Oct 8, 2009

PBS in talks with NatGeo for exclusive Obama documentary

National Geographic Television is filming the daily life of President Barack Obama over the next four months for an exclusive documentary, and a PBS rep confirms the pubcaster is "in discussions" to air the film. The C21 Media website, which covers international entertainment, reports from MIPCOM in Cannes, France, that the hourlong doc, The White House: Through the Lens, is "being made for public service network PBS," to air in November 2010. PBS Spokeswoman Stephanie Aaronson told Current the doc is one of many projects the network is considering, although specifics such as title and airdates have yet to be decided. Maryanne Culpepper, NatGeo e.v.p., told C21 that talks began with Obama's reps last August, before he was elected. Producers received approval to begin filming last month and the first shoot took place last week. Day One of the project captured the president lunching with Bill Clinton, and romping through the White House with the family dog, Bo.

Almost a year into recession, pubcasting lost $167 million in investments and "other" revenues

After almost a year of recession, the public TV and radio system lost $167.7 million in its "all other" revenue category, CPB says in its recently released annual system revenue report for fiscal year 2008. The category includes gains and losses on stations' investments and assets, including endowments, as well as results from capital campaigns and subsidiaries. The country's official arbiter of recessions, the National Bureau of Economic Research, says the present recession began in December 2007. This revenue report reflects numbers from 70 percent of stations with fiscal years ending June 30, the remaining 30 percent ending Dec. 31.

The losses in that revenue category overwhelmed TV and radio's relatively healthy gains from members, underwriters and colleges, leaving the whole field down $73.4 million or 2.5 percent, to $2.85 billion. All of the overall decline was in TV, totalling $78.8 million or 4 percent. Public radio's core revenue gains were stronger; it ended the year slightly better than flat, with a $5.4 million increase over '07.

The radio system continues to post healthy membership revenue increases, almost doubling in the last decade, from $154 million in 1998 to $304 million in 2008, moving toward closing the gap with public TV, though its overall revenues are just half of public TV's. Over the decade TV's member revenues grew less rapidly, from $341 million to $430 million.

Public radio joined TV's worrisome decline in number of contributors, which is overcome in both systems by increasingly generous average gifts. Each lost about 100,000 contributors in a year. TV's long membership slide continued; it has lost almost 1.2 million donors in a decade. Radio's membership had slipped for only two years after a four-year plateau.

Before panic hit Wall Street in fall 2008, public TV business underwriting earnings were still healthy, rising $42.6 million or 16.3 percent in a year. Radio underwriting rose $6.9 million or 3.5 percent.

PBS doc inspires request for pardons

Harvard scholar and PBS documentarian Henry Louis Gates Jr. is assisting radio host Tom Joyner in his efforts to have South Carolina pardon two of his great-uncles, The Associated Press reports. Joyner discovered through Gates' African American Lives 2 that his ancestors were executed in 1915 after their convictions for murdering a Confederate Army veteran. The show traced the lineage of 12 persons, including Joyner. "The records will show they did not do what they were executed for, and maybe now they can rest in peace," Joyner said. Gates, Joyner and legal historian Paul Finkelman wrote Gov. Mark Sanford asking for the pardons. The issue goes before the state parole and pardon board on Oct. 14.