May 31, 2007

NEH grants announced

New York's WNET, Twin Cities PTV and WNED in Buffalo, NY, are among the most recent winners of National Endowment for the Humanities grants, the agency announced today. The grants to 118 applicants total $17.5 million.

Webcasters ask federal appeals court to stall new rates

NPR and other webcasters asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit court to a stay the controversial royalty hike a panel of federal copyright judges ordered in March, Variety and others report. (See also, the Radio and Internet Newsletter.) The new rates are scheduled to go into effect in July. NPR also filed an affidavit on behalf of public radio claiming that most pubradio stations are not able to make the calculations required by the proposed per-performance standard. On Wednesday (5/30) the network notified the court that it would appeal the copyright board's decision. "It is crucial that relief be provided because in only 45 days - and counting - public radio stations which reach a broad audience will be forced to operate under commercial broadcaster rules and pay commercial-level royalties, and we still have no idea how much that amount is or even how to calculate it," spokeswoman Andi Sporkin said in a statement.

May 30, 2007

NPR's Girshman headed to CQ

Peggy Girshman, managing editor of NPR's Newsroom of the Future, has taken a new job at Congressional Quarterly, according to an internal memo posted on Mediabistro. Earlier this month, CQ hired Bruce Drake, former NPR News v.p., to run its consumer publishing business.

Blogger looks for ways to short-circuit the flow of pubradio listeners' contributions

Open Source's appeal for listener donations prompted blogger Doc Searls of Linux Journal to write about the hassles involved in contributing to public media. Searls heads a Berkman Center project that is looking for ways to "short-circuit" the flow of listener contributions through public stations.

'Open Source' passing the e-hat

Open Source, the innovative two-year-old show that melds traditional radio with online interactivity, posted an S.O.S. appealing to fans for financial support last week. "We love what we've built with you here," wrote host Christopher Lydon. "We need your help to keep this community alive." The show lost its major backer, the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, last year and has been struggling financially since, reports the Boston Globe.

Silicon Valley broadcaster Tom Fanella dies

Tom Fanella, president of KTEH in San Jose, Calif., for 19 years, died Monday of heart failure after fighting cancer for a year, Northern California Public Broadcasting said yesterday. He had worked for public TV stations in Pittsburgh and his hometown of Syracuse, N.Y. His stations won the top PBS Development Award six times. Despite his fundraising success and Silicon Valley's wealth, KTEH struggled for revenue in the shadow of the nearby KQED. Fanella and KQED President Jeff Clarke arranged a merger creating NCPB last year.

Gaffney: Moderate Muslims getting "the Rosa Parks treatment"

Frank Gaffney, co-producer of the Islam vs. Islamists, is upset that his doc is not getting national carriage and that its new distributor, Oregon Public Broadcasting, will pair it with a discussion program designed to place it within proper context, according to this Washington Times editorial. CPB commissioned the film for its America at a Crossroads series but supervising producers at WETA and PBS said it was too imbalanced and overheated to air in its current state. Like Rosa Parks, Gaffney writes, the moderate Muslims featured in his film "must know their place, too. And their place is not in prime time, nor national distribution."

May 29, 2007

Gossip can travel slowly but persists

Word has reached Poland that Tinky-Winky may be gay -- and possibly a threat to children. Reuters reported that a government official became concerned when she learned that the purse-carrying purple member of the Teletubbies kidvid quartet was a boy tubbie. Tittering over the news item began within days after the death of the Rev. Jerry Falwell. CNN wondered whether the "King Lear" remarks of Falwell's recent years would outweigh his legacy as a leader for faith-based politics.

Sacramento station buys Stockton outlet

Sacramento's Capital Public Radio has purchased its outlet in Stockton, KUOP, which it has operated for six years under an agreement with the station's licensee, the University of the Pacific, Central Valley Business Times reported Saturday.

Street named for WETA founder

On Saturday, the government of Arlington County, Va., will name a street that runs past WETA's offices after the station's founder, the late Elizabeth Campbell, WETA said. It's South 28th Street, the main drag of the Shirlington shopping area, where you can see NewsHour and WETA staffers lunching in outdoor cafes. Mrs. Campbell died two years ago at the age of 101.

May 25, 2007

Five reasons to believe the sky won't fall when the analog transmitters shut down

The February 2009 analog shut-off may not be such a doomsday scenario as television broadcasters have come to fear, pubTV technology analyst David Liroff recently told the Public Television Programmers Association [Via Technology 360].

Grants for new-media experiments

Prompted by online developers' need for quick cash infusions, CPB is offering Public Media Innovation grants of $5,000 to $20,000 for stations to experiment in emerging media platforms, with target audiences. Round 1 applications, due June 18, must relate to the 2008 national, state or local elections. Round 2 will be open to other projects. Details are online. Mark Fuerst is project director,

May 24, 2007

Bee gets stung on Morning Edition audience numbers

The Morning Edition audience trends reported by the Sacramento Bee were wrong, according to pubradio analyst John Sutton, who compares key audience stats from the Bob Edwards era and after. He reports that Morning Edition's national cume has increased but the average listener is spending less time with the program.

May 23, 2007

OPB catches a hot documentary

CPB and Oregon Public Broadcasting said today that OPB will distribute the hot-potato documentary Islam vs. Islamists to pubTV stations, relieving public TV of complaints that pubcasting was bottling up the documentary funded by CPB but rejected by PBS. (American Public Television also rejected the film, the syndicator told Current.)

Sac Bee: Morning Edition is "more relevant" with co-hosts

In the three years since Bob Edwards was ousted as host of NPR's Morning Edition, the morning newsmag has gained 3 million listeners, according to the Sacramento Bee. Reporter Sam McManis writes that the show is "a better, newsier, more nimble and relevant program with Renee Montagne and Steve Inskeep as co-hosts."

May 22, 2007

Lowell Award goes to Bitterman

Mary G.F. Bitterman, who ran stations in Honolulu and San Francisco and now chairs the PBS Board, received CPB's Ralph Lowell Award at PBS Showcase over the weekend. In nine years as president of KQED, she led its revival as a local producer and helped stabilize its finances. In between her station jobs she ran the Voice of America.

May 18, 2007

It takes two ombudsmen to deal with reactions to Moyers

"I’m beginning to think that PBS may need a separate ombudsman just to deal with the weekly mail praising or pillorying this lightening-rod/icon," writes PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler, referring to Bill Moyers' recent return to PBS. In his first column in nine weeks, CPB Ombudsman Ken Bode steps into the breach to make a "very good point" that Getler wishes he had made regarding "Buying the War," the lead documentary of Bill Moyers Journal. Bode describes the documentary as "embarrassingly flawed" because Moyers and his producers failed to examine how PBS's own NewsHour with Jim Lehrer failed to scrutinze the Bush Administration's case for initiating the Iraq War.

Iowa debates: NPR broadcast, then free access

Presidential debates planned for exclusive broadcast on NPR stations next January will be made available for full and free public access by bloggers, podcasters, mainstream media, and anyone who wants to create a mash-up. NPR and Iowa Public Radio, partners in the production, announced the unrestricted license agreement today, prompting cheers from Jeff Jarvis, a journalist and blogger pushing to "free the debates" from copyright restrictions.

Miami-U studies relationship with WMUB

Faced with a $100,000 reduction in support from its licensee, Oxford's WMUB-FM asked Miami University of Ohio to reevaluate its future relationship with the station, according to the Dayton Daily News. In a statement announcing the review, the university described technological changes in public radio and declining state support to the university as "forces making the review necessary."

May 17, 2007

Pubcasting site features streaming advocacy tools

Pubcasting lobbyists added information about the ongoing web streaming rate battle and links to a constituent letter generator to the system's advocacy website,

WRNI extends service to southern R.I.

Rhode Island Public Radio began broadcasts to the southern region of the state today via WAKX in Narragansett, according to The Jamestown Press. The station, recently acquired through a loan from the Rhode Island Foundation, carries the NPR News service originating from WRNI in Providence.

May 16, 2007

Local News Initiative to aid seven "hubs"

Public radio's Local News Initiative backed seven collaborations proposed through its "Hubs Initiative," an effort to bring multiple stations together for shared reporting or training projects. [Via PRPD.]

KPFK host Ian Masters profiled in LA Times

"You try to be an advocate for the truth, not an ideology," says Ian Masters, host of KPFK's Background Briefing, in a recent Los Angeles Times profile. The Times describes his weekly show as "considerably more ambitious and frequently more illuminating" than Sunday morning pundit fare broadcast by the commercial networks.

May 15, 2007

Guma to step down as Pacifica chief

In a statement describing his role as a transitory leader for Pacifica, Executive Director Greg Guma writes about his achievements after two years in the job. [Via Rolas de Aztlan.] "I have tried to raise some fundamental questions--for example, the question of whether Pacific’s current governance structure is sustainable or even wise--while simultaneously avoiding actions that would produce debilitating resistance," Guma writes.

OPB faces state funding cuts

Oregon Public Broadcasting CEO Steve Bass says $1.25 million in proposed funding cuts could hamper his network's digital transition in this editorial.

War doc flap = "politically correct overkill"

So says Broadcasting & Cable blogger John Eggerton, who weighs in on PBS's recent experience catching heat from both the left and the right and worries that the network may be setting a "poor precedent for independence" in the dispute over Ken Burns' The War: "PBS should clearly reflect the various, competing, voices of the public it serves, but it should not give undue weight or give into political pressure from either side." For a different take, see this column from Ruben Navarrette Jr., who thinks Burns was right to give in to pressure by Hispanic activists.

"One of the cultural gems of Massachusetts" (the tenant, but maybe the building, too)

WGBH President Henry Becton took the Boston Globe for a tour of the station's prominent new building last week, and the newspaper responded in an editorial on Sunday: "The complex will become a visual landmark to match the importance of WGBH as a cultural institution." Notable besides the outdoor electronic mural: a 210-seat theater with access for people with limited sight and hearing; widened sidewalks so that pedestrians can watch radio broadcasts from the windows without disrupting foot traffic; and (reportedly) attentive liaison with the community. Current looked at plans for new headquarters for WGBH and Minnesota Public Radio.

May 10, 2007

Burns agrees to "incorporate" Latino war stories

Ken Burns reached an agreement with two interest groups to integrate the "narratives and voices" of Hispanic World War II veterans into his "artistic vision" for The War. "I am confident they can be incorporated in a way consistent with the film's focus on individual experiences and in a way that means nothing in the film that already exists will be changed," Burns said in a news release issued this morning.

May 8, 2007

MPT under fire for picking up V-me

Maryland Public Television's recent announcement of its plans to begin multicasting V-me, pubTV's new Spanish-language digital channel, came under fire from Republican State Delegate Pat McDonough. During a recent talk radio appearance, McDonough accused MPT leaders of adding the service as political payback for Hispanic supporters of Maryland's new Democratic governor, Martin O'Malley. In an editorial published today, the Baltimore Sun described the complainers as "know-nothing critics."

May 7, 2007

Pubcasters remind Congress of the "firewall"

As Latino interest groups and politicians took their complaints about Ken Burns' The War to corporate sponsors last week, top execs from pubcasting's G-4 signed a joint statement on CPB's role in protecting public TV and radio from political interference in program content. "[A]ny attempt by the government or interest groups to influence content, especially before a program has aired, raises serious Constitutional, statutory and policy concerns...," wrote leaders of CPB, PBS, APTS and NPR. "[A]s we reaffirm our commitment to the mission of public broadcasting at its 40th anniversary, we urge Congress not to forsake this ideal."

May 2, 2007

Where are PBS's liberal defenders now?

PBS and its star filmmaker Ken Burns "have just been mugged by censors and pressure groups demanding changes" to The War, writes National Review Online columnist Garrett Moewe, and the silence from pubTV's "self-appointed protectors" on the left is deafening.

Showtime renews video "The American Life"

Phil Rosenthal reported in the Chicago Tribune that the Showtime cable net has ordered an additional six-episode run of the TV spinoff of PRI's This American Life. (That's all Rosenthal writes, so don't bother registering for more.) With the first run, more than a few critics, including AP's Frazier Moore, gave fans the good news that Ira Glass and company had succeeded in developing a visual version that lives up to the aural original.

May 1, 2007

PBS picks Wired Science pilot

PBS announced today that it picked Wired Science as the winner of its science pilot competition (see Current's story in advance of the announcement). The breezy 10-week series, produced by Los Angeles' KCET and Wired magazine, will debut Oct. 3.