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.