Dec 7, 2010

Myatt, former grantmaker and PBS exec, heads NEA media arts

Alyce Myatt, a programmer and former producer who has experience with foundations, PBS and production, is the new director of media arts for the National Endowment for the Arts. She starts work Jan. 3 as head of NEA's grantmaking in film, video, audio, web and other electronic media. Myatt served as PBS's director of children's programming, an e.p. for Children's Television Workshop and Nickelodeon, as a grantmaker for the MacArthur Foundation and, most recently, as executive director of Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media, an association of foundations interested in media. She succeeds Ted Libbey, the NPR music commentator and now PBS arts advisor, who took the NEA job in 2002. Last year NEA laid out $8 million for media-arts projects.

ACL announces plans for new studio gala in February

KLRU in Austin, Texas, has set the stage (literally) for what it calls a "world-class celebration" to unveil its new Austin City Limits theater. The big event is Feb. 24, 2011, and rocker Steve Miller and his band will do the honors. A new Austin city skyline backdrop will also be revealed — fans of the show know what a big deal that is. The move has been several years in the planning (Current, July 20, 2009) and will provide the iconic music show with a 2,500-seat auditorium (up from its present 250) in a $300 million downtown redevelopment (as opposed to its nearly hidden studio on the University of Texas campus).

Pacifica is first U.S. radio network to add Al Jazeera English programming

Calling it a "first-of-its-kind agreement," the Washington Post is reporting today (Dec. 7) that noncom Pacifica Radio is adding the Middle East-based news channel Al Jazeera English to its five outlets nationwide. Stations in New York, Houston and Berkeley, Calif., will begin to carry the audio portion of Al Jazeera's TV news broadcast this week; Los Angeles and Washington will do so next year. Pacifica is the first American radio broadcaster to air programming from AJE, the English-language offshoot of the Arabic-language Al Jazeera network. Read the Pacifica press release here.

Houston NBC affiliate KPRC/Local 2 shot a segment this morning at Pacifica's KPFT. Programming Director Ernesto Aguilar told Current that due to the station's history — bombed off the air by the Ku Klux Klan twice in 1970 — local law enforcement officials were notified of possible protests. There were none.

The Houston Chronicle also covered KPFT's latest programming addition. Duane Bradley, the station's general manager, defended AJE. "It is programming of a high quality that is underexposed in America," he said, "and it certainly falls within our mission to bring in sources of news from different locations to round out media offerings for our listeners, our members and the broader community."

NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik did a segment on AJE in February 2009, "Al Jazeera English struggles for U.S. audience."

ITVS films continue to rack up awards

Four ITVS films were honored last week (Dec. 3) at the IDI Documentary Awards ceremonies, presented by by the International Documentary Association: "Waste Land," which received the IDA Pare Lorentz Award; "For Once in My Life," for music documentary; "Bhutto," the ABC News VideoSource Award; and "The Oath," the IDI Humanitas Award. Watch clips here.

Pubcasters need to gird for a serious fight, analysts say

Hollywood's The Wrap eyeballs the overall public broadcasting picture — "Massive budget shortfalls, vicious in-fighting and a power shift in Washington" — and predicts even more dire times ahead. Congressional champions are few, it says, and the incoming GOP members are even more anti-pubcasting than during the mid-1990s, when CPB was nearly extinguished. “These people are more conservative to the point where the only media they see as legitimate is Fox, and everything else is unreliable,” says Raphael Sonenshein, a professor of political science at Cal State Fullerton.

And just how relevant is public broadcasting? “All media is being asked to reinvent itself — and that includes public media,”says Tom Glaisyer, a Knight Media Policy Fellow at the New America Foundation. “Their heart is and should be in producing quality public media, but there’s been a lack of comfort with making the kind of argument in favor of what they offer that needs to be made.”

Read Current's analysis of the situation here.