Aug 31, 2010

Blumenthal leaving New Jersey Network

The interim director of the New Jersey Network is departing as of Sept. 17, reports the Bergen (N.J.) Record. State lawmakers are considering the state's relationship with the network and its nonprofit foundation (Current, July 6, 2010). Hearings are set for Sept. 14, 16 and 23. "I don’t know whether he’ll be appearing," Ronnie Weyl, a spokeswoman for the network, told the paper. Janice Selinger, a now is acting chief operating officer, will assume Blumenthal’s duties. "Howard was hired for a six- to nine-month engagement, and we are deeply grateful to him that he gave us a full year of his time and talent," Stephanie Hoopes Halpin, commissioner of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority, said in a statement.

Aug 30, 2010

Here's a first: Berenstain Bears in the Lakota language

Twenty episodes of Berenstain Bears cartoons will soon air on South Dakota Public Television -- in the Lakota language. The Associated Press is reporting today (Aug. 30) that the shows begin running this fall. The AP says it's the first time in the United States that a cartoon series has been translated to a Native language and widely distributed, according to Wilhelm Meya, executive director of Lakota Language Consortium, a nonprofit that partnered with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to co-produce the Lakota version of the series. (Click here to hear numbers spoken in the Lakota language.)

KMBH in Texas declines to run Frontline Katrina report

The Brownsville Herald is reporting that Harlingen, Texas, PBS affiliate KMBH did not run Frontline's "Law & Disorder" last week (Aug. 25), which focused on questionable police shootings in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The paper cited "offensive language" as the problem. Diane Buxton, Frontline spokesperson, told Current the show provided an early feed to accommodate stations that wished to make the two minor language edits. John Ross, KMBH interim general manager, did not return a call from Current.

Static from classical listeners in KTRU deal

Indie rock college students aren't the only Houston music lovers objecting to Rice University's decision to sell KTRU, the Houston Chronicle reports.

The 50,000-watt underground music station on 91.7 FM, operated by Rice students for four decades, will adopt an all-classical format once the University of Houston's KUHF completes the purchase, but the station's signal fades in Houston's southern and western suburbs. "It seems odd that they would degrade their (classical music) signal and alienate a lot of their listeners," a KUHF listener tells the Chronicle.

Like many pubcasters undergoing signal expansion, KUHF also plans to simulcast its all-classical service as an HD Radio channel of its more powerful, legacy signal on 88.7 FM. Rice students are to continue programming as an Internet radio station.

But Rice students and alumni have mounted a vigorous protest of the deal, which was announced Aug. 17 but has not been finalized. "That Rice seems ready to pawn off KTRU's transmitter and license in this manner is deeply disturbing to students, faculty and alumni, and raises serious questions about the judgment of Rice's administration," current and alumni deejays wrote in a Chronicle op-ed. KTRU won't survive as Internet radio station, because music promoters won't send new releases to online-only services, deejay and Rice student Austin Williams tells the Chronicle. "Even if our Internet station ends up a success, through some random miracle, it would still die."

In a letter to KTRU's defenders, Rice University President David Leebron cites the likelihood that "a radio broadcast license was most likely a declining asset over the long term as a result of changes in technology and consumer preferences for accessing music."

Additional links: Houston Chronicle editorial Radio Waves and letters to the editor;

NH candidate wants end to CPB funding

It's election season (it's it always?) and one New Hampshire candidate is taking on public broadcasting. Republican Congressional hopeful Frank Guinta is calling for the end CPB federal funding. “Quality programs like Sesame Street and Antiques Road Show [sic] don’t need taxpayer funds to stay on the air,” Guinta said on his website. “Let’s end taxpayer funding for PBS and NPR, and allow them to compete freely for viewers and listeners on the open market.” The New Hampshire Democratic Party issued a statement on his statement. Guinta and other Republican candidates' "irresponsible pandering is reaching new lows," said Press Secretary Harrell Kirstein. " ... Now they are attacking Elmo and Big Bird. Talk about being a bunch of Oscar the Grouches."

Aug 29, 2010

PBS hires director for online giving

Keith Brengle, former director of online personals for AOL, is the new director of online giving for PBS, Senior V.P. for Development Director Brian Reddington said in a posting on a development chat group. A note on the former AOL Personals site said that as of Aug. 31, 2010, "we no longer offer online dating services." Brengle will join PBS Oct. 12. Reddington also said that he hopes a draft plan for PBS's national online giving initiative will be ready for stations soon.

Aug 27, 2010

Innovators-in-Residence to work at PRI headquarters

Public Radio International (PRI) this week (Aug. 23) announced its new "Innovator-in-Residence" program, inviting technology and social media start-ups with a public service mission to share PRI's headquarters for three months or longer. The PRI Innovation Fellows will receive advice and business counsel from PRI executives, introductions to media and business leaders, and access to PRI facilities and expertise. In return, fellows will provide PRI with access to their ideas, software and content. The first Innovator-in-Residence is Instant Automatic, based in San Francisco and Minneapolis. It creates and develops new communication and content technologies for real-time interaction through the mobile web.

Nothing like a punny pubcasting headline

Sure, this article is full of interesting stuff on the new Nigerian Sesame Street. But we have to admit that we posted it for the headline.

Wit, wisdom and more than $1 million

Red Green (aka actor Steve Smith) continues to barnstorm across America, and has helped raise $560,000 for PBS stations so far, he tells the Lethbridge Herald in Alberta, Canada, where he played in a celebrity golf tourney this week (Aug. 26). Smith said by the time his Wit and Wisdom Tour is over later this fall, "we'll be well over a million, probably $1.5 million or more." Fans have been driving for miles and standing in line for hours to meet the duct tape-loving handyman.

Aug 26, 2010

UNC-TV reporter was "happy" with being subpoenaed, documents show

Documents obtained by YES! Weekly in Greensboro, N.C., reveal that reporter Eszter Vajda , at the middle of the Alcoa reporting scandal at UNC-TV (Current, July 26), was actually pleased at being subpoenaed by a General Assembly committee, reports Keith Barber of the Yes! Weekly alternative newspaper in Greensboro, N.C. Barber combed through some 5,800 internal documents from the station, which, he writes, "reveal her alliances with politicians, state officials and special-interest groups adamantly opposed to Alcoa’s bid for another 50 years of control over the Yadkin River. Richard Morgan, the former NC Speaker of the House and a paid consultant for the NC Water Rights Committee, paid Sansone $3,000 for his consultancy services. Considering Sansone and Vajda’s close personal and professional relationship, this represented a major conflict of interest for Vajda."

Vajda had received a subpoena from Sen. Fletcher Hartsell (R), head of a General Assembly's judiciary committee that was looking into Alcoa's license bid. The subpoena was for her own documentary, which spun off her reporting on Alcoa's dam licensing bid and alleged associated environmental problems. After another local reporter e-mailed Vajda to express concerns over the subpoena, Vajda replied: “This is something I’m happy with! … Hartsell is saving my ass!” Critics called Hartsell’s action a violation of the First Amendment, but inexplicably, Vajda was pleased by the development, Barber noted.

Aug 25, 2010

MHz teams up with Partnership for 21st Century Skills

MHz Networks has joined forces with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (P21), a national organization that advocates for American schools to teach students critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration and creativity, and innovation. The announcement today (Aug. 25) said MHz will be one of 40 strategic council members that include Sesame Workshop, Apple and Lego. MHz, based in Falls Church, Va., is an independent pubTV programmer offering array of international shows.

GPB gets its game on for high school sports

Georgia Public Broadcasting is kicking off a new division, GPB Sports, according to a statement from the network today (Aug. 25). GPB had "record ratings" during last year's state high school championship football games, it said. The division will create new programs across all platforms. There's GPB Sports Central, a 30-minute weekly show; GPB Sports Central XL, a live video chat among coaches, fans, writers and bloggers; Football Fridays in Georgia, the game of the week featuring a pre-game show, scores from around the state, and a post-game program; and, a redesigned site with on-demand of top games, pages for more than 400 state high schools, rankings, sports blogs and live chats.

Passionate "Star Gazer" of WPBT dies at 72

Jack Horkheimer, an astronomer who created and hosted the weekly pubTV program Star Gazer from WPBT in Miami, died Aug. 20 in that city. He was 72, the Los Angeles Times reports. Horkheimer also had been director of the Miami Science Museum and Space Transit Planetarium for 35 years until his retirement three years ago.

He began the show, which extolled naked-eye stargazing, at the station in 1976 as Star Hustler; it went national in 1985 and became Star Gazer in the 1990s. He offered it free to pubTV stations and some 200 carry it.

WPBT told Current that Horkheimer "gave his age age as somewhere between post-puberty and pre-senility." He especially enjoyed his cartoon alter-ego in the monthly "Star Gazing With Jack Horkheimer" comic strip in Odyssey Magazine. Several years of cartoons were assembled into a book.

In 2000 Horkheimer received the prestigious Klumpke-Roberts Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific for making astronomy "so attractive that people can't help but be interested in learning about it."

He often said he'd like this on his headstone:

"Keep Looking Up was my life's admonition, I can do little else in my present position."

Knight program to assist engagement technology

The Technology for Engagement Initiative is the latest pubmedia project funded by the John S. and James L. Knight foundation, with $2.23 million. It was announced Tuesday (Aug. 24). "Through Tweets, status updates and videos, so many people invest time and energy in making statements online about the issues that matter most to them," said Paula Ellis, Knight Foundation’s vice president for strategic initiatives. "These projects aim to harness that energy and turn it into on-the-ground action for bettering communities."

According to the announcement, the first projects are:

Craigslist Foundation ($750,000): to make it easy to find field-tested ways to build community, by creating an idea-sharing website. Institutions, community groups and individuals will tell their success stories on the site and connect with people of like minds.

Jumo ($750,000): to connect people – via a social network – with the issues and organizations that interest them. Started by Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes, Jumo is building a network to foster relationships between people and organizations working for global change. The site matches users with relevant organizations, then engages them through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or other applications to encourage contributions of time, skills or money.

Code For America ($250,000): to transform city governments across the country by enlisting the nation’s most promising developers to apply Web 2.0 principles to civic problems. Based on the Teach for America model, members will create web applications to help make city governments more transparent, participatory and efficient. Knight Foundation’s funding will ensure the participation of Philadelphia and Boulder, Colo., two Knight communities.

Community PlanIt by Engagement Game Lab, Emerson College ($250,000): to revitalize the community planning process by developing an interactive game platform that lets stakeholders work—and play—together to solve problems. The grant will fund game development, in collaboration with four Knight communities.

CEOS for Cities ($235,000): to test whether residents can help create solutions to local problems, filling a gap left by shrinking municipal budgets. This project will build a crowd-sourcing platform that invites residents to work with their city hall to identify problems and find answers. San Jose, Calif. and Grand Rapids, Mich. will test the idea.

Explore "God in America" outreach at NCME webinar

The National Center for Media Engagement hosts a webinar at 1 p.m. Eastern Thursday (Aug. 26) on outreach opportunities for "God in America," the six-hour American Experience/Frontline series on PBS in October. Now available to participants is an hourlong segment of the series on the NCME website. Participants include series producer Marilyn Mellowes; Bobbie Fisher, communications director of WHRO in Norfolk, Va., which already has launched engagement activities; Deborah Turner, executive director of DEI's Leadership for Philanthropy Initiative; and series outreach director Erin Martin Kane. They'll be discussing partnerships with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, the Fetzer Institute, Sacred Space International, and other groups. Register here.

Aug 24, 2010

Tavis Smiley to emcee Farm Aid 25th anniversary performances

Pubcaster Tavis Smiley will be hosting Farm Aid's 25th anniversary concert, "Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America." Singer John Mellencamp, a co-founder and board member of Farm Aid, met Smiley at Indiana University and the two have stayed in touch since, according to a press release on Smiley's website. The all-day benefit concert takes place Oct. 2 at Miller Park in Milwaukee and includes performances by Mellencamp, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Dave Matthews, Kenny Chesney, Norah Jones, Jason Mraz, Jeff Tweedy, Band of Horses, the BoDeans, Amos Lee, Robert Francis, and more artists to be announced.

Aug 23, 2010

New PBS site hopes to "spark a resurgence" of the arts

The long-awaited PBS Arts website is now online. Its aim, its says, is "to spark a resurgence of the arts in the United States." Sections include dance, theater, visual art, film and music. There's also a link to a flickr stream for artists to contribute. Funding for the site comes from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Anne Ray Charitable Trust, named for "Silent Philanthropist" Margaret Cargill's mother (Current, April 5, 2010).

A note for Current feed readers

For our RSS readers, don't miss this Current exclusive: "WPBT sells Nightly Business Report to entrepreneur with history of legal disputes."

PBS should bypass stations and go straight to cable or satellite, writer says

"Most public television stations will merge or go broke in the next five years ... and PBS in its current configuration can't be far behind," predicts Jack Shakely, president emeritus of the California Community Foundation, in the Aug. 22 Los Angeles Times. And why is pubTV "awash in red ink" while networks including the History Channel, A&E, National Geographic and Animal Planet make money? "PBS should market itself as a network to cable and satellite providers rather than having each individual affiliated station across the country offer itself for free," Shakely says.

PBS scores seven Creative Arts Emmys

Masterpiece's "Cranford" and Ken Burns' National Parks documentary won two Emmys each at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards over the weekend (Aug. 21). PBS took seven statuettes in all. "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" won for nonfiction series and writing for nonfiction programming. Exceptional merit in nonfiction filmmaking went to "Nerakhoon (The Betrayal)," on P.O.V., about the members of a Laotian family forced to leave their homeland due to the secret war waged there by America. Directing for nonfiction programming went to Barak Goodman for "My Lai" on American Experience. The majority of the 70-category Creative Arts Emmy Awards, are dedicated to technical disciplines and direction, cinematography, hairstyling, makeup, music, picture editing, sound editing and mixing, special visual effects, stunts and more. A full list of winners is here (PDF).

Pogo a go-go

Now here (boing) is a great way (boing) to start off your week (boing). Check out KUER's (boing) coverage of Pogopalooza 7 (boing) last weekend in Salt (boing) Lake City. "Extreme pogosticking" -- who knew?

Iowa's KBBG sets $200,000 goal for endowment

KBBG, the largest African-American owned and operated noncom radio station in Iowa, has set a goal of $200,000 to establish an endowment, reports the Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. The station hopes to reach that figure within three years. "Given what we're facing-- whether it's the economic turndown, or even closer to home with the surge in crime and incidents and invasions -- the station is probably more important to the community it serves at this point in history than perhaps at any other time," said KBBG President Louise Porter. "And the best way to secure the future of the radio station is to establish an endowment fund." This past weekend (Aug. 21) was the station's 33rd annual "Radio-Thon and Parade" in Waterloo.

Aug 21, 2010

New "Local Show" on KCPT highlights work of area nonprofits

KCPT in Kansas City, Mo., has launched a monthly pubaffairs show in the midst of struggling with funding and staff cutbacks, reports Kansas City Star TV critic Aaron Barnhart. The Local Show will spotlight local nonprofits, and then those groups may use the segments as promotional material. The "Difference Makers" features are underwritten by Hallmark's corporate foundation. Local Show Producer Nick Haines said the greeting-card company "was interested in funding nonprofits to tell their story." Inspiration for the show was the Minnesota Channel, a 24-hour station created by Twin Cities Public Television, which airs programming that the station creates through a partnership among TPT and nonprofits.

Aug 20, 2010

KIXE GM drops "Democracy Now!," raising ire of local progressives

KIXE in Redding, Calif., is "angering progressives" by dropping Democracy Now!, says the local Record Searchlight newspaper. General Manager Philip Smith arrived in July from KLRU in Austin, Texas, where he was oversaw engineering and programming. Smith told the paper he hadn't seen the show, which airs on more than 850 pubtv and pubradio stations, until he got to the station. “If it were properly couched as a progressive informational or opinion show ... that would be OK," Smith said. "Then I’d probably line it up with something with an opposing viewpoint. ... (But) they present it as newscast. It’s clearly not a newscast. That’s like calling [right-wing] Bill O’Reilly a newscast.”

Doug Craig, a member of the local progressive group Citizens for Responsible Government, disagreed. “Democracy Now! is a very highly professional and sophisticated journalistic organization,” Craig said. “To compare it to Bill O’Reilly is absurd.” The group had petitioned KIXE in 2004 to carry the program and was an underwriter when it began to air in 2005. That year the organization also sponsored an appearance by co-anchor Amy Goodman. “We sold over 700 seats at $10 a seat,” Craig said. “We used most of that money to pay KIXE for underwriting for next two to three years, I believe.” Craig admits, "we’re in a conservative community," but adds, "it sure would have been nice if [Smith] had reached out to us first.”

Aug 18, 2010

Nightly Business Report gets new owner

A company headed by "a former manager of mixed martial artists" has purchased Nightly Business Report, according to the New York Times. Mykalai Kontilai told the paper that the deal was completed Aug. 13 and the staff was informed today (Aug. 18). Kontilai's partner in the venture is Gary Ferrell, a former president and chief executive of North Texas Public Broadcasting, parent company of KERA in Dallas. The two also own Public Media, identified on its website as a "design, advertising and production" company. Rick Schneider, president of NBR's producing station WPBT in Miami, told the New York Times that NBR wasn’t in play when Kontilai approached him in February, but the sale "made sense," adding, "it is at a point where they as a company can do more things with it than we as a station could." NBR has undergone several recent major changes. In May 2009, longtime co-anchor Paul Kangas announced his retirement. His replacements, Susie Gharib and Tom Hudson, were announced last December.

Former pubcaster headed up jury in Blagojevich trial

A former videotape librarian for pubstation WTTW in Chicago was the jury foreman in the high-profile corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. James Matsumoto, 66, told the local NBC affiliate that deliberations were "frustrating" and "exhausting," and that he knew from early on that the jury would have trouble reaching a unanimous verdict. On Tuesday (Aug. 17) that verdict came down: Guilty on one count of lying to the FBI, hung jury on 23 other counts. Matsumoto worked at WTTW from December 1978 to October 2006, according to the station.

City joins other Green Bay groups assisting WPT with LZ Lambeau budget overrun

The city council of Green Bay, Wisc., voted 10-2 on Tuesday (Aug. 17) to waive $10,000 of its $48,000 bill for law enforcement for Wisconsin Public TV's LZ Lambeau event in May, according to local ABC affiliate WBAY. The outreach event, a belated "welcome home" to Vietnam veterans, drew some 70,000 vets and supporters to Lambeau Field (Current, June 7, 2010). The Packers NFL team, the Chamber of Commerce and Brown County also have pledged contributions to assist the station, which ran $350,000 over budget for the $1 million event.

Rice students object to KTRU sale

Rice University students have launched a "sincere and civil" protest to block the sale of their campus radio station KRTU to the University of Houston, the Houston Chronicle reports. "We are totally opposed to the sale," KTRU p.d. Joey Yang tells the newspaper. "This is our radio station, and we'd like to keep it." The UH Board of Regents approved the $9.5 million purchase yesterday, but the FCC must also approve the license transfer. UH plans to expand its public broadcasting operations by converting KRTU into a classical music service broadcasting on 91.7 as KUHC; KUHF on 88.7 FM, the hybrid-format NPR station that it put on the air in 1950 with student volunteers, is to devote its schedule to news. The deal provides for Rice University students to program as an Internet radio station.

UNC-TV intended to fight doc request, e-mails show; reporter no longer on staff

WUNC-FM reporter Laura Leslie in Chapel Hill, N.C., continues to doggedly pursue the perpetually breaking news story on UNC-TV's Alcoa coverage controversy (Current, July 26). The Raleigh station was widely criticized for turning over reporter Eszter Vajda's notes and unbroadcast footage from her story on Alcoa's bid to re-license four dams. Leslie reveals that internal UNC-TV e-mails show that station management did not want to comply with the lawmakers' request. "They fully intended to fight it on journalistic grounds," she writes in her station blog. "But they got no backing on that from UNC President [Erskine] Bowles, from board members, or from the AG’s office, where they sought legal expertise." Also, Vajda's producing partner Martin Sansone told WFAE in Charlotte that he took $3,000 from an Alcoa opponent for airfare to fly from his home in Britain to assist Vajda. Sansone needed that, he said, to book several flights to avoid airborne debris from the Icelandic volcano eruption. "That would be a great story if it were true," Leslie writes. "But it isn't. According to the UNC-TV e-mails, Sansone and Morgan negotiated the payment on April 7th – a full week before April 14th, when the volcano actually erupted."

UPDATE: The News & Observer newspaper is reporting that Vajda "is no longer employed at UNC-TV" as of 5 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 17). Gail Zimmermann, associate general manager of the station, verified that but added that she cannot discuss personnel matters.

Stevens funeral streaming live today

The funeral for former Sen. Ted Stevens, a strong champion for pubcasting on Capitol Hill, will be streamed live today (Aug. 18) at 2 p.m. Alaska Daylight Time (6 p.m. Eastern) on several pubstations, including KTOO via its 360 North statewide channel. Stevens died Aug. 9 in a plane crash. KFSK in Petersburg, Alaska, has an audio segment online about Stevens' importance to pubcasting, particularly in that state.

A new home for NPR's Local News Initiative

Public Radio Program Directors will take over the NPR-backed Local News Initiative (LNI) and Morning Edition Grad School (MEGS) projects, a four-year national effort to provide training, conduct research and promote best practices in public radio newsrooms. Research and information resources developed through the projects since 2006 will be integrated into, and PRPD is planning a series of webinars based on the MEGS workshop findings.

LNI began with the 2006 PRPD study, "A Sense of Place," focus group research that examined how listeners valued the local news produced by their public radio stations. Morning Edition Grad School, a series of workshops and toolkits for enhancing local presentation of public radio's most important national program, was the biggest of several projects aimed at improving local news. PRPD plans to create new workshops that will serve the needs of more stations; it's also exploring how to adapt MEGS principles for music-formatted stations.

"PRPD embraces this opportunity to extend the system's knowledge resources and work to continue advancing skills and audience understanding at the station level," said Arthur Cohen, PRPD president. NPR continues to provide financial backing to LNI, but its commitment wasn't specified in this morning's news release.

APTS selects Spencer Stuart to conduct search for president

The Association of Public Television Stations (APTS) announced today (Aug. 18) that it has hired executive search firm Spencer Stuart to find its new president and chief executive officer, a position Larry Sidman vacated in April (Current, March 14, 2010). Co-chairs of the APTS Board search committee are Polly Anderson, general manager and CEO of of KNME-TV in Albuquerque, N.M.; and Elizabeth Christopherson, president, CEO and director of the Rita Allen Foundation in Princeton, N.J. Lonna Thompson continues as APTS interim president and CEO.

Aug 17, 2010

Fundraiser aims to save "Style Wars" film, a 1984 graffiti doc on PBS

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is hosting a Sept. 9 restoration fundraiser for a historic graffiti/hip-hop documentary that aired on PBS in 1984. "Style Wars" is widely regarded as the first doc to focus on the cultural genres. "Nearly 25 years since it first stunned viewers, the film's negative stock is beginning to decay," reports the HipHopDX website. The event will feature three screenings of the film, a question and answer session with filmmaker Henry Chalfant, a catered reception and -- of course -- hip-hop beats courtesy of DJ Kay Slay on the turntables. More about the restoration project here, tickets for the fundraiser here.

StoryCorps animated shorts debut on POV tonight

A new animated series debuts on PBS this evening--short adaptations of audio recordings collected by StoryCorps, the oral history project and NPR series created by public radio producer David Isay.

POV, the indie film series now airing its 23rd season on PBS, will present Danny and Annie, Parts I and II, the stories of love and loss of Brooklyn couple Danny and Annie Perasa, who came to personify the StoryCorps motto, "listening is an act of love." The animation will be paired with Salt, an "exquisite film about environment, artistry and solitude" by Australian photographer Murray Fredericks.

The CPB-backed animated shorts, the first of five to be showcased on POV through Sept. 7, were created by Mike and Tim Rauch, brothers who began animating StoryCorps audio stories before presenting their ideas to Isay. "StoryCorps connected to things we were into as kids," said Mike Rauch, "everyday people from all walks of life, documentary stories and the relationships between people." Mike was working as a StoryCorps intern and facilitator when he proposed the idea to his younger brother Tim, whom he credits for creating the drawings and character designs. "It's all coming from his hand."

StoryCorps first unveiled the shorts this spring with the online release of Q&A, an animation of 12-year-old Joshua Littman's interview with his mother Sarah that has its broadcast debut on Aug. 24. Immediately after the POV broadcasts, each of the forthcoming shorts will be distributed online and offered to public TV stations as interstitials. CPB awarded more than $325,000 for creation and pubTV distribution of seven StoryCorps animations.

Get your Wookie on in Alaska

Got plans for Aug. 28? You might drop by Juneau, Alaska, for KXLL's "Star Wars" party. It's the latest event sponsored by the funky, eclectic pubcasting station that attracts an 18- to 34-year-old audience, said Bill Legere, g.m. of KTOO. It picked up KXLL ("Excellent Radio") and another station "in a fire sale" three years ago (Current, Feb. 26, 2007). KXLL has planned several happenings for the young crowd, such as a pre-fireworks Fourth of July party drew that around 800. There was also a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" night and a Cinco de Mayo bash, "stuff that's campy and fun," as Legere told Current. The events are simple to organize, and ticket and refreshment sales usually generate between $4,000 and $5,000 for the station. Legere said KXLL airs 20 or more volunteer disc jockeys who are quickly becoming celebs in town.

Interesting aside: Legere said the station did an "informal focus group" with young listeners. One finding was that "they'd never heard of 'making a pledge,'" he said. To them, a straightforward request to "give money" made a lot more sense.

Houston's KUHF pursuing dual-service strategy with purchase of KTRU

Houston's KUHF-FM plans to buy KTRU 91.7 FM, a 50,000-watt student radio station owned by Rice University, and convert it to a full-time classical music service under the new call letters KUHC, the Houston Chronicle reports. KUHF, a broadcast service of the University of Houston that now airs classical music and NPR News on 88.7, will become an all-news station.

The $9.5 million deal, approved this morning by UH's Board of Regents, is to be financed by enhanced underwriting and major gifts fundraising.

“The acquisition of a second public radio station delivers on our promise to keep the University of Houston at the forefront of creating strong cultural, educational and artistic opportunities that benefit students and the city of Houston,” said Renu Khator, chancellor of the UH System and president of the University of Houston, in a news release.

Rice University students campaigned to save the station, which has long been an outlet for underground and local music, according to the Houston Press. Under the terms of the deal, will continue streaming a student-programmed music service.

PBS chef opening two O'Hare Airport restaurants

Rick Bayless, star of Mexico: One Plate at a Time on PBS, will open two restaurants in Chicago's O'Hare Airport, Crain's Chicago Business is reporting. Look for them in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 this fall.

KET programs could suffer under furlough plan, station spokesman says

Proposed furloughs of state employees could adversely affect Kentucky Educational Television programming, station spokesman Tim Bischoff said Monday (Aug. 16). According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, KET is requesting "flexibility" from the state Personnel Cabinet in the implementation of the furloughs, scheduled as a cost-saving measure for three days adjacent to holiday weekends in the upcoming year: Friday, Sept. 3 (Labor Day weekend); Friday, Nov. 12 (Veterans Day weekend); and Friday, May 27 (Memorial Day weekend). Six state workers from various departments testified at a circuit court hearing about how the public would suffer under the furlough plan. The judge delayed ruling on a motion to block the unpaid leave while he gathers more information.

UPDATE: Bischoff contacted Current to clarify that his statements were not presented at the hearing but rather in an email in response to a reporter's questions. Here is what he said in that message: "In order to ensure KET’s services – including Comment on Kentucky – continue uninterrupted, we’re seeking permission to treat the three designated furlough days as we typically do with state holidays that fall on a Friday. Sometimes in those cases, we will pre-tape Comment, rather than producing it live. In this case, we’ve not yet made the decision on when Comment will be produced."

Station staffers eligible for ONA grants

Are you a PBS affiliate pubcaster who'd like to attend the Online News Association conference Oct. 28-30 in Washington, D.C.? You might want to apply for one of six all-expenses-paid grants. Deadline is Sept. 15, more information and application here.

Job training is focus of online project at Vegas PBS

Vegas PBS is now providing viewers with job assistance through its Vegas Virtual Workforce, reports the Las Vegas Business Press. There'll be more than 350 online, for-credit job training programs for unemployed or underemployed residents, as well as those wanting to change careers. "We have people who need jobs here and we can provide training," KLVX General Manager Tom Axtell said. "We look at this as part of our programming mission." The station is partnering with Workforce Connections and the Southern Nevada Housing Authority.

Nonprofs continue to struggle, GuideStar report says

The recession is still adversely affecting public charities and private foundations, according to new research from GuideStar, a nonprofit information clearinghouse. Around 40 percent of some 7,000 responding organizations reported contributions dropped during the first five months of 2010 compared with that time last year. Other findings: 17 percent of respondents reduced program services, and 11 percent laid off employees. In organizations that use volunteers, 17 percent put one or more in what had been paid positions. And 8 percent said their organizations was were in imminent danger of closing. Click here for the free report, "The Effect of the Economy on the Nonprofit Sector: A June 2010 Survey."

Aug 16, 2010

Live this week: News forum from Aspen Institute

The Forum on Communications and Society at the Aspen Institute is live from around 8 a.m. to noon Mountain Standard Time today (Aug. 21), Tuesday and Wednesday. Several pubcasting leaders are participating in the event, "News Cities: The Next Generation of Healthy Informed Communities," on how the changing landscape of journalism could be molded to better serve citizens. Twitter hashtag, #FOCAS10.

Kling to FCC: protect public service on the Internet

Google and Verizon's proposal to regulate the Internet "could force many users of the information superhighway onto a dusty back road," including public media, writes American Public Media President Bill Kling in a letter to the Washington Post. "Just as the Federal Communications Commission acted decisively to set aside public broadcasting channels in 1945, it must flex its muscle now to ensure that the Internet continues to play a public service role. The FCC and Congress should carefully and creatively explore options that allow telecom and Internet giants to succeed, while assuring that public service media continue to thrive. Not doing so could mean that the best years of public broadcasting are behind us."

Carolyn Jensen Chadwick, producer of Radio Expeditions

Carolyn Jensen Chadwick, a producer who created sound-rich, evocative stories that once defined the NPR listening experience, passed away yesterday. With her husband Alex she co-founded NPR’s Radio Expeditions and produced the Interviews 50 Cents films, according to Barrett Golding of Hearing Voices. Golding has assembled and posted a memorial collection of Jensen's stories and photographs.

UNC-TV reporter, researcher solicited and accepted money from anti-Aloca group

A researcher working with UNC-TV reporter Eszter Vajda, who is investigating Alcoa's dam licensing and associated environmental issues in North Carolina, asked for and received money from anti-Alcoa forces to continue assisting her, the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., is reporting. Former House Speaker Richard Morgan, who works for the N.C. Water Rights Committee, gave $3,000 to Vajda's longtime friend Martin Sansone. Vajda had told Current in an interview in July that in the midst of her reporting, Sansone flew in for a visit, "and he's still here because the project is so big and he's been an integral part of the research." But according to the newspaper, Vajda and Sansone, a citizen of Great Britain, solicited the money for his travel and living expenses during a meeting with Morgan and several others connected to the water rights committee.

The station and Vajda have come under fire over the past few months from local news organizations and national freedom of the press experts for turning over reams of reporting documents and unaired footage on the story to an investigative committee of the General Assembly. Original Current story here, subsequent updates here.

Aug 13, 2010

East Tennessee viewers get new name for their pubcasting station

East Tennessee Public TV, or ETPtv, has changed its name to East Tennessee PBS and has a spiffy new website to prove it. Teresa James, general manager, said viewers previously referred to the station in any number of ways: ETPtv, Channel 2, Channel 15, WKOP or WETP. The station conducted focus groups, interviews and online polls and collaborated with PBS's branding team to make the change.

Knight News Challenge Grant winner discusses court project

Here are further details on Order in the Court 2.0, the interesting Knight News Challenge Grant winner that seeks to establish best practices for reporting on courts via digital technology. John Davidow, executive editor of new media at Boston's WBUR, is heading up the project. He writes on the Idea Lab blog that it is the first nationally funded initiative to change how courts deal with electronic journalism since video and audio recording standards were established in the 1970s.

Frustrated? The PBS ombudsman is

Hearing about the McLaughlin Group makes PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler feel like "that airline cabin attendant who grabbed a beer and hit the escape chute," he writes in this week's Mailbag. He's written about the show in many previous columns and has received "literally thousands" of emails, mostly complaints, about the program. In this recent batch, one viewer writes about giving up and turning the show off after two panelists on a recent segment "spouted spiels of foundationless propaganda like they had suddenly become right wing nut jobs." Another called panelists "racists." Compounding the problem is that some viewers consider it a PBS show, although it is not branded as such on the screen. It's produced by McLaughlin's production company, Oliver Productions, at WUSA-TV, a Gannett/CBS-affiliate in Washington, D.C.

Vermont listener questions Schiller on NPR's online expansion

When listeners can find NPR programming on the Internet and via so many different mobile devices, what does the future portend for NPR member stations? The question has been increasingly on the minds of station execs this year as NPR rolled out its new iPad and iPhone apps; yesterday Vermont Public Radio's Jane Lindholm put the question, which came from a listener, to NPR President Vivian Schiller. "No matter what we do, the audience is going to find media in the way that best suits their needs," Schiller said during an Aug. 12 appearance on Vermont Edition. To provide NPR content exclusively for radio broadcast would be a mistake, the NPR chief added. "Others would step in and provide what I would like to think is inferior coverage" on digital platforms. "It's really our responsibility to serve the audience however they want."

Schiller remains "wildly optimistic" about the viability of public radio stations, she said. As local newspapers and TV stations cut their reporting staffs and provide less original news reporting "local public radio stations like VPR are really the only place people can turn to get full spectrum of national and international news, and--more importantly-- a local connection to the community, local news, local information."

Later in the interview, Schiller revealed that one of NPR's highest newsroom priorities is beefing up foreign coverage by assigning a full-time reporter to South America. And, in all the kerfuffle over Helen Thomas's seat in the White House pressroom, Schiller said NPR is quite happy that its correspondents are moving into a second-row seat. "Never has there been so much written about a chair!" she said.

Nightly Business Report co-host not so social on social media

Susie Gharib, co-anchor of Nightly Business Report on PBS, reveals in an interview that "I don't have Facebook, and I don't tweet." This comes two days after PBS talker Tavis Smiley said he doesn't use a mobile phone. Discuss.

Community broadcasters support net neutrality in letter to FCC

Several community broadcasting leaders are signatories to a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski protesting the recent Google-Verizon policy proposal that they say undermines the open nature of the Internet, a concept known as net neutrality. The signers include Maxie Jackson, president, National Federation of Community Broadcasters; Alex Nogales, president, National Hispanic Media Coalition; Loris Taylor, Executive Director, Native Public Media; and Pete Tridish of the low-power advocacy group the Prometheus Radio Project. The letter urges the chairman to reclassify Internet communications as a Title II Telecommunications Service, putting the FCC directly over broadband communications networks. Genachowski has said in the past that approach has "serious drawbacks," such as extensive regulations for service providers.

Family sues Frontline over funeral film

PBS and WGBH's Frontline are among defendants in a lawsuit filed this week (Aug. 10) in Cook County (Chicago) Court that contends a film crew "barged into a private funeral ceremony" on March 13, according to Courthouse News Service. The daughter and grandson of of the late Annie Gibson Bacon say a crew accompanied by the anti-violence group CeaseFire, another defendant in the suit, showed up at Bacon's funeral because her son, Jeff Fort, was alleged to be the leader of a street gang. In its coverage of the suit, the Chicago Tribune refers to Fort as a "notorious Chicago gang leader." Read the 20-page lawsuit here. Diane Buxton, spokesperson for Frontline, declined comment as attorneys for the program have not yet seen the lawsuit.

Aug 12, 2010

Car hits NPR host Peter Sagal

Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me host Peter Sagal is recovering from injuries he received when a car struck him Wednesday (Aug. 11) on his bicycle at an intersection in suburban Chicago, the Chicago Tribune reports. Sagal was hospitalized with minor injuries. He described the aftermath of the accident in a blog post: "I tried to sit up and an invisible angry dwarf with a knife stabbed me in the back. So I enjoyed a relaxing scream and lay back down, carefully, and they put me on the backboard with the neck brace and put me in the ambulance and I stared at a series of changing ceilings until I got the emergency room at a nearby hospital." He added, "At any rate, the news is that I’ll be fine, but in pain for a while, and that I am indeed very lucky." Program production won't be affected as Sagal is on vacation.

Pubcasting execs heading to Aspen to ponder Communications and Society

Several public broadcasting system leaders are participating in next week's (Aug. 15-18) 2010 FOCAS (Forum on Communications and Society) at the Aspen Institute. Meeting to discuss "News Cities: The Next Generation of Healthy Informed Communities," will be government officials, media and business executives, civic leaders and user representatives. Pubcasters include CPB President Pat Harrison, PBS President Paula Kerger, American Public Media President Bill Kling, Native Public Media Executive Director Loris Ann Taylor and NPR President Vivian Schiller. Click here to register as an observer -- for $1,000.

Whad'ya Know? celebrates 25 years on public radio

"The audience brings the show. . . . I am the vessel," says public radio host and humorist Michael Feldman in this local TV news feature on the 25th anniversary celebration of Whad'ya Know?, the weekly comedy and quiz show from Wisconsin Public Radio. "They fill me--half-full or half-empty--that's hard to say," he quips with typical self-deprecation. In the run-up to tomorrow night's Silver Jubilee Celebration at Madison's Wisconsin Union Theater, Feldman has been getting lots of media coverage. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports colorful anecdotes about its native pubradio star's early career--including a tug-of-war with a female co-host for control over the microphone. Feldman has no plans to retire and he's not grooming a successor, according to the Capital Times. “I am taking it with me....I don’t know what world there is after this one, but there’s gonna be a Whad’ya Know? with Michael Feldman in it.” The Jubilee show, to be recorded for this week's national broadcast via Public Radio International, will feature musical guest Robbie Fulks, the alt-country star with a big sense of humor.

Virginia station pairs with university for civic engagement

Virginia's WHRO-TV/WHRV-FM and Old Dominion University are partnering on civic engagement opportunities, the university announced today (Aug. 12). Cathy Lewis, host of HearSay with Cathy Lewis on 89.5 WHRV-FM, will work with the university's new Office for Community Engagement on projects such as a series of symposia where business, community, and government leaders and faculty experts and researchers identify challenges to the region and collaborate on potential solutions. "That initiative will utilize WHRO's broadcasting and video streaming capabilities to further the discussion and engage a broader audience," the university said in a statement. The station is licensed to a group of 18 local school systems and offers services to the schools including professional development for teachers.

Aug 11, 2010

Majority in survey think government shouldn't make broadband a priority

A just-released report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project reveals that 53 percent of Americans don't think spreading broadband availability should high on the federal priority list, and 26 percent said the government shouldn't even be doing such work. Broadband adoption has also slowed, after several years of growth. Some 66 percent of American adults currently use high-speed Internet at home, compared with 63 percent in 2009. The one anomaly across demographic groups was African Americans users. Broadband adoption in that group is at 56 percent, up from 46 percent in 2009. The survey was conducted between April 29 and May 30 from a sample of 2,252 adults ages 18 and older, including 744 surveyed on cell phones. Read the full report here (PDF).

Stars galore on new season of Sesame Street

The guest list for the 41st season of Sesame Street premiering Sept. 27, reads like a who's who of Hollywood hipness. Just a few of the actors: Jude Law, Amy Poehler, Jennifer Garner, Kyra Sedgwick, Collin Farrell, Wanda Sykes and Terrence Howard. But wait, there's more, such as music superstars Katy Perry, Usher, and NFL players Reggie Bush and LaDainian Tomlinson. And fans of the gory/sexy HBO series True Blood, stay tuned for its Sesame parody, “True Mud.”

Fascinating factoid of the day

Tavis Smiley does not own a cell phone.

Aug 10, 2010

Pubcasting supporter Ted Stevens dies in plane crash

The Anchorage Daily News has confirmed that former Republican Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, 86, a longtime public broadcasting champion, died in a plane crash in southern Alaska Monday night (Aug. 9).

Stevens served in Congress from Dec. 24, 1968, to Jan. 3, 2009. He was chair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee from 1997 to 2005. He also chaired the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee in 2005 and '06. The Washington Post's obituary called him "one of the most powerful congressmen of his generation."

Stevens received the 2002 Ralph Lowell Award from CPB, recognizing outstanding individual contributions to public television. Stevens was an early supporter of advanced federal funding, the most fundamental concept in public broadcasting's financial structure, which provides stability and encourages efficiency, said a statement from CPB in February 2003 when the award was presented. CPB President Robert Coonrod said, "Every Alaskan knows what Sen. Stevens does for public broadcasting in their state. We want the rest of America to know what he does for all of public broadcasting on behalf of our nation."

President Obama and several of Stevens' former congressional colleagues released statements on his death.

Stevens had survived another plane crash. On Dec. 4, 1978, five of seven people, including his first wife, Ann, died in the crash landing at Anchorage International Airport. Before that tragedy, Stevens reportedly said he'd had a premonition that he would die in a plane crash.

Stevens was indicted in July 2008 on federal corruption charges tied to his relationship with an Alaska oil exec; he lost a seventh bid for his Congressional seat that year. The case was later thrown out due to prosecutorial misconduct.

Aug 9, 2010

CPB auditing Arkansas radio station associated with ACORN

Community radio station KABF (88.3 FM) in Little Rock, Ark., currently under audit by CPB, "may be broke in a matter of weeks. KABF could cease to exist as we know it," board member Jay Jensen told station volunteers in a recent email, according to the Arkansas Times on Aug. 5. KABF began in 1984 as an affiliate ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and the controversial nonprofit remains a presence on the station's board. An emergency KABF board meeting was convened last week to create a community advisory board for the station, which is a requirement for CPB support. Jensen said accounting for the station was handled by Citizens Consulting Inc., a group affiliated with ACORN. "It's been a challenge to get answers about accounting and records," he told the paper.

WNET sheds half of its office space, much old equipment has signed a lease for midtown Manhattan office space half the size of its present quarters near Penn Station, the licensee said Monday. Recession-driven staff reductions and the opening of a studio facility at Lincoln Center have reduced the licensee's space needs to 100,000 square feet. After 13 years at 450 W. 33rd St., the operation is signing a lease for 15 years in the Worldwide Plaza Building at 8th Avenue and 50th Street. WNET said the space, to be designed by a+i design corp., will be "fully open plan, with no private office spaces." The station's technical side cleaned house with an equipment auction last week and netted $250,000, said spokesperson Kellie Specter. On the block were more than 400 pieces of video equipment, including non-HD cameras and other gear dating back to the station's last move, down from West 57th Street, says Nick Liatsis, president of the Production People, a dealer in used equipment, which handled the sale along with Joseph Finn Co. auctioneers. More than 30 potential buyers walked through WNET's technical area Aug. 3, while 40 participated via the Internet, Liatsis said. Lighting equipment and camera pedestals reliably hold their value, he observed.

Sesame to help kids in Abu Dhabi "Reach for the Sky"

Sesame Workshop is partnering with the Emirates Foundation for Philanthropy to produce "Reach for the Sky," a science event beginning this month in Abu Dhabi, according to Al Bawaba, a Middle Eastern news site. "In addition to learning about planets, galaxies, the Earth and stars, children will explore the phases of the moon and their relationship with Arabian months, including the month of Ramadan, and Islamic achievements in the fields of science and astronomy," Al Bawaba reported. "Reach for the Sky" activities run nightly starting Aug. 12, the first day of Ramadan, and continue through the Islamic holy month.

Aug 6, 2010

Rockefeller spectrum bill would make bandwidth turnover voluntary

A bill introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) authorizes a spectrum auction but guarantees that the bandwidth turnover would be voluntary, according to Broadcasting & Cable. Its primary purpose is to allocate spectrum and funds to create a national public safety network, which is favored by the White House.

Footage in "LennonNYC" surprises Ono

Yoko Ono generated news from the PBS stage Thursday (Aug. 5) during the TCA Summer Press Tour, saying she still opposes parole for her husband John Lennon's killer even after 30 years.

As for the American Masters production of "LennonNYC," premiering Nov. 22, Ono said it contains footage even she hasn't seen. “Yes, it seems like you know everything about us. I thought so too,” Ono said. Ono cooperated with the production and narrates the prologue. American Masters e.p. Susan Lacy said the doc features music and images never released in public, including home movies. (PBS photo, Jake Landis)

UPDATE: Here's an interesting overview of Ono's full press session, titled, "An hour with the calm-combative yo-yo that is Yoko Ono," courtesy of

Aug 5, 2010

And now, in the center ring . . .

The "Circus" came to town today (Aug. 5) courtesy of PBS at the ongoing TCA Summer Press Tour in Los Angeles. The six-part series from the folks who brought you "Carrier" premieres in November. We get the feeling that PBS provided the only upside-down balancing gentleman onstage in the entire Press Tour. Because if PBS didn't do it, who would? (PBS photo, Jake Landis)

Will KCET secede from PBS?

For our RSS subscribers, don't miss the story just posted on on KCET's possible departure from PBS as of Jan. 1, 2011. The move could leave the network without a station committed to air the bulk of its schedule in the nation’s second-largest media market. And it would be the first departure of a major-market member in the network’s history.

TV faves turn out for PBS "Pioneers of Television" panel at Press Tour

A roomful of TV talent assembled Wednesday (Aug. 4) at a panel and reception for PBS's "Pioneers of Television" at the TCA Summer Press Tour in Los Angeles. Generating the star wattage was, in front, Nichelle Nichols of Star Trek and Robert Conrad of Wild Wild West. Back row, Mission Impossible's Martin Landau, Mike Connors of Mannix and Linda Evans of Dynasty. (PBS photo, Jake Landis)

NPR intern recovering from knife attack

In a random attack in the Chinatown neighborhood near NPR's Washington, D.C., headquarters, an NPR intern was stabbed in the neck yesterday morning by a young woman who appeared to be in a hypnotic trance, WJLA News reports. Several good samaritans came to the rescue of Annie Ropeick, a Boston University junior who is interning at NPR this summer, and one man tackled the suspect and held her down until police arrived. Ropeick, whose family lives in the D.C. region, is recovering at Howard University Hospital. "The entire staff is shocked and deeply concerned, and we are maintaining close contact with the family," NPR said in a statement. Police have charged the suspect, 24-year-old Melodie Brevard of Southeast Washington, with assault with intent to kill. Investigators have yet to determine a motive for the attack, according to the Washington Post.

Complex UNC-TV story picks up even more plot twists

The already twisty-turny tale of UNC-TV turning over documents to a North Carolina General Assembly committee (Current, July 26) is becoming even more of a pretzel. Laura Leslie of WUNC-FM in Chapel Hill, who's keeping close tabs on the ever-evolving mess of UNC-TV, Alcoa dams, and the state's reporter shield law, reports several very puzzling developments:

— Local commercial TV station WRAL — whose CEO, Jim Goodmon, vociferously opposed UNC-TV's decision, on July 27 filed a public records request of its own for the same documents from the station. Then Wednesday (Aug. 4) it withdrew the request, citing ... you guessed it, the state's reporter shield law, which Goodmon had insisted protected UNC-TV.

— Also yesterday, "just about every news outlet in Raleigh" was provided, by Alcoa, with an unpublished draft of a critique of two parts of the three-part series — now removed from the UNC-TV site, by the way — written by a panel of UNC journalism profs. UNC-TV had asked for the review, but then withdrew that request.

— Perhaps the strangest of all is just who provided that report to Alcoa: Hugh Stevens, Counsel Emeritus for the NC Press Association and immediate past president of the NC Open Government Coalition. He used, yes, a public records request, which he said UNC-TV had opened itself to by turning over the documents to lawmakers in the first place.

Leslie has links to all the various documents in her blog posting.

UPDATE: Welcome back to the ongoing adventures. Leslie checked with UNC-TV about the sudden disappearance of the series from its website and received this statement from a station rep: "We removed the videos that were posted on the North Carolina Now website yesterday (Aug. 4) because as 'point of view' pieces they are not representative of the typical content of North Carolina Now, and we concluded that it was no longer appropriate to distribute them through the site. " They're gone from YouTube as well, Leslie noted.

Aug 4, 2010

Carl Kasell wipes the announce-booth floor with Howard Stern

It was semi-retired NPR newscaster Carl Kasell, not gazillion-dollar controversialist Howard Stern who was elected by web users to the National Radio Hall of Fame this week. Kasell also bested MoneyTalk host Bob Brinker and country deejay Bob Kinsley in the category of nationally active broadcasters. Kasell is still active — keeping score on Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! while serving as NPR's ambassador on the pubradio meet-n-greet circuit. Westwood One will distribute a two-hour Hall of Fame induction broadcast Nov. 6. Urban radio tycoon Cathy Hughes and the late Memphis recording pioneer Sam Phillips are among the other inductees.

PBS arts website launches on Aug. 23

PBS's long-discussed arts website goes online Aug. 23, President Paula Kerger announced at the TCA Press Tour today (Aug. 4) in Los Angeles, reports USA Today. Visitors will be able to watch national PBS programming and shows previously run by their local stations. Last year PBS received a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for the website. PBS also continues work on its upcoming once-weekly evening of arts programming for broadcast. (PBS image: Kerger onstage at Press Tour)

Blame game on Long Island

Who's to blame for the "11th hour scramble" on behalf of Long Island's WLIU? The New York Daily News quotes anonymous sources who criticize general manager Wally Smith as a procrastinator who didn't pursue prospective donors aggressively enough. Smith says the newspaper's sources are "out of the loop." Link to earlier coverage.

Yoko Ono appears for PBS at TCA Summer Press Tour

The spotlight shines on PBS today (Aug. 4) and Thursday at the ongoing Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. PBS President Paula Kerger faces the press this morning; no doubt the Los Angeles Times' story today on KCET's woes will generate questions. (Much more on KCET coming soon from Current.) At 2 p.m. LA time, PBS assembles a panel of stars of yesteryear to celebrate its Pioneers of Television doc. On stage will be Mike Connors, a.k.a. detective Joe Mannix; Robert Conrad of Wild Wild West and Black Sheep Squadron; Linda Evans of Dynasty; Martin Landau, a TV veteran of everything from a Twilight Zone in 1959 to Entourage in 2008; and Nichelle Nichols, who broke racial barriers with her role as Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek.

But perhaps the most talked-about session is the big finish at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Yoko Ono, who rarely speaks to the press, will talk about the American Masters film, "Lennon NYC." Ono narrates the prologue to the doc. Accompanying her on stage is Susan Lacy, series creator and exec producer.

Immediately following, PBS wraps up with the dreamy-sounding "cocktails and buffet dinner on the Stardust rooftop."

UPDATE: Masterpiece's Twitter feed reports this important news, that British actor Benedict Cumberbatch was spotted eating eggs Benedict.

Aug 3, 2010

High-stakes fundraising appeal for Long Island's WLIU

Peconic Public Broadcasting, the nonprofit that mounted a successful bid to purchase WLIU from Long Island University last fall, is struggling to meet its payments. The New York Daily News reports that the new licensee must raise $500,000 by the end of August. If deep-pocketed donors don't step forward soon, the station will drop all local programming, PPB President Wally Smith tells the Daily News. Under a sales contract announced in October 2009, PPB bought WLIU for $2.425 million in cash and in-kind services and agreed to absorb the cost of moving its studio and transmitter.

Aug 2, 2010

Newsical chairs in White House briefing room finally ends

Sorry, pubcasters, NPR has lost the Great White House Briefing Room Front-Center Chair Scramble of 2010. To review: Legendary newswoman Helen Thomas resigned on June 7. NPR applied for the much-coveted chair. Two progressive online groups began petitions to persuade the White House Correspondents Association to give the chair to NPR. Then NPR denied knowing anything about the petitions. And now, finally, the decision: The Associated Press gets Thomas's chair, Fox News moves to fill AP's old front-row seat, and NPR takes Fox's second-row seat. That's next to Bloomberg, for anyone still erasing and updating their seating chart.

And for those of you who cannot fathom that this is all over, who are still yearning for more details, here is -- and we are not joking -- a 1,000-word analysis of how it happened from the Columbia Journalism Review. Enjoy.

Schorr prize offered to rising young journalists

One of the legacies inspired by the late broadcast journalist's career is the Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize, now seeking contenders for the ninth year. Boston's WBUR will award the $5,000 prize to the journalist, age 35 or younger (as of June 30, 2010) who's principally responsible for a news story or segment "of significance and quality  . . . that celebrates the new generation of journalists in public radio" (that aired the 12 months before that date on a CPB-qualified pubradio station.) One entry per journalist. Entry deadline: Sept. 17. Details here.

WGBH chooses new broadband/interactive vice president

Alexis Rapo, formerly of Disney-ABC, began work today (Aug. 2) as vice president, broadband and interactive media, for WGBH, the Boston station announced. She'll take the lead in shaping WGBH's digital product and service strategy, including new formats and platforms. Rapo is credited with the creation of several "industry first" technical innovations at ABC, the station statement said, including first network to offer episodes on iTunes (in 2005), and first to stream ad-supported full episodes online (May 2006). She won an Emmy in 2006 for interactive television and programming.

Public Insight Network to be tailored for Spanish-speaking sources in Miami

The Miami Herald and WLRN-FM have joined American Public Media's Public Insight Network, the citizen journalism system for tapping audience members as sources. The Herald, an editorial partner with WLRN's newsroom since 2000, is the first major daily newspaper to join the web-powered sourcing system. The partners plan to tailor their network for Spanish-speaking audiences. "Our participation in the Public Insight Network will be personalized to the communities we serve, and will include a bilingual user interface to ensure we're interacting with all of our readers and listeners," says Rick Hirsch, senior editor of multimedia for the Herald. The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, helmed by former Miami Herald Publisher and PBS Board Chair Alberto Ibarg├╝en, provides funding to the Public Insight Network.

Look, up in the sky!

Three new Sesame Workshop series will premiere at MIPCOM in Cannes, France, Oct. 4-8, the Workshop announced today (Aug. 2). In the first, a furry Muppet fave dons a red cape and silver helmet to transform into Super Grover 2.0, who "observes, questions, investigates and reports" to young viewers. That will also run as segments on the international Sesame Street in the U.S. Also in the lineup is Count TV, hosted by Count von Count and ending with an animated Bert and Ernie singing and tap dancing about the number of the day. Goodnight, Elmo takes kids through the bedtime routine as Elmo and his dad say goodnight, put on pajamas and read a story -- and sometimes Elmo gets to make up his own tales. (Image: Sesame Workshop)

Aug 1, 2010

Rare Burns films available for pledge

PBS is offering two never-broadcast Ken Burns films for pledge about painter and spiritual teacher William Segal, the New York Times reports. The Segal films have only been seen in museums and a DVD, “Seeing, Searching, Being,” and have become "something of an underground commodity for devotees of Mr. Segal’s approach to self-realization," the paper notes. The third film in the trilogy will be provided as a premium.

The films are in a style much different from the PBS documentarian's usual work. They do not use the "Ken Burns effect," his trademark technique of using still shots of historical documents to tell a story. There are long periods of silence and no narrator. “These were little films that could tell themselves,” he told the paper.

Burns became intrigued with Segal after the two met in the 1970s at a drawing class. The artist's vitality "rearranged my molecules," as Burns put it.