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."