Mar 24, 2010

Will budget woes force Louisiana pubcasting off the air two days a week?

In a message on its website, Louisiana Public Broadcasting tells visitors it may have to cut local programming, lay off 20 percent of its staff and possibly even "go off the air one or two days a week," possibly Monday and Friday, as it comes up against state funding cuts. The pubcaster is facing a $656,000 reduction before the end of June and a potential $2 million cut beginning in July. “It’s not anything we want to do. It’s not our choice,” Joe Traigle, LPB Foundation chairman, told the Advocate newspaper on Tuesday. The reporter got readers' attention by pointing out that no programming on Mondays and Fridays would mean -- gasp! -- that Antiques Roadshow wouldn't be on.

CPB event spotlighting journalism projects to be streamed live

CPB's announcement of a "major journalism initiative" on Thursday, March 25 will be streamed live from the Newseum in Washington, D.C., beginning at 10 a.m. ET. CPB President Patricia Harrison will be joined by top execs from PBS and NPR. After the announcement, a panel of pubcasting journalists will discuss public media's role in newsgathering. CPB's funding of five "local journalism centers," expected for months, will support more in-depth reporting by public radio stations on a regional basis.

Seattle's classical KING-FM to replace ad revenues with listener contributions

All-classical KING-FM in Seattle, one of the few remaining commercial classical stations in the country, plans to convert into a noncommercial, listener-supported public radio operation by July 2011. The station cited changes in media technology and declining ad revenues yesterday in announcing the change, which first must be approved by the IRS and the FCC. The station has suffered under Arbitron's new Portable People Meter ratings methodology, according to the Seattle Times. KING-FM is operated by Beethoven, a nonprofit owned by three Seattle arts organizations; over the years its revenues have been converted into dividends for the Seattle Opera, the Seattle Symphony and the Arts Fund. "That vision worked well for a time, but the handwriting is on the wall,” said Christopher Bayley, board president. “With all the changes in media in the United States, commercial advertising is no longer a fit for KING.” Public Radio Capital's Marc Hand tells the New York Times that the same audience demographics that undercut ad sales for classical radio stations make listener support a viable alternative. Older listeners are less appealing to advertisers but they are inclined to be loyal supporters of a classical public radio station. “I think this move really makes for a station that’s more economically viable,” Hand said.

Former APTS president Lawson departs ION Media Networks

John Lawson, former president of the Association of Public Television Stations, is leaving ION Media Networks to relaunch his consulting firm. He ran Convergence Services Inc. from 1993 to 2001, when he accepted the head position at APTS (Current, March 26, 2001). He oversaw the lobbying org until 2008, then departed for ION (Current, Feb. 19, 2008). Convergence Services will provide consulting for the digital media industry "at the intersection of business, technology and policy," Lawson said in a statement he distributed to pubcasting execs yesterday. He will focus on building mobile DTV networks and services, development of public media and deployment of next generation emergency alert systems. The company may seek financing for its own ventures, the statement added. APTS is currently searching for a president in the wake of Larry Sidman's departure (Current, March 14). Convergence Services Inc. officially reopens on April 19.

Minnesota lawmakers reject proposal to zero-out pubcasting

Both chambers of the Minnesota State Legislature have voted to restore general fund appropriations for public broadcasting, almost completely rolling back a proposal by Gov. Tim Pawlenty to zero-out $2.015 million in public media subsidies. Differences between House and Senate bills are yet to be reconciled, reports MinnPost's David Brauer, but the largest cut proposed for pubcasting totals $161,000 over the biennial budget cycle.

Frontline, Planet Money, PBS NewsHour to collaborate on Haiti coverage

Beginning later this week, Frontline, NPR's Planet Money and PBS NewsHour are partnering across platforms to report on post-earthquake life in Haiti. Planet Money will look at what new economies are emerging from the rubble in Port-au-Prince. That piece will develop into several Web-original Frontline video reports, TV segments on PBS NewsHour and companion radio on Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Planet Money's podcast. The project culminates in Frontline's broadcast next Tuesday, March 30, of "The Quake," examining the world's response to the catastrophe. Featured in that program are interviews including former President Bill Clinton, special envoy to Haiti; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; and Dr. Paul Farmer, deputy special envoy to Haiti.

Rising number of TV viewers also multitasking online, Nielsen reports

In the last three months of 2009, viewers had their eyes on both TV and the Internet -- at the same time -- for three and a half hours a month, up 35 percent from the previous quarter, according to the latest news from Nielsen's Three Screen Report.“The rise in simultaneous use of the web and TV gives the viewer a unique on-screen and off-screen relationship with TV programming,” said Nielsen spokesman Matt O’Grady. “The initial fear was that Internet and mobile video and entertainment would slowly cannibalize traditional TV viewing, but the steady trend of increased TV viewership alongside expanded simultaneous usage argues something quite different.”