Mar 30, 2005

The host of this year's Input conference plans to go ahead with the international pubTV producers' screening conference in San Francisco, May 1-6, despite a union boycott of the SF Hilton and 13 other large hotels, the Chronicle reported yesterday. ITVS, host of the event, said it favors good treatment for hotel workers but could not afford to lose $663,000 tied up in reserving the conference space. Groups of lawyers and historians have relocated events from the boycotted hotels.

Mar 29, 2005

DCRTV points to MPT Mole, a blog maintained by an anonymous someone claiming to be a Maryland Public Television employee. Note that it "should be viewed as fictional musings and unfounded speculation, not official truth."
The Washington Post previews Nova's tsunami special, "Wave That Shook the World," scheduled to air tonight.

Mar 28, 2005

Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street Week played a small role in the Internet speculation bubble, writes Jay Hancock, a Baltimore Sun business journalist, but its contributions were greater as originator of financial journalism on TV.
Iowa state senators have introduced a bill asking the nascent Iowa Public Radio network to consider playing "modern progressive musical content."
In a new example of the creeping commercial- ization of PTV under- writing, spots plugging burrito chain Chipotle will spoof pledge drives and Masterpiece Theatre, the New York Times reports. The 15-second ads, er, credits will accompany American Public Television's How to Cook Everything: Bittman Takes On America's Chefs beginning in April.
This story in the New York Times suggests that Washington's indecency crusade will only get tougher with the departure of Michael Powell from the FCC. It also contains the following quote, excerpted from a dissenting opinion penned by new commission chairman Kevin J. Martin: "Despite my colleagues' assurance that there appeared to be a safe distance between the prostitute and the horse, I remain uncomfortable."

Mar 25, 2005

"I guess once Rukeyser left, it was inevitable." That's what Douglas Gomery, a professor and media economist at the University of Maryland, told the Baltimore Sun in its story about the end of Wall $treet Week. Louis Rukeyser hosted the groundbreaking investment news show, which will air its final episode June 24, from its debut in 1970 through his firing in 2002. Maryland PTV President Rob Shuman tells Broadcasting & Cable that the show's cancellation "signals the end of an era for us."
Major unions of BBC workers say they’ll take a strike vote April 4 if management cuts jobs as threatened, BBC News reported. Unions asked for negotiations during a three-month moratorium on cutbacks, no layoffs and pay guarantees for workers whose jobs are being outsourced. BBC managers “have decided to beat themselves up before the government does so,” said Gerry Morrissey, a leader of BECTU, a major union.

(BECTU meanwhile said production staffers at the commercial network ITV voted this week to walk out after Easter, rejecting ITV’s offer of a 3.3 percent pay raise.)

Director General Mark Thompson aims to save 355 million pounds to reinvest in programming, especially drama, news coverage, regional broadcasts and on-demand news services. The public-service portion of the BBC staff would shrink by a fifth, dropping 3,780 positions altogether. These include 2,050 production jobs announced Monday and 1,730 nonproduction jobs announced in March. Nearly half of nonproduction Professional Services positions are to go.

In a December lecture, Thompson laid out the BBC’s plans to move more work out of London, reduce bureaucracy, open an additional quarter of production to competition between in-house and indie producers (a quarter is already guaranteed to indies) and help build a Digital Britain with greater access to BBC archives. But he did not stint in expressing hope for what BBC will continue to mean: “Despite its eccentricities and failings, it remains one of the greatest — some might say the greatest — force for cultural good in the world.”

Mar 21, 2005

Did NPR overreact in terminating its relationship with longtime freelance arts reporter David D'Arcy after his controversial December piece exploring the fate of artist Egon Schiele's "Portrait of Wally"? The painting, seized from its original owner by Nazis in 1939, was loaned to New York's Museum of Modern Art several years ago and has since become subject of a fight over its rightful ownership. D'Arcy's story treated MOMA unfairly, according to NPR, which later issued a correction, and ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin, who defended the correction in a recent column. But nothing in D'Arcy's report "seems particularly surprising or stunningly accusatory," says this story in the Los Angeles Times, which says NPR's decison to sever ties with D'Arcy "raised questions about how its news operation sets and enforces journalistic standards."

Mar 19, 2005

Employees' unions fear the BBC will lose up to 6,000 jobs overall, the Guardian reported. The latest round of cuts, to be specified Monday, may include 400 in the big-budget doc production unit, Factual and Learning. Director General Mark Thompson says cuts are needed to persuade the government that public money is being well spent. The head of the journalists' union replies: "You can't sack thousands and then ask hard-working staff to take on huge amounts of extra work and still expect to maintain high standards."

Mar 18, 2005

Union leaders say they’ll fight massive layoffs at the BBC, Edinburgh's Scotsman reported. The BBC is expected to announce a second wave of staff cutbacks on Monday, mostly in news and other program jobs. The first round made public last week affects 1,730 jobs — 980 layoffs and 750 jobs outsourced, mostly in finance, human resources and marketing, said the media workers’ union BECTU. The Culture Minister earlier recommended keeping the BBC's tax on TV sets, but pressed for efficiency in the government's Green Paper [118-page PDF] on the BBC's future.
The FCC announced changes to its low-power FM service yesterday and asked for feedback on other possible tweaks. (Release and order, both PDFs.) It also froze granting of FM translator permits for six months, following the Media Access Project's filing of a petition charging that shell companies have been acquiring and reselling the free permits, sometimes for hundreds of thousands of dollars. (PDFs of petition, releated release.) Coverage in the Los Angeles Times.
Anti-quack crusader James Randi criticizes Diane Rehm and public TV stations for featuring Deepak Chopra, Dr. Christiane Northrup and a psychic.
MJ Bear, former head of online at NPR, has co-authored a study of media coverage of the Iraq War. It found that many media outlets have self-censored their coverage to avoid offending their audiences. (Via Romenesko.)

Mar 17, 2005

"Twenty-four hours at KBOO reveals what potential listeners will find at Portland's noncommercial community radio station: the bizarre, the political and, in the dead of night, even the ambitious," reports the Oregonian.
"Topics about the arts, the environment, or identity politics seem overrepresented, while stories about business seem underrepresented," writes a conservative columnist of public radio in New Hampshire's Union Leader.
"To get any information at all from the Bush administration is a triumph, for it has become the all-time champion of information control," said Bob Edwards in a recent speech in Danville, Ky. (Via Romenesko.)

Mar 16, 2005

Tom Church, founder of the Radio Research Consortium, died over the weekend at the age of 61.
Chicago Public Radio plans to make its primary signal all-news and program two additional stations with music, reports the Sun-Times.
The Department of Education published a request for proposals for the Ready to Learn program. The department's new priorities for the next five-year grant period focus the program on literacy-based programs and outreach targeting low-income children and their families. Applicants who propose rigorous, scientifically-based research on the effectiveness of their programs will receive favorable consideration. [Scroll down to lower right-hand corner of first page.]
Jacques Pepin tells the Hartford Courant his marriage survived because they put his 30-by-22-foot kitchen (and sometime TV studio) in a building in the back yard. His Fast Food My Way series from KQED launched in APT syndication last fall.
CPB President Kathleen Cox hired a top FCC exec, Ken Ferree [his CPB bio], to fill her old job. The former Media Bureau chief will be c.o.o. Also appointed: David Creekmore, new v.p. finance and administration, replacing Betsy Griffith, and Nancy Rohrbach [bio] in the frequently vacant position of senior v.p., corporate and public affairs. Ferree is a lawyer and tall guy (FCC photos) who has pushed and pulled for the DTV transition. A Washington Post feature earlier cited him as an example of federal aides who move on when their bosses do. Chairman Michael Powell, who knew Ferree in law school and hired him, leaves the FCC this week. Creekmore has been senior director of business planning.
From the recent meeting of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers: The writer for OC Weekly has seen too much of PBS star Edward James Olmos in the past. He celebrates NALIP's turnout (without Olmos) as "the new punks of Latino media." Speakers questioned the intentions of CPB under the Bush administration, reports Victor Payan.

Mar 15, 2005

An American University project wants to develop best rights practices for producers. Profs. Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi found filmmakers frustrated and broke because of escalating copyright costs. Example: The two Eyes on the Prize series are no longer distributed because (as the Washington Post reported) it would cost so much to renew archival footage rights. The foundation-backed project aims to give producers a sharper ken of copyright law. Too many pay royalties for material that’s in the public domain or should be regarded as fair use, such as incidental background music in docs, they said. See the short FAQ and 35-page report (both PDFs). The study is a major project of the Center for Social Media, directed by Aufderheide. Jaszi is a professor in AU’s law school.

Mar 14, 2005

The recording industry aided preservation efforts by public TV's Great Performances and public radio's American Routes and Beale Street Caravan. The producers were among this year's recipients of aid from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences preservation grant program. For more information on grants and other opportunities, see Current Opportunities.
Arts critics of all stripes will meet in the first-ever National Critics Conference: "Critical Unity in Critical Times" in May. The national organizations of critics of dance, fine arts, classical music, jazz and theater will co-sponsor the event May 25-28 at the Omni Hotel, Los Angeles. Speakers will include three Pulitzer Prize-winning critics, Margo Jefferson, Dan Neil and Leonard Pitts Jr. Website.

Mar 8, 2005

Christopher Lydon is returning to the radio with Open Source, a co-production with the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. PRI will distribute. Lydon hosted public radio's The Connection until he and staffers had a public falling-out with Jane Christo, then his boss and g.m. of Boston's WBUR-FM.
"[W]e could be much more effective if we would just get better at asking listeners to give based purely on value," says consultant John Sutton in a blog post about on-air fundraising practices. "So few can do it well."
Nearly half of distance-learning courses used by K-12 schools are given by college-level institutions, says a major U.S. Department of Education study released March 2. Nine percent of schools used distance learning in 2002-03, with 328,000 enrollments a year (counting some students more than once). Two-way video is the most popular platform, used in nearly half of school districts. A big PDF of the full 97-page report is available online.

Mar 7, 2005

A different pro-family lobby--this time the Family Pride Coalition of gay parents--is raising a ruckus, calling a "virtual rally" on Thursday, March 10, with supporters phoning and sending e-mails to the U.S. Department of Education disapproving Secretary Margaret Spellings' attack on the two-moms episode of Postcards from Buster. For the moment you can see the episode on the coalition's website. In a Current commentary, public TV exec Ron Santora says Spellings and PBS marginalize many American families while catering to the prejudices of others.
"We think as a family it's important to understand the world and all the people in it," says a parent who turned out at a Washington, D.C., church for a screening of the Postcards from Buster "Sugartime" episode. The Washington Post covered the event.
"NPR does a pretty good job, but it seems to delight in its own culture more than is absolutely necessary," said NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin at a seminar in Mississippi, reports the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
"I don't think anyone should ever get over the way this country was founded — on not just liberty but also the extermination of the continent's original inhabitants and the importation of slaves," says Sarah Vowell in the Kansas City Star.
"[W]hat the classical fade-out tells us more than anything is that the 'custodians of public taste' have left the building, " writes a Washington Times opiner in the wake of WETA-FM's format change.

Mar 6, 2005

Public TV is the subject, not the medium, for a five-day seminar for journalists at UC Berkeley, May 1-6. The Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism is taking applications for 15 seats in the all-expenses-paid seminar for mid-career journalists, “Channeling Public Interest Media: Reporting on the Public Broadcast System.” Participants will also attend parts of concurrent Input 2005 in San Francisco. Application deadline: March 25/28. See explanation on the center's website. Contact: Lanita Pace-Hinton, (510) 643-7425. The Knight Center is funded by the Knight Foundation and operated by USC Annenberg in Los Angeles. For this and other upcoming events, see Current's Calendar,

Mar 3, 2005

Perhaps prompted by the Buster fuss or a slow news day, George F. Will joins a gathering pro-marketplace chorus on the right: "In today's 500-channel environment, public television is a preposterous relic." PBS sells so many toys, it must have mass market appeal, he argues, then suggests its fans are the kind who re-read Proust.

Mar 2, 2005

Tod Maffin lays out his vision of "vertical listening," which he also mentioned in our recent article about podcasting. Meanwhile, KCRW-FM launched more than 20 podcasts yesterday.
Funding hikes for public broadcasting in Alaska survived a challenge in that state's House of Representatives, reports the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
"After just five weeks on the air, it seems that MPR's new alt-rock-and-variety station is already a significant tastemaker in town," says the Twin Cities' City Pages, which devotes three articles to "89.3 The Current."
"Let's take a moment to acknowledge something that has, in fact, been true for some time: Technical innovation in U.S. radio broadcasting is being led by public radio," writes Paul McLane in Radio World.
Terry Gross's idea of cooking used to be "opening a can of Progresso minestrone and taking out their vegetables, keeping the broth and putting in my own vegetables," she says in Delware's News Journal.
The San Francisco Chronicle looks at the the competition between secular and religious broadcasters for low-power FM stations.

Mar 1, 2005

In the MP3 era, "the art of the set and the segue is in imminent danger of dying," writes WFMU deejay Dave Mandl in the Brooklyn Rail.
A Boston Globe writer looks at the business model — or lack thereof — of podcasting. "One problem is that, much like the Web before advertising and e-commerce, there's no money in podcasting yet," he says.
Former WBUR-FM host Christopher Lydon will host an evening talk show on WUML-FM, reports the Lowell Sun. The Lowell, Mass., station is licensed to the University of Massachussetts, and the students who host some of the station's programs object to Lydon's arrival.
Indicating perhaps that PBS did not have to fear some four-letter words in a recent Frontline, the FCC yesterday chose not to stifle the right of (actors playing) soldiers to swear while risking their lives in war. (Surprised?) The order (news release, full text) rejected indecency complaints about ABC's airing of Saving Private Ryan last fall.
PBS's president stands by her decision ("not an easy one") to pull the two-mommies episode of Buster, reported Broadcasting & Cable. “I wouldn’t inject PBS stations into a culture war they did not start and cannot stop,” Pat Mitchell said at an AWRT meeting Feb. 25. Via