May 20, 2009

Sprout TV to get all Wiggly

The Wiggles, the Aussie musical quartet that's a megahit with the preschool set, are coming to Sprout TV this summer. The bouncy band's television show runs in more than 110 countries and ends a seven-year contract with the Disney Channel in June. The program will premiere on Sprout on Aug. 24. Sprout President Sandy Wax said this is the largest acquisition thusfar for the channel, which is a partnership of PBS, Comcast, Sesame Workshop and HIT Entertainment.

Pubradio comes to the Little Apple of Kansas

Receiving public radio around Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., got a lot easier today, thanks to another big university. Kansas Public Radio (KANU), based at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, turned on two new repeaters nearby, bringing both of its services to town: its main news/classical/jazz service on 99.5 MHz and its KPR2 news/talk service on 98.3 Mhz. Manhattan hasn't had its own pubradio station since Kansas State gave up on its rare shared-control role in KKSU-AM seven years ago. Manhattan got spotty service from the nearest KPR signal, 91.3 broadcast from Junction City.

Arizona station benefits from new endowment

KAET at Arizona State University in Phoenix will receive about $25,000 annually through a planned giving donation from a longtime fan. The new Melvina C. Killion Charitable Endowment is named for "a really fine supporter" of the station, Gary McMahan, Channel 8's associate director of development, told Current. Killion died Jan. 6 at age 91. The size of her estate is still being determined, but is estimated at between $1.6 million and $1.9 million, he said. Three other organizations will share the funding. Killion came on as a station member in 1987, McMahan said, by donating $100. Her annual giving over the years increased to $5,000. The endowment money will be directed to the station via the Arizona State University Foundation and should begin flowing within the next year.

WNET trimming more jobs

An as-yet unannounced number of staffers will be losing their jobs during the next month from WNET-Thirteen, PBS' flagship station in New York, and sister station WLIW-21. Neal Shapiro, president and CEO of, broke the news to employees at an all-station meeting this morning. Shapiro later denied published reports of 50 affected positions, saying only that the number will be fewer than the 85 laid off in January. World Focus staffers will be furloughed, and the company is mulling additional unpaid voluntary furloughs. In addition the company will make "significant budget reductions," according to The New York Times.

PBS ombudsman examines "We Shall Remain" response

In his latest column, PBS ombudsman Michael Getler (right) focuses on controversies surrounding the recent American Experience miniseries on Native Americans, "We Shall Remain." Getler addresses what he calls a "detailed, non-stop, frontal attack on the program" that arrived in the form of a May 10 letter to PBS head Paula Kerger from a small group calling itself the Wounded Knee Victims and Veterans Association. Kerger had earlier responded to another letter from three tribes in Massachusetts also voicing complaints on the programs.

Learn about StorySharing via webinar

Don't forget to register for the National Parks: America's Best Idea StorySharing webinar tomorrow. Join the National Center for Media Engagement (formerly NCO) and WETA online at 2 p.m. Thursday for a tutorial on how to use the StoryShare tool on your station's site. Here's what Rocky Mountain PBS is doing with it.

"Sesame" theme listed in music used on detainees

The theme from Sesame Street is one of the tunes used to psychologically pressure detainees in U.S. custody. The revelation emerged in a Reuters story on the work of the Zero dB (for zero decibels) project that's part of the British legal charity Reprieve. It represents dozens of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The project is working toward a ban on the use of loud music on detainees, which it characterizes as torture.

W.Va. city manager wants Comcast to restore PBS channel location

The city manager of Morgantown, W.Va., is proposing a resolution asking Comcast to restore West Virginia PBS to its original channel location. The station recently shifted from an analog to a digital tier as part of a 2005 agreement between APTS and the cable industry. Similiar moves also prompted complaints in states including Illinois, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware. Current is following the story.

Archive outlook: standardizing file wrappers is one of many aspects

Broadcast hardware technologists are considering standard specs for a "wrapper" for digital video files to give producers an archive-friendly video production workflow, says Nan Rubin of WNET in her paper "Preserving Digital Public Television: Is There Life After Broadcasting?," published in International Preservation News this month. As an example of a streamlined workflow, she cites the procedures developed for WNET's new five-days-a-week Worldfocus. Rubin coordinated a pubTV preservation planning project for the Library of Congress.

Twittered tamales, anyone?

Rick Bayless, chef and host of Mexico -- One Plate at a Time on PBS, tweets recipes on Twitter. Yes, 140 characters at a time. So when The Chicago Tribune interviewed Bayless, it seemed fitting to stick with that format. An example of a Bayless recipe tweet: "wrap papaya n serrano ham. Grill fish; baste: puree cnd chipotle+honey. Fry garlic in OO, mash in bl beans. Grill #cake+ van ice crm+cajeta." Yum.

Interactive games within videos boosting numbers on PBS Kids Go! site

The interactive game elements embedded within video content on the PBS Kids Go! site are increasing visitors to the site. The platform company supplying the technology, Panache, today announced the partnership, which PBS inked in March. Literally within 24 hours after the gaming elements launched, there was a "jaw-dropping" increase in hits, Kevin Dando, director of education and online communications at PBS, told Current. The first series with the video game interactivity include Arthur, Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman, Cyberchase and Wordgirl. The Electric Company and others will be up within a few months, according to Panache's statement. Interactive clips on the site receive triple the views and longer engagement times than non-interactive videos, it added.