Apr 3, 2009

More cuts reported at WGBH

WGBH is instituting a one-week staff furlough, cuts in executive salaries and suspension of employee retirement matching funds in an attempt to ease a projected $3 million budget gap for fiscal 2009, according to the Boston Business Journal. CEO Jon Abbott announced the moves in a memo to employees Thursday. He's also asking members of the unions at the pubTV and radio stations, the National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians and the Association of the Employees of Educational Foundation, to agree to a furlough; those savings would exceed $500,000. All all vice presidents are taking a 5 percent pay cut. Abbott also wants to cut discretionary budgets 4.5 percent over a four-month period, which may include more layoffs. WGBH dismissed 12 workers late last year, about 2 percent of its staff. Jeanne Hopkins, v.p. of communications and governmental relations, told Current that programming remains a priority for the station. "Right now we're really focused, and have been for quite some time, on keeping production costs as low as possible while delivering quality programs to stations," she said.

PBS Dues Task Force beginning work on FY11

Next week PBS stations should begin receiving requests for input for the network's Dues Review Task Force. John King, the task force chair, reported at this week's PBS board meeting there will be a new dues model for the 2011 fiscal year. "The principle focus of meetings now is to define the purpose, scope and principles of the review," he told the board. The group is examining dues models used by other organizations as well as PBS. The next face-to-face meeting will be June 7, probably in Washington. Public comments will be allowed. King realizes the tough job ahead. "Any time you look at dues for PBS it's always tricky," he told Current. "It's never easy to come up with dues models that all 174 licensees can embrace and accept. It's my hope that we come as close as we can." FY2010 dues will remain at 2009 levels.

Nova host worries about 2029 asteroid

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, a popular host of PBS' Nova, says the humans must do something about the approaching asteroid Apophis. "I don't want to be the laughing stock of the galaxy and go extinct as a species because we didn't do something about it," he said at the 25th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs this week. The massive asteroid is predicted to pass between the Earth and communication satellites on April 13, 2029. (That's a Friday, by the way.) Tyson received the Douglas S. Morrow Public Outreach Award at the confab.

Lehrer says writing is a priority

PBS newsman Jim Lehrer, out on tour for his latest novel, Oh Johnny, paused for a question and answer session with The Sacramento Bee. How has he found time to write 19 novels, two memoirs, two screenplays and three stage plays? "It goes back to when I had a heart attack 25 years ago. I was recovering and the doctor said, 'You ought to prioritize the rest of your time.' So I did. By not doing the things I don't want to do, I have plenty of time to do the things I do want to do."

Dyson to host new talker from African American Public Radio Consortium

Oprah Winfrey is confirmed as the first guest on the Michael Eric Dyson Show launching April 6 on public radio stations in 18 markets. Dr. Dyson, an author, academic and social commentator who previously hosted a talk show syndicated by Radio One, said his public radio series will deal with "several topics about which I care deeply--politics, religion, economic policy, arts and culture." The African American Public Radio Consortium, which partnered with NPR to create The Tavis Smiley Show, News and Notes and Tell Me More, teamed up with WEAA in Baltimore to produce the one-hour series, airing weekdays. How did Dyson get Oprah to appear on his new talker? “A lot of begging, brother!” Dyson tells the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Rodney Ho.