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Aug 31, 2011

NJ lawmakers criticize NJTV over Hurricane Irene coverage

NJTV's lack of live coverage of Hurricane Irene whipped at least one state lawmaker into a froth, according to the Star-Ledger. Assemblyman John Burzichelli (D-Gloucester), who opposed to the state’s decision to allow WNET to take over the former NJN, said NJTV officials should be embarrassed. "Its absence was glaring and unacceptable during a time of great crisis," Burzichelli said in a statement Tuesday (Aug. 30). "NJTV promised to focus solely on New Jersey, but residents got nothing from them during the hurricane."

WNET President Neal Shapiro issued in a statement in response: "As we said in June, our video gathering capability and distribution wouldn’t be ready until after Labor Day. With the small staff we have, we were still able to devote Friday evening’s broadcast to preparations … and (Monday) night’s broadcast featured the aftermath." Monday's half-hour program included reports from South Jersey, Camden, Newark and Hoboken. NJTV has six full-time employees, with plans to grow to 15. NJN had a staff of 130 full-time employees.

Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, Jr. (D-Middlesex), also complained, and called for the state to revisit the contract to ensure adequate coverage during emergencies.

Loan that saved Salt Lake's KCPW for pubradio news comes due

Three years after its sale to a new community licensee, KCPW-FM in Salt Lake City is under the gun to raise $265,000 by Sept. 30. Wasatch Public Media financed most of its $2.2 million purchase of the NPR News station with a short-term loan from National Cooperative Bank; now the lender wants to get out of the business of public radio financing, the Salt Lake Tribune reports. Donors who backed the 2008 purchase reneged on their pledges during the recession, KCPW President Ed Sweeney tells the Tribune. "The challenge we have is how often can you ask your donors for help," he says.

In addition to KCPW, radio listeners in Salt Lake have four public stations to choose from: KRCL, a community radio outlet that revamped its contemporary music format in 2008; KBYU, a classical music station owned by Brigham Young University; and KUER, an NPR News station with statewide reach that's licensed to the University of Utah.

KCPW was once a cornerstone in a financially unsustainable expansion strategy devised by Blair Feulner, a maverick deal-maker among Utah broadcasters as co-founder and g.m. of KPCW-FM in Park City. When KCPW was put up for sale in early 2008, Wasatch Public Media was established to buy the station and preserve its locally-oriented news service for Salt Lake.

PBS Hawaii gets $5 million donation toward new facility


PBS Hawaii has received a $5 million grant from the Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation to build a new facility in Honolulu. The station said it has an "urgent need" for the space as it is losing its lease at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, its home for the past 40 years. The commitment brings PBS Hawaii past the midway point in its $30 million capital campaign.

In traditional island style, PBS Hawaii rolled out the announcement with a visual story. A Moanalua High School student, part of the station's innovative Hiki No journalism program, introduced "A Tree Grows on Nimitz Highway," a short video about the life of the late Clarence T.C. Ching and his contributions to the state.

PBS Hawaii will renovate and expand an existing one-story building into the Clarence T.C. Ching Campus, above, and relocate operations in 2014. (Image: PBS Hawaii)

Looking to missions and origins to refocus pubcasting

From time to time, "the definition of public broadcasting and public service media should be reviewed," writes Adam Powell, of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy. "The opportunity is immense." In his post today (Aug. 31), Powell returns to the original 1967 report of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television to examine how the system is living up to its responsibilities. One point: "Over the air, the mission of experimentation has largely atrophied," Powell writes. "The PBS prime time schedule is filled with programs that are decades old, so there is little room for innovation or for new programs of any kind."

The very first public television series distributed live from coast to coast, he points out, was "different and bold" — PBL: Public Broadcasting Laboratory, which tackled “the failure of communication between the races” in its first segment. "After two seasons, PBL was canceled and replaced by The Forsythe Saga," Powell notes, "and thus was set the pattern for public TV Sunday nights to the present day."

Aug 30, 2011

PBS ombudsman hears from viewers on diversity and Moyers

PBS viewers writing to ombudsman Michael Getler want more diversity ("I am tired of giving money to a station that simply refuses to represent any race except for the white race") and Bill Moyers ("How interesting that you have room for endless showings of Antique Roadshow ... but no time slot for Bill Moyers!") on the air.

WXPR to move to downtown studios next year

WXPR-FM in Rhinelander, Wisc., is moving into a new building next year, it announced Monday (Aug. 29), joining a growing trend of pubcasting stations shifting to downtown locations. A capital campaign, "Hear the Future," raised more than $400,000, and two local businessmen are donating 75 percent of the building cost. There'll be space for four studios — a longtime station goal — and a new community features editor. The building has a news history: It used to house the Rhinelander Daily News. WXPR Station Manager Mick Fiocchi says the goal is to start remodeling "after the first of the year."

CCTV from China coming to D.C. area via MHz Networks

MHz Networks is adding two English-language channels from China to its lineup in the Washington, D.C., metro area starting Oct. 1. CCTV News carries headlines, business, money and travel; CCTV Documentary runs cultural, historical, nature docs and more. "The addition of CCTV programming in D.C. opens a full-time window into China for all the residents of the region through free over-the-air and cable TV distribution," said Fred Thomas, MHz c.e.o, in a press release.

Aug 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene disables two WUNC radio transmitters in N.C.

WUNC radio in Chapel Hill, N.C., is coping with signal loss at two transmitter sites due to Hurricane Irene: WBUX in Buxton, N.C., is located on the Outer Banks, just off Cape Hatteras; and WURI is at Manteo, N.C., on Roanoke Island, between the mainland and barrier islands. "We cannot even call the transmitters because the phones are out" as of Monday (Aug. 29) morning, Nandini Sen, WUNC director of technologies and engineering, told Current. "We're just waiting. In the meantime we're in touch with emergency personnel to figure out when can come in." Highway 12 south of Rodanthe, where Buxton is located, "looks like it's part of the ocean" due to flooding, Sen said. "We don't even have a visual of the site. It's completely cut off. We'd have to go in by boat. Right now they're only allowing emergency personnel in." The station's main transmitter in Columbia is fine; it covers Manteo and nearly all of Buxton. Also, WRQM in Rocky Mount lost electricity early Saturday, Sen said, and is still running on a generator.

UPDATE: As of 2:45 p.m. Monday, the station is broadcasting intermittently from WBUX.

UNC-TV, also in Chapel Hill, "never lost a signal, although we had to use emergency generators for power at four transmitter sites and two translator sites," reports spokesman Steve Volstad. UNC runs 12 transmitters and 23 translators. "We carry a pool feed for all North Carolina broadcasters of the official briefings from the governor's emergency operations center, so that made it especially important for us to keep operating — which we did," he added.

Vermont also was hit hard by flooding. Everyone at Vermont Public Radio in Colchester "is safe and sound," spokesman Brendan McKinney said, "although a few employees are home today dealing with flooding to their home and/or community." One of the station's classical frequencies in the southern part of the state is down due to a power issue but otherwise, signals are normal. "We are quite lucky, since the damage was so widespread and we have so many broadcast sites across the state," he said.

A few blocks away, Ann Curran at Vermont Public Television also said it was "very fortunate" to escape damage, and didn't lose signal or power.

WQED Multimedia's unique iQZoo rolls out nationally in September

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium are the first to use WQED Multimedia's iQZoo, a QR (quick response) code project that provides visitors with audio clips, PBS videos and information about animals via a free smartphone app. It becomes available to all pubcasting stations in September, reports the Pittsburgh Business Times. WQED Multimedia developed iQZoo in-house, funded by a grant from PBS Interactive, said Jennifer Stancil, who heads up educational partnerships at the station. "We wanted to create something that could be relevant to kids in the moment when they’re asking questions and studying elephants and orangutans and polar bears, and provide the answers through PBS videos in a way never done before,” Stancil said. Carlow University in Pittsburgh is studying how families incorporate the technology during zoo visits.

“We’re equipping other PBS stations and zoos around the nation to do this for free,” Stancil said. “All 360 stations know about the opportunity — they’ll have different capabilities and relationships. We’re talking about building other programming. This could extend to other types of public learning, and there are various uses of the QR code we haven’t yet explored.”

Marketplace expands with new "after the bell" program


David Brancaccio will helm Marketplace Index, a new weekday report that will "psychoanalyze" economic trends based on what happens in the financial markets each day. The series, piloted as a four-minute segment, combines reporting, critical analysis and interviews with financial experts and newsmakers. It launches today on Minnesota Public Radio news stations and KPCC in Pasadena, American Public Media's California affiliate, and is being syndicated to public radio stations nationwide. It will also be distributed as a podcast, available every weekday at 4:45 p.m., from this new website.

"No one is in a better position than Marketplace to address rising anxiety about the economy," said JJ Yore, v.p. and general manager. "Marketplace Index is another way we are delivering what people want -- news that explains what's happening on Wall Street in ways that Americans on Main Street can understand."

Need to Know anchor Stewart to step down in September

Host Alison Stewart is departing WNET's Need to Know, reports the New York Times Media Decoder blog, when it switches to a 30-minute format on Sept. 16. The shortened show will focus more on the 2012 election, and Stewart said she decided to bow out. “For a show about politics you have to have someone available and present 110 percent of the time,” and able to travel extensively, she said. Between a book she is completing and her 3-year-old, she said, “I didn’t feel like I was the right person and that it was the right time to continue with the show.” Her last appearance is expected to be Sept. 9.

Stephen Segaller, WNET programming v.p., said NTK was being condensed for both financial and time-slot reasons. He said PBS has not only reduced the show’s funding but also has scheduled a festival of arts programs on Friday nights this fall. He declined to comment on Stewart's successor but expects to have an announcement around Labor Day.

Stewart has been solo anchoring the hourlong show since Jon Meacham became a contributing editor of the program in April.

FCC reviewing comments on CAP vs. EAS emergency broadcasts

Here's a good update from Radio World of news so far on the Federal Communication Commission's move toward broadcast emergency message delivery via a Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) instead of the legacy Emergency Alert System (EAS). In general, opponents object to the timing of the switch, and say that many stations have had to order new gear even before CAP-EAS system requirements have been finalized. Supporters say CAP it is an improvement over EAS, allowing for better delivery, higher-fidelity audio, text-to-speech, matching audio and text, and other benefits. Included in Radio World's post are excerpts of comments to the FCC from groups such as the National Association of Broadcasters, Prometheus Radio Project and the Broadcast Warning Working Group.

Aug 27, 2011

CPB-backed collaboration discussions in Alaska end; only minimal partnerships emerge

After more than two years of talks, a potential collaboration among Alaska public broadcasting stations that held great promise of potentially coming together has fallen apart, reports the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The stations, KUAC in Fairbanks, KTOO in Juneau and Alaska Public Telecommunications in Anchorage, were looking to consolidate bookkeeping, engineering and other functions to cut costs. "But after studying a plan to merge many of the administrative functions at the stations, it didn’t become clear those changes would actually result in any savings," according to the newspaper.

Patty Kastelic of Fairbanks, a member of the merger exploration committee, said there also was concern the state’s smaller public broadcasters would lose their local identities to the bigger stations. “I think some of these ideas require a leap of faith and a lot of trust,” Kastelic said. “I think people are fearful — with good cause, I think — that everything is going to be decided in Anchorage.”

The merger study was funded by an $88,000 CPB grant. The process did lead to smaller partnerships within the system: Stations in Juneau and Bethel are now sharing some bookkeeping duties, and talks are planned next month between Fairbanks-based Alaska One television and Anchorage station managers to explore joint work.

Aug 26, 2011

Rick Steves donates $1 million to Edmonds, Wash., arts center

Globe-roaming pubcaster Rick Steves has donated $1 million to his hometown arts center — the amount he has saved in tax breaks since President Clinton left office, he said in a press release. "I see it as a civic duty for businessmen like me, who've directly benefited from our vibrant communities, to do our fair share," Steves said. The money goes to support and expand the Edmonds Center for the Arts' performances and community programs. A portion also will underwrite all facility costs for the next decade for the Edmonds' Cascade Symphony Orchestra. Steves also said that to celebrate the donation, he will perform "Rick Steves' Europe: A Symphonic Journey" with the Cascade Symphony Orchestra on Oct. 23 and 24 at the center, which will be filmed for a pubTV special.

KERA to honor contributions of Bob Wilson in documentary

In honor of its 50th anniversary, KERA is premiering the documentary Bob Wilson and the Early Years of KERA, focusing on a defining era in the Dallas station's history, the impact of one of its early chief executives (right), and its national influence on pubcasting. Interviews include KERA veteran Jim Lehrer (Wilson gave him his first TV news job) as well as Wilson. The doc will run in conjunction with a historic episode of the station's Newsroom series from Aug. 3, 1971, focusing on the federal court order to desegregate the Dallas Independent School District. Both shows air Sept. 21 with a repeat Sept. 25.

Aug 25, 2011

We now pause for a celebrity sighting

OK, Masterpiece "Wallander" fans, here are a few on-location photos of star Kenneth Branagh snapped during filming in Latvia last week. Enjoy.

Berenstain Bears to premiere in Lakota language in September

The Lakota version of The Berenstain Bears, Matȟó Waúŋšila ThiwáheThe Compassionate Bear Family, will debut at 9 a.m. Sept. 11 on South Dakota Public Broadcasting and Prairie Public Television in North Dakota. The idea came more than a year ago from the Lakota Language Consortium (LLC), a group dedicated to restoring the Native language. LLC board member and Rosebud Sioux Tribe member Ben Black Bear is the voice of Papa Bear. The new show will get a special preview screening Sept. 7 at the Tribal Leaders’ Summit Banquet during the 42nd Annual United Tribes Powwow in Bismarck, N.D.

KQED extends offer for pledge-free listening

San Francisco's KQED Radio will re-launch its pledge-free stream for donors seeking respite from on-air pitches during its fall fundraising drive. Listeners and members who contribute $45 to the station before Sept. 8 will gain access to a web-based alternative channel of regularly scheduled KQED Radio programming delivered to their computers or mobile devices. When KQED first offered its pledge-free alternative channel during its spring drive, it was a big hit with donors. In a survey of contributors, 98 percent of those who used the stream asked KQED to bring it back, according to the station.

ITVS, NCME partnering to bolster Community Cinema engagement

The Independent Television Service and the National Center for Media Engagement are partnering up this fall on ITVS's tremendously successful Community Cinema engagement work. In six years, Community Cinema has expanded to more than 100 communities nationwide, with more than 150,000 participants so far attending some 2,500 screenings and discussions. ITVS's commitment to bringing communities and local organizations together through documentary film "aligns perfectly with NCME’s CPB-funded mission to support public media in working collaboratively with their communities to discover, understand, and address community concerns," NCME Executive Director Charles Meyer said in announcing the collaboration.

NCME will focus on "developing and delivering impact strategies and collaborating with stations to capture and convey stories that demonstrate the program’s overall performance and impact in communities," Meyer said. Jennifer MacArthur, NCME's director of television and digital media engagement, will host monthly webinars and coach stations on leveraging films for local impact.

"By integrating Community Cinema into other station-led engagement work, we can help stations grow the pie bigger locally — and that’s a win-win-win for stronger stations, stronger stories, and stronger communities," Meyer noted.

Aug 24, 2011

Board of Education backs governor's veto of pubcasting money in Florida

The Florida Board of Education, which has purview over public broadcasting, has made it official: For the first time in 35 years, the state will not provide funding for the 26 stations, "throwing the future of state-funded public broadcasting into question," according to a report from the Orlando Sentinel. The board approved a budget list in line with Gov. Rick Scott’s veto in May of $4.8 million the Legislature had previously provided to public broadcasting.

The Florida Public Broadcasting Service said in a statement to Current: “Florida’s public broadcasting stations make important contributions to education. Our children’s programs are standards-based and have proven value in getting kids ready for school. We train Voluntary Prekindergarten (VPK) providers and others who work in early childhood. And we provide PBS education resources to classrooms across the state. All for free. Several Board of Education members did not know that, and expressed interest in learning more. We hope that, as Board members and legislators gain a better understanding of our educational services, they’ll see the value in state funding for public broadcasting.”

A crazy news cycle, captured in Carvin's tweets and storified by MediaShift

Andy Carvin's epic weekend of tweeting the Libyan revolution inspired MediaShift to storify a day in the life of NPR's star Tweeter. The chosen day, Aug. 23, turned out to be an extraordinary news cycle. Carvin was following Libyan rebels' takeover of Moammar Gaddafi’s compound in Tripoli and the plight of western journalists being held in the nearby Rixos Hotel, then reacted with shock as a 5.9 magnitude earthquake rocked his home outside Washington, D.C.

News collaborations enable "many voices" in pubcasting, Kerger says

The second speaker in ITVS's short-video series on the future of public media is PBS President Paula Kerger, who calls this a "profoundly interesting" time for pubmedia, especially with all the collaborations taking place. "Being able to leverage journalism from multiple places is really, I think, an exciting development for public media," she says, "because it enables many voices and many stories to be told but also the talents of a diverse range of reporters than can bring stories forward."

Aug 23, 2011

MPR's Eichten announces retirement

Longtime Minnesota Public Radio news host Gary Eichten will retire in January 2012, he announced at the end of his Midday program Monday (Aug. 22). Eichten has spent more than 40 years with MPR, in roles from station manager to news director and now host of Midday. Eichten began his career at MPR as a student announcer at Collegeville’s KSJR, the network’s first station. He has received numerous honors, including induction in 2007 into the local Pavek Museum of Broadcasting's Hall of Fame. Most recently, he received the prestigious 2011 Graven Award from the University of Minnesota’s Premack Public Affairs Journalism Awards Board for his contribution to excellence in the journalism profession.

Larry Heileman dies; worked in fundraising at WGBH, WHYY, PBS

Larry Heileman, a longtime public broadcasting fundraiser, died Aug. 18 at Queen Anne Nursing Home in Hingham, Mass., from complications of a brain tumor. He was 66.

“Larry made a substantial impact on public broadcasting through his work with WGBH, WHYY in Philadelphia, and PBS Development,” said Berta MacCarthy, WGBH’s former executive director of contributor development and marketing, in a statement. “His effectiveness in launching successful fundraising strategies and raising millions of dollars made him a valuable resource for the WGBH community and the entire PBS system. Larry never hesitated to test and evaluate new methods and enjoyed dropping by to chat about a new idea or calling colleagues to share innovative techniques. His every interaction was characterized by a terrific sense of humor coupled with a strong belief in the mission of public broadcasting.”

Heileman joined WGBH as a telemarketer in 1984 and moved into leadership positions in fundraising, pledge, membership and marketing. “WGBH fans may remember him best for his on-air role wearing a green eyeshade and arm garters as Larry the Money Man,” his obituary in the Boston Globe said.

He left WGBH in 1994 for PBS headquarters in Alexandria, Va., developing new pledge programming. From there he became director of development for WHYY in Philadelphia, returning to the Boston station in 2000 as director of membership. He remained at WGBH until overtaken by his illness in 2006.

At his side at his death was his wife, WGBH alum Jo-An Kilgore Heileman, whom he had met at the station.

He was born July 1, 1946, the son of the late Lawrence and Anne Heileman. He grew up in Danbury, Conn. He graduated from Iowa State University in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial administration and was immediately drafted into the Army, where he was stationed in Vietnam as a medic with the 25th Medical Battalion. Following his service he lived in Tokyo, where he worked as a copywriter for NHK, Radio Japan. He returned to the United States in 1974, earning an MBA from Boston University's Graduate School of Management.

Heileman is survived by his wife; her two children, Andrew Kilgore and Rebecca Liebman; and four grandchildren. He is also survived by his sisters, Anne Clubine and Christy Belvin; four nieces and nephews; nine great nephews and nieces, and his sister-in-law.

A private service will take place at a later date. Contributions may be made to WERS/Standing Room Only, a pubradio show he especially enjoyed (c/o 120 Boylston St., Boston, Mass., 02116), or Friends of the Paragon Carousel (P.O. Box 100, Hull, Mass., 02045).

Channel swapping in Rhode Island

Rhode Island's WRNI is negotiating a channel-swap deal that would bring its NPR News to the FM dial on 88.1 MHz in Providence, a frequency that had been shared by Latino Public Radio, students at Brown University, and students of Wheeler, a private K-12 school adjacent to the Brown campus that owns the license. Brown Student Radio lost use of the channel early this month when Wheeler terminated its 14-year lease agreement, the Brown Daily Herald reported.

Under the proposed channel swap, which is being negotiated as three-way lease agreement, WRNI will take over 88.1 FM as its flagship channel for northern Rhode Island, and Latino Public Radio will expand into a full-time broadcast service on 1290 AM, which is now broadcasting WRNI's NPR News service. Wheeler will continue its radio and broadcast curriculum for students, but their programming will be distributed as a web stream.

WRNI broadcasts to southern Rhode Island on two FM channels, 102.7 MHz in Narragansett Pier and 91.5 MHz in Coventry, according to the FCC's database and an Aug. 16 statement from WRNI. If secured, the lease agreement will put WRNI on the FM reserved band in Providence, the most populated region of the state. President Joe O'Connor declined to comment until the agreement is signed.

The lease agreement is the second this summer to bring mainstream public radio programming to Rhode Island on channels that had been programmed by college students. Bryant University's WJMF in Smithfield expects to begin simulcasts of WGBH's 99.5 All Classical from Boston next month, according to Radio Survivor. WRNI vied to take over that channel as well.

Moyers outspoken as always in wide-ranging interview

"When representative government has been bought and paid for by the predator class, there’s no easy way to get it back," says newsman Bill Moyers in a candid interview on George Mason University's History News Network website. "The conservatives have been brilliant at this. They took over the Republican Party, remade it in their image, and employ it as their Trojan horse for the protection of the rich: GOP — Guardians of Privilege. As for Democrats: their everyday working people — as well as their practicing progressives and liberals — only have a party when the lobbyists aren’t using it."

Moyers also discusses myriad subjects including President Barack Obama (he "seems obsessed with wanting to lead the country in what he sees as a post-partisan era while his opponents are so partisan they have only one goal in mind — to destroy him even if they have to burn down the house to do it"), Moyers' first pubcasting appearances ("My first season was awful; I wore horn-rimmed glasses, dark suits, was too stiff, took myself too seriously") and his memories from aboard Air Force One on Nov. 22, 1963, as it carried President John F. Kennedy's slain body back to Washington ("Enormous sorrow all around. Shock in the faces of everyone on that plane. But it was quiet and calm. . . . All I saw that day was poise, pain, and grace.")

The public broadcasting newsman has a new book out, and just announced his return to television in a new show, Moyers & Company.

PubCamp goes west to California

The first-ever PubCampWest — an informal gathering of media makers, community organizers, and web developers sharing ideas for collaboration in media innovation — convened in Pasadena, Calif., last weekend. In a two-hour video of the "unconference" wrap-up session, participants talk up the importance of producing compelling online content for audiences who primarily rely on web-based media for news and information, and a proposal for collaborating on 2012 election coverage, among other ideas. A PubCamp Tumbler site aggregating Storify summaries and other social media reactions to unconference sessions, is here. Pubcasters KPCC in Pasadena, PBS SoCal in Orange County, and KQED in San Francisco collaborated in organizing the conference.

Filmmaker Werner Bundschuh dies in fall; worked at WGBH-TV

Werner Bundschuh, a WGBH alum and documentary filmmaker who co-founded Blackside Inc., which produced the critically acclaimed Eyes on the Prize series, died Friday (Aug. 19) after falling from a ladder at his home in Royalston, Mass., according to a report on the WGBH Alumni website. He was 70 years old.

Werner began his career in film and television at WGBH-TV, where he wrote and produced many programs, a number of them broadcast nationally on PBS, including The Totalitarian Temptation, and The Bomb That Fizzled for the series In Search of the Real America. He also directed The Ancient Mariners for the series Out of the Past.

He was a founding partner with Henry Hampton of BlackSide, which produced Eyes on the Prize, an epic six-part presentation of the historic black struggle for human and civil rights.

A celebration of Werner’s life will be from 2 to 4 p.m. today (Aug. 23), at The Maples, 17 On the Common, Royalston. Memorial contributions may be made to the Friends of the Phinehas S. Newton Library, P.O. Box 133, Royalston, Mass. 01368.

Aug 22, 2011

Moyers returning to public television in January with weekly show

Starting in January, veteran newsman Bill Moyers will provide a fully funded, hourlong weekly program — Moyers & Company — to public television stations.

"There will be a diversity of voices," Moyers told stations in a letter today (Aug. 22), "one-on-one interviews with lively minds rich in experience and insight, as well as an exchange of views among people who may disagree on politics, governance, faith, religion and the state of democracy, but who nonetheless agree on the importance of a civil dialogue about their differences."

The aim, he said, is to offer viewers "some different news, some new voices and fresh thinking, and an occasional cultural grace note." American Public Television will distribute the series and New York's WNET, Moyers' longtime home base, will be the presenting station.

Content will be distributed across platforms to better reach new audiences. Stations also will receive customized promos, tools for local underwriting, and streaming content for websites.

Moyers was in talks in April with PBS for distribution of a series, which PBS ultimately declined. Network President Paula Kerger told Current in May, "He needed us to guarantee that we could give him another common carriage position on Friday night, and we can't quite do that yet." She added, "I certainly want Bill Moyers on public broadcasting, for sure."

Moyers said he will provide details in November at the American Public Television Fall Marketplace in Memphis, where he will deliver the keynote address.

Genachowski won't release spectrum model until Congress okays auction

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski says the agency will not release its Allotment Optimization Model (AOM) detailing how it will reconfigure broadcast spectrum after an incentive auction until after it gets that auction authority from Congress, reports Broadcasting & Cable. The statement came in response to a request from Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) that reflects the growing call in the broadcast industry to release the model to the public. Dingell called Genachowski's response "deeply troubling." He also said he would oppose any legislation that did not explicitly protect broadcasters.

The "Life on Earth" guy gets a life award for his work

Sir David Attenborough, the 85-year-old naturalist and BBC star who created Life on Earth, The Life of Birds and other nature docs on PBS and other channels will receive the International Honour of Excellence at the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) Sept. 11. Sir David’s latest production — Flying Monsters 3D, a 3D IMAX film about flying dinosaurs — won a British Academy Award in May and is playing in IMAX theaters in Europe and at the Science Spectrum Museum, Lubbock, Texas. This year's IBC will be held Sept. 8-13 in Amsterdam.

Civil discourse essential to democracy, documentarian Ken Burns says

PBS filmmaker Ken Burns will call for a nationwide discourse on civility at a National Press Club Speakers Series luncheon on Oct. 3. "This year as we think about the 150th anniversary of the start of our Civil War, we must remember that the lack of civility in our political language threatens the very basis of American society," Burns said in a press release. "I believe civility is essential to our ability as a nation to confront together difficult issues even when we may disagree." Burns wants to use his upcoming documentary, Prohibition, as a starting point for discussion, as he sees it as "one of America's most notorious civic failures" that serves as "an object lesson in the challenge of legislating human behavior," with relevance to today's political discourse.

Iowa City's PEG channel joins nationwide fight to keep public access funding

Iowa City's public access channel, PATV Channel 18, has joined the Alliance for Community Media to gain support of Iowa lawmakers for the Community Access Preservation Act, which would restore funding to local stations and prevent operators from discriminating against the channels, PATV executive director Josh Goding tells the Iowa City Press-Citizen. "The history of public, educational and government channels is vague to many people, but these channels are critical because they produce more original local media than all the big networks combined," Goding said. "The funding structure that grew up around PEGs in the 1980s is now being undermined by profit motive. Big telecoms are dumping millions into state legislatures to buy their way out of their obligations to our cities and our community channels."

Goding said stations nationwide are at risk of losing funding. "The hundreds of PEG stations struggling to stay viable across the country since 1978 have always been the true sources of free speech, diverse local programs (and) citizen journalism," Goding said. "We're trying to stay here."

Aug 19, 2011

Former employee sues Lidia's Italy host

Lidia Bastianich, whose latest public television series, Lidia’s Italy in America, premieres Sept. 10, is being sued by an Italian cook who alleges that Bastianich made her a "virtual slave," reports the New York Daily News. Maria Carmela Farina is asking for $5 million in the suit, filed Thursday (Aug. 18) in Manhattan. Farina says in the suit that she came to America in 2006 thinking she would oversee Bastianich's kitchens and prepare recipes for her shows. Instead, she claims, she became a live-in personal assistant for an elderly woman whose husband had worked as Bastianich's handyman.

Keno brothers depart Antiques Roadshow for their own program on Fox

Twin brothers Leigh and Leslie Keno, known for their appraisal work since 1997 on the pubcasting hit Antiques Roadshow, premiere their own program, Buried Treasure, Aug. 24 on Fox. The two go on location, and "sleuth for worthy finds from basement to attic for people who are often down on their luck, facing money problems or illness," according to ArtFix Daily, an online arts news site.

Leigh Keno reports: "We have found treasures from all over the world, valuable and rare objects ranging from 1000 B.C., a Minoan bronze bowl with inscriptions that was buried under a pile of magazines ... and a rare Egyptian tomb figure with the figure of Osiris, polychrome painted, that was just sitting in a dresser."

Roadshow spokesperson Judy Matthews said the brothers didn't participate in this summer's production tour. "We wish them well," she added, saying they're always welcome to return.

Former pubcaster is winging it with new barbecue franchise

Bob Friedman, a Nightly Business Report correspondent back in the 1980s, left pubcasting for a life in ... barbecue. And it turns out he's still enamored of it. As Friedman tells the News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh, N.C., "I still have pig fat in my blood."

While reporting for NBR, a conversation on foreign trade with then-U.S. Rep. Don Sundquist of Memphis led to a discussion of barbecue and an idea for a restaurant, Red Hot & Blue. It eventually grew to 35 outlets when Friedman and his partners sold it three years ago. But the sale to a private equity firm wasn't lucrative enough to retire, he says. So Friedman and his wife moved to Raleigh and bought a video production company "about five minutes before the recession hit."

So now it's back to barbecue: Friedman has opened an East Coast Wings & Grill franchise in Cary, N.C. — 75 flavors of wings!

Public Insight Network wants to connect with conservative voters

The Public Insight Network, a reporting tool from American Public Media that invites audience members to volunteer as sources, wants to increase the number of conservative voices in its database of some 100,000 names. So Michael Caputo, a Minnesota Public Radio analyst with PIN, wrote to the right-leaning Powerline blog for help surveying its readers. "We recognize the need to have more Republican and/or conservative citizens in this network, especially with the GOP nomination up for grabs," Caputo writes. "So we are making a specific plea for you to become part of this network and help inform what the media sees as news. We need conservatives from around the U.S., since our news organizations come from all parts of the country. We have an easy way to do this. The Public Insight Network has a short survey on the Republican race for the presidency. It’s aimed at putting voters’ stories first (rather than candidates’) and helping reporters understand more about what’s motivating and inspiring conservative voters this year."

The first online comment: "Yep same story as before. Liberal news organizations always 'reaching out' to understand the conservative point of view so they can get a better understanding of how to distort it and create a negative tide within the conservative wing."

Aug 18, 2011

Up to 10 staffers laid off at WKAR in East Lansing, Mich.

The local City Pulse in Lansing, Mich., is reporting that sources say as many as 10 staffers have been laid off from WKAR at Michigan State University in East Lansing. Kirsten Khire, communications manager for the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, told the paper that MSU Broadcasting Services, which includes WKAR-TV and WKAR Radio, issued layoff notices Monday (Aug. 15) but declined to say how many. Khire cited "sizable budgetary challenges" at the station as the reason for the terminations. She said the cuts took place "across the organization of Broadcasting Services." The College of Communications Arts and Sciences took over WKAR in July, and replaced former g.m. DeAnne Hamilton.

KET announces move to street-side studio facilities in downtown Louisville

KET in Louisville is consolidating its facilities into one downtown production center, it announced today (Aug. 18). The new space on Main Street will combine its outreach office (right) and production facility, which since 1997 has been in the basement and first floor of a building owned by the county school district. Improvements will include a high-speed fiber-optic line connecting the Louisville facility to KET’s Network Center in Lexington.

The move gives KET the second street-side public television studio in the country, along with the Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center in New York City.

“With Main Street as a backdrop, this studio space will become a part of the community itself,” said Executive Director Shae Hopkins. “However, our larger vision remains creating a state-of-the-art studio, production and media center for Louisville in which we could host and produce community forums, concerts and events, as well as provide media training and instructional resources as part of a digital education campus. This is a terrific interim step.”

The building rehab and move should be complete by January 2012. (Image: KET)

PRX plots expansion for its crowd-funding pilot

Story Exchange, a crowd-funding experiment piloted by Public Radio Exchange and Louisville Public Media, has garnered full funding for two long-form reporting projects: Erica Peterson's three-part series on disposal of coal ash produced by electrical power plants, and in-depth coverage of the environmental effects of the Ohio River Bridge project, a reporting assignment that's now in the works. PRX received a 2010 Knight News Challenge grant to pilot the project with LPM and Spot.us. PRX's John Barth recently reported for MediaShift on the progress so far, and tentative plans to expand Story Exchange to additional public radio markets and indie producers.

Storyteller Kevin Kling begins three-year residency at MPR; could APHC be next?

Humorist, author and playwright Kevin Kling has signed on for a three-year residency with Minnesota Public Radio, the network announced Wednesday (Aug. 17), prompting speculation that Kling could be waiting in the wings to step into hosting duties for A Prairie Home Companion following Garrison Keillor's retirement next spring. MPR says Kling will present original works exclusively on the Fitzgerald Theater stage (gee ... that's home base for APHC ... ), conduct storytelling workshops and provide radio commentaries.

He is the author of books The Dog Says How, Holiday Inn and Big Little Brother.

According to his website, Kling was born with a congenital birth defect: His left arm is about three-quarters the size of his right, and his left hand has no wrist or thumb. More than five years ago, Kling was injured in a motorcycle accident. Currently, he has partial use of his left arm and cannot use his right arm.

Aug 17, 2011

Memorial service planned for Shirley Gillette, formerly of WNET

Shirley Gillette, who worked for more than two decades at New York’s WNET, died July 26 at her home atop Schooley’s Mountain in New Jersey, after an illness.

“In her own strong and forthright way,” said a tribute Tuesday (Aug. 16) on the local Long Valley Patch website, Gillette “blazed a trail for women by earning her master’s degree at a time when only a small circle of women attended institutions of higher learning, and worked as one of the early pioneers in public television.”

She spent 23 years as director of educational programming at the station.

She was born in Pontiac, Ill., to Ralph and Lavica Bradshaw. She earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of Illinois in 1956, where she was a member of Phi Delta Psi and Alpha Omega Pi. She spent 10 years as a high school speech and drama teacher in Manhasset, N.Y.

Gillette was a former campaign coordinator for the New York State Young Republicans, was on the campaign staff for Richard Nixon’s presidential bid in 1960, and in 1965 was the New York State co-chair on the Republican Senatorial Campaign. Also that year she earned her master’s degree at New York University.

She was preceded in death by her husband, George Gillette. Survivors include her daughter, Michele Mellon, of Florida; son, Terry Gillette; granddaughters, Erin Carey, Georgia and Paige Gillette, all of Florida; niece, Catherine Fetzner of Michigan; and nephews, Brad and William Ulfig of Illinois.

A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Aug. 21 at Schooley's Mountain Lodge, with a celebration of her life to follow. For more information contact Scala Memorial Home, 124 High St., Hackettstown, N.J.; (908) 852-2420.

Rhode Island Public Radio hoping to finalize lease swap by October

Rhode Island Public Radio is working on a three-way lease swap. WRNI currently broadcasts on 1290 AM in Providence and 102.7 FM in Southern Rhode Island. The 10-year lease would allow its news-talk WRNI AM to broadcast on Wheeler High School's WELH 88.1 FM, and the NPR member station would lease its 1290 AM signal to Latino Public Radio, which currently leases 5 a.m. to noon on WELH. Joe O'Connor, RIPR g.m., says he hopes the switch, which will allow the station to reach tens of thousands of new listeners, can be made by Oct. 1. RIPR would pay $75,000 dollars a year for 88.1 FM as well as three percent of any additional revenues. Latino Public Radio would lease 1290 AM at cost.

Aug 16, 2011

Attention RSSers

Don't miss Current's interview with Dominique Bigle, the French entrepreneur and former Disney exec who is putting up $50 million for a five-year production deal with KCET in Los Angeles.

Knight religion reporting grants go to several public broadcasters

Public broadcasters are among journalists receiving grants from the Knight Foundation as part of its Reporting on Religion and American Public Life initiative. The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism announced the recipients of the awards, between $5,000 and $20,000, on Monday (Aug. 15). Included are reporter/producer Matt Ozug, known for his StoryCorps work on NPR, who will co-produce "The Sacred in the City," a website on religious communities of immigrants; Christopher Johnson, whose reporting has run on NPR, will produce radio stories on Ifa, an ancient Nigeria-based religion now practiced in America; and Monique Parsons, another NPR contributor, will examine a new generation of mosque builders in the United States.

Outlook now sunny for outspoken pubradio weatherman in Puget Sound

Cliff Mass, the colorful local weather guy whose non-weather opinions got him booted off Seattle's news channel KUOW in May, soon will have a regular spot on jazz station KPLU in Tacoma, according to the Seattle Times. Mass, a University of Washington professor of atmospheric sciences, was featured weekly on KUOW's morning show, Weekday, to discuss weather. But sometimes he would veer off onto other subjects, including a controversy over which textbooks to use in local schools. Station management asked him to stop; he refused. And so Steve Scher, host and executive producer of Weekday, removed Mass from the unpaid spot. In a letter posted for listeners, Scher wrote, "I do not want the weather segment to become an opinion and views segment."

The pair's on-air dust-up and Mass's subsequent firing was dutifully covered by KUOW. Petitions containing more than 2,500 signatures were delivered to the station's board of directors. KUOW management stood by the decision. "There is a place for everything," Program Director Jeff Hansen said. "The weather segment is not the place for random opinion; that is the place for weather to be discussed."

Mass says he was approached by a TV station and five radio stations to go on the air. One commercial radio station, he says, offered him a one-hour show to talk about the weather and anything else he wanted to discuss. Mass wasn't interested. "I only want five minutes," he says. "This is a very small part of my life."

Meanwhile, Joey Cohn, director of content at KPLU, received dozens of emails from listeners saying the station should have Mass on the air. "I've been here almost 24 years, and I've never seen a personality so in demand," Cohn says. "And if the audience likes him, I like him."

So Weather with Cliff Mass, beginning Sept. 2, will run from 9 a.m. to 9:05 a.m. on Fridays.

"It'll be strictly weather," Mass says.

Taking his cues from those bushy brows

Fred Newman, who does all those cool sound effects for A Prairie Home Companion, is pretty in sync with host Garrison Keillor, he tells the Hampton Roads news site. "I can anticipate what he's going to do from watching his eyebrows," Newman says.

Newman, 59, was raised near LaGrange, Ga. "His grandfather's farm, right across the street from Newman's house," the story notes, "was home to whinnying horses, boc-boc-bocking chickens and mooooing cows."




Aug 15, 2011

Upcoming symposium to continue examination of local news flow

Loris Ann Taylor, executive director of Native Public Media, appears in one of a dozen videos on the Information Stories website, which features short narratives about what happens when local news and related information doesn't flow to all members of a community equally well. The project was created by Ohio State University law professor Peter Shane and Columbus, Ohio-based filmmaker Liv Gjestvang, who recruited participants nationwide to share their experiences during a digital storytelling workshop last summer. Taylor discusses how her dedication to bringing broadband to Indian country is rooted in her childhood experience of media impoverishment.

Shane and I/S: A Journal of Law and Policy for the Information Society, an academic journal he helped to found at Ohio State, are hosting a symposium next March, “The Future of Online Journalism: News, Community and Democracy in the Digital Age," to further explore the capacity of new media to serve the information needs of a democracy. Keynote speakers include Paul Steiger, president of nonprofit investigative news unit ProPublica, and Steven Waldman, lead author of the Federal Communication Commission's "Information Needs of Communities" report.

KQED now sharing content with local print outlets and Huffington Post

KQED is embarking on two new collaborations, with Networked Journalism and the Huffington Post.

It's the first pubcasting organization to join the Networked Journalism program, which connects broadcast and print news outlets with local online news sites. KQED will collaborate with San Francisco-area news outlets Berkeleyside, Oakland Local, NeighborWebSJ and the San Francisco Public Press to cover community news. Jo Anne Wallace, vice president and general manager of KQED Public Radio, said in a statement that the initiative gives the station an opportunity to offer "a more diverse, more in-depth news service for our respective online news readers and radio listeners.” Networked Journalism is a national effort founded by J Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism of American University's School of Communication; that school is also home to Current.

For the Huffington Post partnership, KQED provides stories from its popular food blog, Bay Area Bites, to HuffPo’s enhanced San Francisco coverage. “If it is something that they want to take, they will then look at their percentage and determine if they owe us a link or if they can take it for a post,” Ian Hill, KQED’s online community engagement specialist, told Nieman Journalism Lab. “The links, from our perspective, are really the things that drive traffic. The posts are great for … reaching a new audience and maybe putting our content out in front of Huffington Post readers who may not know about Bay Area Bites.”

Man who threatened ATC hosts gets 46 months in prison

John Crosby, who plead guilty in April to sending violent threats to two NPR hosts through the network's website, was sentenced on Aug. 12 in Portland, Maine, to 46 months in a prison facility that offers mental health treatment. In January, Crosby sent more than 20 messages containing anti-Semitic and misogynistic terms targeting All Things Considered hosts Melissa Block and Guy Raz. In court last Friday, Crosby described being unemployed, worried about his newborn twins and sleeping in his car. He said he felt NPR was not doing a good job covering the economic situation. "I am not alone. I'm obviously alone in being someone who dealt with my anger and stress in an odd way," Crosby said. "For that, I'm sorry." Crosby also will have three years of court supervision after his release.

Norman Lear Award goes to Latino Public Broadcasting

Latino Public Broadcasting was honored with the prestigious Norman Lear Award at the 26th Annual Imagen Awards gala on Aug 12 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif. The honor is presented annually to a Latino writer or entity that has "excelled creatively to dispel negative stereotypes and perceptions of the Latino community," LPB said in a statement. Latino Public Broadcasting Executive Director Sandie Viquez Pedlow and LPB founder and Chairman of the Board Edward James Olmos accepted the award. A complete list of Imagen Award winners is here.

Dyson's popularity triggers discussion among African-American TV news journalists

Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University professor and ordained minister with his own pubradio show from WEAA in Baltimore, scored high ratings last week when he took over hosting duties on MSNBC's The Ed Schultz Show, according to the Daily Beast. Dyson has been a regular guest on MSNBC and other networks for years, it notes, and, like the Rev. Al Sharpton, "was automatically considered the perfect guest host for primetime duties while Schultz was on assignment." Now some observers are wondering if Dyson and Sharpton "may just be the new African-American faces of primetime news."

“Dyson dominates the pulpit, the classroom, and really, every arena he’s in, so of course audiences are drawn to him,” says James Peterson, director of Africana studies at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa.

But the ascent of Sharpton and Dyson within the TV news industry also is raising concerns among African-American journalists, who have struggled for years to get onto major networks during primetime only to now encounter more celebrity-hosted shows. “There is tons of black talent out there that could be used in those positions, but the networks won’t look to those journalists," said Roland Martin, former secretary of the National Association of Black Journalists and CNN political contributor. "They don’t want young journalists they can train and put in that spot.”

The Michael Eric Dyson Show launched around the same time as another public radio offering, Upfront with Tony Cox, hosted by a veteran news broadcaster. Support for the two shows split the African American Public Radio Consortium, which ultimately backed Cox's show (Current, Oct. 13, 2009). Upfront aired its last show on May 14, 2010. "I had big hopes for this show," Cox wrote in his farewell note. "And everything I could possibly have asked for came true … except the money."

Public broadcasting in Canada facing challenges at age 75

The public Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is approaching its 75th anniversary. "The old dilemma — how to create original Canadian shows when it is much cheaper to pick up popular American ones — now has a new urgency," reports the Globe and Mail. As commercial and international choices proliferate, it notes, a public broadcaster of Canadian programming becomes more distinctive and more relevant, not less. “It is going to be increasingly difficult to create content within the confines of national boundaries and national models,” media consultant Jerry Brown, an associate partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers, told the paper. “[Yet] it’s vitally important each culture and each country tell its own story."

The paper notes that whether the CBC will become "painfully isolated or gloriously distinctive, though, depends on how successfully it positions itself as the first source of Canadian choices in a digital age, and whether its government and its audience help it embrace that role."

There's also a sidebar on how the CBC compares with other pubcasters worldwide, including PBS.

Aug 12, 2011

Documents submitted to FCC reveal KUSF sale details

Reporter Jennifer Waits continues her deep dive via Radio Survivor into the Federal Communication Commission's look at the controversial sale of student station KUSF to the Classical Public Radio Network (CPRN).Waits found several interesting details in the reams of paperwork submitted for the FCC's inquiry. As the acquisition process got under way, the broker and Public Radio Capital, 10 percent owner of CPRN, "predicted protests and recommended that KUSF be taken off the air when the sale announcement was made," Waits writes. "Not only were they afraid of on-air comments about the sale, but they also wanted the appearance of 'finality' surrounding it." The FCC also is looking at the public service operating agreement between the two entities.

Pubmedia "too focused on a narrow demographic," Ikeda says

Ken Ikeda, co-managing director of Public Media Company (PMC), says he is "deeply, deeply concerned" that public media is not connecting with more diverse audiences. In a short video on ITVS's Beyond the Box blog, Ikeda says that public media currently is "too focused on a narrow demographic,” and with few exceptions, very few people have taken risks to try to diversify the primary audience. It's not a lost cause yet, he says, but demands more attention.

Lickteig taking helm at Weekend All Things Considered

Steve Lickteig is returning to NPR after executive producing The Bob Edwards Show on Sirius XM, according to NPR. Lickteig takes over as e.p. of Weekend All Things Considered on Aug. 31. Previously, Lickteig had been an NPR producer from 1998 to 2006 working on Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Talk of the Nation. He was with Edwards' show for five years, four of those as e.p.

KIXE's Smith resigns after one year as general manager

Philip Smith, g.m. of KIXE in Redding, Calif., has resigned after a year in the job. Board member Marlene Grant confirmed to the local Record Searchlight newspaper that Smith's last day was Aug. 4. Smith told the paper that his mother-in-law has Alzheimer's disease and her physical health had recently taken a critical downturn. Board member Mike Quinn, who owns Redding station KLXR AM 1230, is taking on the g.m. post temporarily. "We are in an interim place right now, and we have things we are working on," Grant said.

Smith made headlines twice in his short tenure: When he canceled Democracy Now! (and later reinstated it, after station members voted overwhelmingly to bring it back) and when he pointed out that the Republicans' push to defund public broadcasting would hurt rural stations located in predominantly conservative areas.

Aug 11, 2011

NCME director praises KLRU interactive pledge drive

"In public media, it’s getting more and more difficult to distinguish among content, engagement and fundraising. And that’s exactly as it should be," writes Charles Meyer, executive director of the National Center for Media Engagement, in blog post today (Aug. 11). Meyer cites Why KLRU? in Austin, an experimental interactive pledge drive. This month, the station is asking donors to share via social media outlets why they support the station. The resulting Tweets and Facebook status updates run on the air. Public media "are moving beyond simply aligning content, engagement and fundraising toward actually integrating them," Meyer notes. "That’s a good sign, as long as we maintain our editorial integrity and keep our focus on the community."

SiriusXM trying end-run around SoundExchange

Billboard.biz is reporting that SiriusXM Radio is attempting to directly license music from record labels, bypassing SoundExchange, the nonprofit performance rights organization. In a letter to independent labels via Music Reports Inc., Sirius is offering to pay a royalty rate of 7 percent of gross revenues. That's less than the 7.5 percent it now pays SoundExchange, which tracks airplay on radio stations for the purpose of collecting royalties for copyright owners.


Smiley alleges snub from President Obama

PBS talk-show host and social activist Tavis Smiley is creating a buzz today (Aug. 11) with comments on C-SPAN about his professional relationship with President Obama, of whom he is often critical. "Once he got elected," Smiley said, "and my critique of him about holding him accountable to various things didn’t sit so well with him or the people around him, he has not at this point come on my TV or radio programs one time since he’s been in the White House. This is the first president in my professional career that hasn’t invited me to the White House.”

Smiley and Princeton University professor Cornell West are currently on a 15-city "Poverty Tour," attempting to make the problem a higher-profile issue for the 2012 election.

Latest print issue of SF Public Press hits the streets

The fourth print edition of the SF Public Press is out, a news collaboration of several nonprofit organizations including KQED, KALW-FM and California Watch/Center for Investigative Reporting. In the feature article, reporters examine the city's budgeting process, exploring “participatory budgeting,” the use of the Internet to promote transparency and the "unfulfilled promise" for government audits to identify and eliminate millions of dollars in waste. SF Public Press also publishes new content daily online. It says it "aims to do for print and Web journalism what public broadcasting has done for radio and television."

PBS's commercial UK channel to launch Nov. 1

PBS is looking for advertising partners for its first international channel, according to the British-based Mediaweek news site. The PBS-branded channel, bankrolled by a Canadian oil entrepreneur (Current, Aug. 1), has obtained its commercial Ofcam broadcast license and will initially be available to more than 9 million households on the Sky Digital platform; carriage negotiations also continue with Virgin Media. Initial content will include major program strands such as Nova, American Experience and Frontline. Filmmaker Ken Burns' six-hour Prohibition series also will have its international premiere on the channel.

"This initiative is a logical next step in creating wider distribution for PBS programs," Anne Bentley, PBS spokesperson, told Current, "and the vision is to include most major icon series, as well as other films and specials, presenting the best of American culture to the UK."

The channel's general manager, Richard Kingsbury has hired two staffers from his former employer, UKTV: Katie Cook is heading up programming, and Rebecca Edwards is overseeing public relations and marketing. The project is a collaboration with PBS Distribution (PBSd), a partnership between PBS and WGBH, which holds international rights to most PBS content.

Aug 10, 2011

FCC fines rising for public file violations, attorney points out

The CommLaw Center blog of law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is cautioning broadcasters to pay closer attention to their public files. Media attorney Scott Flick observes that the Federal Communications Commission is taking a "hardening line on public inspection file violations." In 1997, the FCC established a base fine of $10,000 for public inspection file violations, but tended not to issue fines for the full amount unless it was an egregious problem, such failure to keep a public file at all for some period of time, Flick writes. But over the past decade, $10,000 has become the standard fine for even minor public file violations — and in one recent case, the FCC adjusted that figure upward and issued a $15,000 fine. On Wednesday (Aug. 10) Pillsbury issued an update of its "Special Advisory for Commercial and Noncommercial Broadcasters: Meeting the Radio and Television Public Inspection File Requirements" (PDF) with an overview of the trend. Broadcasters "would be wise to ensure their public file is getting the attention it deserves," Flick advises.

Florida stations to collaborate to save SightLine reading service

Here's some actual good news coming in the wake of the Florida state funding elimination. WSRE-FM in Pensacola won't have to discontinue the longtime SightLine daily reading service for listeners with visual impairments after all, reports the North Escambia news website. WUWF-FM, University of West Florida's UWF Public Media, approached the station with the suggestion to relocate the reading service and coordinating responsibilities there, but continue to use WSRE's SAP (Second Audio Program) channel to deliver the service as it has for nearly two decades. (Although it had been impacted by state cuts, WUWF wasn't hit quite as hard as WSRE.)

WSRE agreed to the joint effort, and the two have even added a new program, The Radio Reader with Dick Estell, a daily half-hour pubradio show featuring newly published books. WUWF also is dedicating a digital radio broadcast channel (WUWF HD-3) to the reading service and will be streaming it online.

"This is a great opportunity for us to work with our public television colleagues in continuing an important community service,” said Pat Crawford, WUWF executive director. Sandy Cesaretti Ray, g.m. at WSRE, said, “We did not want to see the 19-year service end. This kind of collaboration is a win-win for all involved.” WSRE also laid off five employees and made programming cuts in June due to the state funding situation.

The collaborative service will launch in September.

Aug 9, 2011

Environmental news awards go to public media journalists

Public media reporters and producers made a strong showing in the 10th annual Society of Environmental Journalists awards: ProPublica and Frontline staffers for "The True Story Behind the Oil Spill"; PRI's The World for ongoing environmental reporting; Maine Public Broadcasting for “Science Skeptics, Corporate Lobbyists and the Assault on Maine’s Environment”; and PBS NewsHour for “In Middle East, Coalition Aims to Ease Tension Over Water Resources.” A full list of winners is here.

MemberCardConnect launches today

Member Benefits Inc., which runs local member benefit programs for more than 140 pubcasting stations, kicks off its new MemberCardConnect website today (Aug. 8). (Here's a look at the page for Chicago Public Media.) The company says the new site merges station content, branding and social networking tools with expanded MemberCard benefits and online rewards. Each station's page contains sections highlighting underwriters and sponsors and announcing upcoming events, as well as links to station social network pages and an RSS applet.

Rubinsohn: APT, TJL, DLT

Pubcaster David Rubinsohn has added yet more initials to his resume. In addition to working for TJL Productions and APT, he's now director of public TV sales for DLT Entertainment. The television production and distribution firm said in a statement Monday (Aug. 8) that it's looking to expand content choices to pubTV. Rubinsohn formerly headed programming at WHYY in Philadelphia, and was v.p. of programming and distribution at New York's WLIW. Titles from DLT include Benny Hill and Rumpole of the Bailey.

Former pubcaster uses news format to teach history of minorities in new website

Robert Miller, past director of educational publishing at WNET, has launched a new website with a unique approach to teaching African-American and Mexican-American history. Our History as News uses a newspaper format that is "engaging, exciting, immediate,” Miller told the Hispanically Speaking News site. “Because we use advertisements, short news articles and original illustrations, as well as feature stories and editorials, we offer people with all levels of reading skills the opportunity to learn.”
 
The Black Chronicle tells the story of African-Americans from 1778, when Rhode Island Slaves were promised their freedom if they fought in the Colonial armies, up through 1954, when Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus. In the bilingual La Cronica, coverage begins in 1835 when California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas were still part of northern Mexico, and continues through 1969, when Latino students walked out of Los Angeles high schools to protest discrimination.

Miller started The Black Chronicle in 1969. Early supporters included Henry Hampton, producer of the critically acclaimed Eyes on the Prize Civil Rights documentary series.

Diana Nyad ends historic swim halfway through due to strong winds and currents

KCRW's Diana Nyad, the 61-year-old champion swimmer making her second attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage, has officially ended her quest about halfway through, after nearly 30 hours in the water. CNN is reporting that Nyad was vomiting when she was brought aboard a boat at 12:45 a.m. today (Aug. 9). Nyad "struggled through ocean swells, shoulder pain and asthma Monday before she was forced to give up the 103-mile swim," CNN's account says. Her team told the network that strong winds and tricky currents figured into her decision. Her Twitter feed reports that as of 8:30 a.m. Eastern, she was eating scrambled eggs aboard the boat heading back to Key West. "I am not sad," she said. "It was absolutely the right call."

Aug 8, 2011

KQED-FM "dominant" in 25-54 ratings demographic

KQED-FM/88.5 is enjoying a nice ratings run. The station arrived at No. 1 in the San Francisco market for the first time in April. Jo Anne Wallace, g.m., was cautious, noting the station "didn't celebrate, but we took note of it." After a slight dip for pledge in May, the station was again atop the local ratings in June, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. "Since launching a news initiative in July 2010, increasing staff and the frequency of locally produced newscasts to 16, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., KQED has pushed past KGO (810 AM) in the overall ratings and been dominant in the prized age demo of 25-54," the paper notes.

Is a Lake Wobegon movie in the works?

Garrison Keillor is still confident in his decision to step aside from full-time hosting duties at public radio's Prairie Home Companion in July 2013. “I think it’s a great plan,” Keillor told the Louisville, Ky., Courier-Journal in a story Sunday (Aug. 7), “so that the host is able to step to the side before he becomes halting and pitiful, a lumbering galoot out on stage. I don’t need to be that person. I want to leave at the right time.”

Keillor said he expects to continue supplying regular dispatches from Lake Wobegon — perhaps even in a big-screen movie. “There are people interested in backing it,” Keillor said. “I have yet to give them a script, which should happen in the next couple weeks. We shall see.”

And she's off: KCRW's Diana Nyad begins attempt at Cuba-Florida swim

At 7:45 p.m. Eastern last night (Aug. 7), KCRW's Diana Nyad entered waters off Havana to began her second attempt to swim the 103 miles between Cuba and Florida. Matt Sloane from CNN is in a support boat and Tweeting what could be a 60-hour journey; CNN also is tracking the swim here. Sloane report at around 9 a.m. Eastern this morning that 20 miles into the swim Nyad is doing well, with the exception of a few minor shoulder pains.

CNN reported the start of her odyssey last night. "I'm almost 62 years old and I'm standing here at the prime of my life," she said as she walked toward the sea. "I think this is the prime. When one reaches this age, you still have a body that's strong but now you have a better mind." Nyad did a few stretches and played reveille, the traditional Army wake-up song, on a bugle before she dived in.

Chicago's WBEZ mulling midday program changes

Chicago Public Media WBEZ-FM is working on plans to boost its output of local news during middays in response to two new local FM news outlets, reports Chicago media critic Bob Feder. Torey Malatia, president of Chicago Public Media, outlined details for staffers Friday (Aug. 5). Currently the station airs local newsmag Eight Forty-Eight and international affairs talk show Worldview, both WBEZ productions, along with various programs from other sources. “Some of those purchased programs would probably remain, but the weaker ones would go away,” Malatia said. “But we haven’t gotten as far as targeting any of them yet.”

One plan would split the production staff of Eight Forty-Eight and replace the program with one morning and one afternoon show. Allison Cuddy, host of Eight Forty-Eight, would host one, and Steve Edwards, the founding host of the show who’s currently director of content development, would host the other, Malatia said, adding, "I just don’t want people holding their breath waiting for all this to happen because it’s going to take some time.”

Aug 5, 2011

Broadcasters still waiting on FCC spectrum model

Until the Federal Communications Commission releases its Allotment Optimization Model (AOM) for upcoming spectrum auctions, "broadcasters should remain skeptical — and wary — of the anything having to do with incentive auctions," writes broadcast media analyst Harry Jessell of  TVNewsCheck."Broadcasters have been eager to get their hands on the model so that they can test (and possibly question) some of its assumptions and simply see how they would do under various scenarios," Jessell writes. "But the FCC won't give anybody a peek. It won't let broadcasters or the public see what it is seeing when it runs the numbers."

In its original National Broadband Plan in March 2010, the FCC said modeling would be "forthcoming."

Jessell reports that FCC Media Bureau Chief Bill Lake said at the National Association of Broadcasters meeting in April that the modeling should be released in the "next few months."

"Well, by my calendar, a few months have come and gone," Jessell writes. "You ask the FCC now about when the modeling might be forthcoming and you don't even get an answer."

FCC okays sale of WDUQ-FM to Essential Public Media

The Federal Communications Commission has approved the sale of WDUQ-FM (90.5), which allows the license to be transferred from Duquesne University to Essential Public Media, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. In its ruling Thursday (Aug. 3), the FCC acknowledged objections to the deal, many concerning the format change from jazz to news. "Although the commission recognizes that WDUQ's program has attracted a devoted listenership," it said, "it is well-settled policy that the commission does not scrutinize or regulate programming, nor does it take potential changes in programming formats into consideration in reviewing assignment applications." The sale is expected to be completed within the next 30 days. The station's new call letters also may be announced during that time.

PEG channels could extend their mission via low-power FM, advocate says

One of the sessions at last week's Alliance for Community Media conference in Tucson explored collaboration opportunities between low-power FM (LPFM) providers and Public, Educational and Government (PEG) Access channels. Workshop leader Erik Möllberg, assistant manager at Access Fort Wayne, said LPFM offers PEG providers an opportunity to extend their mission by reaching people who otherwise do not have a voice, reports the Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age blog from the New America Foundation. LPFM has been “a nice way of pulling in other sectors of society that were not using access television and that might work much better for them,” he said. And with the Federal Communications Commission is poised to open LPFM frequencies up to the public again (Current, July 25), it's a great time consider the partnerships, he said.

Kernis joins start-up team for NBC's primetime newsmag

Jay Kernis’s vacation from the TV news business lasted less than two weeks.The former NPR programming exec has joined an NBC News team that’s creating a new primetime newsmag hosted by Brian Williams for debut in October. As a piece producer on the as-yet-unnamed show, he’s working on a story with former CBS anchor Harry Smith, who ended his 25-year CBS career to work on NBC’s new broadcast.

Kernis played a key role in creating and updating NPR’s flagship programs in two separate stints in public radio. When he left NPR for CBS News in 1987, Smith was the first anchor he worked with, he told Current.

Kernis left his most recent TV job last month — as senior producer and blogger of CNN’s In the Arena, the Eliot Spitzer show that delivered its farewell broadcast last night. He planned to be a consultant and take time to consider his career options — possibly including a return to public radio — but NBC moved quickly to hire him for the new broadcast. Another CBS veteran, Rome Hartman, is e.p. of the new NBC show.

PBS SoCal boosts kids' programming weekdays, adds weekends

PBS SoCal, formerly KOCE-TV, is ramping up its kids offerings, reports the Los Angeles Times. The station, which took over as PBS primary in the Los Angeles market when KCET left the network in January, is expanding daily programming by 90 minutes and adding a children's block from 6 to 8 a.m. weekend mornings for the first time. The changes begin Monday (Aug. 8). Jamie Annunzio, the station’s director of education, said it's all part of “our commitment to increase and maintain quality and educational children’s content.”

Aug 4, 2011

Broadcasters asking for another delay on new EAS equipment deadline

NPR, PBS and the Association of Public Television Stations are among broadcast organizations asking the Federal Communications Commission to once again extend the deadline for stations to install Common Alerting Protocol-compliant Emergency Alert System equipment. They want at least a six-month extension from the current Sept. 30 date. The clock originally began ticking in October 2010.

In the filing, APTS and PBS argue that because “the deadline for reply comments is set for early August, it is likely a Final Order by the Commission will be released relatively close to the current CAP-compliance deadline. This could make it extremely difficult for stations to comply with newly revised regulations by the current deadline.”

PBS hires two new — but well known — programming veeps

Two names familiar to public broadcasters are coming to PBS as new vice presidents of programming. Beth Hoppe, who begins work Aug. 8, developed the reality frontrunners Frontier House and Colonial House; Donald Thoms, arriving later this month, created the Independent Lens documentary series.

In a statement, PBS Chief Operating Officer Michael Jones called them “smart, talented individuals who truly understand public television and have excellent experience in content development.”

Since 2009, Hoppe has been an e.p. at Discovery Studios, where she developed the series Human Nature and other projects. She also worked as president and c.e.o. of indie TV producers Optomen Productions from 2004 to 2009; and from 1998 to 2004, she served as director, science programs, for WNET in New York.

Since 2009 Thoms has led his ThomsMediaGroup (TMG), a multimedia consultant focusing on TV production and development; his clients included Discovery, WNET and MTV. He also served as vice president, program production at DiscoveryHealth Channel from 1999 to 2007, overseeing daily operations. Previously he was vice president of talent development and casting for Discovery Communications. He worked at PBS as vice president, program management from 1993 to 1999.

170 Million Americans campaign offers exclusive music download

170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting and ANTI- Records are releasing "Raise Your Voice!," a 16-track music compilation free only to pubcasting fans who sign up for the ongoing online advocacy campaign. Artists include Wilco, Tom Waits, Dr. Dog, Mavis Staples, Lost in the Trees, Neko Case and Booker T. Jones. In a statement, Ari Picker, frontman for Lost in the Trees, said: “Our culture needs public broadcasting. And public radio has been an enormous resource for musicians like myself.”

Native Public Media's Morris appointed to FCC advisory committee

Traci Morris, director of operations for Native Public Media (NPM) will represent tribal interests on the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer Advisory Committee. The committee helps “amplify the voices of many of the least-served communities and constituencies in current policy debates,” said Sascha Meinrath, director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, an NPM partner, in a statement. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said that as the representative of Native Public Media, Morris “will be a voting member of the CAC, helping us to ensure that all Americans have access to modern communications services.”

Aug 3, 2011

Julia Child helped change face of public TV, friend writes

Jasper White, a chef and longtime close friend of pubcasting icon Julia Child, has a nice remembrance of her in the Herald News of Fall River, Mass., to mark the anniversary of her Aug. 15 birth. In America, "the culinary arts were lagging way behind the others in the last half of the last century," he writes. "It took a catalyst to awaken America’s palate, to make the love of food an acceptable behavior and to raise expectations and standards of our cuisine. That catalyst was Julia Child." Through her shows on PBS, "she made education fun,"  he notes, adding that "changing the face of public television is also one of her great accomplishments." White often speaks at public events honoring Child (Current, June 21, 2009).

$40 million in NEH grants include public broadcasters

The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced $40 million in awards for 249 projects. Several public media recipients include the American Routes radio series, $250,000; WGBH's American Experience, $700,000 for a two-hour documentary film and multiplatform project on the 1964 "Freedom Summer" Mississippi voter registration and education effort; Public Radio International, $300,000 for Studio 360 from PRI and WNYC; and WETA, $750,000 for The Roosevelts, a 14-hour documentary series. A complete list (PDF) is here.

Social media taking a toll on arts journalism, panelists say

While much focus remains on the dropoff of investigative and local reporting, arts reporting and criticism is also in flux. "Arts journalism faces an unclear future as social media takes over, and non-journalists can share their opinions as easily as journalists," said Thomas Huizenga of NPR Music at a Communications Leadership Forum at the Annenberg Center's Washington D.C. office on Tuesday (Aug. 3). "The impact of criticism is lost in the new media. Journalists have now fallen to the bottom of the list." Participants included Felix Contreras of the NPR Arts Desk and Susan Clampitt, former executive director of WAMU and now a Commissioner on the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities. "Arts journalism is struggling for its life," said Jaime Bennett of the National Endowment for the Arts. "It's no surprise that journalists are taking to the blogosphere to share their reviews."