Oct 31, 2009

Fairbanks PBS switches from UHF to VHF

Reception problems with PBS affiliate KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska, prompted it to move from UHF Ch. 24 to VHF Ch. 9, at a cost of $1.1 million and six days off the air, according to Broadcasting & Cable. It switched in late September by undergoing rechannelization. The new Harris VHF transmitter and ERI transmission line and antenna had to be installed in a "tightly coordinated process," B&C reported, due to Alaska's brief period of mild weather. Climate is always a challenge in the state; currently, a message on the dual licensee's website explains to FM radio listeners that all that static is due to the transmitter operating at reduced power because of antenna icing. "Unfortunately, nothing can be done but wait for the weather to get colder which will cause the snow/ice to fall off of the antenna," it says.

Mister Rogers and the birth of zombies

In case you missed it, zombie originator George Romero (the creatures were his creation in Night of the Living Dead) was a guest on the Halloween edition of NPR fave Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! He shared this interesting factoid: Romero got his start working with Fred Rogers on the Mister Rogers episode, "Let's Talk About Going to the Hospital," in which a little girl gets a tonsillectomy.

How Clifford was born

The books that inspired Clifford the Big Red Dog on PBS, now in its ninth season, were born of desperation in 1963, according to an interview with 81-year-old author Norman Bridwell in the Seattle Times. A woman whose job it was to read unsolicited manuscripts--known as the "slush pile"--at Harper & Row, knew that publisher would not be interested in it. But she "put it in her purse without telling anyone" and took it to Scholastic, Bridwell recalled. "I was just trying to find work," he said. "I'd been out of work and had a brand new baby daughter who wasn't sleeping through the night and my mother was visiting from Indiana. It was a very tense time.... I'm so lucky. If that woman hadn't come in that day (to look at the slush pile), things would have been very different." Today there are more than 126 million "Clifford" books in print in 13 languages.

Sid's flu shot brings letters to PBS ombudsman

An episode of Sid the Science Kid explaining flu shots prompted letters to the PBS ombudsman this week. Michael Getler shares them and his take on the matter in his new Mailbag column.

Oct 30, 2009

Nothing scarier than nonmembers

KCET head programmer Bohdan Zachary shares his colleagues' Halloween decoration of this very, very lapsed station member in his latest blog entry. Spooky indeed. Zachary also reminisces about the creepiest soap opera ever, Dark Shadows, and his attempt to contact a dead grade-school classmate using a seance inspired by the gothic show. Spoiler alert: It didn't work.

Explorer concept inspires UNC-TV channel

UNC-TV used PBS's Explorer branding identity (Current, June 23, 2009) to create its own new Explorer Channel, offering travel, culture, science, nature, history and outdoor programming. In announcing the channel, the station said it's in response "to a demonstrated need for diverse public television programming for adults, including daytime programming." PBS execs continue to draw attention to the Explorer concept. At this month's Round Robin in Baltimore, PBS programming head John Wilson spoke of ongoing focus the branding, as well as using it to draw in desired audiences such as the 40- to 64-year-old "femographic."

KCTS renovations will be green

KCTS 9 in Seattle just received a $100,000 award from the Kresge Foundation's Green Building Initiative to renovate its 23-year-old facility to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) specifications. The station was one of seven organizations chosen from among 114 nationwide. The Kresge Foundation's headquarters in Troy, Mich., is a Platinum LEED building, the highest rating of the standard (plus, it looks pretty cool).

Oct 29, 2009

You don't need a credit card for StoryCorps' Day of Listening

StoryCorps is gearing up for its second annual National Day of Listening, to be celebrated Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving. The event, an extension of the StoryCorps oral history project that has now collected personal interviews of more than 50,000 individuals, invites public radio listeners to record a meaningful conversation with a loved one and preserve it as a piece of family history. "The National Day of Listening, which coincides with Black Friday--traditionally the largest shopping day of the year--proves that simply listening to one another is the least expensive and most meaningful gift we can give," said Dave Isay, StoryCorps founder and president. To help promote this year's event, NPR personalities Dan Schorr, Juan Williams and Will Shortz will record interviews and discuss the experience on-air, and Talk of the Nation will devote its Thanksgiving Day broadcast to the Day of Listening. Local stations also are helping to spread the word. Austin's KUT will open its studios to local families during off-hours on Thanksgiving week and Atlanta's WABE will host a special event for local Girl Scouts. (Those who conduct interviews will earn badges!) StoryCorps has produced a package of promotional materials for stations, posted here.

CPB hires Sanchez for education post

Debra Tica Sanchez is moving from the Association of Public Television Stations to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, according to CPB. As of December, Sanchez will be senior vice president for education services. At APTS, Sanchez had served as v.p. of government relations. Also, CPB's Susan Zelman will be s.v.p., chief advisor and system consultant for education policy; previously she had been s.v.p. of education and children's content.

Seattle PBS, NPR stations partner with newspaper for debates

PBS affiliate KCTS in Seattle has been busy this month, hosting two live debates between candidates for county executive and mayor. Station spokesperson Daphne Adair told Current this was the first time a wireless network was set up in the studio specifically to allow other local media to blog live from the set. NPR stations KPLU and KUOW along with the Seattle Times were partners in coverage. (Photo: In the KCTS control room during a debate, courtesy of the station.)

FCC taps Waldman to recommend policies promoting "vibrant media"

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced an agency-wide initiative examining how the commission should revise its policies to ensure a "vibrant media landscape." Steven Waldman, a veteran print journalist who founded, will lead the study as a senior advisor to the chairman. Genachowski unveiled the initiative as a response to media reform recommendations developed by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. "A strong consensus has developed that we're at a pivotal moment in the history of the media and communications, because of game-changing new technologies as well as the economic downturn," Genachowski said in a news release. The initiative will balance the policy changes required to meet the information needs of communities with First Amendment protections for the press, he said. Beliefnet, the largest Interfaith website covering religion and providing inspiration, is owned by News Corporation. Waldman has resigned from the company and discontinued both his blog and regular online column for the Wall Street Journal.

"Superharp" blows the blues at WGBH

Blues great James Cotton stopped in to the WGBH studios Wednesday for an interview with Greater Boston's Jared Bowen, and showed off his legendary harmonica talents. Also in the Fraser Performance Center for the show was Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News. Bowen's interview and Cotton's WGBH performance will air tonight. Also tonight, the bluesman is being honored in a "Live Tribute to James Cotton" at Boston's House of Blues. (Photo: WGBH)

Oct 28, 2009

NABJ to Schiller: "Actions speak much louder than words"

The National Association of Black Journalists questions NPR commitment to diversity in this letter to Vivian Schiller, network president. The Oct. 16 firing of Greg Peppers, executive producer of newscasts, is the second dismissal of a producer of color in NPR management ranks this year. "Of the 68 members on your corporate team and behind the scenes staff, only eight are people of color," NABJ's top leaders write. "You told the National Press Club that NPR doesn't need programming for communities of color but diversity needs 'to be represented in the fabric of everything that we do.' It is NABJ's belief that actions speak much louder than your words. It is not enough to provide internships for young people or hire them into entry-level positions. Diversity must also be reflected among the managers who decide what news gets covered and who gets to cover it." Peppers, who was one of two black men in newsroom management according to NABJ, was fired and escorted out of NPR headquarters on Oct. 16, one day after NPR hosted a book signing for NABJ. Walt Swanson, an African-American journalist who was director of diversity management at NPR for six years, resigned three days later for health reasons. Richard Prince of the Maynard Institute, who reported on the departures on his blog Journalisms, has more on NPR's track record with diversity.

NPR objects when its news report is excerpted in Maine political ad

Is it fair use for opponents of Maine's same-sex marriage law to excerpt an NPR news story in a political ad? NPR said "No!" and demanded that the political action committee Stand for Marriage pull the ad from television and the Internet. But lawyers for the group rejected NPR's request. The PAC's use of the "very short audio segment" is noncommercial and is protected by the First Amendment and U.S. Copyright law, attorneys wrote in an Oct. 20 letter to NPR's deputy general counsel. Last week, NPR objected publicly. "It is critical for us to protect our credibility and the trust the audience has in us," says Dana Davis Rehm, NPR senior v.p., in this TV news report. "This ad really distorts that." With the vote on Maine's same-sex marriage referendum coming up Nov. 3, there is not really much else that NPR can do, according to this report by Maine Public Broadcasting. YouTube pulled the TV spot from its website at NPR's request, but a blogger from Michigan has reposted it. "Since NPR is taxpayer financed, that is OUR content!" he writes. You can listen to the news report in question, "Massachusetts Schools Weigh Gay Topics," here. Reported by Tovia Smith and presented on All Things Considered in September 2004, the story examined how public schools would treat gay topics after passage of the Massachusetts law legalizing gay marriage.

Storyplay connects children and far-away family for literacy play

A new research report says combining a traditional book with video conference technology and video segments bolsters "family literacy over distances," according to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. The study, funded by the Cooney Center and Nokia Research Center, looked at grandparents, parents and their children using the Storyplay concept system together. The interface enables children to initiate calls using icons on a touch screen. Then Elmo listens in, offering comments and questions when the screen is touched. The full report (PDF) is available here.

Webinar to introduce economics coverage tools for stations

Learn how to use audio and video tools, blogs, widgets, maps and apps to improve your station's economic coverage in today's Webinar from the National Center for Media Engagement and Public Radio International. It's a peer-to-peer workshop at 2 p.m. (Eastern) today to introduce the Knowledge Network, a CPB-funded site to assist stations with their coverage of the economy. Sign up here for the Webinar.

NTIA delays announcement of winning broadband stimulus bids

Larry Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, told a congressional subcommittee that the announcement of winning bids for the broadband stimulus program will be delayed by about a month, according to Broadcasting & Cable. "We're going to take a few more weeks here to get this right," he told members of the Senate Commerce Committee's Communications Subcommittee on Tuesday. Many pubcasters have applied for money from the broadband stimulus program (Current, Sept. 21, 2009).

Smiley name is on one school, off another

Pubradio talker Tavis Smiley's name is being dropped from one institution, but added to another. The Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs will name its new atrium after Smiley, an alum, according to the Indiana Daily Student. He recently donated $50,000 for a scholarship fund for students in that school, in Bloomington. However, Texas Southern University will strip Smiley's name from its communication school, reports the Houston Chronicle. Smiley had promised in 2004 to donate $1 million and to raise another $1 million, so the university subsequently created the Tavis Smiley School of Communication. But Smiley made one $50,000 donation in mid-2005, and brought in $250,000 from three corporate donors. Talks recently broke down after more than a year, and now the naming deal is off.

Giddyup to sign up to win a new saddle

A free saddle each month for the next year is coming from Saddle Up with Dennis Brouse. That's the pubTV series that "celebrates the storied relationship between horse and human," as it says. Your horse need a new saddle? Sign up for Brouse's email newsletter to qualify to win a custom saddle from Bronco Billy’s.

Central Michigan University bids for WFUM TV in Flint

WFUM TV in Flint, Mich., may get a new owner: Central Michigan University, according to Central Michigan Life, the university newspaper. The school's Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved a $1 million bid for the station. It's currently owned by University of Michigan and broadcasts from Bay City to metro Detroit. CMU Public Broadcasting will draft a purchase agreement and interim management agreement to take over the station as soon as possible. The station has lost money since 2005 (Current, April 27, 2009).

Oct 27, 2009

Combative letter heading to auction, thanks to "Roadshow"

A great-grandmother in Rockford, Ill., received a surprising appraisal from Antiques Roadshow and has decided to auction off her treasure: A antagonistic letter from crooner Frank Sinatra to rabble-rousing Chicago columnist Mike Royko, according to the Chicago Tribune. In the letter, Sinatra said the columnist was a "pimp," and suggested the two have a hair-pulling duel (Sinatra was upset at a Royko column that accused Ol' Blue Eyes of wearing a hairpiece). Vie Carlson purchased the letter back in 1976 for $400. At a Roadshow taping on July 11, appraiser Simeon Lipman told Carlson she might be able to get $15,000 or more for the letter, so she's selling it next spring through Freeman's Auctioneers in Philadelphia. The episode will air this coming February.

Former Microsoft sales exec to lead National Public Media

Stephen Moss, an online marketing executive with a background in print media, is the new president and c.e.o. of National Public Media, the New York-based corporate sponsorship firm representing public radio and television. He succeeds Bob Williams, who founded NPM's predecessor company National Public Broadcasting in 1997 and served as c.e.o. after its 2007 acquisition by NPR and Boston's WGBH. Moss joins NPM from Evri, a web technology company where he served as v.p. of business development. Previously, he was v.p. of sales for Microsoft, Inc., where he launched the MSN video service and led its rollout to major advertisers. "Steve is a collaborative and proven leader with superb talents in a highly desired space--at the intersection of media and technology--a critical ingredient to our long-term success," said NPR President Vivian Schiller. PBS bought a 10 percent stake in NPM early this year.

Sesame Workshop explores digital learning

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, along with several partners, is sponsoring a Breakthrough Learning in a Digital Age forum today and Wednesday to develop ideas for using digital media in education. Participants will develop a plan to use new technologies to "revitalize a school system that has fallen behind," according to the center. If you'd like to listen in on the Web, you may register online.

Oct 26, 2009

WGBH's Access Group signs captioning, narrative deals

The Media Access Group at WGBH will be creating special captioning and narrative material for several movies from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and Sony Pictures, according to the Boston Globe. The Media Access Group provides not only closed captioning but also Descriptive Video Services, or DVS, which provides descriptive audio narration of what is happening in a film.

Oct 23, 2009

The world's least hospitable hotelier returns

Fawlty Towers -- the 1970s BBC show that still runs on 24 pubTV stations nationwide -- is now available in a DVD box set, reports Scripps Howard News Service. The three-disc "Fawlty Towers Remastered" includes all 12 episodes plus commentaries by star and Monty Python alum John Cleese. Of course this is not to be confused with Fawlty Towers Revisited, offered as a pledge special to SIP (Station Independence Program) stations back in December 2005.

Sesame Street aiming for Gaza

Sesame Street wants to introduce Big Bird and his friends to the Gaza Strip, according to Agence France Presse. The area is ruled by Hamas, one of two Palestinian factions. "We know that it's an extremely volatile area, but we also feel that it's really important that we take these step forward to promote self esteem for Palestinians," said Gary Knell, president of the Sesame Workshop. A Palestinian version of the series titled Sharaa Simsim is already shown in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Oct 22, 2009

Two Frontline shows prompt comments to PBS ombudsman

The latest column from Michael Getler, PBS ombudsman, focuses on two Frontline programs: "Obama's War," which continues to draw mail after its Oct. 13 premiere, and its more recent offering, "The Warning," about "the smart, courageous but unheeded former chief of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Brooksley Born," and her attempts in the 1990s to draw attention to the potential for financial collapse.

Moline's WQPT trades up to a bigger university licensee

Rather than going independent, the Quad Cities’ fiscally distressed pubTV station, WQPT, will move its license to a different higher-ed institution. Now it’s expected to be licensed to four-year Western Illinois University, which recently won state capital funding to start building a larger campus in Moline, on the Mississippi almost 100 miles north of WIU’s home campus in Macomb. More on

Reality comes to FCC

It's safe to say this isn't your typical FCC official: Yul Kwon, winner of the reality show Survivor: Cook Islands in 2006, was appointed Wednesday as deputy chief of the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, reports The Washington Post's Reliable Source column. The Yale law grad's wedding was covered by the TV Guide Channel, and he co-hosted Discovery Channel's "Shark Week."

News cooperative for Chicago

A hybrid news organization committed to public service journalism will begin producing coverage of the Chicago region next month. The Chicago News Cooperative, announced today by veteran newspaper editor James O'Shea, sealed a deal to produce coverage for Chicago editions of the New York Times twice a week. WTTW, a public TV station with a longstanding tradition of producing local news coverage, is a founding partner in the cooperative and will provide a home to the nonprofit during start-up. WBEZ, Chicago's dominant public radio station, may also join the partnership. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is providing major funding to CNC during start-up; business plans call for the cooperative to solicit donations from individuals and other foundations, and to earn revenues through its partnership with the Times and other potential outlets [via Romensko].

UPDATE: In a memo announcing the CNC partnership to staff, WTTW President Dan Schmidt said the station is acting as a fiscal agent for the cooperative and will not tap any of its own revenues to support it. The CNC website Chicago Scoop, which is expected to go live early next year, will post content that is "highly Chicago and Illinois-focused," Schmidt wrote. CNC staff writers and columnists will appear on WTTW broadcasts and their stories may also appear on

Oct 21, 2009

"Santa Fe" is not so hard to rhyme, but how about "KSFR?"

An editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican this week salutes community radio station KSFR-FM "for the stroke of inspiration that brings some added class" to the city’s 400th anniversary celebration. News Director Bill Dupuy and reporter Dan Gerrity wrote new words for a monumental old tune, and 28 members of the New Mexico Men’s Camerata recorded it under the baton of Kenneth Knight. Listen online and you can follow these lyrics, ending with a crescendo and sonorous plug for one particular set of call letters:

"The sounds of the city in old Santa Fe
stir echoes of history with each passing day.
Through conflict and turmoil, these 400 years,
our cultures have blended amid joy and tears.
They banded together and here they did stay,
to live as one people in old Santa Fe.
To relive our history, you need not go far.
The town finds voice on K-S-F-R!"

The station has aired it a few times.

Arizona pubTV hosts two Supreme Court justices for live broadcast

Arizona Public Media is offering viewers a rare event: A chance to witness two sitting Supreme Court justices talking about the Constitution. The one-hour discussion, "Principles of Constitutional and Statutory Interpretation," between Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Stephen Breyer, will air live Monday (2:30 Eastern) on PBS World and also stream on the On Demand page at the Arizona Public Media website. Moderating will be NBC News Correspondent Pete Williams, from the Tucson Convention Center.

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Australia?

Big Bird and his Sesame Street buddies are taking to the skies on Australia's largest airline, Qantas. From Dec. 1, 2009, through Nov. 30, 2010, six Sesame Street videos will be offered free to transpacific passengers.

ITVS picks six films from 482 in this year's International Call

Choosing from 482 submissions from 82 countries, the Independent Television Service (ITVS) has selected six doc projects for funding, according to Screen Daily. The winners: 74 Square Meters (Chile) by Tiziana Panizza and Paola Castillo Iselsa; The Last White Man Standing (Kenya) by Justin Webster; The Team (Kenya) by Patrick Reed Kenyans; Teacher (Vietnam) by Leslie Wiener; This Is My Picture When I Was Dead (Jordan) by Mahmoud Al Massad; and The Rodriguez Project (South Africa) by Malik Bendjelloul.

V-me gets new stakeholder

PRISA (Promotora de Informaciones), a 22-country Spanish language multimedia corporation, has purchased a 12 percent stake in V-me, reports Billboard magazine. That percentage should increase to a majority position in the next year. "PRISA is a perfect partner for V-me," president and CEO Carmen M. DiRienzo said in a statement. The nearly three-year-old V-me (Current, Feb. 12, 2007) is a partnership with pubTV, reaching almost 80 percent of Hispanic households in the United States.

Oct 20, 2009

PMI awards more economic project funds

The Public Media Innovation Fund today announced Round Four funding. Total grants of $205,000 for economic and financial literacy projects went to KQED in San Francisco; WPSU in University Park, Penn.; Maryland Public Television; KNBA in Anchorage; Wisconsin Education Communications Board; KUEN in Salt Lake City; and North Country Public Radio in Canton, N.Y. Details on their project here.

Kennedy Center head hits PBS for lack of arts coverage

Where is the arts programming on PBS? So asks Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, on Huffington Post. He laments that arts programs are costly, and "come only from stations that can afford to create this programming, meaning those with strong fundraising operations. And far too few of the local stations do have strong fundraising operations." He favors a fundamental change for PBS: "Why can't the parent organization determine the best in American arts and fund its broadcast across the nation? And, he adds, CPB has the clout to make that happen. A PBS arts initiative was mentioned at Showcase in May (Current, May 29, 2009), which would create a weekly arts night of shows.

New WiFi radio tailored for pubradio listeners

NPR unveiled the first-ever Internet radio to offer an exclusive menu of NPR stations and programs. The "NPR Radio," modeled on an earlier WiFi radio by Livio that optimizes Pandora's music streaming service, allows NPR fans to switch between over-the-air broadcasts of local stations, online streams of more than 1,000 NPR outlets across the country, and on-demand content from More than 16,000 Internet radio stations not affiliated with NPR also are accessible on the device, offered for $199 from the NPR Shop and Livio Radio. Gadget reviews by Wired and CNET poke fun at the radio's accessibility features for the technology averse. "[I]t should pass the 'granny test' in ease of use, and it looks like a friendly radio and not a scary, virus-catching computer," Wired's reviewer writes.

Oct 19, 2009

Study backing subsidies for local journalism calls for sweeping pubcasting reform

Another report on the future of American journalism takes aim at public broadcasting for failing to develop the local news gathering capacity that would enable it to deliver on its mission to inform the public.

The study, distilled over the weekend by David Carr of the New York Times, Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post, and Poynter's Rick Edmonds, recommends a new mechanism for supporting local journalism and calls for an overhaul in how resources are allocated within public broadcasting. Leonard Downie, former executive editor of the Washington Post, and co-author Michael Schudson of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism collaborated on "The Reconstruction of Local Journalism," commissioned by the j-school.

After surveying the field for news chops and innovative thinking, Downie and Schudson conclude that too much of the money spent on public broadcasting is directed to maintaining local television and radio stations and not enough to independent news reporting. "Overall..., local news coverage remains underfunded, understaffed and a low priority at most public radio and television stations, whose leaders have been unable to make or uninterested in making the case for investment in local news to donors and Congress," they write.

They find exceptions at big pubcasters operating multiple outlets--San Francisco's KQED-TV/FM and Minnesota Public Radio and its California cousin KPCC in Pasadena--and with NPR's new Argo Project. But they also point to the "often dysfunctional, entrenched culture" of public TV and the recommendations of Tom Bettag, longtime producer of Nightline with Ted Koppel, whose study on creation of a Web-based public news site for public TV and radio has yet to be released by PBS.

Pubcasting's failure has as much to do with inadequate federal funding as it does with the allocation of the money that is available from the government and private donors, the co-authors say. They call for several reforms at CPB, including requirements of local news reporting by every publicly funded station. The corporation should also "increase and speed up its direct funding" for experiments in local news coverage for broadcast and Web distribution and "aggressively encourage and reward collaborations by public stations" with other nonprofits and universities.

Downie and Schudson recommend creation of a Fund for Local News, backed with FCC-collected fees on telecom users, broadcast licenses and Internet Service Providers. The fund would be modelled on those managed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation, and award grants on a competitive basis in each state.

Columbia's study, which has been adapted for the new edition of the Columbia Journalism Review, is the second this month to conclude that public broadcasting is way behind the curve in adapting to the news and information needs of local communities in the digital era. In a report issued Oct. 2, a blue ribbon panel convened by the Aspen Institute and the Knight Foundation said pubcasting must "move quickly toward a broader vision of public service media," one that is "more local, more inclusive and more interactive."

Oct 16, 2009

Low-power FM bill headed to House floor

The House Energy Commerce Committee yesterday unanimously approved the Local Community Radio Act of 2009, a bill revising channel spacing requirements in the licensing of new low-power FM stations. H.R. 1147, expected to be taken up quickly by the full House, eliminates third adjacent channel protections for full-power broadcasters with one exception: LPFMs cannot be licensed within three channel spaces of noncommercial full-power FM stations that operate radio reading services, nor can they be adjacent to their FM translators and boosters. Other provisions in the legislation lay out new procedures for dealing with interference complaints and order the FCC to address concerns about potential interference between LPFMs and FM translators of full-power broadcasters.

PMD set to launch redesigned pubmedia site

Public Media Digest has announced a redesign of the now privately owned website. Keith York of KPBS in San Diego and Garry Denny of Wisconsin Public Television took over the public media news site after CPB and the Public Television Programmers Association dropped support, Denny told Current. The new site will feature improved video capacity along with Flash and multimedia advertising; future plans include live chat and video conferencing. Four contributors write or report PMD's blogs, news coverage and Twitter. PoGo Promotions heads up sales and sponsorship. The site currently claims 1,250 registered users and an average of 350 unique user visits daily.

SHVERA pubcasting amendment passes House committee

The Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act was okayed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday, Broadcasting & Cable reports. It includes an amendment by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) that DISH Network carry public TV stations in HD; DISH has carried some local HD programming but is legally required to carry pubcasting in HD in Alaska and Hawaii only. The Association of Public Television Stations issued a statement thanking the committee and Eshoo for "ending this discriminatory behavior." APTS had secured voluntary agreements with every major multichannel video programming distributor except DISH. Negotiations between DISH and APTS had been ongoing for three years. The amendment requires DISH to carry pubTV HD signals in all markets offered within two years of enactment of SHVERA, and pick up additional stations as they begin to broadcast in HD.

Oct 15, 2009

CPB Inspector General's office issues report on KMBH violations

The CPB Inspector General's office has issued findings from its audit of KMBH (PDF) in Harlingen, Texas, that looked into the station's compliance with grant rules and examined its financial documents related to CPB (Current, March 16, 2009). KMBH is linking to the report on its home page. The 30-page investigation of RGV Educational Broadcasting Inc., controlled by the Brownsville Catholic archdiocese, was for fiscal years 2007 and '08. The report found that KMBH didn't fully comply with requirements to: establish a community advisory board, maintain certain documents for public inspection, describe and document station policy for complying with donor list and political activities rules, establish separate accounting records for CPB grants, and exclude from nonfederal financial support reports transactions that do not qualify as contributions. In his response included in the report, Msgr. Pedro Briseño, station president and g.m., generally disputed the findings but agreed to undertake most of the recommendations. KMBH has been weathering controversies for several years. It has had financial difficulties, including a pledge drive with only six callers (Current, April 21, 2008), and raised eyebrows in November 2007 when three board members were dismissed without explanation. An independent group, Voices from the Valley, is attempting to launch another pubradio station in the Rio Grande Valley.

PBS rejects last minute appeal to re-edit "Obama's War"

The Marine Corps leaned on PBS to remove explicit imagery from Obama's War, the Oct. 13 Frontline documentary that took viewers into Afghanistan's Helmand province with rank and file Marines. Opening minutes of the film include a firefight in which Marine Lance Cpl. Charles S. Sharp was fatally wounded. Frontline had followed rules of embedded reporting in filming and presenting the footage, Marine Corps Col. B.F. Salas acknowledged in a letter to PBS President Paula Kerger, but he appealed to her on the basis of “journalistic good taste,” according to this column by PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler.

“An accomplished storyteller can inform us without resorting to graphic imagery or what might be termed 'combat pornography,'” Col. Salas, Marine Corps director of public affairs, wrote.

The letter arrived hours before "Obama's War" debuted on Frontline. Kerger respectfully declined Salas’s request on Oct. 14.

“I’m with PBS on this,” Getler wrote, weighing in on the exchange. “I think Salas’s use of the phrase ‘combat pornography’ is not helpful or appropriate.”

During an Oct. 13 appearance on public radio's the Takeaway, Cpl. Sharp’s father said he supported the filmmakers’ decision to include footage of his son’s final moments. “It’s not anti-war to me. It’s showing the job these men and women are having to do every day,” Ric Sharp told the Takeaway's Celeste Headlee. “It’s not a game. This is real life.”

The opening sequence, first presented Oct. 1 as a preview reel on Frontline’s website, is on the Oct. 13 web edition of the Takeaway. The full program can now be viewed on Frontline’s website.

FCC asking for responses to Berkman Center broadband policy report

The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comments on a broadband study by Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, asking, among other items, how much weight it should be accorded as the FCC develops a broadband strategy. The 232-page draft report by the Center, which works to "explore and understand cyberspace," is a comparative study that seeks to define what broadband is and examines how it was developed and is used in Denmark, France, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. From the study: "All countries we surveyed include in their approaches, strategies, or plans, a distinct target of reaching their entire population. Many of the countries we observed explicitly embrace a dual-track approach in the near future: achieving access for the entire population to first-generation broadband levels of service, and achieving access to next generation capabilities for large portions of their population, but not necessarily everyone, in the near to medium term." Recent findings of the blue-ribbon Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy also recommended that broadband policy makers "set ambitious standards for nationwide broadband availability and adopt public policies encouraging consumer demand for broadband services." Pubcasting stations are among entities in the running for millions in broadband stimulus funds (Current, Sept. 21).

"Unconference" PubCamp gearing up for this weekend

More than 300 community organizers, bloggers, tech developers and pubmedia staffers are expected at the first national PublicMediaCamp (or "PubCamp") this weekend in Washington (Current, Aug. 3). It's a sold-out PBS-NPR initiative to "strengthen the relationship between public broadcasters and their communities through the development of collaborative projects, both online and offline," according to a joint statement. Oct. 17 and 18 is the national kickoff, with local events then hosted by stations. Participants are using the PubCamp wiki site to propose their own sessions to lead. More sessions are expected to pop up as the weekend progresses in an "unconference" format. Can't attend? Don't worry, follow the presentations as they are posted online at the PubCamp's website, and check out tweets, #pubcamp.

Oct 14, 2009

"Bruising blow" in Pennsylvania from funding elimination, pubcaster says

Pennsylvania's pubcasters continue to react to Gov. Ed Rendell's elimination of state money to stations. The Pennsylvania Public Television Network agency, the 40-year-old state entity that administered the funding, also was shut down. According to The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, "what’s left from what had been an $11.26 million category in the state budget is $1 million to help stations cover operating costs and $1.5 million for technology services." Kathleen Pavelko, president and c.e.o. of WITF in Harrisburg, called it "a bruising blow." That station's operating grants fell from about $917,000 last year to around $114,000.

NPR News app adds tune-in feature for live coverage

An upgrade of the NPR News app for iPhone has been released for downloads from the iTunes Store. A Listen Live feature alerts users when NPR is feeding live coverage of major news events; improved audio streaming capabilities and content-sharing features are among 32 enhancements for the app. Since the NPR News app was first released on Aug. 15, it has topped 1 million downloads, and its users are generating more than 10 million page views per month, according to an NPR spokeswoman.

PBS videos and games increase literacy, research shows

A study shows the literacy skills of low-income children measurably increased after their participation in a curriculum using educational video and interactive games from PBS, according to SRI International, one of the firms that conducted the study. Nearly 400 children in 80 preschool classes in New York City and San Francisco participated. Some children learned up to 7.5 more letters than children in a comparison group during the brief, intensive curriculum. The games were from Super Why!, Between the Lions and Sesame Street, produced for PBS Kids as part of the Ready to Learn initiative. The evaluation was funded by the U.S. Department of Education and CPB, in partnership with PBS.

Oct 13, 2009

Nicole Childers heads content development for L.A. Public Media

Nicole Childers, former executive producer of NPR's News and Notes, will lead content development for the L.A. Public Media Service, a CPB-backed multimedia outlet targeting young, ethnically diverse listeners in Los Angeles. "We are in the midst of a cultural and media paradigm shift in this country and Nicole is one of those writing the story," said Hugo Morales, executive director of Radio Bilingue, the California-based Latino radio network that is spearheading development of L.A. Public Media. "She is a world-class journalist, an African American who counts Latinos and Anglos in her family journey, and a leader with deep sensitivity and drive to serve diverse audiences." With Childers on board, L.A. Public Media is preparing to hire a national media research firm to help design, test and develop content for the new service, which is slated to launch next year.

Pennsylvania zeroes out pubcasting funds

Gov. Ed Rendell's signature Friday on the Pennsylvania state budget eliminated the state's pubcasting subsidy of $11.3 million. Ramifications at the eight stations have begun: Due to the cut, PBS-39, which covers Lehigh Valley, is canceling production of its 10-year-old local issues mag, Tempo!, according to The Morning Call in Allentown. The station had previously laid off about half its staff. WQED had cut 11 staff positions in July, citing the state budget. Meanwhile, reps of the Commonwealth Foundation, a policy research group in Harrisburg, Pa., backed the governor's decision, saying government-supported pubTV is no longer necessary due to all the choices on cable.

New "Upstairs, Downstairs" coming

The Beeb is remaking the wildly popular show on PBS in the 1970s, Upstairs, Downstairs. Stars Jean Marsh and Dame Eileen Atkins return in this version, which will be set in 1936. The original program followed the lives of both an upper-crust British family as well as their servants. The new series will air in Britain first then on PBS in 2011.

Oct 9, 2009

Local group buys WLIU from university

Long Island University has agreed to sell the license for NPR affiliate WLIU to local Peconic Public Broadcasting. A statement on the grassroots organization's website reports that the university today accepted Peconic’s bid, a total value of $2.43 million, and that LIU has agreed to keep the station at full strength during the closing period in mid-December. "The station is projected to be self-sustaining by mid-2011 and does not anticipate the need for subsidies or additional capital raises beyond our current capital raise," added the statement, signed by Peconic President Wally Smith. In August, the university gave WLIU until October to raise $2 million for the license (Current, Aug. 24). Assisting the local group were celebrities such as Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, actor Alec Baldwin and The View co-host Joy Behar.

Senate rebuff McCain bid to zero out PTFP

The Senate yesterday defeated an amendment by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to eliminate $20 million for PTFP from the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations bill, reports the Government Executive publication's website. The Public Telecommunications Facilities Program is the only ongoing source of infrastructure assistance to the pubcasting system, according to the Association of Public Television Stations. It was allotted $20 million for fiscal 2009; McCain argued that the funds are not necessary because work is been completed. The Senate Appropriations Committee said in its report accompanying the bill: "Over the years, this funding has been critical to helping stations maintain services by providing funds to stations in need of equipment replacements and upgrades." APTS is asking Congress to undo Bush-era cuts to PTFP. PubTV requested $44 million for the program in fiscal 2010, more than double last year’s level of $18.8 million and just over its 2003 level of $43.2 million. APTS leaders at Capitol Hill Day in February (Current, Feb. 17) noted that stations’ PTFP applications have outnumbered grants 2-to-1 between ’04 and ’08.

Oct 8, 2009

PBS in talks with NatGeo for exclusive Obama documentary

National Geographic Television is filming the daily life of President Barack Obama over the next four months for an exclusive documentary, and a PBS rep confirms the pubcaster is "in discussions" to air the film. The C21 Media website, which covers international entertainment, reports from MIPCOM in Cannes, France, that the hourlong doc, The White House: Through the Lens, is "being made for public service network PBS," to air in November 2010. PBS Spokeswoman Stephanie Aaronson told Current the doc is one of many projects the network is considering, although specifics such as title and airdates have yet to be decided. Maryanne Culpepper, NatGeo e.v.p., told C21 that talks began with Obama's reps last August, before he was elected. Producers received approval to begin filming last month and the first shoot took place last week. Day One of the project captured the president lunching with Bill Clinton, and romping through the White House with the family dog, Bo.

Almost a year into recession, pubcasting lost $167 million in investments and "other" revenues

After almost a year of recession, the public TV and radio system lost $167.7 million in its "all other" revenue category, CPB says in its recently released annual system revenue report for fiscal year 2008. The category includes gains and losses on stations' investments and assets, including endowments, as well as results from capital campaigns and subsidiaries. The country's official arbiter of recessions, the National Bureau of Economic Research, says the present recession began in December 2007. This revenue report reflects numbers from 70 percent of stations with fiscal years ending June 30, the remaining 30 percent ending Dec. 31.

The losses in that revenue category overwhelmed TV and radio's relatively healthy gains from members, underwriters and colleges, leaving the whole field down $73.4 million or 2.5 percent, to $2.85 billion. All of the overall decline was in TV, totalling $78.8 million or 4 percent. Public radio's core revenue gains were stronger; it ended the year slightly better than flat, with a $5.4 million increase over '07.

The radio system continues to post healthy membership revenue increases, almost doubling in the last decade, from $154 million in 1998 to $304 million in 2008, moving toward closing the gap with public TV, though its overall revenues are just half of public TV's. Over the decade TV's member revenues grew less rapidly, from $341 million to $430 million.

Public radio joined TV's worrisome decline in number of contributors, which is overcome in both systems by increasingly generous average gifts. Each lost about 100,000 contributors in a year. TV's long membership slide continued; it has lost almost 1.2 million donors in a decade. Radio's membership had slipped for only two years after a four-year plateau.

Before panic hit Wall Street in fall 2008, public TV business underwriting earnings were still healthy, rising $42.6 million or 16.3 percent in a year. Radio underwriting rose $6.9 million or 3.5 percent.

PBS doc inspires request for pardons

Harvard scholar and PBS documentarian Henry Louis Gates Jr. is assisting radio host Tom Joyner in his efforts to have South Carolina pardon two of his great-uncles, The Associated Press reports. Joyner discovered through Gates' African American Lives 2 that his ancestors were executed in 1915 after their convictions for murdering a Confederate Army veteran. The show traced the lineage of 12 persons, including Joyner. "The records will show they did not do what they were executed for, and maybe now they can rest in peace," Joyner said. Gates, Joyner and legal historian Paul Finkelman wrote Gov. Mark Sanford asking for the pardons. The issue goes before the state parole and pardon board on Oct. 14.

Oct 7, 2009

WNET exploring relocation

WNET is looking to leave its home of 10 years at 450 W. 33rd Street in Manhattan, according to a real estate report in the New York Observer. The station has hired Studley, a tenant advisory service, to scout out a 100,000-square-foot spot. It now leases about 200,000 square feet on one and half vast floors in the building near Penn Station. "Updating the existing framework would be very expensive," WNET spokesperson Kellie Specter told Current. Specter said the station is exploring the option of moving, "as a lot of companies are doing right now," for cost savings. It might also stay put and lease out half of its space. WNET's lease expires in 2018.

Viewers vent on religion in National Parks series

Michael Getler's latest column offers viewer insights into the National Parks series. The PBS ombudsman reports that most letters he received were positive, but a "fair number" of writers protested what they saw as an "excessive element of religion that co-mingled with the narrative of natural beauty and the struggle to preserve it within a national system."

DISH pubcasting carriage deal nears

At a Senate Communications Subcommittee meeting today, reps of DISH network and the Association of Public Television Stations said they expect a deal soon on carriage of noncom HD signals, reports Broadcasting & Cable. The FCC set a timetable for phasing in HD carriage over the next four years. APTS has worked out pubcasting carriage deals with cable, Verizon and DirecTV and has been negotiating with DISH.

ACL now a rock landmark

KLRU in Austin, Texas, has posted video of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame dedication ceremony onOct. 1 for its longtime music series Austin City Limits. The studio was designated a rock landmark, and a marker was installed.

Digital Think In to explore NPR's future

NPR has invited 60 “thought leaders” in digital media and technology to share their ideas for its future as a news organization. The first-ever NPR Digital Think In convenes at frog design in San Francisco this Friday, Oct. 9. The schedule includes a series of break-outs exploring various aspects of news gathering, the roles of networks and stations, and the elusive matter of revenue models. The invitation-only event has drawn an impressive roster of participants, including Krishna Bharat, creator of Google News; Chris Beard, chief innovation officer at Mozilla; and Craig Newmark, creator of Craigslist, among many others. “This is something I cooked up to try to engage people who are actively thinking about issues of technology and news and what NPR is doing,” said Kinsey Wilson, NPR senior v.p. of digital media. “A lot of them are fans of NPR and public radio generally. I want to get them interested in our future.” Portions of the event, including reports from the workshops and the opening and closing sessions, will be streamed live. NPR journalists will embed with the break-out groups and report via live tweets (hashtag: #NPRthink).

Dinosaur Train pulls into Smithsonian, Latin America

Jim Henson Co.'s CGI-animated series Dinosaur Train is getting around. First up: The show's paleontologist Scott Sampson (right, PBS photo) and star dino Buddy will appear Oct. 24 at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in a free family event. Kids will see an episode and get a chance to ask Sampson questions. Meanwhile, the show also has been sold to Discovery Kids Latin America, reports World Screen. The PBS Kids series is already a globetrotter, heading for Nickelodeon in Australia, Selecta Vision in Spain, Al Jazeera in the Middle East, TVO and TFO in Canada, Knowledge Network in British Columbia and NRK in Norway.

Oct 6, 2009

Indie filmmakers, get reading

The Independent has compiled a list of 30 Quintessential Books for Independent Filmmakers. Included are everything from How to Shoot a Feature Film for Under $10,000 (And Not Go to Jail) by Bret Stern to The Five C's of Cinematography: Motion Picture Filming Techniques, an oldie (circa 1960s) but goodie by Joseph V. Mascelli.

FCC soon may address PEG channel location complaints

The Federal Communications Commission may "in the near future" take up the issue of the location of PEG (public, educational and government) channels, reports Broadcasting & Cable. The FCC received several petitions from the Alliance for Community Media, which is a national association of local cable-access programmers, and two Michigan cities asking for a ruling on whether cable operators can move PEG channels, and if there should be more specific rules about the signal quality of those channels. Comcast says that its shift of PEG channels to a digital tier in Michigan is legal and in the public interest.

Salsa takes over WGBH to welcome show; Obama plans Latin music night

A crowd of nearly 1,000 turned out Oct. 2 at WGBH in Boston for a huge public salsa dance party and sneak preview of the four-hour Latin Music USA doc. The station’s María Hinojosa served as the night’s emcee as fans danced to live performances by Bobby Sanabria y Quarteto Aché and Mango Blue. (Photo: Lisa Abitbol) In related news, President Barack Obama will host a plethora of entertainers in a Latin music night at the White House on Oct. 13, reports The Associated Press. CPB is backing that performance to the tune of $547,000. Among attendees and performers: Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan, Jose Feliciano, Jimmy Smits, Pete Escovedo, George Lopez, Thalia, Los Lobos, Tito "El Bambino," Aventura and Sheila E. The concert will be taped to air on PBS on Oct. 15, Telemundo on Oct. 18 and V-me on Dec. 25.

WGBH's Gourmet programs survive death of Gourmet mag

The demise of longtime food mag Gourmet is not stopping the Oct. 17 premiere of the new WGBH series, Gourmet's Adventures with Ruth. Another of the station's shows, Gourmet's Diary of a Foodie, now in its fourth season, also will continue, WGBH spokeswoman Lucy Sholley told The Boston Herald. “Both shows are solid,” Sholley said. “We remain committed to (Gourmet editor-in-chief) Ruth Reichl as an icon in the food world as well as her ideas and editorial input to the format of ‘Adventures with Ruth,’ which will air as planned.”

Oct 5, 2009

Top managers announce retirements in Pittsburgh, Kentucky, Tampa and Salt Lake

George Miles, president of Pittsburgh’s WQED-FM/TV, said Sept. 30 he’ll retire a year from now, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. He’ll have run the station for 16 years. The station’s board promoted Deborah Acklin to chief operating officer, putting her in line to succeed Miles. Mac Wall, who has headed both the Oklahoma and Kentucky pubTV networks, said Friday he’ll retire Dec. 31. Dick Lobo, president of Tampa’s WEDU for seven years, told his board last week that he plans to retire when a successor has been found, the Tampa Tribune said. Larry S. Smith, g.m. of Salt Lake City’s KUED, announced last week he’ll retire in April after 12 years on the job. Also recently retired is a public TV programmer who has outlasted quite a few general managers: Grace Hill of Cincinnati’s WCET, who retired Sept. 30 after 47 years with the station. More personnel news in Current's People column next week.

Expedia is latest National Parks series partner

Travel site has jumped on the National Parks bandwagon. It has launched a page dedicated to travel in the parks, with a link to the pubcasting series. The Associated Press confirms that the launch coincides with the Ken Burns project.

Squash the (PBS) bug, NYT blogger says

Oops. More complaints (see item below) about use of the PBS logo during Ken Burns' National Parks series, this time to the New York Times tech writer/blogger David Pogue. A reader writes that she'd been watching the series, and said it was visually stunning. "But even PBS and my local public TV station (WTTW in Chicago) constantly slapped numerous looping/changing logos in both the lower left and lower right corners of the screen—a horrible distraction from the beautiful scenery of the film. I was so looking forward to enjoying this film, and even my beloved PBS now annoys me!” Pogue writes that he "couldn’t agree more. What, exactly, is the purpose of those network logos ('bugs,' as they’re called)? Is it to prevent piracy? Is it to engender network loyalty? Is it 'branding' run amok?" Eleven of the 11 comments left by blog readers were in agreement.

Oct 2, 2009

Yom Kippur air date for "National Parks" prompts letters to PBS ombudsman

The premiere of National Parks: America's Best Idea on Yom Kippur Sept. 27 disturbed some Jewish viewers, reports PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler. Other complaints generated by the series focused on the use of a PBS bug along with the line "Presents a Film by Ken Burns" on the lower screen. Then the title, The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Then another PBS logo. Every 15 minutes.

ACL comes to PBS Video portal

For the first time, 35 Austin City Limits episodes will be available on the PBS Video portal starting the day after broadcast. A selected number of older shows may be accessible later. The show's new season kicks off Saturday with Dave Matthews Band. The Austin City Limits Music Festival is also under way and runs through the weekend, check the website for live coverage.

Knight Commission report says pubcasting needs "a broader vision"

A blue-ribbon panel, the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, today issued its final report. In it, the 17-member group contends that "public broadcasting needs to move quickly toward a broader vision of public service media, one that is more local, more inclusive, and more interactive" (note item below). Among its specific recommendations: Increase support for public service media aimed at meeting community information needs; set ambitious standards for nationwide broadband availability and adopt public policies encouraging consumer demand for broadband service; and support the activities of information providers to reach local audiences with quality content through all appropriate media, such as mobile phones, radio, public access cable and new platforms. The commission grew out of an Aspen Institute forum in summer 2007. In April and May of this year, PBS Engage helped gather some 1,000 responses to a series of online questions, plus reactions to a draft introduction to the report. the commission included former PBS Board Chairman Alberto Ibargüen, now c.e.o. of the Knight Foundation.

Multi-million project strives to bolster local news coverage

CPB and the Knight Foundation are funding a multi-million dollar, two-year pilot in-depth journalism project with NPR. With $2 million from CPB and $1 million from Knight, a group of stations will expand original reporting as well as curate, distribute and share "online content about high-interest, specialized subjects," according to a joint statement. NPR President Vivian Schiller has long backed the idea (Current, Feb. 2, 2009 and March 2, 2009). "The opportunity here is two-fold," she said in the statement today. "First, to beef up coverage of critical issues at the local level, and, second, to begin to establish an online network that can transform itself into a news powerhouse of unparalleled depth and quality.” Stations will feed local work to NPR’s content management system (Current, Sept. 2, 2008) for participants. NewsHour will also share its embeddable video player (Current, May 12, 2008) to give participants access to several news shows. Stations have not yet been selected but will include a mix of dual licensees as well as NPR affiliates. Participants will cover part of the pilot cost and must sustain new staff after the grants have ended. Journalism bloggers will also be included. This is the first project of this type that CPB and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation have jointly funded.

Oct 1, 2009

Frontline previews "Obama's War" online

A 24-minute rough cut of Frontline's season opener, "Obama's War," is now available online. Due to the breaking news surrounding America's eight-year conflict in Afghanistan, the film will not be completed until close to broadcast on Oct. 13th. In the program's announcement of the online preview, the project was called "one of the strongest pieces of war reportage Frontline has ever produced."

WGBH and partners produce STEM descriptions for sight-impaired readers

WGBH and its Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family National Center for Accessible Media have just issued a guidebook on how to translate STEM-related visuals to readers who are blind or sight-impaired, reports The Journal, an education news publication. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the book presents detailed verbal descriptions of materials related to Science, Technology, Education and Math initiatives. Included are bar charts, line graphs, Venn diagrams, tables, pie charts, flow charts and complex diagrams and illustrations.

Funding would eliminate "countless hours" of pledge, ex-WNET president says

William F. Baker, president emeritus of WNET, writes in a opinion piece in The Nation (via the CBS News site) that the way forward toward a vital public media is through existing pubcasting entities. Baker, the Bernard L. Schwartz Professor and Journalist-in-Residence at Fordham University, notes that for more than half a century, "the American people have shown, through their generous donations, that they support the idea and the reality of public media. The government should acknowledge those decades of widespread support by funding NPR and PBS both more extensively and more efficiently. By increasing direct allocations to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is responsible for disbursing funding to public TV and radio affiliates across America, the inherent inefficiencies of fundraising via public appeal would be eliminated, and countless hours of airtime would be liberated from pledge drives. It would also mean that Americans would get more in return for the money they already pay to maintain the public media distribution network, which delivers NPR and PBS to 100 percent of the country." Baker served as president and CEO of WNET from 1987 to 2007.

Two staffers cut from Idaho Public Television

Idaho Public Television has laid off two employees, according to The Idaho Statesman. A videographer/director and on-air operations center supervisor were let go Wednesday; the positions will remain vacant at least until the state legislature decides next year's funding. "We have been very successful in not laying people off to this point," G.M. Peter Morrill told the paper. Viewers may notice fewer primetime local shows and slower response to service problems, Morrill added. The layoffs are "stretching an already modest staff," he noted.

WUSF plans new production/performance studio

WUSF Public Broadcasting will spend $200,000 on a new television, video and radio facility for performance and production, at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus, reports The Bradenton Herald. A former computer lab will be renovated for the studio space. WUSF currently broadcasts from Tampa.

WNYC unveils its plans for classical WQXR

There's one week to go before New York's classical WQXR relaunches under the ownership of WNYC, and programmers are putting the finishing touches on the talent roster and playlist.

Current WQXR hosts Jeff Spurgeon, Midge Woolsey and Elliott Forrest have been retained for weekday and weekend airshifts. WNYC also hired Naomi Lewin, a host, producer and arts feature reporter for Cincinnati's WGUC, to anchor afternoon drive-time on the new WQXR.

Terence McKnight and David Garland, hosts of the eclectic and adventurous Evening Music broadcasts on WNYC-FM, will take over WQXR evening slots and program a more narrow range of music than what they've presented on WNYC. "There are philosophical differences in how we treat music programming as having a strong personality behind it," said Chris Bannon, p.d. The WNYC audience tunes in for hosts' voices and commentaries on the music they're playing, he said, whereas WQXR's listeners have an expectation that they can tune in at any time to "hear music that you know you're going to like. It's a music station, and, to the best of our ability we are going to make it a really good music station."

For music lovers seeking a wider-ranging playlist, McKnight will host Q2 on Saturday afternoons, a flagship show for the music stream to replace WNYC2, the "progressive classical" service now offered online and as an HD Radio channel. Q2 is "a rebranding of WNYC2 that acknowledges it's music from the canon and beyond and it's all housed at WQXR," said Laura Walker, WNYC president.

The new schedule for WNYC-FM, still being finalized, will feature more news and information programming, with a cultural bent of music-oriented shows after 10 pm; WNYC-AM is being reprogrammed in the evenings for "hard core news listeners," Bannon said.

As a public radio station, WQXR is selling four minutes of underwriting spots per hour, a third less than airing now as a commercial outlet, according to this morning's New York Times, which also reports details on the new WQXR playlist. News breaks will originate from WNYC's newsroom, rather than Bloomberg.

Business plans for WQXR project $4 million in revenues from underwriting, membership and grant support in its first year of operation as a public radio service, Walker said. "We'll see how that pans out." The first campaign for member support will be a one-day drive in December; a full-fledged pledge drive is scheduled for February. The $14 million capital campaign that WNYC launched to finance the purchase has raised $7.58 million, Walker said.

The new WQXR, which moves to 105.9 FM under WNYC's ownership, launches on Oct. 8 during a live performance at Carnegie Hall featuring the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. The concert will be transmitted as a live webstream on and simulcast on WNYC-FM.