Oct 19, 2011

PBS Food opens its online doors; PBS Distribution expands deal with

PBS today announced two online initiatives, one a new website, another an expanded content agreement with

It's launch day for PBS Food, a gateway to some 150 pubTV food and cooking programs and more than 1,700 searchable recipes from local station and national archives. The site features classic episodes of shows such as Baking With Julia, and Victory Garden, and an appearance from a very young Emeril Lagasse.

And PBS Distribution has broadened its licensing agreement with, which will allow Amazon Prime members to instantly stream current and archived PBS programming. “Expanding the reach of our content by making it accessible through digital platforms is a key priority for PBS,” Jason Seiken, s.v.p., PBS Interactive, said in a press release. Prime members will have access to more than 1,000 episodes of shows that air on PBS, to roll out over the next several months. Content includes NOVA, Masterpiece and Antiques Roadshow, along with the Ken Burns documentaries The Civil War, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, Baseball, Jazz and his latest, Prohibition.

WTTW adding Al Jazeera English content

WTTW is picking up Al Jazeera English programming beginning Oct. 31, the first time the news provider will be seen on the air in Chicago. AJE will run from 6:30 to 7 a.m. and 11 to 11:30 p.m. weekdays on the WTTW Prime multicast channel, and 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. Saturdays on its main Channel 11. Additional time slots for AJE on WTTW11 will be available beginning in early 2012, WTTW said. “Our station has a long history of providing quality public affairs programming," said Dan Schmidt, WTTW president, "and by adding broadcasts from Al Jazeera English, we are providing a broader perspective on critical global issues.”

First pledge drive for Pittsburgh's WESA seen as key indicator of listener support

Pittsburgh's WESA is making its first fundraising appeal to listeners since the station changed format and call letters under new owner Essential Public Media. Its $250,000 fundraising goal is less than half of the amount raised in a record-breaking February 2010 drive for WDUQ, as the station was known during its years as a split-format news and jazz station, the Pittsburgh Tribune reports. But back then, listeners who pledged a total of $525,000 were responding to Duquesne University's decision to sell its public radio station, a transaction that finally closed this summer.

After the switch to its all-news format in July, the audience for 90.5 dipped to a 1.4 share of Pittsburgh radio listeners, according to Arbitron data cited by the Tribune. But EPM execs expect to recover and improve upon WDUQ's performance. They're aiming for a weekly cume of 200,000 listeners, which would top WDUQ's best-ever Arbitron book of 180,000 listeners in 2009. They also plan to raise 60 percent of WESA's $2.5 million operating budget through four fund-drives each year.

WESA and its new step-sister station WYEP, the contemporary music station that's a partner in EPM, are combining their fundraising efforts and running simultaneous fall pledge drives, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Station officials and local observers see WESA's maiden fundraiser as an important indicator of listener support for the new service.

"It's going to be a great benchmark for us to see where we are moving forward," Susan Meyer, director of marketing, told the Post-Gazette.

"Antiques Roadshow" companion program coming in spring 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Public TV broadcasters got some tantalizing details on the long-awaited spinoff of the hit Antiques Roadshow. John Wilson, PBS program chief, said the program, with the working title of Market Wars, will debut in spring 2012 from Roadshow e.p. Marsha Bemko. Wilson said PBS has ordered 20 episodes initially, "at a very effective production cost per hour." In the show, two rotating expert appraisers will drop into a community for a friendly competition: Each begins with a set amount of money, hits flea markets and auctions to find interesting objects, and the one with the best net wins. "Like with Roadshow, viewers are learning about that corner of the world, the objects, why some things are worth more than meets the eye," Wilson said. "It has all that great history and Americana and geography built in."

Butler at NETA: Federal pubcasting funding a lifeline, not a yoke

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, told attendees at the National Educational Telecommunications Association conference this morning (Oct. 19) that he doesn't want the public to get the impression that "public broadcasters are eager for the day when federal funding will go away." He was reacting to a question from the breakfast crowd about Louisville Public Media's "Campaign for Independence" radio pledge drive, going on now, that aims, according to its website, to help the station "become independent from unreliable funding streams."

"This attitude is not really helpful to us," Butler said.

"I fear that some of our friends in public radio, because they feel burned by recent political fires, just can't wait to get out from under the 'yoke' of federal funding," Butler said. While some see government support that way, "others see it as a lifeline, which it really is." He added that he'll be meeting soon with incoming NPR President Gary Knell.

UPDATE: Butler's remarks puzzled Louisville Public Media chief Donovan Reynolds. "I think Pat completely misunderstands what we're doing here," he told Current. "We're not suggesting that it's a good idea to lose federal funding. We're making the opposite case."

Government funding for LPM's stations — from CPB and the Louisville city government — have dropped dramatically in recent years, Reynolds said. Message points from its "Campaign for Independence" emphasize that listener contributions are LPM's most reliable revenue source and are more important than ever.

"We're being realistic and honest with our audience about public funding in our city and in Washington," Reynolds said. "We have to let our audience know that we're in jeopardy and we have to rely on them to ensure our success and survival." LPM operates three stations in Louisville, providing NPR News, classical and contemporary music on separate channels.

The campaign, unveiled this spring, has been highly effective with LPM's listeners, Reynolds said. Member contributions of more than $615,000 set a new record over spring 2010 pledge revenues, marking a year-to-year increase of 22.5 percent. LPM is on target to meet its $600,000 goal for this fall.

Reynolds is among the pubradio managers who fully supported the alliance forged in February between advocacy teams at APTS and NPR, and he has been very active in defending federal aid to the field via grassroots advocacy and personal visits to members of Congress. "I am surprised [Butler] would say these things," Reynolds said. "We are fighting the same fight."

Also during this morning's NETA session, Butler made a pitch for more stations to become APTS members. About 72 percent of public TV stations are dues-paying members of the advocacy organization. But that missing 28 percent is leaving APTS short about $1 million in annual revenue and unable to fill several key positions including a vice president for government relations and regulatory counsel. "This is a problem," he said. "If we could get to a point where everybody was in this boat and supporting our efforts in Washington, it could have a transformative effect."