Jan 22, 2009

WNET to cuts jobs, budget

New York's WNET-Thirteen will cut 8 percent of its upcoming budget through cost reductions and job eliminations. Also affected will be parent organization and sister station WLIW-21.'s President and CEO Neal Shapiro told The Observer that of roughly 500 staffers, some 85 positions are targeted. According to Shapiro, individual and corporate as well as government funding for WNET and WLIW all have declined significantly in recent months. Also, N.Y. Gov. David Paterson's new budget includes a 50 percent reduction in the overall funding for pubTV, which would mean about a $4.5 million cut for "If that happens, we'll have to take more actions," Shapiro told the paper.

Obama selects acting FCC chair

President Barack Obama has named FCC Commissioner Michael Copps temporary head of the regulatory agency. Copps has been one of the five-member commission since 2001. Tech exec Julius Genachowski is the new president's reported choice to head the FCC, but that appointment may take weeks or perhaps months.

Ifill's new book about politics and race on the shelf

NewsHour correspondent Gwen Ifill's new book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was published on Inauguration Day. Ifill, who moderated the vice presidential debate last fall, drew criticism from John McCain supporters when news of her book contract hit the press. Critics assumed she would favor Obama's camp, but The Breakthrough is "less about Barack Obama's victory than a generational shift among black politicians and voters, black and white," says Bob Minzesheimer of USA Today. "Her book is a serious but readable assessment, not a celebration," he writes. Ifill mentions the debate flap briefly: "I was a hard target to resist -- an African-American journalist writing about race could not possibly be capable of thinking bigger thoughts, could she?" An excerpt of the book is available here, from The New York Times.

Detroit pubTV lays off 11

Detroit Public Television laid off 11 employees yesterday--about 16 percent of the station's staff. Sister radio station WRCJ-FM laid off one employee. The TV station made cuts to the reception desk, accounting and promotions departments, and all who were laid off received a severance package, according to David Devereaux, v.p. of communications. 

Ombudsmen respond to complaints of biased coverage of Gaza conflict

Pubcasting ombudsmen Alicia Shepard of NPR and Michael Getler of PBS have received hundreds of complaints about biased coverage of the Israeli incursion into Gaza, and their latest columns analyze to what extent the criticisms are justified. Some listeners say public radio coverage is so biased that NPR is actually "National Palestinian Radio," Shepard writes, but the biggest issue appears to be a lack of historical or political context in NPR's reporting. "Context is critical but there are certain time constraints that simply won't allow the kind of detail some listeners want in every four-minute piece," she writes. At PBS, Getler agrees with viewers that a Bill Moyers commentary on the Israeli-Hamas conflict was "not only inflammatory but wrong." The commentary, which aired Jan. 9, also prompted this rebuke from Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League.