Feb 11, 2008

Lawson moves on, joining Ion Media Networks

Public TV’s top lobbyist for seven years, John Lawson, moves to a maverick commercial TV network March 14 as executive v.p., policy and strategic initiatives of Ion Media Networks, he announced today. Station reps at an Association of Public Television Stations meeting gave a standing ovation to Lawson, who had led their defense against budget cuts, negotiations for DTV carriage on cable and DBS, and creation of a new federal emergency alert net using DTV. Ion, formerly known as Paxson Communications and part-owned by NBC Universal, has more commercial TV stations than any U.S. broadcaster. Lawson, who helped develop the Open Mobile Video Coalition, will play a leading role in a new video service for mobile devices that Ion plans to put on its DTV signals next winter. Besides its main channel, built on familiar network reruns, Ion operates two DTV multicast channels, Ion Life, a health/wellness channel, and the qubo literacy service for kids. Lawson became APTS president in March 2001.

Garcia heads CPB TV programming

CPB filled its top TV programming vacancy today, hiring Ted Garcia, g.m. of KNME-TV in Albuquerque, N.M., as senior v.p. for television content, the corporation announced today. Garcia is also a member of the PBS Board and chairs its Interconnection Committee and the PBS Enterprises Board of Directors. He succeeds Greg Diefenbach, who leaves the job this month. Garcia joined the Albuquerque pubTV station in 2001, after 20 years at pubTV’s KETC in St. Louis, where he rose from director of operations to senior v.p. He also worked in NFL football coverage and for CBS’s St. Louis station, KMOX.

Many DTV receivers predicted to fall off the "cliff"

Centris, a market research firm in Los Angeles, warns that 5.9 million over-the-air digital TV receivers will lose access to at least one of the major TV networks when analog TV transmission goes away one year from today, the New York Times reported. Many will fall prey to the "cliff effect" of digital signals, which simply disappear from the screen instead of degrading with ghosts, static and snow as analog signals do. Centris said signals in Las Vegas, Philadelphia and St. Louis would peter out 35 miles from the transmitter, not at 60-70 miles as analog signals do. It's worst in St. Louis, where topography helps block signals for 10 percent of receivers. It's not as bad in Vegas, where 2.5 percent falter. Though most over-the-air receivers now rely on rabbit-ears antennas, those won't always do the job. Centris regularly surveys household phone, cable and other subscriptions, DVD usage and other competition, for every census area.

One bad call on Super Tuesday

PBS's NewsHour and NPR were among the news organizations that mistakenly named Sen. Hillary Clinton the winner in the Missouri Democratic primary on Super Tuesday. For their live election coverage, both organizations relied on the erroneous Associated Press projection that Sen. Clinton had won the race, explained pubcasting ombudsmen Michael Getler of PBS and Alicia Shepard of NPR in their most recent columns. "Obviously, we wish we hadn’t been among those using the incorrect call, but we have no independent resources for checking the numbers,” NewsHour Executive Producer Linda Winslow tells readers of Getler's column. "We talked about it on the air, saying we and other news orgs had called the state when it appeared Clinton had won with 96 percent of the vote counted," wrote NPR's Ron Elving, one of two political editors to sign off on the decision to call Missouri for Clinton, in an email to Shepard. She concludes that the goof had no effect on the outcome of Super Tuesday's primaries, but a "concerned listener" who responded to Shepard's column says it undermined NPR's credibility.