Oct 31, 2008

Cincinnati and Dayton pubTV stations to merge

Cincinnati’s and Dayton’s public TV stations announced today that they will merge but keep their local identities and facilities. David Fogarty, head of Dayton’s ThinkTV for 15 years, will serve as president of the merged nonprofit, the Dayton Daily News reported today; Susan Howarth of Cincinnati’s CET, described in the news release as an “enthusiastic proponent” of the merger, will leave. Fogarty was a producer and executive at Twin Cities PTV, a Peace Corps worker in Colombia and an ABC News producer before coming to Dayton.

Oct 29, 2008

CPB moves to begin planning American Archive

CPB advertised Monday to hire a person or organization to scope out the proposed American Archive of pubcasting content. Proposals for management of the one-year, $3 million pilot program are due by Nov. 14. The manager, which must have experience in big-project management and digitization, will use an RFP to select a group of pilot radio and TV stations and assist the coding and digitization of their program archives. The project will also create a “substantial” sample online archive and prototype demo by the ides of March 2009; do research on costs, storage and restorage techniques and criteria for selection of materials to be archived; and develop best practices and training materials. By piloting, CPB aims to get to know the processes needed to develop a unified archive initiative. The project will evaluate and modify the PBCore metadata dictionary developed by pubcasters with CPB financial aid. The project will set up categories describing available rights for the programming. A later project will handle the next step: developing ways to provide access to the programs. In February 2007, former APTS President John Lawson revealed that public broadcasters were likely to seek federal aid for the American Archive project. WNET archive advocate Nan Rubin wrote that archiving is the first step toward the universal on-demand access that media consumers routinely expect.

Oct 28, 2008

Frontline's latest: "nothing but bad news"

"For abject gloominess, it would be hard to top “The War Briefing,” Frontline's deeply reported look at the war in Afghanistan and the insurgency targeting Pakistan," writes Tony Perry in a Los Angeles Times review. The doc "finds nothing but bad news for the U.S. and NATO effort -- not enough Western troops, weak central governments in Kabul and Islamabad, and an enemy funded by heroin profits and increasing in size and lethality. ... The major thesis is not new -- that the U.S. didn't follow through after the quick knockdown of the Taliban following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But Frontline has the facts and the on-the-ground feeling to make it stick."

Oct 27, 2008

Religion & Ethics survey: U.S. has moral obligation abroad

A survey of 1,400 adults by the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly and the United Nations Foundation about religion and America's role in the world found that "the vast majority of Americans believes the U.S. has a moral obligation to be engaged on the global stage in a variety of ways," reported Bob Abernethy on the program's Oct. 24 edition (transcript here). "At the same time, Americans are divided about equally on whether the U.S. has a positive or negative impact on the world." The survey found that 61 percent of Americans believe that God has "uniquely blessed" the U.S. 

Oct 24, 2008

Take a video tour of NPR's election studio

NPR's Andy Carvin offers a video tour of NPR's election studio.

Was ethanol industry's rebuke of "Frontline" warranted?

The ethanol industry’s overreaction to “Heat,” a Frontline doc about climate change that aired this week, says “a great deal about the nervous state” of the industry, writes a Chicago Tribune columnist. The Renewable Fuels Association, a pro-ethanol group, attacked the doc as one-sided (PDF). But “nothing in the broadcast was new to anyone who has paid attention to the ethanol debate over the last couple years,” writes David Griesing.

Future of soirees uncertain at Nevada station

Don’t count on schmoozing with a glass of wine in hand if you drop in at a Vegas PBS event. Members of the school board that holds the station’s license are unsure whether adults should be allowed to drink liquor at the station, which will share a campus with a new high school, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. One board member suggested that the station “stick to alternatives such as ‘smoothies.’” The station hopes to stage wine-and-cheese receptions.

Oct 17, 2008

'Contenders' looks at ground-breaking presidential candidates from the past

In Contenders, a five-part series concluding on today's All Things Considered, producers Joe Richman and Samara Freeman profile some of the most unconventional, and interesting, presidential candidates in American history. Tonight's installment recalls the 1972 campaign of Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman to seek the Democratic party nomination. Links to pieces that aired earlier this week, as well as other Radio Diaries documentaries for NPR, are here.

Oct 15, 2008

Nominations sought for pubradio Makers Quest

The first phase of Public Radio Makers Quest 2.0, a CPB-backed grant program for audio-centric experiments with new media, is off and running. The Association of Independents in Radio, which is managing the program, began accepting nominations for potential grantees last week and named members of the talent committee that will decide which of the nominated producers move on to the proposal-writing phase. The nomination deadline is Oct. 31.

"Did PBS Bury an Expose on Torture?"

In a posting on The Daily Beast, the new website from former New Yorker editor Tina Brown, Scott Horton wonders whether PBS's decision not to air the documentary Torturing Democracy (by Sherry Jones) is connected to the Bush Administration's propositions to slash PBS funding. More than half of pubTV stations are airing the doc independently tomorrow night because "PBS would not run the show--at least not until President Bush has left office," says Horton, who writes on legal and national security affairs for Harper's Magazine. The doc, which digs deep into the administration's torture policies, "was completed and circulated to PBS decision makers on schedule in May of this year. Their response? According to [Jones], PBS told her that 'no time slot could be found for the documentary before January 21, 2009'--the day after George W. Bush and Dick Cheney leave office. Does that reflect concert that PBS would face retaliation from the Bush Administration for airing the program?" Horton says PBS and WETA, which is not airing the program, have not responded to requests for comment.

PDs weigh in on strategies for pubradio audience growth

Thoughtcast explores ideas for reinventing public radio for a more diverse audience in this piece, reported by host Jenny Attiyeh at last month's PRPD conference.

Oct 9, 2008

Takeaway gets play in Seattle

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer interviews John Hockenberry about his new morning drive-time series The Takeaway, now airing on KXOT in Tacoma and KSER in Everett. The live, conversational approach of the PRI-distributed show "allows us to take advantage of the instantaneousness of information sources," Hockenberry says, yet it comes with its own set of challenges. "The work is remaining vigilant to how quickly things are changing in a news environment . . . .There's no such thing as a line-up in our show. We sort of understand what we're doing 20 minutes ahead."

Political message from Lake Wobegon

Prairie Home Companion's Garrison Keillor dissects the righteous reform message of the Republican presidential ticket for Salon. Here's a snippet: "In school, you couldn’t get away with that garbage because the taxpayers know that if we don’t uphold scholastic standards, we will wind up driving on badly designed bridges and go in for a tonsillectomy and come out missing our left lung, so we flunk the losers lest they gain power and hurt us, but in politics we bring forth phonies and love them to death."

Oct 8, 2008

Erstling leaving APTS for CPB

Mark Erstling, currently the acting president of APTS, has been named senior v.p. of system development and media strategy at CPB. In his new position, Erstling will "oversee all of CPB's activities related to public television and related digital media platforms except for content," according to a release. Since 2001, Erstling has served as executive v.p. and COO of APTS, where he manages deployment of the Digital Emergency Alert System for the Department of Homeland Security and heads up development of the American Archive for public broadcasting. He has also led APTS efforts to educate consumers about the digital transition. Erstling has been acting president since John Lawson stepped down in March. Previously he was g.m. of WPSU TV and radio at Penn State University and a producer/director at WJCT in Jacksonville, Fla.

Vowell explains the ideals of Puritanism

"She sounded unlike anyone else on the radio . . . which is what you want," says This American Life's Ira Glass in this Washington Post profile of Sarah Vowell. The TAL contributor and author appeared on the Daily Show last night and will be in D.C. tomorrow to promote her latest book, The Wordy Shipmates, in which she explores and explains America's Puritan heritage. The unruly English colonists of the the Massachusetts Bay Colony, whose writings and quarrels are the focus of her book, are "my ideal of America," she says in the Post.

Lutman to helm St. Paul Chamber Orchestra

Sarah Lutman is leaving Minnesota Public Radio to become president of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Lutman, who currently serves on SPCO's board, has been senior v.p. of content for MPR and American Public Media since 2004.

Oct 6, 2008

Vocalo gets MacArthur grant

The Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago Public Radio will get a $1 million grant over three years from the MacArthur Foundation in support of :Vocalo, its radio-web hybrid angling for a more ethnically diverse audience. (Earlier article in Current about :Vocalo.)

Oct 3, 2008

Three new CPB Board members, one gets a new term; Halpern doesn't

Democratic senators may have ended, perhaps temporarily, Republican member Cheryl Halpern's stint on the CPB Board. The Senate yesterday confirmed the three new White House nominees to the board and one reappointment, retired Sen. David Pryor (D-Ark.). They were confirmed unanimously by the Senate Commerce Committee, and Senate leaders put them in a large package of generally noncontroversial unanimous-consent items put forth for quick passage yesterday as Congress moves toward adjournment, says a committee source. But Halpern, successor of ex-Chair Ken Tomlinson, got two nay votes along with 18 thumbs up--from committee Chair Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) and a senior member, Byron Dorgan (N.D.)--and was left out of the package. Appointed for three years are Elko, Nev., radio journalist Loretta Cheryl Sutliff (Lori Gilbert on the air) and Elizabeth Sembler, APTS Board member associated with WEDU in Tampa. Named for five years were Pryor and Bruce M. Ramer, Hollywood entertainment attorney and longtime KCET Board member. More on the board newcomers here.

Bresnahan will head to Seattle

KCTS-TV in Seattle has hired Maurice “Moss” Bresnahan as its president, according to South Carolina’s Bresnahan has served as president of South Carolina’s ETV for seven years. At KCTS, he will replace Bill Mohler, who has led the station since 2003.

VP debate draws bigger audience than Obama/McCain for PBS

Nearly a million more viewers tuned in for PBS’s broadcast of the vice-presidential debate last night than watched the first presidential debate last week, reports Broadcasting & Cable. According to Nielsen, 3.5 million viewers on average tuned in for the debate and the coverage that followed.

Outrage over arrests of journalists muted by 'Goodman effect'

The media's "subdued response" to the arrests of working journalists during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul sends the message that "we don't care all that much when our watchdog role is threatened," writes Adam Reilly in the Boston Phoenix. Scant coverage by mainstream news media was partly due to the "Goodman effect," he writes, referring to the arrest and detention of Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. The video of Goodman's arrest quickly made her "a cause célèbre on the left," and may have deterred by major news organizations from pursuing the story, he reports. Reilly's story, which includes a video of his interview with Goodman and her producer Nicole Salazar, is here. Listeners to On the Media are chewing over this lingering non-controversy too.

Kidvid host gets another school board term

Robert Heck was reappointed to a three-year term on Baltimore’s school board, the city’s Sun newspaper reports. Heck hosts Bob the Vid Tech, a children’s show on Maryland Public Television.

Two views of Ifill as moderator

At the Huffington Post, Judy Muller writes that moderator Gwen Ifill ought to have taken Sarah Palin to task during last night’s debate by pushing her to answer questions more directly. “… [F]or whatever reason, the debate got away from her and Palin got away with passing off folksy platitudes as substitutes for substance,” Muller writes. Meanwhile, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler uses his column to address the controversy surrounding Ifill and her upcoming book about race and politics, which prompted some criticism that the moderator favors Barack Obama. Ifill and the Commission on Presidential Debates should have publicly discussed the book earlier, “in plenty of time to be discussed and explained, to have potential public perceptions considered, and to be checked with the candidates,” Getler writes.

Oct 2, 2008

Music festival credited for saving 'Austin City Limits'

“We started as more or less an extension of the television show, with a lot of the same philosophies in place,” says Charlie Jones, a producer of the Austin City Limits Music Festival that concluded its seventh annual run last weekend. A New York Times review declaring that ACL deserves recognition as a "first-tier rock fest, with a regional twist" includes this observation from Terry Lickona, booker and producer of the PBS series produced locally by KLRU-TV for three decades: “At the time the festival started, it not only rejuvenated the TV show but very well may have saved it,” Lickona says. “We were at a crossroads, struggling with funding, and we needed to shake things up. The success of the festival opened the doors to a new generation.”

Oct 1, 2008

Developer selected, four-year timetable set for NPR relocation

NPR says today Boston Properties won a competitive bidding to develop its new headquarters near Washington's Union Station -- and to buy its present triangular, outgrown building. The company not only has D.C. development expertise but also streamlines the relocation by handling both transactions, says Interim CEO Dennis Haarsager. The network will stay put on Massachusetts Avenue until the new HQ is ready, late in 2012. Earlier this year, NPR bought a bigger, historic-landmarked but plain concrete warehouse on North Capitol Street (slideshow) with plans to replace part with a taller structure and keep enough of the remainder to satisfy the city's historic preservation rulings. Boston Properties has its own media connections: It's chaired by Mortimer Zuckerman, realty and publishing mogul (New York Daily News, U.S. News & World Report).

Update: Boston Properties purchased NPR's present HQ for $119.5 million, reported, citing CoStar Group Inc., a real estate data service. For the much larger new site, NPR paid $44 million for land with warehouse and will pay $100 million to $120 million for construction, Bloomberg said, citing NPR.

Something to gain by playing favorites? Really?

Washington Week host Gwen Ifill rejects the accusations of blogger Michelle Malkin and other right-wingers that she is "in the tank," as Malkin wrote, for Barack Obama and therefore unfit as moderator of Thursday's Palin-Biden debate. "They can watch the debate tomorrow night and make their own decisions about whether or not I've done my job," Ifill told the AP.
Ifill's book The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama is coming out on Inauguration Day, and Malkin says "Ifill and her publisher are banking on an Obama/Biden win to buoy her book sales." (In a publicity video, Ifill says her book profiles the new generation of rising black politicians including Obama, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and U.S. Rep. Artur Davis (D-Ala.). Kansas City Star columnist Barb Shelley dismisses the notion that tomorrow's moderator would give an edge to one side: "Ifill is one of the smartest, most respected journalists on the scene. She would no more taint her professional reputation by slanting a debate than dance on a tabletop during the NewsHour." Back to the main debate ... Ifill told USN&WR that the debate format gives each candidate 90 seconds to answer a question from her and then two minutes for followup and exchanges.

Arbitron proceeding with PPM roll-out despite opposition on various fronts

Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama joined his Senate colleagues in asking Arbitron to delay roll-out of its new electronic ratings measurement system, the Chicago Tribune and Radio Ink report. But, judging by a statement issued yesterday by Arbitron Chairman Steve Morris, the ratings company is proceeding as scheduled with the introduction of Portable People Meters into eight new markets on Oct. 8. Arbitron is also pushing back against a proposed FCC investigation [PDF] of the PPM's impact on broadcast diversity. A second round of comments are due at the FCC next week, according to MediaWeek.