss of state funding, will leave a radio staff position empty and cut back on locally produced segments, reports the Naples News. That troubles listener Barbara Winsloe. "They don’t want to start cutting their programs because it means they’re going to lose listeners,” Winsloe said. “There’s nothing I’ve ever heard come out of that building that isn’t educational and just dandy.” WGCU is losing about 10 percent of its budget but should be able to avoid layoffs. It's cutting the Your Voice radio documentary from four times a year to three, FGCU Sports Report will go from weekly to monthly and the TV station will produce two documentaries this year instead of its usual three or four.

Jun 29, 2011

WMFE exec departs for development position at Newman's Hole in the Wall Camp

Catherine McManus, senior vice president and chief philanthropy officer at WMFE in Orlando, Fla., is leaving the station on July 8. She's accepted a position as chief development officer at Camp Boggy Creek, one of Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Camps for seriously ill children, in Eustis, Fla., reports the Orlando Sentinel. She is the daughter of Stephen McKenney Steck, the top executive at WMFE for decades who stepped down as president on Jan. 1, 2006. WMFE-TV is awaiting news on its pending sale to religious broadcaster Daystar Television (Current, April 18).

WTTW promotes Cameron to chief operating officer

WTTW in Chicago has a new chief operating officer, Greg Cameron, formerly its e.v.p. and chief development officer. He will continue to oversee development efforts for the organization, WTTW said in a statement, in addition to managing day-to-day operations for WTTW and 98.7 WFMT. Before arriving at the station in 2008, Cameron was deputy director and chief development officer at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. He's also worked as director of foundation and corporate relations at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Montclair still wants to provide New Jersey news, its president says

Montclair University may have lost its bid to take over management of the New Jersey Network, but it's still moving ahead with plans to offer state-focused broadcasting, according to NJBiz. "Our interest in this hasn't declined," University President Susan Cole said. "We are going to continue to build our capacity in media and communications, even if we do it without a television license. We'll just move directly to a multimedia platform, to the Internet, and skip a step." NJN's transfer to a nonprofit subsidiary of WNET/Thirteen passed its final hurdle on Monday.

Ralph Jennings, radio man with a vision for WFUV

“You can sit around talking about stuff,” says Ralph Jennings, retiring g.m. of Fordham University's WFUV-FM, “or you can just get it done.” The New York Times profiles Dr. Jennings as he prepares to leave the station he managed for 26 years, transforming it from a student-programmed outlet into a CPB-qualified public radio music station employing 30 full-time professional staff and nearly 90 students. With 300,000 weekly radio listeners and 30,000 tuning in online, WFUV now ranks among the top 25 public radio stations in the country, the Times reports. Chuck Singleton, program director who has guided WFUV's newsroom, music schedule and digital content strategy, steps in as interim g.m. when Jennings officially signs off June 30.

Jun 28, 2011

FCC wants more details on KUSF transaction

The FCC is taking a close look at third-party funding relationships at KUSF in San Francisco, the college radio station that KUSC in Los Angeles took over in January as part of its proposed $6 million signal expansion into the Bay Area. In a letter of inquiry released today, June 28, Audio Division chief Peter Doyle requested documents and detailed answers to 15 questions about KUSF operations under KUSC's Classical Public Radio Network, which converted the student-programmed outlet on 90.3 FM into a full-time classical music service after the deal was announced. CPRN is operating the station under an interim contract while the FCC reviews the license transfer proposal. KUSF owner University of San Francisco and KUSC have 30 days to respond to the commission's questions.

Colorado Public Radio unveils new format for its Denver AM

Colorado Public Radio is launching a new music station on 1340 AM in the Denver metro area and online beginning this fall. The programming will focus on current contemporary music, "including notable releases of the past 15 years and the earlier music that inspired it," the station said in a statement. Mike Flanagan, g.m. of KVCU/Radio 1190 at the University of Colorado Boulder, will manage the new station. Flanagan has more than 30 years of experience in radio, including eight years with CPR in the 1990s as an on-air and Midday Mozart music host. CPR will continue to broadcast news on 90.1 FM and classical music 88.1 FM. CPR had been trying to sell the 1340 AM frequency since 2008, which left it with a $4.7 million bond debt (Current, March 16, 2009).

WMFE-TV in Orlando still waiting on FCC decision on sale

The waiting game continues for the sale of  PBS affiliate WMFE in Orlando, Fla., to Daystar Television, which is pending with the Federal Communications Commission. “There are no current updates to report regarding our application before the FCC,” Jose Fajardo, president and CEO of WMFE, said in an email to the Orlando Sentinel Tuesday (June 27). “Beginning July 1, WMFE-TV will be scheduling V-me on its primary channel and The Florida Channel as one of its SD channels.” The station will have 23 employees after Friday, a drop from 35 last October.

CPB's Bole moves to Broadcasting Board of Governors

Rob Bole, CPB's former vice president of Digital Media Strategy, is now helping lead digital media efforts for the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Bole and Raina Kumra are co-directors of a new board-initiated innovation practice integrated into the existing BBG Office of New Media, it announced Monday (June 27). Kumra previously served as senior new media advisor to the U.S. Department of State’s Office of eDiplomacy. The two will "help advance the BBG’s mission to reach larger worldwide audiences where they are through innovation, enterprise journalism and audience engagement," a BBG statement said. They'll work to streamline international broadcasting collaborations among BBG's networks: the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio and TV Marti, Radio Free Asia, and Middle East Broadcasting.

Indie outlook: it's brighter for those working in public radio

Independent journalists working in public media are having an increasingly tough time making their livings as producers for public television and radio, according to a survey of 206 indies commissioned by the Association of Independents in Radio and the Independent Television Service.

Over the past three years, the financial struggles of working as an indie have become harder for 64 percent of those reporting and producing for radio. A much larger majority of TV and film indies -- 81 percent -- reported that their financial challenges have deepened.

The outlook among radio indies, who comprised 75 percent of survey respondents, is somewhat brighter than for those working in television, film and Internet production, who made up only one-quarter of the survey sample.

Radio journalists see more opportunities for future income from traditional public radio outlets -- both the networks and local stations -- and more expect to earn more money from podcasts and other digital distribution technologies.

Strong ties to local stations was a source of optimism for radio indies participating in the survey. Nearly half reported "strong" or "very strong" relationships with their local public radio stations. Among indies working in TV and film, 77 percent reported that they had no relationship with their local public TV station, or weak or very weak ties.

The survey was funded by CPB and conducted by Market Trends Research.

SteelStacks is new home to PBS39 in Bethlehem, Pa.

PBS39 spent Monday (June 28) moving into new digs at the SteelStacks Public Media and Education Center in Bethlehem, Pa. The Morning Call reports the 29,000-square-foot building includes two high-definition studios, a green screen and twice as much office space as the previous studio. A 16-by-9-foot TV screen outside will give the public either a peek at what's going on in the studio or a show. But that screen and other technical equipment is still weeks from delivery, due to production setbacks after the tsunami in Japan.

Funding cuts prompt Alabama PubTV to suspend weekly coverage of state politics


Alabama Public Television is shuttering its state capital bureau and suspending production of its political roundtable, Capitol Journal. The shutdown, part of a network-wide downsizing that includes lay-offs for 19 staff, responds to the latest round of state funding losses for APT.

With policymakers' decision this year to cut APT's subsidies by $1.3 million, APT has lost 50 percent of its state support since 2008, Executive Director Allan Pizzato tells the Montgomery Advertiser. He's also scaling back operations at APT's Huntsville station and ending production of the music series, We Have Signal.

APT is the third public TV station to curtail its political coverage in response to funding cuts imposed by state policymakers: New Hampshire Public Television is putting New Hampshire Outlook on hiatus and Miami's WLRN is dropping legislative coverage from the Florida Public Radio Network.

Jun 27, 2011

Move to block WNET/New Jersey Network deal fails in NJ Senate

The New Jersey Senate was one vote short of blocking WNET's agreement to take over the New Jersey Network, the Star-Ledger reported Monday night (June 27). A similar resolution had overwhelmingly passed the Assembly last week. Public Media NJ, a nonprofit subsidiary of WNET/Thirteen, takes over the NJN TV operations Friday (July 1).

Some lawmakers were not pleased. "New Jersey’s taxpayers will be on the hook for millions of dollars annually to support the continued operation," Sen. Loretta Weinberg said, noting that the state will spend at least $4.7 million a year. "So while we hand this network off to a New York operator, we are not saving that much money."

The newspaper summed up the protracted fight: "The Senate vote followed months of political showmanship, public hearings, and a Legislative report that agreed with [Gov. Chris] Christie’s view that state-run TV is no longer viable for New Jersey."

Radio indie’s project lands Knight News Challenge grant

One of the Knight News Challenge winners announced last week was Zeega, an open-source HTML5 platform co-created by independent public radio producer Kara Oehler, a creator of the Mapping Main Street project, which received $420,000. Zeega will enable the creation of “participatory multimedia projects on web, tablet and mobile devices,” according to its website. The platform will allow creators to combine media web-based media including audio, maps, photos, video and text.

Oehler and her collaborators, Jesse Shapins and James Burns, were inspired to create Zeega after producing the multimedia Mapping Main Street project, according to an article in the Harvard Gazette. (The three are affiliated with the university.) That collaborative documentation of Main Streets across the country was supported by CPB and the Association of Independents in Radio. NPR aired reports from the project.

Media and Place Productions, the nonprofit where Zeega is based, was one of 16 recipients in the latest round of Knight News Challenge winners.

PBS.org hackers group LulzSec calls it quits

LulzSec, the hacking group that saw itself as pirates on the Web seas, has disbanded and ceased all activity, according to its final statement posted on Sunday (June 26). Its 50-day run of Internet security breaches included targeting PBS.org (Current, June 13) to protest Frontline's "WikiSecrets" report; its six members also hit Sony, the U.S. Senate, the FBI and Britain's X Factor TV show. What was it all about? " ... [W]e truly believe in the AntiSec movement. ... We hope, wish, even beg, that the movement manifests itself into a revolution that can continue on without us. The support we've gathered for it in such a short space of time is truly overwhelming, and not to mention humbling. Please don't stop. Together, united, we can stomp down our common oppressors and imbue ourselves with the power and freedom we deserve." Here's a piece from the Guardian on why LulzSec could never exist as a permanent group.

UPDATE: Another hacking group, the A-Team, has published information on up to 10 LulzSec members. "To understand who/what lulzsec/gn0sis are/is you need to understand where they came from," the posting says. "Everything originates from the *chan (4chan/711chan/etc.) culture. This internet subculture is pretty much the dregs of the internet."

Jun 26, 2011

Legislators taking last-minute votes opposing shutdown of NJN

See Current's story.

NJN staff and friends' group offered separate alternatives to state

NJN’s nonprofit fundaising arm and the NJN staff proposed separate alternatives among the five bidders and one alternate plan for managing the TV network being divested by the state, Michael Symon of the Gannett New Jersey newspapers blogged last week.
  • NJN Foundation (formally, the Foundation for New Jersey Public Broadcasting) proposed a lower-cost approach that it described as “C-SPAN New Jersey.”
  • NJN staffers, under the name New Jersey Public Media Corp., proposed an alternative plan, which wasn’t eligible as a bid. It proposed that the state maintain aid for a transition period and establish the network as a more independent state authority.
Three other groups bid to operate the TV stations, Symon reported:
  • Montclair State University, Jersey’s second-largest state university, with two HD studios and a media training curriculum. Montclair was the only bidder besides WNET that was interviewed by state advisors.
  • Public Broadcasting Co. of New Jersey, which said it would pay the state $300,000 a year, mostly for studio rent, and claimed millions in sponsor and donor commitments.
  • An affiliate of Philadelphia’s WYBE (MindTV), Independence Public Media of New Jersey, would shift to a much higher volume, lower cost style of production, with New Jersey shows dominating the schedule. WYBE exec Howard Blumenthal advocated the approach during his year as acting executive director of NJN.
  • WNET's offshoot, Public Media NJ, got the job.

Jun 24, 2011

PBS website hacked again

A section of the PBS website was hacked Friday (June 24), according to the Associated Press. PBS spokesperson Anne Bentley said a "very small number" of administrative user names and encrypted passwords were stolen from the section of the site for the program Becoming American. Here's a look inside the first hack, which occurred over Memorial Day weekend.

State assembly rejects WNET deal for NJN; Senate could vote Monday

The New Jersey Assembly, half of its state legislature, has voted down Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to turn over management of the New Jersey Network's TV management to WNET, the Star-Ledger reports. By 45 to 30 the Assembly on Thursday (June 23) voted to block a five-year contract that would allow Public Media NJ, a nonprofit subsidiary of WNET/Thirteen, to be incorporated in the state to operate the TV network. The Senate may vote on a similar resolution on Monday, but that must pass by Tuesday to prevent the WNET deal from going through.

No one seems to agree on what may happen. Appearing before a Senate committee earlier Thursday, State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said if lawmakers reject the deal he negotiated, "NJN as we know it will cease to exist." Layoffs of the state employees at the network will proceed and the state will do the minimum required to maintain the FCC licenses. But a senator countered, saying, "There is definitely money in the budget that could keep NJN operating" past the July 1 deadline.

Jun 23, 2011

Grow the Audience updates reveal how much education matters

The latest analyses from public radio's Grow the Audience project examine the performance of public radio news stations, revealing two top predictors of these stations' ability to attract sizable audience shares within their markets: the percentage of core listeners in their listenership and the educational level of the market. The new studies, co-authored by Station Resource Group and Walrus Research, also focus on the relationship between audience and listener support and the size of local news staffs.

WYES breaks ground for its $7 million new building

WYES in New Orleans finally broke ground for a new headquarters Wednesday (June 22), nearly 20 years after General Manager Randy Feldman had first hoped to do so. "WYES staffers aren’t likely to miss the old building, an unheated cave with shaky air conditioning and lots of exposed wiring," the Times-Picayune notes. Phase one is a new 20,000-square-foot, $7 million new building right behind the old; that should be done by March 2012. Phase two, to raze the original building, doesn't yet have a start date.

AJR heralds "reemergence" of Vivian Schiller

The former NPR chief reflects on her two years at the helm of public radio's top news organization, including the stormy final months of her presidency, in the latest edition of American Journalism Review.

Leading NPR through the political crises that began with the Juan Williams dismissal strengthened her as a chief executive, Schiller says: "You develop a certain toughness and clarity of thinking about what matters and what is just a lot of noise. It would have been easy for me to get distracted, but too many people were depending on me for leadership. And so I discovered a strength I didn't even know I had."

"I made a few mistakes back in October, which I've publicly acknowledged many times," she says. "But beyond that, I'm proud of what my colleagues and I accomplished while I was with NPR. There's not much I would change."

Schiller signs on as chief digital officer of NBC News next month. "My background is in television news, so in many ways I feel like I'm coming home," she says.

Jun 22, 2011

Knight announces 2011 News Challenge winners; won't be the last year, it says

The 2011 class of Knight News Challenge winners were announced today (June 22) — the last recipients of the initial five-year program that the Knight Foundation Board committed to in 2006, points out Jeff Sonderman, digital media fellow at the Poynter Institute. He examined the four ways the initiative is shaping the future of news through its 63 projects funded by $22 million. Ideas popular with the Knight Foundation funders include crowdfunding, the "hacker-journalist," data as news and citizen journalism.

But fear not, thought leaders. “We won’t officially announce the next iteration of the News Challenge anytime soon … [but] we are thinking critically about how to continue to do this and do it better,” John Bracken, Knight’s director of digital media, told Sonderman. “It will not be the last year of this challenge.”

CPB salutes Lehrer for career of "straight-forward, honest reporting"


Retiring PBS newsman Jim Lehrer received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the CPB Board of Directors during its meeting today in Austin, Texas. The award, only the sixth to be presented by CPB, honors outstanding individual contributions to public broadcasting and public media.

"Through his straight-forward and honest reporting on PBS NewsHour, Jim has helped public media earn its reputation as one of the most trusted organizations in the nation," said Bruce Ramer, CPB chair. "He has become the face of PBS journalism."

Lehrer, who started his public broadcasting career directing news at KERA in Dallas, recently stepped down as lead anchor of the PBS NewsHour. When the weeknightly newscast launched in 1975 as The Robert MacNeil Report, Lehrer was the broadcast's Washington correspondent.

"I am grateful to CPB," said Lehrer, "not just for this award, but for CPB's enduring support for the NewsHour and for making it possible for me to practice our kind of journalism, MacNeil/Lehrer journalism, all these years."

Students protest freeform radio silence in Nashville

Vanderbilt University students organized a silent protest of WLPN's pending purchase of Nashville's WRVU, the latest college radio station to be converted into a pubradio classical outlet. The students dressed in black, covered their mouths with black tape, and carried "Save WRVU 91.1 FM" signs during yesterday's meeting of the WPLN board of directors. Rob Gordon, WLPN g.m., and board Chair Mike Koban offered to meet with WRVU deejays. “Maybe there are changes that can be made to somewhat bridge the gap,” Koban told the Tennessean. “I mean that sincerely.” The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the quickening pace of change on the left end of the FM dial, where free-form college stations like WRVU are being sold and converted to public radio ownership, despite spirited protests by student broadcasters.

Penn State pubcasting loses employees in university cutbacks

The equivalent of nine full-time positions at Penn State Public Broadcasting are being eliminated in a realignment due to larger university cutbacks. WPSU General Manager Ted Krichels told the Centre Daily Times in a story today (June 22) that the $2 million budget reduction to the school's Outreach unit means a drop in the station's budget of about $500,000. “Having to eliminate their jobs is painful,” Krichels said. “It’s painful for our organization. ... At the same time, we have a very strong staff and a lot of ambitions about creating more content and programming.”

In a press release, the station said the staff reductions affected about 10 percent of total employees. But while the overall staff number is down, three new positions will focus on public service media project development, project management and new media production. "We have to streamline, and we have to reengineer our business to meet evolving demands," Krichels said in the statement.

Two New Jersey legislators want to kill NJN/WNET deal

Two New Jersey lawmakers have have introduced resolutions to void WNET's deal to manage the New Jersey Network, the Star-Ledger reported Tuesday (June 21). Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan (D-South Plainfield) and Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) introduced concurrent resolutions disapproving of the contract, which turns over the state’s public TV operation to a nonprofit subsidiary of New York City's WNET/Thirteen. "It is a total give-away of a very valuable asset," Diegnan said. The contract, responses and related documents are here.

Jun 21, 2011

New executive director at BAVC: Mark Vogl

Marc Vogl begins July 11 as the new executive director of the Bay Area Video Coalition, a leading video access and training unit based in San Francisco. Vogl is an arts grantmaker at the Hewlett Foundation, former arts group manager, and onetime sketch comedy actor. He succeeds Ken Ikeda, who has joined Public Radio Capital's offshoot, the Public Media Company. Vogl co-founded the the Hi/Lo Film Festival ("a celebration of high concept/low budget films") and the sketch comedy group Killing My Lobster, and became executive director of its Lobster Theater Project. He remains active in local nonprofits serving arts and the young homeless.

White paper suggests another run at Public Square channel

In a new white paper, the American Enterprise Institute is recommending resurrecting the idea for PBS's Public Square channel (Current, Jan. 19, 2004) as a home for public-affairs content.

Norman Ornstein, lead author of "Creating a Public Square in a Challenging Media Age" — and a former member of the PBS Board — lays out four strategies to increase civic participation via media. It suggests working to keep newspapers alive, establish universal broadband access, get quality information to citizens, and develop a public-square channel, "the likes of which public television envisioned back in the mid-1990s." Ornstein served while PBS President Pat Mitchell was pushing for the Public Square project.

Three ideas for building that channel: Replace broadcasters' public-interest obligations with a rental fee for the use of public airwaves, and use the fee to fund public-affairs programming; create a public-private foundation to allocate money for public-interest purposes; and encourage social networking sites, as well as partnerships between social networking and traditional media.


Here's the full AEI report in PDF form.

FCC report author says contributions a "more effective way" of bankrolling nonprofit media

Steve Waldman, who spearheaded work on the FCC's recent 365-page report, “The Information Needs of Communities,” sat down with Columbia Journalism Review to defend the project, which has been widely viewed as disappointing (even by FCC Commissioner Michael Copps) for its lack of specific, feasible recommendations. Waldman said his researchers "made a lot of effort to try to come up with some ideas that were innovative, pragmatic, and practical, and that would actually be effective and not just push people’s buttons."

One aspect of the report Waldman feels has been overlooked by the press is the role of the nonprofit sector in future news coverage. "People tend to think that the alternative to commercial media is PBS," he said. "Our view is that PBS and NPR are really important, but there’s this much broader world of nonprofit media now. The sources of innovation there, and the public policy implications, are different. Part of what makes this hard is that they’re different in each case; there is like eight to nine different subcultures in the nonprofit sector. They add up to a pretty significant part of the media system, at least when we’re talking about accountability reporting, but each one of them is kind of small and on their own — public access channels, low-power FM, state SPANS [satellite public affairs networks], and, probably most prevalently, this world of nonprofit websites, which is really important."

There are currently two ways of subsidizing nonprofit media. "One is the direct grants system through CPB; the other is the charitable contributions system ... They both have a role," Waldman said. "But I think given the diversity of different players in the nonprofit sector, the charitable contribution system is arguably a more effective way of doing it."

Here is part two of the two-part interview.

APTS, CPB, PBS urge FCC to consider Native spectrum choices carefully

As the Federal Communications Commission seeks comments on maximizing spectrum usage to Native American lands, "it is critical the commission does not divest current spectrum being utilized by public television and radio interrupting current services already allocated to tribes and rural communities," according to comments filed with the FCC by APTS, CPB and PBS on Monday (June 20).

The orgs used an example of TV and radio translators in Utah. That state "possesses a complex and unique geographical make up," and rural communities and Native American tribes have relied on translators for decades, they said. Utah currently operates and maintains 688 translators — 35 percent of all translators in the country. "Many rural and Native Tribe communities pose the risk of being disconnected if spectrum is reallocated without first reaching a solution to continue service," the groups said.

"A deployment of extended broadband coverage which interrupts or hinders the current TV and radio broadcasting systems in these communities would simply alleviate one problem while creating another," the groups said, urging the FCC to carefully study current services allocated to Native Nations, "and work to maintain or successfully transition such indispensable TV translator systems."

KCET moving from Los Angeles to Burbank

Big changes continue at KCET in Los Angeles, which went independent from PBS on Jan. 1. Station execs told staff on Monday (June 21) that they'll be moving next year from their longtime Sunset Boulevard home to a new 14-story office tower on Studio Row in Burbank, according to the Los Angeles Times. KCET sold its historic 4.5-acre studio lot to the Church of Scientology in April for $42 million (the paper reported in March that the property had been assessed at $14 million). KCET's new home will be at the Pointe, completed in 2009 as part of the NBC campus. Terms of KCET's lease were not disclosed, but real estate experts familiar with the Burbank market valued the 11-year deal at about $25 million.

"We had a very valuable piece of real estate that we felt made a lot of sense to monetize, because it was not an operationally efficient place to do business today in the changing media landscape," Jerome told the newspaper. "You've got employees spread around several buildings. The spatial configurations were not right. We just felt really that we wanted to get into a brand-new facility that has open architecture that allows for a more collaborative and collegial work environment."

KCET will downsize from about 105,000 square feet of studio and office spaceto more than 55,000 square feet over one-and-a-half stories in the Burbank location. There will be two production studios and nearly all new equipment.

The station has until late April to leave its current site, which it now rents from the church.

Jun 20, 2011

Congressman Dingell wants answers on spectrum auctions

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) has sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (PDF) requesting clarification on several points of upcoming spectrum auctions. A few of the specifics he'd like to know: How many stations will share a channel or go off the air? How many stations will need to move to a new channel or be repacked? How many viewers will lose or gain service? Dingell is requesting answers by June 27.

Al Jazeera English gaining viewers on KCET in Los Angeles

Indie pubcaster KCET-TV in Los Angeles is having success with Al Jazeera English on its main channel, according to the New York Times. The news programming runs four times each weekday. In its main 4 p.m. slot, ratings jumped 135 percent from February through May, as the "Arab spring" uprisings continued. KCET says the newscasts are drawing more than 285,000 viewers per week. KCET Chief Content Officer Bret Marcus said he had been braced for viewer criticism about Qatar-based Al Jazeera English’s point of view, but “most people think it’s been very even-handed.”

WGBH drops Lyme disease documentary over "internal editorial concerns"

Dan Rodricks, a Baltimore Sun columnist who also hosts the Midday talk show on NPR's WYPR-FM, is weighing in on controversy surrounding a documentary set to air on several pubTV stations, including Maryland Public Television. At least one, WGBH, has dropped the program over content concerns.

Under Our Skin: A Healthcare Nightmare, is distributed by NETA from producer Andy Abrahams Wilson. Rodricks calls it a "polemical film about Lyme disease that is built on fear-provoking speculations and assertions while advancing a central message that has been discredited by experts in infectious diseases." The program suggests that tick-borne Lyme disease is an epidemic; the Infectious Diseases Society of America, its main target, disagrees, saying that long-term antibiotic treatment is unproven and unwarranted.

WGBH in Boston dropped the program from its schedule this month. "The decision was based on our own internal editorial concerns that surfaced on closer review of the film," Jeanne Hopkins, WGBH spokesperson, told Rodricks.

"We generally hear audience response to a program after it airs, but we have received calls from viewers about this title already," Joe Krushinsky, MPT spokesperson, told Rodricks. "Some are pleased; others are not. So far, the larger numbers of comments have been on the positive side of that split." Krushinsky added that "no single program claims to be, or can be, a comprehensive look at all perspectives."

NETA told Current that 105 markets have broadcast or have scheduled Under Our Skin.

Dutch fiscal austerity plan targets Radio Netherlands Worldwide

The Dutch government announced plans to scale back the activities of Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the pubcaster that produces and distributes programs for international audiences. Under a proposal announced last week, the world news service would no longer concern itself with providing information for Dutch people living abroad, or portraying a "realistic image of the Netherlands" through its broadcasts in other countries, according to report published on RNW's website. It is to become an arm of the Foreign Ministry and focus its service on countries where free speech is suppressed or threatened. The cuts, proposed as part of an austerity plan to reduce government spending, would take effect in January. RNW launched an online petition campaign to challenge the proposal, which is to be taken up by the Dutch Parliament on June 27.

Stakeholders gather to discuss future of New Zealand pubcasting as government cuts funds

The survival of public television in New Zealand will be debated Wednesday (June 22) at a Victoria University forum for stakeholders from industry, parliament, the state sector and academia, reports news site Voxy.co.nz. Participants will identify policy options to sustain public television, discuss funding and structural alternatives, look at sustaining local content, and examine regulatory arrangements.The forum originated with an open letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Broadcasting in April, signed by 61 media academics from around New Zealand, who urged the government to reconsider the series of steps it has taken “to dismantle the little that is left of public broadcasting in our country” by ending government funding.

PBS tops Creative Arts Emmys with 10

PBS leads all networks with 10 Daytime Entertainment Creative Arts Emmy Awards. All were presented during nontelevised ceremonies June 17 instead of during the on-air awards show Sunday (June 19). Sesame Street won several, including preschool children's series, performer (Kevin Clash as Elmo) and directing. Electric Company won three and was named top children's series. American Public Television won three: Avec Eric for culinary program, Travelscope for single-camera photography; and New Orleans: Getting Back to Normal. A full list of winners announced June 17, including PBS, is here.

NewsWorks in Philly: A "potential template" for pubcasting?

NewsWorks.org, the ambitious online community news site from WHYY in Philadelphia that launched in November, "just might be the most clearly articulated potential template for public media’s Web future," notes NetNewsCheck in a story today (June 20). William J. Marrazzo, WHYY president, plans on pumping $1.1 million a year into the site, which has been in development for nearly a decade; NewsWorks generated about 45 percent of WHYY’s $100,000 online revenue during the company’s 2011 fiscal year. So far it receives about 210,000 visitors monthly, with a growth rate of about 20 percent per month. Marrazzo said the station wants to "cut our teeth on hyperlocal markets," as well as broaden the multimedia skills of its journalists and reach a younger audience with the site.

Newark's WBGO unveils new performance series

WBGO in Newark, N.J., launches a new broadcast performance series this week, The Checkout: Live from 92YTribeca, hosted and curated by Josh Jackson as an extension of his weekly music magazine. Featuring modern jazz, the monthly series debuts on Wednesday, June 22 with a performance by New York-based pianist and composer Dan Tepfer, "one of the most formidable jazz musicians on the international stage," and special guest saxophonist Noah Perminger. Performances will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. eastern on WBGO 88.3 FM, streamed on WBGO.org, and offered as a video webcast on NPR Music. The series is part of a larger service expansion that WGBO is rolling out this summer: it's launching an HD Radio channel focusing on emerging jazz artists and strengthening its signal in Manhattan, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Journal featured the WBGO and New York's WQXR in a story on terrestrial broadcasters repositioning themselves as "thriving multi-platform hubs." Earlier in Current: Josh Jackson's The Checkout as a showcase for music discovery.

Jun 17, 2011

Latest Nieman Reports offers public media insights

The Summer 2011 issue of Nieman Reports is now online, chock full of intriguing reading on public-interest media. Former NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard ponders "Online Comments: Dialogue or Diatribe?" (her take: "We would have more honest, kinder, civil exchanges if people used their real names"). Other writers include former Steve Weinberg, Investigative Reporters and Editors director; and Michael Skolar, v.p. of interactive at Public Radio International. It's published by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

WSRE lays off five staffers, drops "Lawrence Welk Show" due to state cuts

The fallout from Florida Gov. Rick Scott's decision to end all state funding to public broadcasters continues. Five positions have been eliminated from WSRE's full-time state of 27, the Pensacola State College station said in a statement online. Some local productions will go on hiatus pending future funding. And the station is dropping what it calls a "longtime favorite" program, The Lawrence Welk Show, to help reduce programming costs. “The difficult decision to cancel programs and eliminate the jobs of valued WSRE employees was made after an exhaustive review of our entire organization, and with the greatest reluctance,” said G.M. Sandy Cesaretti Ray in the statement.

PBS.org's LulzSec attackers post hints to their motives

LulzSec, the shadowy, mischievous hackers that launched a high-profile attack against PBS.org over Memorial Day weekend (Current, June 13), posted a statement Friday (June 17) explaining their motives and claiming they have access to far more secret information than they've revealed.

"Do you think every hacker announces everything they've hacked?," the statement says. "We certainly haven't, and we're damn sure others are playing the silent game. Do you feel safe with your Facebook accounts, your Google Mail accounts, your Skype accounts? What makes you think a hacker isn't silently sitting inside all of these right now, sniping out individual people, or perhaps selling them off? You are a peon to these people. A toy. A string of characters with a value."

" ... Welcome to 2011. This is the lulz lizard era, where we do things just because we find it entertaining. ... That's what appeals to our Internet generation. We're attracted to fast-changing scenarios, we can't stand repetitiveness, and we want our shot of entertainment or we just go and browse something else, like an unimpressed zombie. Nyan-nyan-nyan-nyan-nyan-nyan-nyan-nyan, anyway."

Since hitting PBS pages for NewsHour and Frontline, LulzSec hackers have claimed responsibility for breaking into sites for the U.S. Senate and the CIA, among other entities.

Nic Harcourt moving from KCRW to KCSN

Triple-A music veteran Nic Harcourt is joining KCSN 88.5 FM at California State University, Northridge, the school announced Friday (June 17). Harcourt has spent 12 years a KCRW/Los Angeles, 10 as music director and host of the influential Morning Becomes Eclectic program. He was the first broadcaster to webcast in video live in-studio sessions and the first pubradio host to take the show on the road with live broadcasts from events in New York, Austin, Vancouver and London, the announcement notes. "Many artists, including Adele, Coldplay and Norah Jones, have credited Harcourt for putting them on the map and helping them achieve stardom," it adds.

"Change is good," Harcourt said. "I’m truly excited about the opportunity to work with the team at KCSN as they build a dynamic new music format for Los Angeles.” Harcourt will begin as a weekend host in mid-July, and also contribute daily commentary on new artists.

The station recently hired Sky Daniels, another Triple-A powerhouse, as the new p.d. Daniels helped develop KFOG in San Francisco and has programmed stations including WLUP in Chicago, KISW in Seattle and KMET in Los Angeles. (Harcourt image: Leigha Hodnet)

Meanwhile, on Norwegian pubTV . . .

In a unique live broadcast that began Thursday (June 16), viewers of public television's NRK2 in Norway can watch all 8,040 minutes of the Hurtigruten MMS Nordnorge cruise ship and its roughly 670 passengers and crew as the vessel steams north along Norway's jagged coastline, reports Reuters. Coverage includes all on-board announcements and views from 11 cameras focusing on fjords, boat traffic around the ship, officers on the bridge and passengers strolling the decks. "It is slow, it is very slow," said Rune Moeklebust, the project manager for the show. Moeklebust said 1.3 million of Norway's 4.9 million residents at least were "stopping by" NRK2 between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m. on the first day.

Attention, producers: New NEH guidelines are up

New application guidelines have just been posted for the Division of Public Programs on the National Endowment for the Humanities website for "America's Media Makers: Development and Production" grants. One upcoming deadline is June 29, for "Bridging Cultures through Film: International Topics." The division funds radio, television, and digital projects in the humanities intended for public audiences.

Seltzer leaves WBEZ to head SAG Foundation

Jill Seltzer, former head of institutional advancement for WBEZ/Chicago Public Media, is the new president of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation. Seltzer told the Hollywood Reporter that her background dovetailed well with her new position. “The job is a mixture of fundraising, program delivery and management,” she said. The foundation is a separate entity from the guild and is responsible for its own fundraising. The organization serves actors, through targeted outreach, and the general public, through literacy programs in public schools, hospitals and shelters.

WDUQ staffers lose jobs as of June 30

As part of a deal finalized Thursday (June 16), the 20 full- and part-time employees of WDUQ FM in Pittsburgh are terminated effective June 30, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. Duquesne University is turning over control of the station to Essential Public Media, a joint venture between WYEP-FM and Public Media Co. (a new subsidiary of Public Radio Capital). Two employees, interim General Manager Fred Serino and Business Manager Vicky Rumpf, will remain through the transition.

Jun 16, 2011

Sesame Street in Tanzania sponsors malaria outreach campaign

The First Lady of Tanzania, Salma Kikwete, launched Kilimani Sesame’s Malaria Education Outreach Campaign today (June 16) in the East African country. The campaign includes four malaria prevention public service announcements for TV and radio in Swahili, as well as nearly 16,000 storybooks to be distributed to primary schools nationwide. Children got to hear Kikwete read the book titled Chandarua Salama ("The Safe Net") at offices of Wanawake Na Maendeleo (WAMA) in Dar es Salaam, a charity headed by the First Lady. The storybook, printed in Swahili and English, follows Muppet friends Lulu, Neno and Kami as they go through their bedtime routine and learn the importance of sleeping under a bed net to prevent the mosquito-borne illness.

#MuckReads a new "experiment in social aggregation" for ProPublica

ProPublica has launched the Twitter stream #MuckReads, a way for readers, reporters and editors to share public-service news stories. The nonprofit investigative news org calls it the next evolution of its Investigations Elsewhere roundup.

"#MuckReads is an experiment in social aggregation," ProPublica said in on its site. "The feature as you see it is just the beginning. We've got big plans for feature upgrades and integration with Facebook, but first we want to see what works and what needs more tinkering."

News 21 project expands to include all journalism schools

News 21, a journalism education project launched in 2005 at five j-schools, will be available to all journalism and mass communications programs in the country thanks to $3.9 million in new support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the two announced today (June 15). The support brings the total initiative to $19.7 million. It will be administered by Arizona State University. The expansion comes after an independent evaluation found the initiative has "already helped transform" curricula and is getting more students news jobs "at a critical juncture in the industry’s history," the statement said.

In the News 21 program, journalism students get fellowships to do investigative reporting overseen by professors and distributed through partner media outlets. One examined racial integration in California prisons, and produced this fascinating interactive map showing how various racial groups gather in sections of the yard at Folsom State Prison.

FCC report picks up on AIR's push for airtime, funding for radio indies

The FCC's latest report "The Information Needs of Communities" may be long on verbiage and short on remedies, but it does offer some key insights for independent producers, public media analyst Jessica Clark writes for the Association for Independents in Radio's MQ2 blog.

Public broadcasters' expansion onto online and mobile platforms, as well as the explosion of nonprofit media outlets, creates new opportunities and more competition in many arenas, Clark writes.

She points to a key FCC recommendation that policy makers reconsider which types of media deserve CPB aid. "[T]his report does not explicitly recommend additional funding for public broadcasting," Clark writes, "However, it does recommend CPB funding requirements be reconsidered so that it's easier for new kinds of projects and outlets to receive federal dollars."

The report directly cites AIR's advocacy on behalf of indies, Clark notes, including adoption of local content rules requiring noncommercial stations to present "new voices" and independently produced work. AIR argued for an "intervention on behalf of independent radio producers" comparable to the legislation that established the Independent Television Service in 1988, according to the report.

Radio Bilingüe announces suspension of LA>Forward, LAPM initiatives

Fresno, Calif., broadcaster Radio Bilingüe has suspended the LA>Forward and Los Angeles Public Media projects "for the foreseeable future," it announced Wednesday (June 15). "Radio Bilingüe’s efforts to secure a radio broadcast outlet in Los Angeles for LAPM have proven unsuccessful, while federal funding cuts to CPB's digital appropriation are precluding the agency from assuring support to LAPM in the coming years," the statement said. With backing from CPB, work began two years ago to develop and test programming for a new multiplatform public media outlet targeting young, educated minority listeners in Los Angeles (Current, July 20, 2009).

MinnPost, Voice of San Diego get very little web traffic, report reveals

MinnPost and Voice of San Diego — two online nonprofit news outlets often held up as models for the future of local news coverage — actually receive scant web traffic, according to a new report, "Less of the Same: The Lack of Local News on the Internet" (PDF). The study was commissioned by the FCC as part of its quadrennial review of broadcast ownership regulations. The author is Matthew Hindman, assistant professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University. (Details on the 11 FCC studies here.)

Hindman used comScore panel data tracking 250,000 Internet users across more than a million Web domains, focusing specifically on online local news within the top 100 U.S. television markets during February, March and April 2011. "The breadth and the market‐level granularity of the comScore data makes this study one of the first comprehensive looks at of Internet‐based local news," Hindman notes.

Out of the 1,074 online local news sources in the study identifies, only 17 are "genuinely new media outlets," he writes, rather than online homes of established print or broadcast media.

Hindman discovered that MinnPost traffic is minimal: between 0.5 and 1.3 percent audience reach in Minneapolis‐St. Paul, from .0009 to .0012 percent of total page views there. For Voice of San Diego, "the site is elegant and content‐rich, but traffic numbers are low," he writes. Its reach was .48 percent in February (with 0.0005 percent of total San Diego pages viewed), 1 percent in April (with 0.0008 percent of pages) — and too low to measure in March.

"The poor showing of MinnPost.com and Voice of San Diego may be especially surprising to some," Hindman writes. "While MinnPost and VoSD are particularly celebrated examples of a new breed of local and regional online news organizations, numerous other local online news sites are missing altogether ... including many other sites mentioned as promising experiments. If traffic to these 'model' outlets is minimal across the board, this has profound implications for media diversity, and for the future of journalism."

Jun 15, 2011

City Council drops idea for new Chattanooga Channel

The City Council in Chattanooga, Tenn., has voted down a plan to contribute $275,000 to WTCI/Tennessee Valley PBS to launch a Chattanooga Channel, reports the Chattanoogan. Paul Grove, WTCI president, had proposed that all City Council meetings, including committees, would be aired live and streamed on a website. Grove said the channel would bring new "access and transparency" to city government. Councilwoman Pam Ladd said the channel "is a wonderful idea," but not a priority at this time. The council will pay WTCI $60,000 to continue televising its meetings; the county is dropping that spending.

WMFE pubradio safe, "hugely viable," trustee president says

Despite WMFE's dire warnings to the FCC about its financial stability, trustees chairman Bob Showalter said the Orlando, Fla., station will not fail because the radio presence remains strong. "90.7 is hugely viable,” he told the Orlando Sentinel Tuesday (June 14). “Things are not dire at 90.7.” He said trustees plan on putting the $3 million from the pending TV sale in a quasi-endowment, spending the dividends on 90.7 and increasing local news coverage.

BBC working on live reporting app

The BBC is developing an app for its reporters in the field to file video, still photos and audio directly into the BBC system from an iPhone or iPad, according to Journalism.co.uk. "Reporters have been using smart phones for a while now but it was never good quality," said Martin Turner, head of operations for newsgathering. "You might do it when there was a really important story. Now it is beginning to be a realistic possibility to use iPhones and other devices for live reporting, and in the end if you've got someone on the scene then you want to be able to use them. That capability is a really important one."

Assessing the value of college radio in Nashville

What is lost when a city's college radio station is sold and converted to a public radio outlet? It's a question that free-form radio fans are asking with increasing frequency as student-operated FMs drop off the left end of the dial.

In Nashville, where Vanderbilt University's WRVU ended its nearly 60-year run as an FM station last week, radio audiences gained a full-time classical music service from the city's NPR News station, WPLN. But WRVU's fans and advocates lamented the sudden loss of a station that essentially operated as a community radio outlet. WRVU was "one of the only venues for Nashville artists of all stripes to get airplay — rappers, punks, headbangers, even blues and bluegrass bands," the Nashville Scene reported. It also provided a "powerful forum for ideas" in ways that weren't heard elsewhere on Nashville's airwaves, according to Freddie O'Connell, a former talk show host who penned a June 11 op-ed for the New York Times.

"There’s a false but widespread image of college radio as a pointless, narcissistic exercise — that it’s nothing more than a crew of campus oddballs who like playing D.J., even though no one is listening," O'Connell wrote. "WRVU demonstrated how wrong that image is. Not only did it command respect and interest on campus, but, thanks to a longstanding and farsighted policy, it allowed and encouraged members of the off-campus community to volunteer as D.J.’s — and so drew on the rich cultural heritage of Music City U.S.A. as well."

But that community-mindedness and free-form aesthetic didn't add up to a viable broadcast service over the long-term, according to the Student Press Center's account of the sale. Vanderbilt Student Communications, the nonprofit that held WRVU's license, conducted audience research before selling the frequency to WPLN. “We found that about 70 percent of listeners were 35 and older, and many were listening online from out of state,” said Chris Carroll, director of student media at VSC. “When people raise outcries that Nashville is losing something that everybody loves, the data just do not support those claims.”

With the $3.3 million purchase of WRVU's 91.1 FM frequency, WPLN will be better able to satisfy its news and classical audiences, General Manager Rob Gordon told the Tennessean. Only a few years ago, his staff programmed both NPR News and classical music on 90.3 FM, its flagship channel.

Comments posted on the Nashville Scene's blog "ranged from ballistic to disheartened to a mix of the two," and offered conflicting assessments of WPLN's role in the transaction: "Part of me is pissed but then I have to wonder... if not WPLN, it might've been another, more commercial crappy station....Either way, the radio alternative is gone and my contributions to NPR went towards the final solution. That is a kick in the nads."

Burns "surprised" to be identified as regular contributor to Olbermann's new show

Lefty TV talker Keith Olbermann announced last month that PBS documentarian Ken Burns would be a "key contributor" and "regular part" of Olbermann's new show on Current TV — which surprised Baltimore Sun TV writer David Zurawik. "Yes, I was surprised, too," Burns told Zurawik in a column today (June 14). "I appeared on Countdown a lot. And he's been a friend for a long time. And when he moved [to Current TV], I said, 'Oh, I'll come and do it [the new show]'. And I think that's what it is." However, Burns said, he refused to accept a salary as a regular contributor. "They offered to pay me, and I said no," Burns told Zurawik. "I refused to be paid. I don't want any money to interrupt an exchange of ideas. And since I live in New Hampshire, I don't know how I become a contributor. You know, when I'm in New York, if there's something germane to something we're doing or to a topic I care about, I'll talk about it. But I would do the same thing at Fox News, know what I mean? We bend over backwards to be right down the middle."

Jun 14, 2011

Pledge programming will erode pubcasting identity and mission, Fanning says

David Fanning, executive producer of Frontline, raised his concerns about public broadcasting on-air fundraising while accepting Quinnipiac University's Fred Friendly First Amendment Award on Tuesday (June 14). An excerpt:

"Where once stations were lead by broadcasters and educators who believed deeply in the mission of public broadcasting, now as money gets tighter a new generation of leaders comes in, brought in by worried board members who almost inevitably turn to the person in charge of fundraising to help manage the station.

"With that comes programming choices that are safer, and the pursuit of audience for the sake of audience, and membership for the dollars. Why do we find it necessary to attract members with pledge programming that has nothing to do with our core programs? This is our deepest embarrassment, especially for public television. I have heard the arguments, and I understand the imperatives for local stations, but to have created such a schizophrenic programming strategy is not just misguided, but will ultimately erode our identity and our mission."

Fanning accepted the prestigious honor at a luncheon at the Metropolitan Club in New York City; the crowd included author Gay Talese and former ABC News anchor Charles Gibson. Fanning's entire speech is here (PDF).

Nine pubradio outlets win national Murrows from RTDNA

NPR, Vermont Public Radio, and Austin's KUT led public radio news outlets in National Edward R. Murrow Awards announced today by the Radio and Television Digital News Association.

NPR won Murrows in four categories of the radio network/syndication division; VPR bested small-market radio stations in three categories; and, KUT won two trophies in the competition among large-market stations.

Four additional pubradio outlets -- Michigan Radio; KUNC in Greeley, Colo.; WSHU in Fairfield, Conn.; and WITF in Harrisburg, Pa. -- won Murrows in news reporting categories. WBUR.org, a leading pubradio website published by Boston's WBUR, took the national Murrow for news websites in the large-market radio division.

Joining NPR in the Murrow-winning radio network/syndicators division was Public Radio International for an installment of This American Life.

National Murrow winners are selected from those honored during RTDNA regional contests, announced this spring.

PBS, NPR websites score multiple Webbys

The websites for PBS and NPR took home several Webbys from the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences at ceremonies Monday night (June 13) in New York City. PBS.org won a People's Voice for charitable/nonprofit orgs, and NPR.org scored both People's Voice and Webby for news. NPR News' "Election 2010: It's All Politics" received a People's Voice for politics. And in podcasts, NPR was a double winner again. Here's a full list.

"Diagnosis sound, remedies lacking" in FCC report, Jessica Clark writes

Media analyst Jessica Clark says that consensus on the "Information Needs of Communities" report from the Federal Communications Commission seems to be, the diagnosis is sound but remedies are lacking. Clark writes on MediaShift that the report makes a clear case that local reporting is dying — "yet, bafflingly ... stops short of offering bold solutions." She notes that in a statement in reaction to the report, Commissioner Michael Copps also observed that "the policy recommendations ... don't track the diagnosis." She also compiled reactions to the report in the news using Storify. (Editor's note: Clark is a senior fellow at American University's School of Communication, which acquired Current in January.) Here's a link to the FCC report, and here is the section on nonprofit media that includes pubcasting.

Jun 12, 2011

Daytona State "just can't afford" to keep PBS affiliation, college president says

The board of trustees at Daytona State College could vote to drop PBS programming from affiliate WDSC at its Thursday (June 16) meeting. Interim president Frank Lombardo told the Daytona Beach, Fla., News-Journal that the school contributes about $700,000 to the overall operation of the station, including non-PBS programming. "We just can't afford to do it," he said. "There is limited money. We have to make sure the academic side, the classrooms and teaching and learning functions at the college are supported." The trustees are voting on the fiscal 2012 budget, which begins July 1. They may use the channel to run government programming and lease parts of its spectrum.

Jun 10, 2011

Board readies sale of KCSM-TV in San Mateo, Calif.

The licensee for KCSM-TV is preparing to sell the California public broadcasting station. The board of the San Mateo County Community College District on Wednesday (June 8) "directed staff to prepare putting KCSM on the market," according to the San Jose Mercury News. The board cited the station's projected $800,000 structural deficit. "I'm disappointed," KCSM General Manager Marilyn Lawrence said. "The station has been a legacy to the college. It'll be a great loss to the community." The television station already has drawn interest from four possible buyers and could sell for around $5 million, Lawrence said. 

Ahoy, Capt. Clack!

Tom and Ray Magliozzi of Car Talk got out of the garage and headed for the Charles River for WBUR's annual Spring Festival at the Community Rowing Inc. boathouse in Boston on June 5. The two, known on the air as Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, turned up as boat captains; above, Capt. (Ray) Clack signs autographs. Some 1,000 fans turned out to meet the Car Talk guys and other WBUR celebs such as On Point's Tom Ashbrook. The boathouse set a record for the day, teaching more than 500 persons how to row. (Image: WBUR)

WMFE-TV says its "cash reserves are limited" and delay in sale "would be devastating"

Orlando's WMFE-TV this week said in comments to the Federal Communications Commission that a delay in its sale to religious broadcaster Daystar "would be devastating," and that its “cash reserves are limited and most have already been consumed" to keep the pubTV station running over the past few months, reports the Orlando Sentinel. The FCC has received 525 objections to the impending sale. Read WMFE-TV's "Opposition to Informal Objections" here (PDF).

Looks like Maine pubcasters won't be zeroed out of state budget after all

Maine Public Broadcasting Network got very good news late Thursday (June 9) when the state legislature's Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee voted unanimously to provide the pubcasters with $1.95 million for fiscal 2012, which Gov. Paul LePage (R) proposed eliminating. The committee also recommended a slightly reduced total, $1.75 million, for FY13. "It has been truly gratifying to see the support from so many of you who believe in MPBN's contribution to the very fabric of all of Maine," said Jim Dowe, network president, in a letter to supporters on MPBN's website. "Your many and diverse voices were heard loud and clear in Augusta! Thank you!" The biennial budget goes on to the full legislature and governor for final approval.

Nashville Public Radio adds second channel; Vanderbilt dumps radio

As in Houston, a student station in Nashville will move from broadcast to the Web, and the local pubradio station has doubled its over-the-air capacity, moving to separate news and classical channels. Vanderbilt University’s campus media group, majority-controlled by students, opted to receive $3.35 million, selling its 91.1 MHz channel to Nashville Public Radio, the Tennessean reported. The buyer will be able to go all-news with WPLN and play music on the acquired frequency, resolving a conflict that has pained the mixed-format station, General Manager Rob Gordon told the Tennesseean: “We’d have people call in and say, ‘It’s Saturday afternoon, I was wondering if Mubarak had resigned, and I turn on WPLN and you’re playing opera.’” The student station, WRVU, will be heard online. At Vanderbilt, as elsewhere, some decision-makers assume that young people wanting music will go to the Internet, not to radio. The sale of WRVU, expected by observers, is part of a gradual sell-off of stations long operated by universities.

Heads up, producers: Your annual Academy approaches

Applications are now being accepted for the 2011 Producers Workshop at WGBH, part of the CPB/PBS Producers Academy. It's open to producers who want to create content for pubcasting, either through a  station or independently. Application deadline is July 8 for the October workshop in Boston. Want to know more? Check out what alums are doing on the Producers Workshop Online.

WHYY pulls out of the red into the black

WHYY overcame a deficit of $3.9 million to end the last fiscal year with a $1.7 million surplus, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. WHYY's new audited financial statement shows that the station received $8.9 million in program contracts and other project revenue in fiscal year 2010, $4.9 million more than the previous year. Meanwhile, personnel and fund-raising costs dropped — including station President William Marrazzo's base compensation, which fell from $506,157 in FY09 to $448,161 in FY10.

"We must defend" public broadcasting, Moyers says

In an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, longtime PBS newsman Bill Moyers sounds a warning. "Public broadcasting, which remains a place that treats you as a citizen and not a consumer, is ... threatened," he said. "We must defend it. We must call it back to its heights. We must continue to support it, because without it, we’re at the mercy, totally, of corporate power."

Jun 9, 2011

94 percent of noncom stations air less than half hour of local news daily, FCC report says

"Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age," a report on the future of media in America from the Federal Communications Commission, was released today (June 9). Here (PDF) is the section on public broadcasting.

It notes that while PBS "airs some of the best journalistic documentaries on TV," public television "has placed a much smaller emphasis on local news." An FCC analysis of Tribune Media Services Data shows that 94 percent of noncom stations air less than 30 minutes of local news daily. It also said there are "significant financial obstacles standing in the way of more local public TV news and information programming." More detail on local news coverage from the Associated Press.

Early reaction is mixed. “We are still reviewing the voluminous document, but at first glance it appears to be a major disappointment," said one statement, from the Free Press media advocacy group. "The report discusses many important ideas, but where the FCC actually has the power to help local communities, the agency abdicates its responsibility in the areas. Worse yet, instead of striking a bold path forward, the FCC chairman appears to be backing away from the positive, though baby steps made by his Republican predecessors on the issues of competition, localism and diversity."

Other broadcasters are praising its proposals to drop certain paperwork requirements, and do away with the fairness doctrine. 

WLRN protests pubcasting cuts by ending state-funded legislative coverage

WLRN in Miami is dropping use of the Florida Public Radio Network in protest of Gov. Rick Scott's decision to end all funding to public broadcasters in the state — except to WFSU, which will still receive $1.8 million for the legislative-focused Florida Channel. John LaBonia, g.m. of WLRN, says the station will instead report on the state government by joining the combined bureau in Tallahassee created by the St. Petersburg Times and Miami Herald.

"The governor zeroed out public broadcasting because he's calling it a special interest," LaBonia told the Times. "When you single out one station and give to it but nobody else, that's the definition of a special interest."

Jun 8, 2011

Bill on spectrum auction passes Senate Commerce Committee

The Senate Commerce Committee voted 21 to 4 today (June 8) to authorize incentive auctions to compensate broadcasters that give up spectrum for wireless broadband. It's part of a larger effort to fund an emergency communications network. If it becomes law, the legislation will also compensate broadcasters who retain their spectrum but are "repacked" to make larger, contiguous swaths of vacated spectrum available for wireless (Current, "Spectrum talk at NETA: One ominous session," Jan. 24, 2011; also Feb. 8, 2010). The bill must now pass the full Senate and move to the Republican-controlled House.

The Association of Public Television Stations told Current in a statement: “We have been carefully watching progress on the Hill regarding FCC authority to conduct incentive auctions. Obviously, Congressional authorization is the linchpin in the FCC’s broadband wireless spectrum plans. We are hopeful that all spectrum legislation and implementing FCC rules will continue to recognize the important services provided by public television stations.”

Number of over-the-air TV homes grew over last year, new survey shows

According to research out this week from Knowledge Networks, the number of Americans exclusively using over-the-air (OTA) television broadcasting in their home increased from 42 million to 46 million over the last year. The demographics of broadcast-only households skew towards younger adults, minorities and lower-income families, the report finds.

The "2011 Ownership Survey and Trend Report" shows that 15 percent of all U.S. households with TVs use just over-the-air signals; that compares with 14 percent of homes reported as broadcast-only for the previous three years. Knowledge Networks estimates that more than 17 million households, or about 45.6 million consumers, receive television exclusively through broadcast signals.

The research also showed that minorities make up 40 percent of all broadcast-only homes; 20 percent of homes with a head of household age 18-34 are broadcast only; and 23 percent of homes with an annual income under $30,000 receive TV signals solely over-the-air.

The survey of 3,343 households was conducted in March and April with a standard error range of plus/minus 2 percent.

Eshoo recovering from appendectomy

U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), a longtime pubcasting champion on Capitol Hill, underwent a successful laparoscopic appendectomy at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., on Tuesday (June 7), according to a statement from her office. There were no complications and she is making a full recovery. "Rep. Eshoo will be working from home for the rest of the week," the statement said.

NewsHour, Chicago Tonight to work jointly on content using Joyce Foundation grant

PBS NewsHour and WTTW just received a $250,000, one-year grant from the Joyce Foundation to collaborate on coverage of Great Lakes region news. The partners will produce segments for the national PBS NewsHour audience; expand local reporting on Chicago Tonight and its digital platforms; and create national arts reports for NewsHour and related arts and culture content for the Online NewsHour. “Public affairs programs such as Chicago Tonight are important, credible platforms for informing the public on policy issues that most local television news programs would not cover,” said Joyce Foundation President Ellen Alberding in a statement. “And by partnering with PBS NewsHour, we know these regional issues will receive national attention.”

Pittsburgh jazz fans object to WDUQ format change

A group of community leaders and jazz fans working to preserve music programming on Pittsburgh's WDUQ, the NPR News and jazz station that has been in ownership limbo for more than a year, asked the FCC to delay the proposed license transfer to Essential Public Media (EPM), according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The expectant owner recently announced plans to convert 90.5 FM into an all-news station and move all but six hours of jazz programming to an HD Radio channel. Evan Pattak, chair of Jazz Lives in Pittsburgh, recently described the format change as "draconian" in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "From 100 hours [a week] to six -- it's a blow to this city's cultural and artistic diversity. I can't imagine any jazz fan who would find it acceptable," he said. The FCC's window for accepting public comments on the proposed sale closes this week; EPM plans to begin broadcasting on 90.5 FM under different call letters on July 1.

"Voluminous" FCC report on media future offers only "minor suggestions," WSJ says

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the Federal Communication Commission's highly anticipated report on the future of media, to be released Thursday, "holds little more than minor suggestions for rule changes, such as requiring broadcasters to put more information online." The paper cites sources that have read what it characterizes as "the voluminous document." The document also suggests that the Internal Revenue Service help struggling media companies get an easier path to becoming nonprofits. "It's more of a history of media than a future of media [report]," said one FCC official who has read the report.

Jun 7, 2011

Cooney Center to issue "Families Matter" report on media usage

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop is releasing a new report, "Families Matter," documenting how families with young children integrate digital media into their lives, today (June 7) at the E 3 Expo for electronic gaming in Los Angeles. Center Executive Director Michael Levine writes on Huffington Post that the findings include: Only half of parents are playing with their kids on newer platforms such as video game consoles; many parents are spending more time with their children engaged in traditional activities (TV, books, board games); and while more than half of parents are concerned about the effect of media usage on their children, fewer than 1 in 5 parents think their kids spend too much time with digital media.

Senate spectrum auction bill markup set for Wednesday

The Senate Commerce Committee is set to mark up a spectrum incentive auction bill Wednesday (June 8), but that could prove to be a "marathon undertaking," according to Broadcasting & Cable. The bill, S. 911, contains nearly 100 draft amendments. It would allow the Federal Communications Commission to compensate broadcasters for giving up some spectrum, around 120 MHz total, to make room for more wireless broadband. It would also allow allocate the D block of spectrum to first responders for an interoperable broadband emergency communications network rather than auction it. The bill's sponsor, Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), wants the bill passed and to the president before the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Creating the emergency network was one of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Yore gets promotion at Marketplace

American Public Media is announcing J.J. Yore's promotion from vice president/executive producer to vice president/general manager of pubradio's Marketplace. APM said in a statement today (June 7) that in his new role, Yore will be responsible for overseeing all editorial and business operations activity. Yore was part of the team that created Marketplace in 1988. He has worked as a reporter, editor, and broadcast producer for the show. In his most recent role as executive producer, he oversaw Marketplace's on-air and online programming. Prior to launching Marketplace, Yore was editor and associate publisher of Current.

Jun 6, 2011

In New Jersey, NJN to become NJTV; radio licenses go to New York Public Radio and WHYY

As expected, New York Gov. Chris Christie today (June 6) announced that New Jersey Public Media, a new nonprofit subsidiary of WNET/Thirteen in New York City, will take over the television stations of the New Jersey Network as the state ends financial support on July 1. NJN will now be known as NJTV and will continue to provide a nightly newscast, according to the New York Times. On the radio side, four state-owned licenses will be acquired outright by New York Public Radio, which operates WNYC and WQXR, and the remaining five will be purchased by the Philadelphia public broadcaster WHYY. NJN’s approximately 120 employees will lose those jobs, although they will be able to reapply for posts at the new entity, the paper reports.

Harrisburg's WITF lays off 18 staffers

WITF in Harrisburg, Pa., last week told 18 employees they are losing their jobs, according to the local Patriot-News. That will drop the number of full-time staffers from 85 to 67. The layoffs were spread throughout the operation, including technology, development and programming. Those leaving include "two of WITF's better-known radio personalities," the paper says: Craig Cohen, host of Radio Smart Talk since it started in 2008 and a nearly 10-year employee, and Melanie Herschorn, local reporter/host for All Things Considered for the last three years. "Every layoff is really a painful experience this time," said Kathleen Pavelko, station c.e.o. In February 2009, the station lost three staffers and a full-time unfilled position, and senior managers took a pay cut. The paper notes that state funding of about $900,000 a year was eliminated two years ago, and federal aid is expected to fall from $1.3 million to $650,000 in the coming year.

CPB announces new ombudsman

Joel Kaplan is the new ombudsman for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, effective June 1. Kaplan is currently associate dean at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, focused on its new graduate curriculum centered on multi-media storytelling and new media platforms. He has taught classes in news writing, investigative reporting, national political reporting, communications law, ethics and public affairs reporting. He's also the author of two white papers for CPB that address the role of the ombudsman in achieving balance and objectivity within public media and in social media.

“I look forward to working with CPB to improve transparency throughout the public media system," Kaplan said in a statement, "encourage greater objectivity and balance in public media programming, and ensure the organization is responsive to audience comments and questions.”

He is a member of the advisory board for the Tully Center for Free Speech and was the first academic elected to the Board of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE).

CPB established the Office of the Ombudsman six years ago (Current, April 11, 2005) as an independent office to inform the board of directors and the president of CPB about concerns related to the public media system. Ken Bode has served as ombudsman since then.

Jun 5, 2011

WNET subsidiary will receive $4 million to run NJN, Star-Ledger newspaper reports

Instead of paying for the state for management rights to operate New Jersey's pubTV network, a new nonprofit formed by WNET/Thirteen will actually receive $4 million in fees and grants, sources with knowledge of the deal told the Star-Ledger. The subsidiary will receive a $2 million grant from the CPB previously awarded to NJN, and will keep about $2 million in tower rental fees that private companies pay the network, the paper said. A formal announcement of the five-year agreement is expected this week.

Jun 4, 2011

Long-awaited FCC report on future of news coming June 9

The Federal Communication Commission's report on the future of media will be presented at the agency's June 9 meeting, Broadcasting & Cable is reporting. An agency working group headed by veteran print journalist and Beliefnet founder Steve Waldman has been reporting on the topic since October 2009. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and Waldman are also scheduled to appear June 10 at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York, where they will discuss the report findings.