Nov 30, 2009

"Ascent of Money" wins International Emmy

Harvard University history prof Niall C. Ferguson has won an International Emmy Award for his documentary series, The Ascent of Money, which aired on PBS in July 2009, reports the Harvard Crimson. The series examined the history of money, credit and banking, going back as far as ancient Babylon. It was based on his course, "International Financial History, 1700 to Present," which he last taught at the college in 2007.

NewsHour and GlobalPost team up to bolster international coverage

PBS and the NewsHour today announced a partnership with Boston-based GlobalPost to make use of its international correspondents for "timely on-the-ground information about breaking news developments" for both broadcast and online audiences, according to a statement posted on Jim Romenesko's media blog on the Poynter Institute's website. The effort will supplement the NewsHour's current international reporting, the statement noted. GlobalPost correspondents and videographers will produce weekly video segments for NewsHour and the show's web site; GlobalPost and NewsHour staffs will collaborate on story selection and production. GlobalPost has some 70 reporters in more than 50 countries, and already is partnered with WorldFocus as well as many print publications. As Broadcasting & Cable notes, the syndication deals are "significant" to supporting its work. NPR's David Folkenflik explored the concept of GlobalPost on a recent Morning Edition. The NewsHour's Dec. 7 launch of its latest incarnation, removing anchor Jim Lehrer's name from the title and bridging online and broadcast news, is attracting attention: The New York Times had a story yesterday, and the Washington Post today. PBS's MediaShift blog offers the first in a series of posts by Anna Shoup, the NewsHour's local/national editor, who provides an insider's look at the changes.

Gourmet adventures indeed

Ruth Reichl, host of PBS's Gourmet's Adventures With Ruth, opens her refrigerator and pantry to for a peek at what one of America's most respected foodies noshes on. A few goodies: Arkansas black and Knobbed Russet apples, three kinds of butter, frozen banana leaves, strawberry elderflower jam, lacinato kale and "gallons of turkey stock." You know, the usual.

Nov 29, 2009

WGBH will use TV shows on radio

WGBH will broadcast some television programming on the radio starting Tuesday, the Boston Globe reports. It's part of the station's move to transform 89.7-FM into a viable competitor for news powerhouse WBUR's 90.9-FM. The station will use existing shows such as the NewsHour and local Beat the Press, as well as create a new midday weekday public affairs show. The moves are part of WGBH’s purchase in September of classical music station WCRB-FM 99.5 for $14 million, which allowed WGBH to shift classical programming and convert 89.7 to an all news and talk station.

Nov 28, 2009

Mister Rogers helps kids write journals with iPhone app

Kids can now journal on their iPhones thanks to a new app, Make a Journal, from the ever-creative Mister Rogers folks. The $1.99 app, available via iTunes, is a "delight," according to the iPhone Footprint blog. Kids get five topic suggestions: School, Mad Feelings, Playtime, Pretending, and Books. They can save their personalized journals in a digital library and use virtual crayons and designs to draw a cover for each journal to make it easy to find later.

"Spill O'Reilly" Muppet faces namesake on "O'Reilly Factor"

On Tuesday night, Sherri Westin, e.v.p. of Sesame Workshop, hit the O'Reilly Factor with host Bill O'Reilly on Fox to discuss the ongoing "Pox News" controversy. Appearing with her: Spill O'Reilly, an in-your-face, over-the-top, book-hawking Muppet. Check out the video.

Nov 25, 2009

Mixed financial news for pubcasters on 200 largest charities list

Several pubcasters are part of the 200 largest charities in America in Forbes magazine's annual list. Figures are for end of fiscal 2008, comparisons are with end of fiscal '07. Calculations include charitable commitment, fundraising efficiency and donor dependency. PBS scores quite high in fundraising efficiency; it's seventh on the list. Its $356 million in assets, however, is down 7 percent. WGBH Educational Foundation, with net assets of $357 million, has a surplus of $40 million. Northern California Public Broadcasting scores low in charitable commitment, a calculation of total expenses that went directly to its charitable purpose as opposed to management, certain overhead and fundraising; it scored 63 percent in that category. Also on the list: WETA (assets up $1 million); Minnesota Public Radio (assets up $4 million) and NPR (assets up $16 million). Overall, the 200 entities were down a total of $6 million, compared with a surplus of $66 million last year.

Nov 24, 2009

Who needs Queen?

Ladies and gentlemen: The Muppets perform "Bohemian Rhapsody." (And doesn't the green dude at 3:47 look like ... Brian Williams?)

WLIU breaks pledge record

Good news for Peconic Public Broadcasting, new owners of WLIU in Southampton, N.Y.: Listeners contributed a record total of more than $90,000 during its on-air fund drive Nov. 19-22. Nearly 700 supporters pledged almost three times the highest amount raised when the station was under Long Island University, according to "From Saturday afternoon, when we had received more than $50,000, we knew this was going to be a different fund drive," said General Manager Wally Smith.

Talkin' turkey, and other goodies

Thursday's the big day, and while most of us are gobbling our holiday dinners at least a few pubcasters will be catering to the culinary needs of NPR listeners. Once again American Public Media's The Splendid Table offers its Turkey Confidential live call-in show for chefs in a panic over their uncooperative bird or puzzled over what to do with those slimy giblet things. Guests include Lake Wobegon's favorite son Garrison Keillor and road foodies Jane and Michael Stern. The show runs on many stations nationwide 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Eastern -- unless of course you're listening to KIPO-FM 89.3 in Hawai'i, where you'll have to set your alarm for 6 a.m. Meanwhile, Chris Kimball of America's Test Kitchen stopped by All This Considered this morning with a few old-timey dish suggestions; there are more Thanksgiving suggestions on the Kitchen's site (whoa, Garlic-Scented Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Milk and Cilantro). But of course the four words many listeners long for this time of year are: Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish. For many fans, the holiday season officially opens the Friday before Thanksgiving when we hear the recipe for that "Pepto-Bismol pink" delicacy on NPR. Here it is, in case you were out bagging your free-range turkey.

Nov 23, 2009

Gray heads in the pubradio audience, quantified by format

An analysis of aging among public radio listeners put numbers behind Garrison Keillor’s observation that every year there are more gray heads in the audiences for live tapings of Prairie Home Companion.

Long dominated by Baby Boomers, the audiences of public radio news, jazz and classical music stations in the top 50 markets are aging at slightly different rates, but the lifestyle changes of retirement loom for this sizable group. In fact, nearly half of classical listeners are already out of the workforce.

Over the past decade, spring 1999 to 2009, the audience of news-format stations has aged more slowly than those of classical or jazz stations, according to George Bailey of Walrus Research. News-station listeners’ median age climbed five years from 47 to 52; for jazz, the median aged seven years, from 48 to 55; for classical, the median also grew seven years older, going from 58 to 65.

Bailey notes that “half of the classical audience are not Boomers, rather they are seniors on Medicare.” The percentage of classical music listeners who are employed dipped to 47 percent this year. That’s a 16 percent drop from spring 1997, when 63 percent of the classical audience was in the workforce. As for the retirees, “the end of employment may have some impact on their willingness to contribute money to the station,” he writes.

Percentages of news and jazz listeners who are employed are 70 and 61, respectively, but the portions have dropped 7 points or more since 1999.

Bailey attributes slower aging among news listeners to those stations’ successes in recruiting listeners, including younger ones. “In fact, the NPR news stations that we analyzed in this study nearly doubled their audience from 2007 to 2009.” Some of these new listeners are younger, college-educated folk.

Walrus used AudiGraphics to analyze 51 public radio stations broadcasting focused formats in 2009. Stations had to air the format during morning, midday and afternoon dayparts to be included.

New PBS NewsHour brings on Web anchor

When retiring newsman Carl Kasell entered NPR’s broadcast booth in 1975, his voice went out over airwaves bounced across antennae nationwide to reach radio listeners. When incoming PBS NewsHour staffer Hari Sreenivasan presents his news, he’ll be anchoring video updates connected across digital platforms to bridge the on-air TV show to Web users worldwide. Starting Dec. 7, Sreenivasan will deliver online video news updates on the NewsHour's website and anchor the headline summary of each evening’s broadcast edition of the newly retooled program. He comes from a similar spot at ABC News Now, where he anchored the 24-hour online service. Sreenivasan's reports have appeared regularly on the CBS Evening News, The Early Show and CBS Sunday Morning. He also was a reporter for World News Tonight and Nightline.

Kasell gets to sleep in, as of January

Longtime pubcasting voice Carl Kasell, 75, is retiring after three decades of rolling out of bed at 1:05 a.m. for Morning Edition, according to a statement to staffers at NPR. He’ll stay on as judge and scorekeeper for the popular quiz show Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! NPR noted that his role on the show “turned him from a newsman into a rock star!” He’s been with the program since its inception in January 1998. Kasell has been in broadcasting for 50 years, with NPR since 1975. He’s won several major broadcast awards, including a Peabody he shares with Morning Edition and another he shares with Wait Wait. Earlier this year he was chosen for's Power Grid of media movers and shakers, ranking 84th out of 1,585 individuals from 382 broadcast, online and print entities. Selections were based audience numbers, Google hits and mentions in social media networks. Kasell has nearly 5,000 Facebook friends. His last newscast will be Dec. 30. NPR said he’ll get a “fitting farewell” in January. (Photo: NPR)

Sesame Workshop participating in president's Educate to Innovate initiative

Sesame Workshop is making a $7.5 million investment in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education with its new Math is Everywhere initiative, the Workshop announced today. The grant is from PNC Financial Services Group Inc. Math is Everywhere, part of the Workshop's $100 million Grow Up Great program, will develop multiple media, bilingual (English and Spanish) resources to teach early mathematics skills for young children along with best practices for the adults in their lives, including parents, childcare providers and teachers. The effort is part of President Obama's "Educate to Innovate" campaign, also announced today, to boost science and math achievement over the next decade.

Law professor working with pubcasters on plan for system's future

A Rutgers law professor is getting input from NPR, PBS and CPB, along with independent media-makers and community activists, for a report suggesting ways to develop a blueprint for system's future "as it makes a transition from public broadcasting to a network of services that range over many platforms," according to a Rutgers statement. She's examining the intersection of public media, best practices, governance and public policy. Goodman advised the Obama-Biden transition team on telecommunications and media law, and briefed incoming administration officials on technology innovations. She also is a research fellow at American University’s Center for Social Media. Her current work is funded by a Ford Foundation grant.

Nov 21, 2009

Moyers' Journal and Now will end in April

Bill Moyers will retire his weekly series at the end of April, at the same time its Friday-night stablemate, Now on PBS, comes to the end of its run.

This means not only a reduced presence for one of PBS’s journalistic stars and the possible idling of two prize-winning public-affairs production teams, but also the mixed opportunity/problem of a 90-minute opening on the network’s Friday-night feed.

PBS will announce plans in January for its public-affairs lineup to take effect in May, according to a statement from the network last week, and declined to comment on the plans prematurely.

Moyers, who is 75, told Current he had planned to retire from the weekly Bill Moyers’ Journal on Dec. 25, but PBS asked him last month to arrange extended funding and keep the program going through April.

Nov 20, 2009

At KCRW, Seymour sets retirement for February

Ruth Seymour, who built a successful but insistently idiosyncratic Los Angeles station and Internet music source with go-it-alone intuition, announced this week she’ll retire at the end of February. She’s 74 and will have managed Santa Monica’s KCRW-FM for 32 years. Current's story.

Google caption technology goes to PBS videos on YouTube

PBS is part of Google's new initiative to make millions of videos on YouTube accessible to deaf and hearing-impaired users. The search engine company unveiled new technologies on Thursday that will automatically bring text captions to the videos, reports the New York Times. The technology captions only English, but users may take advantage of Google's automatic translation system to read in 51 languages. Initially YouTube is focusing on providing captions for educational channels such as PBS and National Geographic, and videos from universities including Stanford, Yale, Duke, Columbia and MIT. More will come later.

Nov 19, 2009

Native group and foundation present Indian Country tech report

Native Public Media and the New America Foundation's Open Technology Initiative today released a study, "New Media, Technology and Internet Use in Indian Country: Quantitative and Qualitative Analyses." The report melds data on tech use among 120 tribes, and case studies of six successful projects. Video of the report's Washington presentation here.

All this, AND Skip Hinton!

Details on most sessions at January's NETA conference are now online. The confab is at the M Resort in Henderson, Nev., about 15 miles from Sin City.

Two PBS docs advance in Oscar race

Two pubTV films are on the short list for Documentary Feature Academy Award nominations, PBS says. Both docs, Food, Inc. on POV and Garbage Dreams on Independent Lens, will air next year. Both now advance to voting by the Documentary Branch Academy. For a full list of films moving foward, see the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences website. Oscar nods will be announced Feb. 2, 2010, with the 82nd annual Academy Awards show on March 7.

Former Tampa pubcaster heads online news venture

Another new media site has sprouted, this time in Florida, reports Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. The online paper, 83 Degrees, is published by Detroit's Issue Media, which has created several other online pubs. It's edited by Diane Egner, former content director at Tampa NPR affiliate WUSF. Local governments, universities and corporations are funding the effort. "“If you’re watching PBS, you know there are certain underwriters for certain programs," Egner told . Each of our partners is underwriting specific issues that we cover.” The site's coverage will include the new economy, innovations, investments, the environment.

Senate satellite bill passes committee

The Senate Commerce Committee on Thursday passed the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), its version of the satellite reauthorization bill, according to Broadcasting & Cable. The bill allows satellite operators to carry out-of-market network TV station signals for viewers who don't received an adequate signal from their nearby station. It's an issue the Association of Public Television Stations has been working on for several years, much of the time spent in negotiations with the DISH Network. "APTS is pleased with the firm action taken today by the Senate Commerce Committee to end the discriminatory behavior by DISH Network against local public television stations," APTS President Larry Sidman said in a statement. APTS has reached agreements with other satellite providers to carry local pubTV stations.

Cap Hill gets flying T-shirts courtesy of Design Squad

PubTV's Design Squad show was on hand to launch T-shirts into the air at last week's Education Technology Showcase on Cap Hill. The fun with T-shirts showed how engineering could be "used to solve real-world problems," reports TMCNet's Education Technology page. In attendance were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senators Patty Murray, Jeff Bingaman, Kay Hagan and Ted Kaufman and other officials. The event, sponsored by the Education Technology Directors Association, highlighted programs funded by the National Science Foundation.

Nov 18, 2009

Grover stars in first Sesame iPhone app

Sesame Street's Grover now has his own app. And Grover's Number Special is the first official Sesame Street app for the iPhone and iPod Touch. It includes original Sesame video and "encourages visual discrimination, counting and number recognition," according to a Sesame Workshop press release. In it, restaurant waiter Grover catches and counts ingredients to whip up a meal for an impatient customer. Users tip their device back and forth to help Grover catch the foods. "Oh, it is so much fun," Grover said in the release. "Please play my little app--the customer is getting very hungry!" It's $2.99 from from the App Store or iTunes.

WLIU gets four months to find new home

Peconic Public Broadcasting, which recently purchased WLIU pubradio (Current, Oct. 13, 2009; background, Aug. 24) from Long Island University, has won approval for the station to remain in its current studios through March 31, according to the East Hampton Press. The purchase is expected to be finalized in January so the extension provides time to find a permanent location.

Nov 17, 2009

WNET rolls out pieces of its WordPress CMS toolkit and Brooklyn web developer Tierra Innovation Inc. promoted their WordPress CMS Toolkit at the regional WordCamp NYC last week. Their first four freely available, open-source plugins for WordPress are available online now and “lots more” are coming, says Tierra President Jamie Trowbridge. Also coming are templates for a content management system abstracted from the ones used by to build 50 sites for its shows, stations and projects, Trowbridge tells Current. Outside of West 33rd Street, Dallas’s KERA recently used the toolkit to build a site for KXT-FM, its new sister station (“Music to the Core”), and Chicago’s WTTW created one for its coproduction with Brian Boyer, Retirement Revolution. Among the available WP plugin modules: Audio Playlist Manager, for embedding a series of clips in a website, and WPDB Profiling, which helps a site-builder find causes of undue server loads. Soon to be released are Billboard Manager, which creates a Flash slide show; prettyPhoto Gallery and two other plugins.

FTC journalism summit to include numerous pubcasters

Public broadcasters will be well-represented at the FTC's upcoming summit, “How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?”, Dec. 1 and 2 in Washington. The confab will explore issues such as the economics of journalism in print and online, new business and nonprofit news models, and ways to reduce journalism costs without sacrificing quality. Panelists announced by the FTC so far (PDF) include pubcasters Joaquin Alvarado, CPB's senior veep for diversity and innovation; NPR head Vivian Schiller; Jon McTaggart, senior veep and COO, American Public Media; Alisa Miller, president and CEO, Public Radio International; and Jason Seiken, senior veep, PBS Interactive. Other participants include newsmen Rupert Murdoch and Len Downie, former FCC Chair Reed Hundt, and blogger Arianna Huffington.

WFYI provides backdrop ambiance for MasterCard commercial

WFYI's studios in Indianapolis co-star in a new MasterCard holiday ad. David DeMumbrun, station director of production operations, told Current a scouting crew visited local commercial stations, but when they got to the state-of-the-art pubcasting studios (opened in August 2008), "they found nirvana." The spot stars Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning (hence, the filming location) and How I Met Your Mother actress Alyson Hannigan. Hannigan's part in the ad was filmed at the studio and Manning's in an Indy home. What a production day it was on Oct. 13 at WFYI: The ad's cast and crew numbered around 155. Director of photography was Russell Carpenter, who shot the big-screen Titanic. A catering bus drove in from Chicago for breakfast and lunch. The shoot went from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. "It was quite a circus that day," DeMumbrun said. "They were everywhere. They took up pretty much the whole building." Staffers were warned in advance of the disruption, which was planned for a day with no local work in the studios. Although no WFYI staffers are in the ad, they did assist the visiting crew. Overall, a pretty exciting experience, "and a way to make a little money for the station," DeMumbrun said, declining to reveal that figure, but "it was in the thousands."

PBS, APTS state case for spectrum to FCC

PBS last week told the FCC that pubcasters should be allowed to continue their multiplatform efforts and and that over-the-air DTV is important to that work, reports Broadcasting & Cable. It's an important argument as the FCC decides how to free up spectrum for wireless broadband. "The free and universal nature of over-the-air broadcasting enables PBS and its member stations to ensure that virtually every household has access" to content, PBS said in FCC filings and in a meeting with FCC staffers. On Nov. 3, APTS representatives also discussed pubcasting spectrum issues with the FCC's Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis.

Over-the-air tower for MontanaPBS nears full funding

MontanaPBS is just $20,000 away from its $1.3 million goal for an over-the-air broadcast tower for viewers in the Great Falls area, reports the Great Falls Tribune. Currently, Great Falls may be the largest American city without an over-the-air PBS signal. Sally Newhall, co-chair of the "Tower to the People" fundraising effort, said the project has a construction deadline of the end of the year, and an October 2010 deadline to match a $75,000 Murdoch Foundation grant. "I feel really positive about it," Newhall added.

Nov 16, 2009

Maxie Jackson will head NFCB starting in January

Maxie C. Jackson will become president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters in January. He succeeds Carol Pierson, who is retiring after 12 years as head of NFCB. Jackson is now senior director, program development, for WNYC in New York, where he has worked on the launch of the morning news program The Takeaway, on program planning and audience development. He previously served as p.d. for WETA-FM in Washington and acting g.m. of WEAA in Baltimore. He is a member of the board of the Development Exchange and Eastern Region Public Media and former board member of the African American Public Radio Consortium.

Donor backs new MPR fund for enterprise newsgathering

An anonymous donor is providing a $5 million challenge grant backing the Minnesota Public Radio Enterprise News Fund, a "permanent fund for significant enterprise news gathering," announced MPR President Bill Kling during MPR's Future of News Summit. The summit, convened at MPR headquarters this morning, is examining new models for local and regional news. An afternoon panel on the role of daily newspapers and online start-ups that are helping to fill gaps in local news coverage, is about to begin. Watch and participate online here.

Kentucky pubTV at top of list of agencies immune to state budget cuts

Kentucky's budget director warned several state last agencies Friday to plan for a possible 6 percent spending cut, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader. But topping a list of those exempt from the reductions is Kentucky Educational Television. Others are public universities, K-12 schools, prosecutors, public defenders, Medicaid and mental health services. KET Executive Director Mac Wall told Current that its position on the list makes the point that if a station invests in local services such as education, its value to the community "goes up dramatically." Its EncycloMedia site for teachers and students just surpassed five million hits since 2005, Wall noted.

Detroit Public Television is top nonprof in city, business paper says

Detroit Public Television is the Best-Managed Nonprofit in that city, as chosen by Crain's Detroit Business. The publication cites DPT's programming shift to five areas "critical to the region," children/education, arts/culture, energy/environment, health/safety and jobs/leadership -- while reducing its operational costs by $2.4 million. “With the way the media landscape has changed over the last few years, there's more and more of a need for a station committed to public engagement and (local) public information,” Rich Homberg, president and general manager, told the paper. The station also closed out a $22 million capital campaign and brought in more than $1 million in new funding.

ASNE focuses on new media ethics

The American Society of News Editors is conducting a public discussion on news ethics in the evolving media ecosystem during its conference this week, "Journalism Ethics: Public Trust Through Public Engagement." Topics include: Differences in how citizens and journalists view journalism values; when anyone can be a publisher, what distinguishes a journalist?; and new ways of partnering with the public. Some 25 editors, scholars, students and members of the public will interact at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism starting at 10 a.m. today. Follow along on the website's streaming video, or on Twitter at hashtag #TalkEthics.

Nov 15, 2009

WKNO moves into new home

WKNO in Memphis is up and running in its new 44,000 square foot facility, reports the Commercial-Appeal. The sleek building houses two television studios, two closed-captioning suites, three radio studios and three editing suites. It's nearly twice the size of WKNO's former home, which has been on the south campus of the University of Memphis for 30 years.

Nov 14, 2009

FCC approves WGBH purchase of WCRB

The FCC yesterday okayed WGBH's purchase of classical WCRB 99.5 FM from from Nassau Broadcasting Partners, the Boston Globe reports today. WGBH revealed in September it was bidding to buy the Waltham, Mass., station so it could convert 89.7 FM, with a mix of NPR programs, classical, and jazz shows, to an all-news talk format. Classical music will shift to 99.5 FM. The purchase puts WGBH-FM in direct competition with Boston NPR News powerhouse WBUR.

Nov 13, 2009

Center for Social Media prof suggests Congress revamp Broadcasting Act

Ellen Goodman, a Rutgers law professor and Fellow at the Center for Social Media, submitted comments to the Federal Communications Commission on the development of a national broadband plan, according to the Center, at American University. Her thoughts reflect research the Center has been doing for its Future of Public Media project. In her comments (PDF), Goodman notes various current pubmedia activities using high-speed connections, and suggests that further progress will only happen “if public media systems become more diverse, open, networked, innovative, technologically sophisticated, and focused on a service mission to meet public needs where the market will not go.” She echoes a common drumbeat of late, that pubcasting "has not performed adequately in catalyzing and assisting in local content creation. . . . Capacity-constrained and one-way, broadcasting alone has never been capable of truly engaging diverse local populations while also networking effectively nationally with a wide array of partners."

Another nonprof news web site up and running

The Texas Tribune, an online nonprof news site based in Austin, launched Nov. 3 to cover “public policy, politics, government and other matters of statewide concern.” It received $1 million from its new chairman and co-founder, venture capitalist John Thornton, according to the Daily Texan at the University of Texas at Austin. The project will collaborate with the university on five election polls, and with the school's Center for Politics and Governance for a lecture series and student internships. Here's more about the project.

Attention, Northwest pubcasters...

Journalism That Matters, an organization of "media innovators and stakeholders" that nurtures discussions on the emerging modern ecosystem of public media, is hosting the confab "Reimagining News and Community in the Pacific Northwest," Jan. 7-10, 2010, at the University of Washington, Seattle. It's the group's first regional workshop since its founding in 2000, following nationally focused meetings in St. Petersburg, Fla.; Philadelphia; Minneapolis; Silicon Valley; and Washington, D.C. Participants have included reporters, editors, publishers, videographers, photographers, media educators, reformers and citizen journalists; audience members are from print, broadcast, and online media, both mainstream and entrepreneurial. The group's founders are also a diverse bunch. Interested? Register here, or take a peek at who's attending here.

Nov 12, 2009

PubTV and radio in Chicago lose longtime pubaffairs project

The longest running multimedia public-affairs series in the nation, "Chicago Matters," is ending after 19 years, according to Chicago Tribune media reporter Phil Rosenthal. The series was a partnership among pubTV's WTTW 11, Chicago Public Radio, the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Reporter newspaper to spotlight a major regional issue each year. It's funded by the Chicago Community Trust. The group, citing the recession's toll, said in a statement that it has "redirected $2.7 million towards basic human needs" and will stop funding "Chicago Matters" at the end of 2009. Last week the Trust announced a new program, "Community News Matters," "to spur growth of new sources of quality local news." One of 12 projects funded was the Chicago News Cooperative (Current, Oct. 26, 2009), which received $50,000 of the available $500,000.

Leaked plan in Chicago takes frank look at Vocalo

A new strategic plan worked up at Chicago Public Radio unexpectedly went public earlier this week when it was leaked to the Chicago Reader. The three-year plan (PDF) assesses the broadcaster’s strengths and weaknesses and puts forth general goals such as “Create modular, highly useful, adaptive and relevant content” and “Build a relationship engine” — i.e., help listeners customize which content they get from the station and on what platforms.

Some of the plan’s blunter language addresses the progress, or lack thereof, of Vocalo, the ambitious web/radio hybrid that the station debuted in 2007. “As a website Vocalo must be seen as unsuccessful so far,” the report says. “Great websites exhibit a much steeper growth pattern than we have experienced — something our staff and General Manager are urgently working to address. This must be fixed urgently” (italics are the report’s).

Among reactions: In a commentary on the Reader’s site, media critic Michael Miner says the document “has caused consternation” among unnamed Chicago Public Radio staffers, who see it as weak on its commitment to journalism. And in a brief note on WBEZ’s blog, the station’s v.p. of strategic communications says, “We’re still working on the practical translation of what we’re actually going to do over the next three years.”

DTV converter box program ends

As of Monday the fed's DTV converter box coupon program is over, with nearly half the 64 million coupons unredeemed, reports Broadcasting & Cable. That translates to some $1.2 billion worth of the $40 coupons unused.

PBS is into New TeeVee

Jason Seiken, PBS senior vice president, interactive, is one of a slew of speakers at the New TeeVee Live '09, Television Reinvented confab today in San Francisco. The annual meeting delves into the future of television as it morphs into "gaming consoles, browser-enabled TVs, startup set-top boxes, network DVRs, simple cables — it’s a battle to see who can bring the flexibility and variety of online video delivery to the comfort of your couch." Seiken's presentation is "Transforming a MSM Brand," about PBS's strategy to use online video and social media to revamp and revitalize its brand. Also attending: Kevin Dando, PBS director, education and online communications; and Tim Olson, v.p. of digital media and education at KQED.

It's a wonderful life, full of sounds

Fred Newman, sound effects man extraordinaire on American Public Media's Prairie Home Companion, gave a demonstration of his craft Wednesday afternoon in Enid, Okla., reports the Enid News and Eagle. Newman was in town doing sound effects for The Wonderful Life of George Bailey, an adaptation of the film It's a Wonderful Life as a radio drama at Enid Symphony Hall. Newman's grandfather sparked his passion for sounds at an early age, he said. His grandfather placed a finger on Newman’s lips and told to listen to the sounds. “If the wind was blowing he would tell me to hear the whisper of the sound,” Newman told the crowd. “If the wind blew through a pine tree it would whisper, if it blew through an oak tree it would clatter and if it was a willow tree it swished.”

Nov 11, 2009

A new pubTV offering: National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

For the first time, pubTV stations may broadcast the 60-minute National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Washington, D.C. According to partners WETA, the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation, the ceremony, which takes place Dec. 3, will be available starting Dec. 4 to run throughout the holiday season. It's the 86th annual lighting. (2008 photo: National Park Service)

APT Fall Marketplace gets under way

The crowds are arriving for APT's Fall Marketplace, today through Saturday in Fort Myers, Fla. Lots of events, including a professional development seminar by Steve McGowan, senior vice president of research for the Discovery Channel, "Traditional Media's Future When Facing the Rise of New Media."

KQED, CIR pair up for statewide investigative reporting

California Watch, a division of the Berkeley-based Center for Investigative Reporting, and KQED Radio officially unveiled their editorial collaboration to bring more watchdog coverage of statewide issues to public radio airwaves. Michael Montgomery, a veteran investigative reporter formerly with American RadioWorks, will produce stories exclusively for California Report, a KQED Radio series with a weekly cume of 620,000 listeners statewide. The partners will jointly produce interactive multimedia and pool their editorial resources, including office space in the Sacramento, the state capitol, and California Watch journalists will appear regularly on other KQED programs. "Public radio is a critical distribution outlet and this opportunity to reach large numbers of public radio listeners in California fits right into our strategy of maximizing the impact of our stories by using muliple media platforms," said Robert Rosenthal, executive director of CIR.

Can't you poke fun at Democrats too?

In an online chat with readers, Vivian Schiller gives herself a B+ for her first 10 months as NPR president. "I've gotten a lot done, but not as much as I hope to over time!" she writes. Beyond the usual complaints about pledge drives and government subsidies for public broadcasting, chat participants complained about liberal bias on the weekly NPR news quiz Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! "Peter Sagal is the most biased personality you have on staff. He routinely takes cheap shots at the GOP, but refuses to go after Democratic figures," writes one participant. "Why do you keep Dan Schorr around?" asks another. "His analysis is reliably faulty, liberally-biased, and mean-spirited (yeah, I guess I'd feel the same way after what Nixon did to me). But still -- he really knocks down any credibility you have of being 'unbiased', especially since he is a part of the news wing, not entertainment." Chat moderator and Post media writer Paul Farhi deflected criticisms of WWDTM, but Schiller responded to the complaint about NPR's senior news analyst: "Dan Schorr is a liberal commentator. I will not deny that is true. So what do we do about that? We balance his views with those of conservative guest commentators who frequently appear on our airwaves."

FCC adviser to tackle journalism woes

Steve Waldman, incoming special adviser to FCC Chair Julius Genachowski, said confronting the myriad troubles in the news industry will be a priority in his work. He told TV News Check (registration required) that he will study "the very worrisome and deep contraction of journalism," adding, "You have this real threat, especially to fulltime professional local journalism. ... The chairman is interested in making sure we're thinking creatively and in a coordinated way." AOL's Daily Finance Blog dubbed him "The point man for fixing the news business." There he laid what he'll be looking at: "My first assignment is really to figure out what the problem is, and to try to be as precise and kind of data-driven as possible. We certainly all have anecdotal senses of some of the big cosmic shifts going on, but what's the upshot? When you kind of net all these things out, what are the key gaps? What are the key areas that the market's not going to take care of?" Meanwhile, another agency, the Federal Trade Commission, is convening a two-day seminar, "How Will Journalism Survive the Digital Age?" on Dec. 1 and 2 in Washington. See the latest Current for a look at pubcasting's role in the future of news, and how that's playing out in one market.

Nov 10, 2009

Festivities that would make even Oscar smile

Sesame Street creator Joan Ganz Cooney was on hand at Sesame Workshop yesterday as the New York City mayor's office proclaimed Nov. 10, 2009, as Sesame Street Day, and placed a temporary street sign at 64th and Broadway across from the workshop to honor the 40-year-old show. The cast and crew were there, as well as President and CEO Gary E. Knell. The Workshop staff jammed elevators to attend, wearing bright T-shirts and party hats for the occasion, top. (Photos: Sesame Workshop). Many more photos online at Pacific Coast News. Today, above, there's cake!

RTNDA morphs into RTDNA

The Radio-Television News Directors Association is updating its name, according to TV News Check. Now it's the Radio Television Digital News Association. That makes the third name since the groups founding in 1946 as the National Association of Radio News Directors. "We spent quite a bit of time in board meetings over the last few years and we ran names up and down the flagpole," said President Stacey Woelfel. "Ultimately, we ended up with this letter swap in the middle of the name, which I thought was brilliant when I heard it, because it still allowed us to keep that RTNDA brand. It was an instant hit." It also recognizes the growing number of online, digital and multimedia journalists.

Nov 9, 2009

Sixteen projects get funding approval from Latino Public Broadcasting

Latino Public Broadcasting today announced the 16 projects chosen for funding in its 11th annual Open Call. A statement by the group notes that more than half of these programs have never been funded by Latino Public Broadcasting before, "a direct result of an extensive outreach program for independent filmmakers throughout the nation." Check out all the winning projects here.

Caroll Spinney ponders his alter ego

Caroll Spinney, who has played Big Bird since Sesame Street's inception, is captured in a rare photograph in the New Yorker, wearing just the legs of his famous yellow costume. Back in 1970, after Look magazine carried a photo of Spinney sticking his face out between the body and head, Muppets creator Jim Henson told him, “Don’t let that ever happen again. You’re either bird or you, but no in between.” As for his future as Big Bird: "I’ve done 40 years and, unless I have a bad surprise, my ultimate goal would be to play this 6-year-old bird for 50 years. Whether that’s possible, only Lord knows."

Thousands get one last "Neighborhood" visit

Around 5,000 fans of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood lined up out the door and down the street from WQED in Pittsburgh to take one last look at pieces of its famous set, which are bound for storage, according to the Pittsburgh Nonpartisan Examiner. Mr. McFeely, still played by Dave Newell (now spokesperson for Rogers' production company Family Communications Inc.), spent 12 hours on Saturday and Sunday posing for photos with visitors and sharing their memories in the station's Studio A, which was officially renamed Fred Rogers Studio. Fans got an up-close look at King Friday XIII's castle, X the Owl's tree and other pieces. A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette video captures the excitement. WQED rep Rosemary Martinelli said visitors came from as far away as Alaska and Korea. One special moment: Rogers' son John brought his son, Ian, born 12 days after Rogers' death in 2003. The long line was temporarily halted as the two explored the set alone. At that point, one woman told Martinelli she'd wait as long as it took and was honored to witness that touching scene.

Muppets starring in Google logo

In case you've missed it, since Nov. 4 Google has been honoring the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street with appearances by several of the show's favorite characters on its logo (a.k.a. Google Doodles). Download high-res images here.

Welcome, KXT

A new pubradio station hit the airwaves at 7 a.m. today, according to the Dallas Morning News. KXT will play "an eclectic mix of indie rock, alt country and other styles," according to parent station KERA in Dallas. It's at 97.1 FM. KERA's Arts & Seek blog has a photo of Mary Anne Alhadeff, KERA’s c.e.o., speaking the first words on the new station. The deal for the channel may be the biggest station purchase this year (Current, June 22, 2009), with KERA spending $18 million for a reserved noncommercial channel owned by religious broadcaster Covenant Educational Media.

You say Pox, they say Fox

Sesame Workshop has responded to the recent "tempest in a trash can" over the Sesame Street "Pox News" parody sketch, in today's PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler's column. In the bit, when Oscar talks about the Grouchy News Network, another character responds it wasn't grouchy enough and threatens to switch to Pox News--"now there's a trashy news show." Some viewers (and bloggers) were upset over what they perceived to be a slap at Fox News. But an explanation from Miranda Barry, Sesame Workshop creative e.v.p., said the bit was an "equal-opportunity parody--Oscar always tries to offend everybody!" She said the Grouch News Network (GNN) was actually a reference to CNN. One viewer responds: "The debate over the Sesame Street Pox News skit is ridiculous. A sense of humor goes a long way for both adults and children--and these bloggers seem to have lost theirs."

Nov 7, 2009

Happy anniversary, pubcasting

Pubcasting's anniversary week continues. First PBS and Sesame Street, celebrating 40 years. And on Nov. 7, 1967, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act, which created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It was enacted just 10 months after the Carnegie Commisson on Educational Television. Sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, its report, "Public Television: A Program for Action," introduced the phrase "public television." (Photo: Johnson signing the act.)

Nov 6, 2009

More power means a classical option for listeners around St. Louis

Classical radio in the St. Louis area won’t go away if KRCU-FM gets the power increase and antenna upgrade it wants. The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has been in talks since last spring to sell its Classical 99, KFUO-FM in St. Louis, to Gateway Creative Broadcasting, which has two contemporary Christian stations in the state. Music and news KRCU at Southeast State University, 100 miles south in Cape Girardeau, hopes to reach the southern St. Louis market with an improved repeater at KSEF in Farmington. The station applied Sept. 30 to the FCC to go from 9,500 watts to 20,000 watts, the university said in a statement this week.

Emmys honor Biz Report anchor, founder; give pubcasters nine nominations

Lifetime Achievement Awards for Business and Financial Reporting will go to Paul Kangas of Nightly Business Report, and Linda O’Bryon, founder of that broadcast in 1979 and now chief content officer of Northern California Public Broadcasting, according to the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. In nominations announced this week, pubcasters pulled in nods for NewsHour, NOW, Frontline (four), Wide Angle, Nova scienceNOW and the PBS Vote 2008 project. A full list of the Emmy nominees here. Awards will be presented Dec. 7 in New York City.

Experts at Harvard ponder potential "terrible vacuum" of news

A panel of media experts gathered at the Harvard Kennedy School this week for a discussion that “acknowledged both the despair and the hope that journalists feel over the present state of the American news business, rocked by economic turmoil and the rise of the Internet,” according to the Harvard Gazette. One participant was Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Jones, former host of Media Matters on PBS and director of Harvard's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy and author of the new book, Losing the News: The Future of the News That Feeds Democracy. He said that newspapers create most of the “cumulative reporting” that underlies American journalism, and if they disappear it will create “a terrible vacuum” of information that drives the national conversation, according to the paper. Read more about pubcasting's involvement in the future of news coverage in the Nov. 9 issue of Current.

Sesame gets actual street

The street running through Kiwanis Park in Charleston, Ill., will be permanently renamed Sesame Street on Sunday, according to the Daily Eastern News of Eastern Illinois University in the central-Illinois city. Mayor John Inyart will read a proclamation to kick off a day of activities hosted by pubstation WEIU and a local commercial radio station. Participants are encouraged to dress as their favorite Sesame Street characters, and have a chance to record their favorite moments from the show.

Nov 5, 2009

NPR and iBiquity agree to support lesser power boost for HD Radio

NPR joined with the proprietor of HD Radio technology, iBiquity Digital Corp., to propose that the FCC quadruple the permitted digital FM power level. In a statement released today they agreed the plan would protect analog FM broadcasts from interference while significantly improving reception of the digital HD Radio signal — especially by receivers indoors, where the digital signal sometimes can’t penetrate.

Last fall, after other broadcasters suggested a ten-fold power boost for the digital signal, NPR field tests found the larger increase would interfere with regular FM broadcasts.

If the FCC takes NPR's and iBiquity's advice, it would authorize a blanket 6 dB increase, from 20 dBc to -14 dBc. Most stations could boost their digital signals by more than 6 dB, they calculated, laying out the option of greater increases where spacing between stations and other criteria would limit interference.

Mister Rogers gets a bronze tribute

A sculpture Fred Rogers was unveiled today in Pittsburgh as a tribute to the children's television icon. He's seated and tying his shoe, facing the city skyline, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It's titled, "Tribute to Children." The bronze piece created by sculptor Robert Berks is nearly 11 feet high and weighs more than 7,000 pounds. Berks may be best known for his bust of President Kennedy in Washington's Kennedy Center. Also, don't miss the nice audio tribute on WDUQ's news blog, from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. (Photo: Family Communications Inc.)

Blogger examines MPR/APM executive salaries; $600,000 for president

The member-supported local news site MinnPost is dissecting salary numbers of Minnesota Public Radio execs. Blogger David Brauer did "a little spreadsheet crunching" of MPR's IRS 990 forms for the year ending June 2008. Bill Kling, president and CEO of Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media, made $373,254 in compensation and benefits from MPR/APM, $180,000 from American Public Media Group (APMG) and $48,000 from Greenspring, MPR's for-profit arm.

Nov 4, 2009

Holiday furloughs hit WNET

Employees at WNET in New York will have three unpaid days off between Christmas and New Year's Day, according to Crain's New York Business. Senior managers at the pubTV station will have five days of unpaid leave. Production staffers involved in daily shows will be exempt.

Kids' writing contest revived after Rainbow's end

PBS is picking up where Reading Rainbow left off, launching a new annual writing and drawing contest for children in cahoots with public TV stations around the country. More at

Viewers get grouchy over "Pox News"

Now here's an unexpected question: Did Sesame Street take a poke at Fox News? That's what PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler is looking at in this week's Mailbag. In the Oct. 29 episode, Oscar the Grouch hosted the Grouch News Network, covering "all grouchy, all disgustin', all yucky" news. But another character thinks it's not grouchy enough and threatens to switch to "Pox News, now there's a trashy news show." Viewers wrote Getler to complain that the character actually said "Fox" News. "I can't really blame them," Getler writes. "When I went and watched the tape for the first time, I thought I heard 'Fox' as well, perhaps because of the association one assumes when you hear 'news' right after the word." But closed captioning revealed it was indeed Pox News.

New York, New York, that Sesame town

New York magazine is celebrating 40 years of Sesame Street with a pageful of fascinating factoids in its current issue. A few: The show was almost called 123 Avenue B. Designer Charles Rosen based the set "on an amalgam of streets in Harlem, the Bronx, the Upper West Side," according to the mag. The very first episode on Nov. 10, 1969, was sponsored by the letters W, S and E, and the numbers 2 and 3. And Big Bird is still played by Caroll Spinney, now 75 years old. In other Sesame news, don't miss the new show opening.

ITVS announces fictional exploration of a future America

Eleven fictional mini-features, each 15 minutes, created by indie filmmakers will ponder what America may look like in the future. The ITVS project, FutureStates, will run exclusively on its new website in March 2010. ITVS said in a statement that the industry will get a peek at the series at AFI's Digifest on Thursday in Los Angeles.

Nov 3, 2009

Columnist points out African-American absence on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight"

WTTW-Channel 11 in Chicago doesn't have one African American reporter or anchor on staff, writes longtime Chicago media columnist Robert Feder on the WBEZ/Vocalo blog, noting the situation "seems like a throwback to some other era." Chicago Tonight, the station's public affairs program, has four white and two Hispanic staffers, he says. A WTTW spokesperson told Feder, "Because we reflect Chicago and we’re so Chicago focused, we know we’ve got to have African American talent. . . . It’s very front of our minds.” However, "given the station’s financial straits," Feder notes, "it’s not likely to happen any time soon."

PBS marks four decades today

Happy birthday, Public Broadcasting Service! Yes, PBS turns 40 today. The U.S. Census Bureau took the opportunity to recognize the system and its "excellent programs and objectivity" in a short news release today. Let's hope that your station is having birthday cake. Or at least donuts.

Colorado pubTV joins with local journalists for state news project

Colorado Public Television on Monday announced a partnership with local journalists for a news website and an investigative news show covering the state. The project, Colorado Public News, “is responsive to the reduction of significant investigative journalism that has occurred nationally and locally with the shrinkage of news staffs in print and broadcast media, including the closure of the Rocky Mountain News,” Wick Rowland, president and CEO of Colorado Public Television, said in a statement. Former Rocky Mountain News investigative reporter Ann Imse will be editor-in-chief. “Since traditional advertising isn’t funding in-depth journalism, we are choosing the PBS model of producing great journalism and asking for tax-deductible donations to fund non-profit, public journalism,” Imse said in the statement. When the project reaches its initial funding goal of $400,000, reporters will publish an in-depth or investigative report on at least one major issue weekly to post on the site and later in prime time on Channel 12. Check out its prototype website.

Nov 2, 2009

WXEL sale hits a paperwork snag

A local group interested in buying the license for WXEL FM and TV in Palm Beach, Fla., has not submitted required documentation, according to owner Barry University, reports The Sun Sentinel. But the Community Broadcast Foundation of Palm Beach and Treasure Coast disagrees. "Now they've come back and say they want documentation of your funding," said Green, who told the paper that Barry officials have refused to meet with his group. "If you meet with us, you can ask us anything you want." The FCC may have to intervene, according to one source. Station ownership has been in flux for years.

Schiller responds to NABJ by "laying out the numbers"

NPR released its staff composition stats after the National Association of Black Journalists questioned the network's commitment to diversity. "I couldn't agree more that NPR must increase the diversity of its staff--particularly in management and editorial," NPR President Vivian Schiller wrote in an Oct. 29 letter to NABJ leaders. "I believe our diversity efforts are best served through transparency, so we are going to lay out the numbers for you." NPR's management pool, which NABJ expressed concern about in an earlier letter to Schiller, includes 47 staff who describe themselves as people of color; that is nearly 24 percent of 199 managers at all levels of the network. Diversity among executive management is 11.8 percent. More than 22 percent of 58 news and programming managers are people of color; 14 percent are African-American. "Another concern not addressed by NABJ or Schiller is that the only on-air African American male is Juan Williams, who is not a staff employee," writes NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard, in a recent column. "Over a year ago, NPR's management put him on contract as a news analyst." The lack of diversity within NPR management was apparent to Shepard when she joined NPR two years ago. "Since then, there have been diversity meetings, committees, surveys, and they all conclude . . . NPR must focus on diversifying its staff, especially if NPR wants to better reflect the population and continue to expand its audience."

Father of pubcasting to talk about "Saving the News"

Ward Chamberlin, one of the founders of American pubcasting, is one of four journalists who will discuss "Saving the News" Wednesday evening at Yale University, according to the New Haven Register. Chamberlin was COO of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting at its inception in 1967, and helped create PBS and NPR. Others in the panel are David Greenway, former editor of the editorial and op-ed pages of the Boston Globe; Robert Kaiser, associate editor and senior correspondent at the Washington Post; and John Yemma, editor of the Christian Science Monitor.

Nov 1, 2009

Rio Grande NPR hopefuls suffer setback

Voices of the Valley, a grassroots group working to create a second pubradio station in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, has encountered a setback, reports The Brownsville Herald. Betsy Price, who had been dismissed from local NPR affiliate KMBH's board (Current, March 16, 2009), says ESPN nabbed an AM station in Raymondville the group wanted to lease. "We came very close," she told the paper. "We were working with a broker to get a five-year lease with one of the stations. It was looking good until (ESPN) bought it out. What we were looking at was to partner with Texas Public Radio. We would have been broadcasting right away. It was very disappointing." The group also is planning a Web site by January 2010 with online streaming of NPR and local programming. KMBH has struggled financially for several years, and this month a CPB Inspector General's office review cited problems from accounting to lack of a community advisory board.