May 13, 2009

DOE official lauds PBS

Jim Shelton is not only the Assistant Deputy Secretary of the Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement. He's also, as he told a ballroom full of pubcasters at the PBS Showcase, "one of millions and millions of parents" who entrust their children to the network. "There is no place I'd rather send my son than PBS," he said of his 6-year-old. "PBS has the opportunity to be the most effective, trusted brand in education in the country. To be transformative for our children, young adults, and adults in transition in particular. It's in your hands, and I trust you with it." Shelton received a standing ovation. The Showcase concludes tomorrow in Baltimore.

Incoming CPB innovator eyes video games

Joaquin Alvarado, who joins CPB on June 30 as senior v.p. for diversity and innovation, led a wide-ranging, fast-moving discussion on "Public Service Media 2.0" at Wednesday's PBS Showcase. One issue: Pubcasting, he said, is "woefully absent" from the conversation about the educational possibilities of video games. "We have all these kids at the console spending four, five hours a day playing games. How do we use that as an opportunity to address challenges in education?" Alvarado cited as an example the nonprofit Games for Change, which, according to its website, "seeks to harness the extraordinary power of video games to address the most pressing issues of our day, including poverty, human rights, global conflict and climate change." It calls itself "a voice for the transformative power of video games."

APTS updates Showcase participants

At PBS Showcase yesterday, APTS President Larry Sidman joked that there was scant coverage -- OK, none -- of his first 100 days in office. But he was busy indeed, and will continue to be during the coming months. Sidman and his legislative team updated pubcasters on the lobbying group's ongoing efforts on Capitol Hill. "We feel our job is to try to get access to as much federal funding for stations as we possibly can," Sidman said, because all stations are suffering shortfalls in "almost every nonfederal funding source." The group also is trying to assist individual stations that aspire to stimulus grants. There are "pockets of money," Sidman said, available through various agencies. "So we're working with stations to position themselves to be grant recipients."

Classic Sesame album returning

Next week Sesame Workshop and partner KOCH Records will re-release on CD "Sesame Street: Silly Songs," a classic album currently out of print. Remember these? "Monster in the Mirror," "Captain Vegetable" and "The Honker-Duckie-Dinger Jamboree." Should be in stores around May 19.

PBS Showcases kids' lineup

A performance by Mr. Steve, who sang of how sad the world would be without PBS kids' shows, kicked off a preview of programming for younger viewers today at the PBS Showcase in Baltimore. One project sure to generate news is a two-part episode of Arthur set to air in October that will tackle the subject of cancer. An animated Lance Armstrong appears to talk about his battle with the disease and the program was developed in partnership with his foundation. Then there's The Cat in the Hat Knows All About That, voiced by actor Martin Short, the first time the classic story will appear as an animated series. (However, Time magazine's Tuned In columnist is dubious about that.) Over the coming months four "stunts" are aimed to draw not only the younger audience but also press attention as well. On Memorial Day there's a special Super WHY!, "Hurray for Heroes," targeting 8- to 10-year olds. Labor Day brings the premiere of Dinosaur Train, the much-anticipated second series from the Jim Henson Co. On Thanksgiving comes a Curious George one-hour holiday special, then on President's Day is a special Martha Speaks, as "Martha Goes to Washington." Check out the next Current for an interview with Lisa Henson and the creative team behind Dinosaur Train, its latest for PBS since the hit Sid the Science Kid.