Mar 11, 2009

Sesame severs 20 percent of staff; takes heat on "Good Night Show"

Sesame Workshop announced today that it is cutting 67 of 355 positions, citing "the unprecedented challenges of today’s economic environment." Also today, Harvard University psychologist Susan Linn, who heads up Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, asked the PBS KIDS Sprout network to dump The Good Night Show, an evening program about a puppet getting ready for bed. “It is disturbing that that even as late as 9:00 p.m. – after three hours of television viewing – Sprout would encourage its preschool audience to ask parents for even more screen time,” Linn said in a statement on the group's website. Sandy Wax, head of Sprout, told The Associated Press that says she lives in the "real world" where families watch television, and is trying to do her best to put on programs that help parents.

G4 requests OMB meeting for $307 million FY2010 pubcasting supplemental

CPB, APTS, PBS and NPR on March 6 jointly submitted a letter to Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget, requesting a meeting "in the next two weeks" regarding a $307 million supplemental funding request for fiscal 2010. The leaked document appears on the Talking Points Memo website. "Some local stations may disappear entirely, undermining the universal service mandate of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967," the letter states. It adds that the "longstanding mechanism" of two-year advance funding for CPB, "while vital to public broadcasting, is ill-suited to the current economic crisis." Supplemental funding for FY2012 would be "simply too late" for stations, so a line item for FY2010 is "indispensable" for the system. A $211 million supplemental for fiscal FY2010 was requested during APTS Capital Hill Day in February for CPB and PBS. The additional $96 million is NPR's supplemental request, according to an NPR spokeswoman. That is usually made separately for public radio stations.

Saberi's parents report recent phone call

The parents of Roxana Saberi, the freelance journalist detained without charge by the Iranian government, received a phone call from their daughter on Monday, according to this local news account. "She just said she loves us,” Reza Saberi, Roxana's father, told the Fargo InForum. “But she said, psychologically, it’s really hard to be in prison. It sounds like she’s under great pressure.” Brian Duffy, managing editor of NPR News, said that news organizations have a responsibility to speak up on her behalf. Saberi "provided valuable and accurate reports from a very important and interesting part of the world," Duffy said. "She’s someone we feel responsible towards. To remain silent would be totally inappropriate.”

MPR request for state aid tops $1.3 million

Advocates for Minnesota Public Radio appeared at the state Capitol in St. Paul yesterday to make the case for funding requests pending before the state legislature. MPR seeks $850,000 to build three new stations and $525,000 to convert some existing stations for HD Radio broadcasts, according to KARE-TV in Twin Cities. In addition, the state network is asking lawmakers for a portion of the revenues generated by the so-called Legacy Amendment, which Minnesota voters endorsed last fall. The Legacy Amendment primarily provides taxpayer funds for clean water protection and natural resource conservation, but it includes a dedicated pool of money for arts, arts education and preservation of Minnesota's cultural heritage and history. "MPR is the largest cultural organization in the state," said Jeff Nelson, MPR public affairs director. "830,000 people listen to MPR every week."

Cookie Monster hits CapHill

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday told The Washington Times that Cookie Monster was always his favorite Sesame Street character, and that beets were his least favorite vegetable. The revelations followed a press conference during which Cookie Monster told the Capitol Hill crowd he was there "to get more cookies. Do you think I came to town for a Cabinet position?" The fun was all part of an event highlighting Healthy Habits for Life: Get Healthy Now, the new collaboration between Sesame Workshop and the National Women, Infants and Children Association (WIC), a nonprofit that helps low-income pregnant and nursing women with nutrition information and food assistance.