Jun 14, 2010

Ifill receives Fred Friendly First Amendment Award

Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn., presented its 17th annual Fred Friendly First Amendment Award to Gwen Ifill of PBS's Washington Week, during a luncheon today (June 14) at the Metropolitan Club in New York City. The award, named for the former CBS News president, acknowledges those who have shown courage in preserving the Constitutional right. "Gwen is a top writer, great reporter and fine communicator," said Ruth Friendly, Friendly's widow, who presented the award. "She is gutsy, determined and dedicated to her craft. . . . I can't help but to feel the presence of Fred today. He would be nodding hearty approval, too." Former winners include Tom Brokaw, Morley Safer, Lesley Stahl, Ted Koppel, Jim Lehrer and Tim Russert.

Paper examines NJN's Blumenthal and his private nonprof restructuring plan

New Jersey Network Interim Director Howard Blumenthal and his leadership of Philadelphia's indie pubcaster MiND TV (WYBE)  is the focus of a story Sunday (June 13) in the Bergen, N.J., Record. His "bold privatization plan" (PDF) to transfer the TV/radio network to a nonprofit would "unload a taxpayer asset with an estimated value of $200 million," the paper says. During his time as CEO of MiND TV, it paid a fine for airing commercials; Blumenthal said an oversight by busy staff members led to the fine. Also, net assets for MiND dropped 16 percent. But Douglas Eakeley, chairman of the NJN Foundation, supports Blumenthal and his plan, which has been called a "radical restructuring" by the  Record. "As we went to the private sector for capital infrastructure improvements or the like, the fairly frequent response was: 'Well, you're asking us to repair the roof of the house that the state owns,'" Eakeley said. Being linked to the state "actually was an impediment to raise funds." The network will find out by July 1 if it will get $4 million cut from its state funding, as Gov. Chris Christie has proposed.

UPDATE: An NJN spokesperson corrected details we published earlier here: Blumenthal continues as part-time g.m. of WYBE while handling the job at NJN. The FCC fine cost WYBE $2,500, not $25,000. NJN said the estimate of NJN's assets was calculated by the employee union, which opposes the spinoff, and not by the newspaper.

Possible 50 percent-plus state cut faces pubcasters in South Carolina

South Carolina Educational TV is the latest in an ever-growing number of stations facing state budget cuts. ETV finds out Tuesday (June 15) if it will see over 50 percent cut, more than $5 million of its $10 million in state support, the South Carolina Radio Network reports. On Friday (June 11) ETV posted an "emergency alert" asking viewers to contact state legislators to protest the cutback, which it says would have a "crippling effect" on services. ETV is statewide network with 11 pubTV stations, eight radio transmitters and a closed circuit educational telecommunications system to schools statewide. The cut may force ETV to discontinue its public safety and local government training, it said. It came in the form of a veto by the governor.

Henson Company to release 3D movie

The Jim Henson Company is working on a 3D sequel to Jim Henson's "Dark Crystal" film, CEO Lisa Henson tells Reuters. She said several of her father's primary interests before he died in 1990 were 3D films, computer animation and digital imagery. "He was pretty far ahead of his time, and I like to think that we have taken the company in the direction he would have chosen," she said. "I really believe that 3D will only get better." The movie, "The Power of the Dark Crystal" will be made in Australia with using techniques including 3D and CGI to propel puppets into the 21st century and beyond. Tentative release is 2013.