May 6, 2009

Former PBS chair testifies at Cap Hill media hearing

Alberto Ibarguen, former PBS chairman and now president of the Knight Foundation, testified on Capitol Hill today. The hearing, on the future of journalism, was before the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. Ibarguen challenged lawmakers to consider that broadcast and print media could indeed join forces. "I think it is at least worth a fresh look under current circumstances to see if a resulting combination, perhaps combined with stronger use of new and social media, can help to survive traditional news operations that still have such great expertise in reporting," his written testimony said. Read the full, expanded transcript of his remarks here.

"We Shall Remain" sparks charity drive

The American Experience series "We Shall Remain" on Native American history has inspired a drive in Massachusetts to help residents of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, according to The Concord Journal. The Many Nations Trading Post in Concord, Mass., is collecting toys and clothing, and taking cash donations to ship the goods. “The reservations get overlooked and are almost invisible to people,” said Carole Ann Baer, heading up the effort. “It’s a spirit, a strong nation that has been broken, but they are still fighting for survival. That’s why the title of the PBS series is so poignant, it’s showing that the spirit of the people shall remain despite the poverty and hardship.”

Juilliard student creates new music for WNET, WLIW

PubTV stations Channel 13 and WLIW21 in New York are debuting new identification spots featuring music created by a Juilliard student. Have a listen here to the new tunes performed by the Juilliard orchestra.

Super Why! research shows increase in literacy skills

Two new studies examining the PBS Kids series Super WHY! provide proof of the show's effectiveness on literacy skills, according to a joint statement from PBS and CPB. The studies, funded by CPB through a Department of Education Ready to Learn grant, were conducted by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and Florida State University's Center for Reading Research. Deborah L. Linebarger, director of the Annenberg Children's Media Lab, commented in the statement that "an impressive indicator of the power of Super WHY! is that meaningful changes in preschoolers' early literacy skills were found with exposure to as few as two or three episodes."

FCC rules forthcoming on replacement digital translators

The FCC may soon announce rules for new replacement digital translator service, which will let stations use translators to fill DTV signal coverage gaps in their current digital coverage areas and replicate their former analog reach, according to Broadcasting & Cable. The construction deadline is expected to be extended from the currently proposed six months to three years.

Salt Lake's KCPW lays off two; CEO cleaning bathrooms

KCPW, the pubradio station in Salt Lake City, has laid off two employees and cut salaries following lax fund-raising drives. CEO and President Ed Sweeney told the Salt Lake Crawler blog that underwriting is fine but individual donations are down. One of the station's two reporters was let go. Sweeney told Current that he now cleans the station himself--including the bathrooms--saving $400 a month.

PRI trims staff by three, reassigns others

Public Radio International laid off three employees, dropped two vacant positions and reassigned about 10 of its 55-member staff in a restructuring that took effect Monday. The restructuring aims to raise resources needed to strengthen programming and marketing within the tightened budget of the Minneapolis-based program distributor/producer, says Julia Yager, v.p. of brand management and marketing strategy. PRI has "aggressively" watched costs and expects only a "very slight" operating loss this fiscal year, she says. The three lost positions were spread among the marketing , communications and programming units. One of PRI's major initiatives, The Takeaway morning news program coproduced with WNYC, has just passed its first year on the air and is now heard on 36 main-channel pubradio stations (plus five HD Radio multicast channels), she said. Major cities reached include New York (WNYC), Boston (WGBH), Detroit (WDET), Atlanta (WCLK) and Seattle (KXOT, an affiliate of KUOW). [Corrected from an earlier version.]

ATC returns to China's Sichuan Province

NPR's Melissa Block and Andrea Hsu, key members of the All Things Considered team that delivered award-winning coverage when an earthquake devastated China's Sichuan province last May, have returned to the region to report on its recovery. They're posting updates on the Chengdu Diary blog that generated so much interest last year, and are hosting a live chat on right now. Their follow-up reports, which began airing on Monday, are here.

First lady talks health on Sesame Street

First lady Michelle Obama paid a visit to Sesame Street on Tuesday to tape a public service announcement as part of Sesame Workshop’s Healthy Habits For Life initiative. Mrs. Obama and Elmo talked about eating right, exercising regularly and being a healthy and positive role model for children. (Photo: Richard Termine)

Pennsylvania pubcasting supporters rally at capitol

Public broadcasting supporters and viewers--including teachers, station employees and even toddlers--protested at the Pennsylvania state capitol in Harrisburg Tuesday in an attempt to persuade the legislature to restore funding for the state's eight pubTV stations. Gov. Ed Rendell's proposed budget would zero-out $8 million in grants to stations including WQED in Pittsburgh. "Dozens of moms with kids in strollers, costumed characters, music groups, all the GMs from our stations, community leaders and even legislators joined us to rally to get the funding restored," Rosemary Martinelli, WQED spokeswoman told Current. "We need to communicate that it is not just a cut but a total elimination."

More viewers upset with Comcast over loss of stations

Add West Virginia PBS to the growing list of stations receiving calls from viewers upset that they suddenly can't receive their favorite channel via their current Comcast cable subscription. This time it's customers in the Northern and Eastern Panhandles of West Virginia, and Morgantown. A Comcast spokesman explained that viewers now need a digital converter box to receive the station under a new agreement between Comcast and West Virginia Public Broadcasting. But in a statement, station Executive Director Dennis Adkins said: “We were not aware that Comcast customers would be required to have special equipment or of the significant number of Comcast subscribers who would not have the appropriate equipment to take advantage of this expanded service.”