Oct 31, 2011

Prairie Home Companion sound-effects guru Tom Keith dies at 64

Tom Keith, who created the sound effects for Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion radio show for decades, died Sunday (Oct. 30) after collapsing at his Woodbury, Minn., home. He was 64. The cause of death has not been determined, a spokesperson for the show told Minnesota Public Radio.

"The Minnesota Public Radio family is shocked and saddened by the sudden loss of our friend and colleague, Tom Keith," APHC producer MPR said in a statement. "Tom was beloved by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing and working with him. We will sorely miss his humor, his amazing talents and his friendship."

Keith, a native of St. Paul, had worked with Keillor since 1976. Keith last appeared on APHC on Oct. 22 from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, with guest headliner John Lithgow.

The Documentary Group produces PBS "Primetime" series as well as its similar underwriting spots

America in Primetime, which premiered on PBS Sunday night (Oct. 30) carries underwriting spots for Unilever's Dove brand produced by the Documentary Group, the team that created the program, and are shot in a style similar to the content, reports the New York Times. "Such crossover producing is increasingly common in commercial television," the newspaper noted.

Creators, writers and actors behind primetime television shows are interviewed in the series, which examines how character archetypes have evolved through the years. Unnamed Dove marketing and public relations executives are interviewed in the 30-second underwriting spots, discussing how the brand strives to relate to changing consumers.

Tom Yellin, president and executive producer of the Documentary Group, approached Unilever with the idea, calling it a “natural opportunity” for a program about the creation of commercial primetime television to feature underwriting from a longtime primetime advertiser. He added that in the program, interviewees talk directly to the camera; in the spots, the executives are shot from the side. “We didn’t want there to be any confusion,” he said.

The Documentary Group was founded by former colleagues of Peter Jennings, the late ABC News anchor. It has produced several pubTV projects, including working with WETA on Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, an interpretation of soldiers’ combat travails that aired in April 2007 as part of PBS’s America at a Crossroads series on the post-9/11 world.

Redding's KIXE-TV partnering with AM radio show for home improvement program

KIXE-TV in Redding, Calif., is launching a television version of the On The House home-improvement AM radio call-in show. KIXE General Manager Mike Quinn tells the local Record Searchlight that the new show, set to debut in January, likened the project to a West Coast version of This Old House, originally produced by WGBH in Boston. Heard on around 200 stations, On The House offers advice from the Carey Brothers, James and Morris, experts in home building and renovation. Their first projects for the KIXE television version will be a remodel of the station's Redding studio and construction of its new satellite studio in Oroville, Calif.

James Carey says the regional difference is important. "If you watch This Old House, you see a lot about basements, a lot about oil-burning furnaces, snow and issues that surround snow." He believes viewers in KIXE's 10-county Northern California area will want to hear about issues dealing with crawl spaces, forced-air furnaces and traditional water heaters.

Carey says he foresees the TV version of On The House going into syndication for pickup by other PBS member stations.

Oct 30, 2011

"Rakin' that stuff out and givin' it to the cows," says David Dye, "that makes me feel really good"

The free downloads of World Cafe artists and newcomers celebrating the WXPN production's 20th anniversary may be welcome in some quarters, but in terms of lasting impact on our little planet, you'd have to give props to the return of program host David Dye to craft brewing, which he virtually invented. As recalled in this parody video, Dye was back with his old beer magic this weekend, cooking up a few vats of Broadcaster Brown Ale for the program's anniversary at Philadelphia Brewing Co.

Another gift to fans — a live two-hour anniversary concert today, (Oct. 30) 2 to 4 p.m., on or WXPN's local signal in Philadelphia.  

Update:  Highlights of anniversary performances this weekend by John Hiatt, Dawes, Indigo Girls and Feist! will be heard on the broadcast Friday, Nov. 4.

Oct 29, 2011

Second freelancer loses pubcasting job over link to Occupy Wall Street movement

A freelance web producer for The Takeaway, a co-production of WNYC Radio and Public Radio International, has been fired for her reported participation in the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Caitlin E. Curran wrote a first-person piece Friday (Oct. 28) on the Gawker website detailing what happened during an Oct. 15 protest in Times Square, and her subsequent termination. Curran's plan was to have her boyfriend hold a sign, and she would observe reactions to its message and post reports on her personal Twitter account. When her boyfriend "developed sign-holding fatigue" Curran wrote on Gawker, she "took over momentarily." A photographer snapped a photo of her holding the sign, and posted it to Twitter.

"I thought all of this could be fodder for an interesting segment on The Takeaway," Curran wrote. She pitched the idea to producers in an e-mail. "The next day, The Takeaway's general manager fired me over the phone, effective immediately. He was inconsolably angry, and said that I had violated every ethic of journalism, and that this should be a 'teaching moment' for me in my career as a journalist."

Jennifer Houlihan, spokesperson for WNYC, provided this response to the Atlantic Wire blog:

"Caitlin Curran was a freelance news producer for The Takeaway, a morning news program co-produced by WNYC and Public Radio International (PRI). In that capacity she was expected to observe the general standards of journalistic practice and more specifically WNYC's editorial guidelines which require that editorial employees be free of any conflict that might compromise the work of the show overall. The Takeaway has covered the Occupy Wall Street story since its beginning through active reporting on the protests and the positive and negative responses to those events. When Ms. Curran made the decision to participate in the protest and make herself part of the story, she violated our editorial standards. At that time the program made the decision to no longer use her services as part of the production team."

Curran's firing comes in the wake of Lisa Simeone's Oct. 19 termination from Sound Print for the freelancer's role as spokesperson for “October 2011,” an anti-war group aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement. NPR also subsequently dropped distribution of World of Opera, which Simeone hosts.

It's Kilkats vs. Raven Lunatics on . . . public broadcasting?

Here's a probable first for the pubcasting system: Live roller derby! KXLL-FM/Excellent Radio in Juneau, Alaska ("Public Radio That Will Melt Your Face Off"), will stream the matchup between two local teams, the Kilkats and the Raven Lunatics, on its website, for later broadcast on the statewide 360 North channel. Tonight's (Oct. 29) bout, "Night of the Living Derby," will be hosted by In DeKline of KXLL and Money Honey of the Juneau Roller Girls. Check out all the excitement online at midnight Eastern, 8 p.m. Juneau time.

Oct 28, 2011

Miami and Reno pubcasters partner for lunar eclipse webcast in December

Two public broadcasters are collaborating with an Ohio observatory and Nevada planetarium in a unique partnership to bring a December lunar eclipse live to web viewers worldwide. KNPB in Reno, Nev., and Star Gazers, a production of WPBT2 in Miami, are producing the streaming event, which "offers the opportunity for everyone to enjoy and discuss the entire lunar eclipse regardless of their location," said co-host Marlene Hildago, a science educator with the Miami Science Museum. She'll host with Dean Regas, outreach astronomer for the Cincinnati Observatory; Bill Dishong, series producer of the new Star Gazers as well as the original Star Gazer with Jack Horkheimer; and Dan Ruby, associate director of the Fleischmann Planetarium in Reno.

The Miami station had great success last year with a live stream of a lunar eclipse, ending up with more than 1,000 new Facebook friends and raves from chat-room participants from as far away as Japan.

PBS UK channel inks carriage deal with Virgin Media

PBS UK, the Public Broadcasting Service's first international commercial channel, has finalized a carriage deal with Virgin Media. The agreement includes rights to offer PBS content across its TV On Demand services, including the Virgin Media online and its mobile player. The deal "gives PBS the best chance of reaching the widest audience," said Richard Kingsbury, PBS UK general manager. PBS UK content also will run on Sky Digital.

Oct 27, 2011

Washington Post exec Bo Jones to take helm of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions

MacNeil/Lehrer Productions has hired a new president and c.e.o., Boisfeuillet "Bo" Jones Jr., who has spent the last 32 years in executive positions at the Washington Post Co. "It is a happy day for us in public broadcasting," said Robert MacNeil in a statement. "We welcome a man of such rich experience in journalism management to help us keep MacNeil/Lehrer Productions and PBS NewsHour vital into the future."

"Bo Jones is the ideal person to take us where we must go," said Jim Lehrer, who stepped down from the anchor chair in June. "He has a unique combination of journalistic integrity and business acumen, plus he understands Americans' increasing demand for serious journalism about the issues and events that matter." 

Jones is currently vice chairman of the Washington Post Co. and chairman of the Washington Post newspaper. Over the years he has served as vice president and counsel, president and general manager, and publisher and c.e.o. As president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, Jones will head corporate and foundation funding for the multiplatform show, coordinate relationships with pubTV broadcast and distribution entities, and oversee development of documentary programs and projects.

"Like millions of others, I am a huge fan of the NewsHour," Jones said. He starts Jan. 1, 2012. (Image: MacNeil/Lehrer Productions)

Congressional Research report details challenges facing PEG channels

Public, educational and government (PEG) channels are facing numerous financial, policy and technological obstacles, according to a new Congressional Research Service report. "The study lays out what we have been saying all along," said John Rocco, president of American Community Television (ACT), tells Broadcasting & Cable. "PEG access television has been under attack and is in desperate need of a Congressional fix."

The report also references the Community Access Preservation Act (CAP Act, HR 1746), backed by ACT and introduced by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.). The bill, opposed by cable operators, would allow jurisdictions to require cable companies to provide at least 2 percent of gross cable revenues in PEG support and would prevent charging subscribers for digital to receive PEG channels migrated from analog tiers.

Kerger in Singapore: Content, innovation, sustainability

PBS President Paula Kerger gave the keynote address Thursday (Oct. 27) at the Public Broadcasting International meeting, going on this week in Singapore. Kerger told the audience that she recently read the book Great by Choice, by Jim Collins, which examines why some companies thrive in uncertain times and others simply get by. "His findings were surprising, but absolutely relevant to all of us in this room," she told the representatives from 20 noncommercial broadcast entities.

Collins found "that the best leaders did not take more risks or have grander ambitions," Kerger said. "Instead, the companies that succeeded were led by people who were more disciplined, more empirical, and more paranoid. And the companies that succeeded did not adapt more dramatically to their new circumstances. In fact, they changed less in reaction to a radically changing world than their cohorts because they built on their areas of expertise. That’s why I feel confident that by focusing on content, innovation and sustainability we can re-create public media for the digital age."

Milwaukee and Seattle lose longtime public broadcasters

Two pubcasting deaths of note:

Art Langlas, "Mr. Auction" both behind and in front of the camera for Milwaukee Public Television Friends, died Wednesday (Oct. 26) of complications after surgery. He was 65. As auction director, Langlas raised $1 million a year over the past decade for the Wisconsin station. "He was the face of the auction," said Mike McKenzie, who now oversees the annual weeklong fundraiser. "When he was out in public and someone recognized him, he really got a kick out of that." Ellis Bromberg, MPTV general manager, noted that the Great Channel 10 Auction "is still an event in southeastern Wisconsin, and it is an event because of him." MPTV says it's the top auction on PBS in the nation, based on net revenue.

Terry Denbrook, a longtime public broadcasting engineer in Seattle, died Sunday (Oct. 23) after a long battle with cancer. He was 66. He was chief engineer at KUOW-FM, Puget Sound Public Radio, for 35 years, beginning in 1976, and also spent five years at KPLU. “Over this time he helped guide KUOW into the 21st century,” the station said in a statement, “by pioneering HD radio multicast services and expanding its reach throughout western Washington. Terry’s engineering expertise did not stop at KUOW, as he often helped out those stations in need.”A comment on Denbrook’s passing on Seattle’s Society of Broadcast Engineers page reads, “Just looked at your transmitters, old friend. They continue to percolate. You will be missed.”

Oct 26, 2011

Pubradio documentaries win Third Coast honors

Eight radio docs, including pieces for Radiolab, This American Life, Marketplace and WNYC Radio, won trophies from among 300 entries in the Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards, presented Oct. 23 in Chicago.

The winners are listed below and pictured on the Third Coast Festival's Facebook page.

Documentary, Gold Award: “The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt,” by Nick van der Kolk and sound designer Brendan Baker, with Nick Williams, a Love + Radio podcast “for mature audiences.” (On the Nieman Journalism Lab blog, Annie Gilbertson discusses van der Kolk's podcast about a Detroit strip club, which features profane language and dark subject matter.)

Documentary, Silver: “Finding Emilie,” by Jad Abumrad with Robert Krulwich and Soren Wheeler, the team from WNYC’s Radiolab.

Documentary, Bronze: “Patriot Games,” by Ben Calhoun, for This American Life, about two friends who formed a Tea Party chapter in Petoskey, Mich. Edited by Ira Glass and Julie Snyder.

Documentary, Honorable Mention: “Heel, Toe, Step Together,” by Katie Burningham (U.K.) about an octogenarian East End London dancer, broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Directors’ Choice: “Children of Sodom and Gomorrah,” by English-language producer Sharon Davis and original German-language writer/producer Jens Jarisch, about a hellish, toxic computer waste dump in Accra, Ghana. English version broadcast on Australia’s ABC Radio National. Presented by 360 Degree Documentaries, Australia.

New Artist: “Kohn,” by Andy Mills (U.S.).

News Feature: “Deportations Before Reform: Anatomy of an Immigration Bust,” by Marianne McCune for WNYC, New York.

Radio Impact Award: “The Five Percent Rule,” by Sally Herships for Marketplace, about the government’s discount tobacco prices for military smokers. Edited by John Haas.

PRX will distribute a two-hour “Best of the Best” broadcast through pubradio stations, available Nov. 17.

Next year’s competition opens for entries in May 2012.

KLRN hires new station manager

Mario A. Vazquez, a board member of the Alamo Public Telecommunications Council, is the new executive vice president and station manager of San Antonio’s KLRN-TV. Vazquez was previously head of the contract administration department at NuStar Energy. "Mario brings exceptional skills to this new position," said KLRN President William Moll in a statement. "He was trained as a classical pianist, practiced as a paralegal, holds a degree in political science, and has long demonstrated a commitment of service to the communities of San Antonio, Laredo and South Central Texas."

Dish Network files with Supreme Court over noncom carriage mandate

Dish Network is asking the Supreme Court to rule on what First Amendment test should apply to its Congressional mandate to carry noncommercial stations in HD over other stations, reports Broadcasting & Cable. "At issue, if the Supremes take the case, could be the underpinnings of entire government must-carry regime," reporter John Eggerton notes.

Dish filed a petition for certiorari, asking for a review of a decision last February in which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Congress could require a private party (Dish) to grant preferential treatment to noncommercial stations. Dish claims the government is favoring one type of speech over another. "Applying intermediate scrutiny, the Ninth Circuit upheld the preference based on the government's interest in increasing the popularity of federally funded stations to increase the flow of viewer donations. In other words, telethons trump editorial discretion," Dish said in its current filing.

It added: "Dish believes its viewers are more interested in seeing Harry Potter and the Super Bowl in HD than Charlie Rose and Sesame Street."

In July 2010, after several years of negotiations with the Association of Public Television Stations, Dish struck an independent HD carriage agreement with some 30 pubcasting stations.

UPDATE: In a statement today, APTS Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel Lonna Thompson said the group is "deeply disappointed" at Dish Network's request for a Supreme Court review of the carriage mandate. “Congress included this provision because Dish Network was blatantly discriminating against local public television stations and refusing to carry them in HD in markets where they were carrying all of the commercial broadcasters," Thompson said. “Unfortunately, Dish prefers to litigate this law rather than giving their customers what they want and deserve — high-quality public television programming. Congress listened to the American people on this critical issue and acted appropriately."

"The public depends upon Dish complying with the must-carry law as local public television stations do not have legal retransmission negotiation rights," she said. "Dish’s profound reluctance to do so contrasts starkly with Direct TV's voluntary agreement, now four years old, with APTS and PBS to carry the HD signal of every public television station in markets Direct TV serves in local HD."

Anonymous last-minute gift of $250,000 saves KCPW from default

An anonymous donor has emerged to save pubradio KCPW in Salt Lake City from a loan default on Nov. 1, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. The $250,000 gift came just as Mayor Ralph Becker threatened to block a second attempt by the City Council to loan the money to the struggling station. Attorneys for the city’s Redevelopment Agency deemed the aid inappropriate (Current, Oct. 17).

The donation "came as a complete surprise," said Ed Sweeney, president of the station’s owner, Wasatch Public Media, in a letter to members and supporters, "and was offered because of the inability of the city to provide the short-term funding."

KCPW needed between $200,000 and $250,000, depending on the success of its pledge drive, by Nov. 1 to pay off its loan. That would allow the station to restructure $2.4 million in loans taken out in 2008 to buy the station’s license (Current, June 9, 2008).

Oct 25, 2011

Business magazine selects Alvarado as a Top Hispanic Influential

Joaquin Alvarado has been named one of the Top 100 Hispanic Influentials by HispanicBusiness magazine. Joaquin, American Public Media’s senior v.p. for digital innovation, was selected from among Hispanics of U.S. citizenship who have had recent and national impact, whose achievements inspire other Hispanics to similar endeavors, and who have promoted the advancement of Hispanics in the United States by their leadership, community involvement or professional achievements. "Innovation is key" to exerting a positive influence in the Hispanic community, Alvarado told the magazine, "because the Hispanic community and the minority communities in this country are oftentimes the early adopters of new technologies." Prior to his APM appointment, Alvarado was senior v.p. for diversity and innovation at CPB, as well as a founder of National Public Lightpath, advocating for a high-speed fiber optic network as the next generation of the Internet with public media, education and community leadership. (Image: APM)

Knight Foundation adds three tech thought leaders to board

Three new-media innovators have joined the Knight Foundation's board of trustees. The elections of Joichi Ito, director of MIT’s Media Lab; John Palfrey, professor at Harvard Law School and co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society; and Chris Hughes, Facebook co-founder, "emphasized the importance of technology and media innovation on the delivery of news and information to communities," the foundation said in an announcement today (Oct. 25).

“The addition of these three seminal thinkers and key actors in the world of media innovation — in the search for how to inform communities in the digital age — is a giant leap forward for Knight," said Alberto Ibargüen, foundation president and a former board chairman of PBS. "They will challenge and help guide us to an even more entrepreneurial approach to media innovation and engagement of people in communities.”

Tips for tracking social media's impact in public radio newsrooms

As more public media stations adopt social media for news reporting and user engagement, their next and more difficult challenge is to analyze the success of these efforts. Kim Bui, social media specialist and community editor for Southern California Public Radio/KPCC, has developed an aggressive methodology for tracking the impact of the station's social media work, according to IMA blogger Amanda Hirsch, who interviewed Bui in a recent Q&A.

"We use metrics to back up a lot of decisions," Bui says. "We track as much as we can about how we use social media, using any method we can. We use Chartbeat, Google Analytics, Facebook Insights and software called Argyle Social to track almost everything we do socially - from the Twitter and Facebook widgets we put on the SCPR site to how far a particular story was taken socially." The process can be "painful" and time-consuming, she says, but also very helpful in demonstrating social media's potential to the newsroom.

Bui is a self-described journalism nerd and co-founder of #wjchat, the weekly Twitter chat for web journalists.

Oct 24, 2011

Charlie Rose talking to CBS about role on The Early Show

Longtime PBS talk-show host Charlie Rose says he's "having conversations" with CBS about possibly joining The Early Show, Rose revealed in a conversation with The Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz."I'm intrigued by the fact that they want to do it differently," Rose says. "They understand that their success will not lie in duplicating what’s already on morning television."

Later, when the New York Times asked if that meant Rose might leave his namesake program, he replied, “not under any circumstances.”

APTS elects Bob Kerrey as trustee

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey has joined the board of trustees of the Association of Public Television Stations (APTS). Kerrey, who also served as a governor of Nebraska, is currently chairman of M & F Worldwide Education Holdings, parent company of GlobalScholar, Scantron and Spectrum K-12. Prior to joining GlobalScholar, Kerrey was president of the New School University in New York City. “I believe public television has an especially important role to play in the education of our children — and also in public safety, job training and other essential public services," Kerrey said in a statement.

Stars turn out for Mark Twain Prize, to air on PBS

Fan of the red carpet? You'll enjoy PBS's photos from the Kennedy Center of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, awarded Sunday evening (Oct. 23) to comedian Will Farrell. Big-name stars attending included actors Paul Rudd, Ed Asner, Conan O'Brien, Adam Sandburg and Molly Shannon, as well as PBS NewsHour's Gwen Ifill. PBS members stations will air the show Oct. 31.

ITVS announces Global Perspectives selections

The Independent Television Service has chosen eight international documentary projects from its 2011 call for the Global Perspective Project. This year’s selections "provide extraordinary access and insight into the daily lives and struggles of people who live in Uruguay, Iran, China, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Myanmar and India," the CPB-backed ITVS said in a statement. Docs were selected from 476 submissions from 118 countries representing 72 languages. All eight are bound for the PBS series Independent Lens, P.O.V., and the international series Global Voices on the World channel. The 2012 ITVS International Call opens Nov. 1; deadline is Dec. 9.

Democracy Now! at 15 years: "People speaking for themselves"

The six-hour, live streaming news coverage by Democracy Now! of Georgia inmate Troy Davis's execution on Sept. 21 was viewed more than 800,000 times online, reports the New York Times in a profile of the show, which is celebrating its 15th year. The popularity of that reporting attests to "the hunger for this kind of information,” host Amy Goodman told the newspaper. “Yet there was no network that was there to cover this moment throughout the night.”

Some fans as well as critics describe the show as progressive, the Times notes, but Goodman rejects that label and instead says it's a newscast that has “people speaking for themselves.” She also criticizes networks that have counted on on pundits, rather than actual protesters, to discuss the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Michele Norris steps back from ATC post after husband accepts Obama campaign role

NPR's Michele Norris is leaving her co-hosting duties for All Things Considered until after the 2012 elections, due to husband Broderick Johnson's new position with President Obama's re-election campaign. "Given the nature of Broderick's position with the campaign and the impact that it will most certainly have on our family life," Norris said in a note to colleagues this morning (Oct. 24), "I will temporarily step away from my hosting duties until after the 2012 elections." NPR hasn't decided who will substitute for her. Norris said she will produce signature segments and features and working on new reporting projects. "While I will of course recuse myself from all election coverage, there's still an awful lot of ground that I can till in this interim role," she added. Johnson, an attorney in Washington, D.C., will be a senior adviser to the Obama campaign. He has long been involved in Democratic politics. In 2004 he was a senior adviser for congressional affairs in Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign. From 1998 to 2000 he served as President Clinton's deputy assistant for legislative affairs and in other roles.

Mattel acquires Kids Sprout channel partner HIT Entertainment

Toy giant Mattel is buying HIT Entertainment, part owner with PBS and Sesame Workshop of the Kids Sprout children's educational cable channel, for $680 million, according to the Hollywood Reporter. With more than $180 million in annual revenue, HIT is one of the largest independent owners of intellectual property for preschoolers, holding titles including Thomas & Friends, Barney, Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and Angelina Ballerina. Sprout launched initially as a video on demand service on April 1, 2005, and became a cable and satellite channel in September 2005 (background, Current, Nov. 1, 2004).

Oct 23, 2011

Lack of live WBAI coverage of Occupy Wall Street puzzles Local Station Board member

Where is New York City Pacifica Radio WBAI's live coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement? That's what blogger Matthew Lasar is pondering after receiving this note from former WBAI programmer Doug Henwood: "I’m stunned. [The station is] right on Wall Street. They could walk out the door and ask the denizens of Brown Bros Harriman and Deutsche Bank what they make of it. And then walk five minutes down the street to Zuccotti Park and cover breaking news and all kinds of stuff. It could attract a worldwide listenership." Lasar attempted to contact various WBAI execs, and heard back from Mitchel Cohen, chairperson of WBAI’s Local Station Board. "WBAI does NOT lack coverage," Cohen wrote. "There is a lot of it on the air, and almost all of it has been terrific — although it took some doing that first week to get that rolling (which seems to be an unfortunate pattern). What is STILL lacking is, as most radio people would understand, is live coverage, especially of the hour or so last Friday morning when the cops were expected to attack."

"I still have been unable to find out the real story" as to the lack of live reports, Cohen added.

Nonprofit news site Bay Citizen loses c.e.o, one month after editor's departure

Lisa Frazier, c.e.o. of The Bay Citizen nonprofit news website, has announced that she is leaving for personal reasons. This follows Bay Citizen Editor Jonathan Weber's departure in September to join Reuters. Frazier has led the news organization since its founding. Her appointment in January 2010 "raised eyebrows," the San Francisco Business Times noted, "both for her lack of direct media experience and her salary of $400,000."

Simeone to stay on as "World of Opera" host, WDAV to distribute show

NPR is dropping distribution of World of Opera as of Nov. 11. The new distributor will be WDAV Classical Public Radio in Charlotte, N.C., and licensed to Davidson College. Lisa Simeone will continue as the show's host, the licensee said. Simeone, a freelance radio broadcaster, was fired Oct. 19 from Soundprint, the independently produced long-form doc series, for violating NPR's ethics code due to her role as spokesperson for “October 2011,” an anti-war group aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement. Dana Davis Rehm, NPR's s.v.p. for communications, said the change in distribution was made due to NPR and WDAV's "different views about the role of a program host." She said NPR believes hosts "represent NPR regardless of the type of program they host," and are barred from any political activity.

Maine Public Broadcasting discontinues its on-air auction after four decades

After 40 years, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network is ending its MPBN Great TV Auction, reports the Maine Sunday Telegram. Lou Morin, director of marketing and public relations for MPBN, said the auction usually brought in about $450,000 in gross revenue, but after expenses the net revenue was only about $150,000. The auction usually took place over 10 days in April, pre-empting the network's regular nightly schedule — which became a factor in the decision to end it. "People want their normal programming interrupted as little as possible," Morin said.

Oct 21, 2011

Knight report points to strategies for sustaining nonprofit news start-ups

A new Knight Foundation report provides details on locally focused nonprofit news websites and their progress in engaging web audiences, building revenues and cultivating donors.

"Getting Local" profiles seven news start-ups and draws conclusions about what it will take for them to become financially self-sustainable.

Nonprofit news ventures must "aspire well beyond producing high-quality journalistic content," write co-authors Mayur Patel and Michele McLellan. "Entrepreneurial revenue development, audience focus and a mission of engagement, and technology to support that mission are essential components of a sustainable nonprofit news venture."

Poynter columnist Rick Edmonds summarized highlights of the report in this Oct. 18 column, which includes an archived chat with Joel Kramer of MinnPost and Melissa Bailey of the New Haven Independent -- two of the featured news start-ups.

Oct 20, 2011

All the NETA excitement, now online

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Couldn't attend the NETA conference this week? Here's a handy recap in video, photos and reports.

Maine Public Broadcasting shatters one-day radio pledge record

Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s “Super Thursday” one-day pledge drive raised $252,719 from 2,866 donors today (Oct. 20), more than doubling its previous daily record of $107,558 in April. Its goal was met in less than 12 hours of on-air appeals, which was "totally unexpected," said Jennifer Foley, MPBN's director of development and philanthropic giving, in a press release.

One man walked into MPBN’s studio in Lewiston and donated a jar of loose change, which totaled $45.59.

Foley said MPBN had heavily promoted the pledge drive for the past two weeks, with pre-recorded messages written for MPBN’s audience by a dozen NPR radio personalities, including Carl Kassel and Peter Sagal from Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!, Weekend Edition's Scott Simon and Fresh Air host Terry Gross.

MPBN radio pledge drives usually last for about a week. “Our members have told us ‘we love MPBN but the pledge drives, not so much,’ and we heard them,” Foley said.

NETA recognizes best of public TV with annual awards

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — First-time NETA Award winner KRSC/RSU-Television in Claremore, Okla., was also a double winner for its Will Rogers & American Politics, claiming both the biography and history honors in the content production category. The National Educational Telecommunications Association also pays tribute to the best of promotion, community engagement and instructional media with the annual awards, presented today (Oct. 20) at its national conference here.

Another double winner was Mountain Lake PBS in Plattsburgh, N.Y., also in content production, for Cirque du Soleil: Flowers in the Desert (performance) and The Boobie Sisters (news and public affairs).

The NETA Education Center presented its Enterprise and Innovation Award to WKYU in Bowling Green, Ky., for the project that converted its traditional incandescent production studio lighting to a smaller, more configurable and more cost-efficient LED system.
In all, 28 crystal plaques were presented to recipients who traveled from as far away as Virgin Islands Public Broadcasting.

Simeone's activism prompts inquiry into ethical standards for pubradio freelancers

Public radio is once again struggling to define the line between on-air talent who report as ethically bound journalists and those personalities who are permitted to express opinions.

Freelance radio broadcaster Lisa Simeone, a veteran host of public radio documentary and music programs, was fired late Oct. 19 from Soundprint, the independently produced long-form doc series, for violating NPR's ethics code. Her role as spokesperson for “October 2011,” an anti-war group aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement that has staged protests in Washington, D.C., put her longtime affiliation with public radio in jeopardy.

The Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call first questioned whether Simeone’s activism violated journalistic ethics in an Oct. 18 story that quoted a comment by Jim Asendio, news director for Washington’s WAMU: “A journalist is always a journalist.” He also cited NPR’s ethics code, which WAMU adheres to.

The station broadcasts Soundprint on weekends, but has no role in its production, although it used to lease office space to producers, according to Asendio and Mark McDonald, p.d.

Roll Call's story went viral after it was picked up by The Daily Caller, the conservative news site run by Tucker Carlson.

Hubbub in the blogosphere coincided almost exactly with the one-year anniversary of the dismissal of Juan Williams, who lost his contract as an NPR news analyst over remarks he made on Fox News.

Simeone’s other public radio gig as host of NPR World of Opera also came under scrutiny, but NPR and producing station WDAV in Davidson, N.C., said they faced a different situation. In a statement posted on NPR corporate communication’s blog this morning, NPR deferred to WDAV’s managers to make decisions about Simeone.

“WDAV is standing by me,” Simeone said.

The classical music station, owned by Davidson College outside of Charlotte, N.C., issued a statement differentiating NPR’s journalistic mission from its own role as a provider of arts and cultural programming for national and international audiences. “Based on the differing missions of these two organizations, we are working together to find a solution to the issues surrounding NPR World of Opera.”

WDAV took over production of the opera series in 2010, and NPR scaled its role back to syndication of the performance broadcasts. In the transition, WDAV retained and continues to work with Simeone and producer Bruce Scott.They are no longer NPR employees.

Soundprint acted quickly to sever ties with Simeone, citing NPR’s ethics code during a contentious phone call late on Oct. 19, according to Simeone. She recalled challenging producer Moira Rankin, who directs the Soundprint Media Center independently from NPR, and questioned why she was being held to NPR’s standards.

Since she’s not directly employed by NPR and works on music programming, NPR’s journalism ethics should not apply to her, Simeone told Current.

She also sees inconsistencies in enforcement of NPR’s standards. Full-time employees of NPR have side gigs as Fox News pundits, opinion-page writers and paid public speakers, she said, mentioning NPR correspondent Mara Liasson, host Scott Simon, and analyst Cokie Roberts. “Someone who reports the news can accept a $25,000 speaking fee, and that’s not a conflict of interest?” she said. “Then why is what I’m doing not okay?”

A statement issued by Soundprint Media Center doesn't cite NPR's ethics code in explaining Simeone's dismissal. "Soundprint is a journalistic program and . . . adheres to the highest standards of journalism," it said. Simeone's role in the leadership of "October 2011" protests and Occupy DC "conflicts with her role as the host of a documentary series."

Simeone had contributed to the broadcast for 15 years.

Editor's note: This post has been revised to include an updated statement from Soundprint.

Oct 19, 2011

PBS Food opens its online doors; PBS Distribution expands deal with

PBS today announced two online initiatives, one a new website, another an expanded content agreement with

It's launch day for PBS Food, a gateway to some 150 pubTV food and cooking programs and more than 1,700 searchable recipes from local station and national archives. The site features classic episodes of shows such as Baking With Julia, and Victory Garden, and an appearance from a very young Emeril Lagasse.

And PBS Distribution has broadened its licensing agreement with, which will allow Amazon Prime members to instantly stream current and archived PBS programming. “Expanding the reach of our content by making it accessible through digital platforms is a key priority for PBS,” Jason Seiken, s.v.p., PBS Interactive, said in a press release. Prime members will have access to more than 1,000 episodes of shows that air on PBS, to roll out over the next several months. Content includes NOVA, Masterpiece and Antiques Roadshow, along with the Ken Burns documentaries The Civil War, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, Baseball, Jazz and his latest, Prohibition.

WTTW adding Al Jazeera English content

WTTW is picking up Al Jazeera English programming beginning Oct. 31, the first time the news provider will be seen on the air in Chicago. AJE will run from 6:30 to 7 a.m. and 11 to 11:30 p.m. weekdays on the WTTW Prime multicast channel, and 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. Saturdays on its main Channel 11. Additional time slots for AJE on WTTW11 will be available beginning in early 2012, WTTW said. “Our station has a long history of providing quality public affairs programming," said Dan Schmidt, WTTW president, "and by adding broadcasts from Al Jazeera English, we are providing a broader perspective on critical global issues.”

First pledge drive for Pittsburgh's WESA seen as key indicator of listener support

Pittsburgh's WESA is making its first fundraising appeal to listeners since the station changed format and call letters under new owner Essential Public Media. Its $250,000 fundraising goal is less than half of the amount raised in a record-breaking February 2010 drive for WDUQ, as the station was known during its years as a split-format news and jazz station, the Pittsburgh Tribune reports. But back then, listeners who pledged a total of $525,000 were responding to Duquesne University's decision to sell its public radio station, a transaction that finally closed this summer.

After the switch to its all-news format in July, the audience for 90.5 dipped to a 1.4 share of Pittsburgh radio listeners, according to Arbitron data cited by the Tribune. But EPM execs expect to recover and improve upon WDUQ's performance. They're aiming for a weekly cume of 200,000 listeners, which would top WDUQ's best-ever Arbitron book of 180,000 listeners in 2009. They also plan to raise 60 percent of WESA's $2.5 million operating budget through four fund-drives each year.

WESA and its new step-sister station WYEP, the contemporary music station that's a partner in EPM, are combining their fundraising efforts and running simultaneous fall pledge drives, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Station officials and local observers see WESA's maiden fundraiser as an important indicator of listener support for the new service.

"It's going to be a great benchmark for us to see where we are moving forward," Susan Meyer, director of marketing, told the Post-Gazette.

"Antiques Roadshow" companion program coming in spring 2012

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Public TV broadcasters got some tantalizing details on the long-awaited spinoff of the hit Antiques Roadshow. John Wilson, PBS program chief, said the program, with the working title of Market Wars, will debut in spring 2012 from Roadshow e.p. Marsha Bemko. Wilson said PBS has ordered 20 episodes initially, "at a very effective production cost per hour." In the show, two rotating expert appraisers will drop into a community for a friendly competition: Each begins with a set amount of money, hits flea markets and auctions to find interesting objects, and the one with the best net wins. "Like with Roadshow, viewers are learning about that corner of the world, the objects, why some things are worth more than meets the eye," Wilson said. "It has all that great history and Americana and geography built in."

Butler at NETA: Federal pubcasting funding a lifeline, not a yoke

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, told attendees at the National Educational Telecommunications Association conference this morning (Oct. 19) that he doesn't want the public to get the impression that "public broadcasters are eager for the day when federal funding will go away." He was reacting to a question from the breakfast crowd about Louisville Public Media's "Campaign for Independence" radio pledge drive, going on now, that aims, according to its website, to help the station "become independent from unreliable funding streams."

"This attitude is not really helpful to us," Butler said.

"I fear that some of our friends in public radio, because they feel burned by recent political fires, just can't wait to get out from under the 'yoke' of federal funding," Butler said. While some see government support that way, "others see it as a lifeline, which it really is." He added that he'll be meeting soon with incoming NPR President Gary Knell.

UPDATE: Butler's remarks puzzled Louisville Public Media chief Donovan Reynolds. "I think Pat completely misunderstands what we're doing here," he told Current. "We're not suggesting that it's a good idea to lose federal funding. We're making the opposite case."

Government funding for LPM's stations — from CPB and the Louisville city government — have dropped dramatically in recent years, Reynolds said. Message points from its "Campaign for Independence" emphasize that listener contributions are LPM's most reliable revenue source and are more important than ever.

"We're being realistic and honest with our audience about public funding in our city and in Washington," Reynolds said. "We have to let our audience know that we're in jeopardy and we have to rely on them to ensure our success and survival." LPM operates three stations in Louisville, providing NPR News, classical and contemporary music on separate channels.

The campaign, unveiled this spring, has been highly effective with LPM's listeners, Reynolds said. Member contributions of more than $615,000 set a new record over spring 2010 pledge revenues, marking a year-to-year increase of 22.5 percent. LPM is on target to meet its $600,000 goal for this fall.

Reynolds is among the pubradio managers who fully supported the alliance forged in February between advocacy teams at APTS and NPR, and he has been very active in defending federal aid to the field via grassroots advocacy and personal visits to members of Congress. "I am surprised [Butler] would say these things," Reynolds said. "We are fighting the same fight."

Also during this morning's NETA session, Butler made a pitch for more stations to become APTS members. About 72 percent of public TV stations are dues-paying members of the advocacy organization. But that missing 28 percent is leaving APTS short about $1 million in annual revenue and unable to fill several key positions including a vice president for government relations and regulatory counsel. "This is a problem," he said. "If we could get to a point where everybody was in this boat and supporting our efforts in Washington, it could have a transformative effect."

Oct 18, 2011

City leaders look for new financial lifeline for Salt Lake's KCPW

There's been another setback for KCPW in Salt Lake City, the NPR News station that's struggling to pay off a $250,000 private loan from National Cooperative Bank by Oct. 31.

The Salt Lake City Council authorized the city's redevelopment agency last week to provide a six-month loan to help the station meet the payment, but the loan offer has been withdrawn, according to the City Weekly. "Lawyers for the RDA say they did not have the authority to make the loan as they originally had thought, and the city is now pursuing other avenues to help the station," reports Bryan Schott, former KCPW news director. The City Council is considering making a direct loan to the station, but has a very short time frame to do so.

Last week the City Council overruled the recommendation of the RDA's loan committee to approve the $250,000 loan that was to be KCPW's financial lifeline. The decision drew scrutiny of the station's ties to city government.

Councilman Carlton Christensen told City Weekly that the station deserves special consideration. “If KCPW were not in one of our city facilities and an integral part of what we are trying to do downtown, we would have to think twice about the loan,” he said.

Oct 17, 2011

Board asks Pacifica's WBAI-FM to reduce fundraising days by 40 percent

The board of WBAI-FM/Pacifica Radio in New York City has passed a resolution that the station must drop the number of on-air fundraising days by 40 percent over the next three years and expand its membership "quickly by 35 percent," reports Matthew Lasar on the Radio Survivor blog. The Local Station Board (LSB) said in a resolution, "WBAI’s on-air fundraising is based on repetitive recorded half-hour and hour-long pitches for premiums. The LSB is concerned that so much valuable air-time is being spent on pitching premiums, such that the station is in danger of becoming another version of the home shopping network." WBAI was planning more than 120 days of on-air fundraising for next year.

WNYC content now available on Clear Channel's iHeartRadio app

Clear Channel Radio today (Oct. 17) announced the launch of WNYC News & Conversation on the revamped iHeartRadio, its free digital radio app. The new channel will feature WNYC programming including news-talk programs The Brian Lehrer Show, The Leonard Lopate Show, and The Takeaway, a co-production of WNYC and Public Radio International (PRI).

Kerger says PBS UK channel will air 1,000 unique hours of content next year

PBS UK "promises to be one of the most interesting channel launches for some time," according to the Guardian, "as long as the programming can deliver on the public service promise." In an interview with the British paper, PBS President Kerger says the channel, which launches Nov. 1, will present 500 unique hours of content this year and 1,000 hours next year. Very little will be children's programming; Kerger notes that a survey showed the market is already "well served" for that content. Kerger also hopes the channel will "give people here in the UK a sense of how news is reported in the United States"— although PBS NewsHour will air one day later there.

VegasPBS finds success by branching out

VegasPBS "may have found just that new business model" that will help public TV stations survive, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "While maintaining and even expanding its traditional educational mission, VegasPBS has branched out in ways unusual for PBS stations," including landing Homeland Security grants to build a regional emergency response support system. The station is now an $18 million-a-year diversified business, with nearly $63 million in net assets. And General Manager Tom Axtell says the station may launch a nightly newscast, a rarity in the pubTV system. "We have weathered the recession pretty well," he said.

Oct 13, 2011

Viewers gripe to PBS ombudsman about on-screen program promotions

"I was trying to watch Masterpiece Mystery! tonight, and the intrusive and pointlessly repetitious imposition of a large, animated, pink and blue graphic advertisement for the PBS Fall Arts Festival on top of the program in progress was extremely annoying," writes one of several displeased PBS viewers to Ombudsman Michael Getler. Several spoke out against PBS's ongoing experiment with on-screen program promotion graphics.

PBS Kids unveils more than 40 new preschool math games

PBS Kids launched more than 40 cross-platform games today (Oct. 13) — its largest offering of interactive math content for preschoolers to date — designed to help children build math skills. The games are accessible through computers, mobile devices and interactive whiteboards so that children engage with the same characters as they cross devices, PBS said in a press release. Games include Monkey Jump from Curious George, a Hermit Shell Crab Game from The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! and a Carnival Count-off from Fizzy's Lunch Lab. PBS partnered with CPB on the project, which is supported by a Ready To Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

WMFE-TV sale still pending

WMFE-TV in Orlando, Fla., may have announced its sale on April 1, but that deal has yet to be finalized, reports the Orlando Sentinel. The FCC told the newspaper it is wading through more than 500 public comments on the impending sale to religious broadcaster Daystar, and is examining the makeup of its proposed local board. Meanwhile, WMFE-FM has had two successful fund drives since the April announcement and continues on the air. The new PBS primary station in the Orlando market is WUCF-PBS, a collaboration between University of Central Florida and Brevard Community College. Viewers who tune to the former WMFE-TV now see a screen directing them to WUCF-PBS.

Letter to new NPR chief: Root out news org's "liberal myopia"

For NPR to truly reflect the rich diversity of America, it must shed the "monochromatic vision" that it shares with many liberal institutions, writes Joel Dreyfuss, managing editor of The Root, in an open letter to incoming NPR chief Gary Knell.

Dreyfuss, a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists that pressed Knell's predecessor Vivian Schiller to diversify NPR's newsroom, warns that Juan Williams's "fiery exit" from the network last October was much more than a badly handled personnel decision "gone nuclear." He points to former NPR News chief Ellen Weiss, who fired Williams and resigned months later after an internal inquiry into the dismissal, as an example of the arrogance and "liberal myopia" that has inhibited NPR's efforts to fully represent the "glorious rainbow cacophony" of voices, stories and worldviews to be found in America.

"[A]s you tackle your mountain of issues," Dreyfuss writes to Knell, "I hope you'll be brave enough not to fall into the trap of believing that your problem was Juan Williams. It wasn't just that NPR was uncomfortable with a somewhat conservative voice; NPR has never been comfortable with black voices and brown voices and white voices that challenged conventional liberal thinking. . . .The bigger issue is not just whom you put on the air but who makes decisions about what is news and what isn't, what's important and what's not, how long a story should be, how many resources should be assigned to cover this or that and where your foreign bureaus are located. In other words, you need to throw out the mental map that has always guided NPR and forge something new that is more inclusive, more innovative and more demanding of listeners as well as employees."

It's official: CPB provides $6.6 million grant to consolidate controls of nine N.Y. stations

CPB is publicly announcing its grant of more than $6.6 million to consolidate broadcast operations of nine New York public television stations, plus New Jersey's pubTV network, into a single entity (see "CPB to equip 2 pubTV facilities as multistation master controls," Current, Oct. 3). The grant will allow the stations to build and manage an automated central master control — a CPB priority in recent years — which will handle on-air operations of 34 pubTV channels run by the stations. The facility will be housed at WCNY in Syracuse. CPB expects that the stations will have combined savings of  $25 million over 10 years.

Each station will retain control of its broadcast schedule and multicast channels. The collaboration, called Centralcast LLC, is comprised of WCNY and WNET as well as WCFE in Plattsburgh, WNET sister station WLIW, WNED in Buffalo, WMHT in Albany, WPBS in Watertown, WSKG in Vestal and WXXI in Rochester. It also includes two New Jersey Network channels now operated by WNET.

“By strategically investing in projects that help stations collaborate and operate more efficiently, we enhance their capacity to deliver quality local content and services in the communities they serve,”said CPB President Pat Harrison in a statement.

The 56,000-square-foot Syracuse facility on the edge of downtown also will house WCNY's TV and radio production studios, a learning center, concert auditorium, cafe and other amenities, CPB said.

Norm Silverstein, WXXI president, told Current that other benefits of the deal include new automation equipment for that station and WMHT. The Rochester station "is in desperate need" of that as it made the transition to DTV early, Silverstein said.

Loan to Salt Lake's KCPW puts spotlight on station's financial ties to city government

In approving its $250,000 short-term loan to Salt Lake's KCPW, the city council overruled the recommendation of its redevelopment loan committee, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. The committee considered the loan too risky because KCPW had not proven it could repay the principal on its debts, the Tribune's Glen Warchol reports. A city councilman told Warchol that the station, which has until Oct.31 to pay off its $250,000 loan to National Cooperative Bank, is important to the city's development and promotion efforts. "It clearly is not going to be the most secure piece of debt we own. It is not without risk," said Councilman Carleton Christensen.

Alec Baldwin signs on with WNYC

30 Rock actor Alec Baldwin will host Here's the Thing, an interview show via podcast, starting Oct. 24 for WNYC in New York City, the Associated Press reports. Guests will include big names such as actor Michael Douglas, Republican campaign strategist Ed Rollins, reality-show celeb Kris Kardashian Jenner, comic Chris Rock, actress Kathleen Turner, author Erica Jong and veteran talk-show host Dick Cavett.

Baldwin has subbed for host Kurt Andersen, and supplied some pretty funny pledge pitches to stations. But he was interested in doing more, said Dean Cappello, WNYC's chief content officer. "Alec is one of our hometown guys," he said.

New interviews will be available about once a week and probably end up as an on-air radio show.

Tom Petty, Mick Jagger, U2, Coldplay all pitch in to help little KCSN-FM

Tiny KCSN-FM at California State Northridge may not be big enough for an Arbitron rating, but it sure has some huge fans helping it raise money. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are playing what the Los Angeles Times calls "a rare small-theater show" as a benefit for the station. U2 has donated a guitar signed by all four band members that could go for upwards of $150,000 during the fall pledge drive. Also contributing: Mick Jagger, Coldplay, Sheryl Crow and others. Why? "It is because of stations like KCSN that music will always come first," Coldplay said through a spokesman. The station moved its former all-classical programming to an HD channel on March 1 and switched to an automated Triple-A format. But since July 15 it's been playing what it calls "smart rock," determined by music-passionate local DJs. And recent hires include Triple-A veteran Nic Harcourt, former music director and host of the influential Morning Becomes Eclectic program at KCRW and an early supporter of Coldplay; and Sky Daniels, a DJ and programmer at influential rock stations in L.A., San Francisco, Chicago and Detroit — as well as a former promotion exec at U2's record company.

Oct 12, 2011

No longer in the conservative mainstream, Frum signs off on Marketplace

David Frum is resigning as a commentator on APM's Marketplace, he announced on his blog today, because his role as a conservative counter-point to former Department of Labor Secretary Robert Reich has become untenable.

"So long as the topic is 'green jobs' or NLRB regulations or immigration, my thinking aligns reasonably congruently with the current conservative consensus," Frum writes. "But on the issues that today most passionately divide Americans — healthcare reform, monetary policy, social spending to aid the unemployed, and — soon — the American response to the euro crisis, I have to recognize that my views are not very representative of the conservative mainstream."

Frum made his farewell appearance on Marketplace's Oct. 12 broadcast, and will advise producers on potential successors.

This American Sex Life

[Warning: Contents of this blog post may get you into trouble at your workplace, either for its lurid subject matter or the volume of your laughter at the aforementioned lurid subject matter. Also, please proceed with caution as this blog post contains material dealing with sordid details of the sex lives of various public broadcasters. Listener discretion advised.]

Julian Joslin, co-writer and narrator of the Ira Glass Sex Tape, tells Huffington Post he used parts of nine Fresh Air episodes to create the 11-minute parody that's currently ricocheting around the Web. HuffPost calls it "a barbed love letter to public radio's self-seriousness," also noting that it's "the only sex tape that might actually shock the nation, because it's fancy enough to have 'two acts.' " Guest-starring voices include Planet Money's Alex Blumberg and This American Life contributor Jonathan Goldstein.

Loan from city saves Salt Lake's KCPW

Salt Lake City’s KCPW-FM has secured a loan that will allow it to stay in business. The Salt Lake City Council unanimously approved last night a $250,000 loan to the community-licensed station, which will go toward repaying another lender.

KCPW was staring down an Oct. 31 deadline for repaying a $250,000 loan from National Cooperative Bank. Failure to do so would likely have shut down the station, which is still working to pay off several loans that financed the 2008 purchase of its license from previous owner Community Wireless of Park City. (Earlier coverage in Current.) KCPW tried to raise the money during a recent 12-day on-air drive but fell significantly short of the goal.

KCPW now must repay the city within six months. It will stage another on-air fundraiser before the end of the year to reach that goal, says General Manager Ed Sweeney, and will also seek to raise funds through email blasts and direct mail.

Even if it succeeds, other financial challenges will loom ahead. KCPW must also pay back a second loan from NCB for $1.8 million that comes due Sept. 30, 2012.

"We’re not out of the woods by any stretch,” Sweeney says. “But it was nice that the city stepped up and is still supportive of what we’re doing.” Some council members at last night’s meeting praised the station’s service to the community, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.

Panel to examine pubmedia's role in changing journalism

Free Press and the New America Foundation are sponsoring a panel, "The Next Big Thing: How Public Media Innovation Is Changing Journalism," Oct. 18 in Washington, D.C. Experts will discuss how public media in the U.S. and U.K. are investing in innovative Web, mobile and community media projects and collaborations. Speaking will be Caroline Thomson, chief operating officer of the BBC; Sue Schardt, c.e.o. of the Association of Independents in Radio; Joaquin Alvarado, s.v.p. of digital innovation at American Public Media; Jake Shapiro, c.e.o. of Public Radio Exchange; and Craig Aaron, president of Free Press.

"Nature" film snares prestigious top prize at Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival

For the first time, a Nature film has won the Grand Teton Award, the top prize at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, considered one of the wildlife doc industry's highest honors, for Broken Tail: A Tiger's Last Journey. In all, Nature received six of 22 awards at the festival, for films including the season opener, Radioactive Wolves, about species living in the "dead zone" around the disabled Chernobyl nuclear reactor. On hand for the award announcements in Wyoming were Series Executive Producer Fred Kaufman, Series Producer Bill Murphy and Series Editor Janet Hess.

The biennial conference, which ran Oct. 3-7, drew more than 650 international leaders in science, conservation, broadcasting and media. This year's competition included 510 films from more than 30 countries.

Wait wait ... it's a pledge premium! Really!

Oh that Peter Sagal. The host of pubradio's Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me has recorded a truly unique pledge pitch for WCQS/WYQS in western North Carolina.

It references state Sen. Jim Forrester's statement in an interview last month that Asheville is a "cesspool of sin" due to the state's tolerance of homosexual "mischief."

Sagal gleefully congratulates listeners for Ashville's victory over Wilmington and Chapel Hill, and proclaims that "nothing helps keep Asheville drowning in ungodly filth more than WCQS." He ends the pitch by urging, "keep Asheville demonic, people."

For a $100 contribution, members can get a nifty "Welcome to the Cesspool of Sin" T-shirt, destined to become a collector's item.

CPB ombudsman hears from a disappointed Ruff Ruffman fan

CPB Ombudsman Joel Kaplan received a complaint letter from a 9-year-old in North Carolina who is unhappy with the end of production for FETCH! With Ruff Ruffman last year. “There has been a huge uproar about FETCH! going away,” says Kate Taylor, executive producer at WGBH. “PBS decided that 100 shows were enough and they needed to save their money for new shows."

"It is true that we are not commissioning additional episodes," responds Linda Simensky, PBS v.p. for children's content, "but we have produced 100 episodes of the series, which is a substantial number. We are continuing to feed the program to our stations and they are continuing to air it."

CPB did not fund FETCH!, according to Michael Fragale, its v.p. for educational programming and services. He adds that CPB generally divides its support between legacy series and new shows, although at this time the corporation is leaning toward funding new content.

Oct 11, 2011

Pubcasting documentaries feature Nobel Peace Prize winners

Two of the latest Nobel Peace laureates, announced on Oct. 7, are profiled in public broadcasting documentaries. Pray the Devil Back to Hell, one of the five-part Women, War and Peace series, premieres tonight (Oct. 11) on PBS (check local listings for times), and tells the story of Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee. And Johnson Sirleaf is one of the Iron Ladies of Liberia on Independent Lens. Both docs are part of the public media initiative Women and Girls Lead from ITVS, PBS and CPB, a three-year television and outreach campaign.

APTS hires former NBCUniversal exec as lobbyist

The Association of Public Television Stations has hired The O Team to lobby on spectrum fees and the upcoming spectrum incentive auction, reports The Hill, citing lobbying disclosure records. Bob Okun, a former NBCUniversal vice president and one-time assistant to ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), will work for the public broadcasting advocacy group. Other Okun clients include the National Association of Broadcasters and Comcast.

Oct 10, 2011

KTWU-TV in Topeka uses live spiders and snakes for show on phobias

I've Got Issues, a community affairs program on KTWU-TV in Topeka, Kan., generally concentrates on the big picture: affordable healthcare, teacher pay, terrorism. But for its upcoming "Face Your Fears" episode Wednesday (Oct. 12), it's exploring the topic of phobias by bringing participants face to face with what they're most afraid of — such as big spiders and wriggly snakes, reports the local Capitol-Journal.

“We’re going to have some fun with it,” VanDerSluis said. “It’s going to be serious and quirky at the same time.”

Jared Gregg, coordinating producer, said the topic emerged during a brainstorming session when a staffer admitted being terrified of roller coasters.

Experts will appear on the show to explain phobias. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 8.7 percent of Americans, or 19.2 million persons, have a a phobia or anxiety-related disorder.

Hey pubradio stations: Got tunes for your pledge drive? You do now

WUWF Public Media in Pensacola, Fla., has compiled 12 songs singing the praises of pubradio for its Public Radio Song Project, and is offering the music free to stations in time for fall pledge drives.

Joe Vincenza, station manager and program director, came up with the idea about three years ago. "The collection of tunes took a little longer to gather than we originally thought since we were relying completely on the good intentions of the writers to pen, produce, and record a tune worthy of inclusion, without any monetary compensation from us," he told Current. "A lot of the artists coming through town said they loved the idea, but this group represents the ones who followed through and made the project a reality."

Such as Jack Norton and his jaunty Hot Dog! I Love Public Radio.

And Joe Peoples, who sings, "Well come on you all, dig a little deeper, this in NPR, you know we gotta keep her, and when they reach that goal they'll quit begging ... "

Vincenza said stations may include the tunes in pledge breaks, play them as a set, or use them in any way they'd like, during fundraising or anytime.

Stations may access the music directly at the Public Radio Song Project website. For more information contact Vincenza here.

Politico assesses funding realities for public radio under new NPR prez

NPR's choice of Gary Knell as its next c.e.o. signals that the biggest challenges ahead for public radio are all about funding, not journalism, according to Politico's Oct. 9 story on the appointment. By hiring the president of Sesame Workshop, the NPR Board went for a leader with "a long history of both defending the federal funding of public media and raising money," writes reporter Keach Hagey, who explores whether public radio would be better off without the congressional subsidies it receives through CPB.

Hagey quotes Jeff Jarvis, journalism professor and author who advocates for an end to congressional appropriations, even though the change would jeopardize small stations that rely heavily on federal aid. “The bottom line on the stations is they are as doomed as newspapers,” Jarvis said.

Oct 7, 2011

WVTF Music Director Seth Williamson dies

Music Director Seth Williamson, who had been with WVTF in Roanoke, Va., since October 1983, died Thursday night (Oct. 6) at Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg, Va., following surgery. He was 62.

Williamson hosted the daily Morning Classics program as well as the weekly Back to the Blue Ridge, focusing on the traditional acoustic music of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

"On the air, Seth was never simply an announcer,” said WVTF General Manager Glenn Gleixner in a statement. “Rather, he was really talking with his friends — about about music, life and nature. He was deeply connected with his audience and that's how he saw radio, as a personal connection with listeners."

Williamson was also an accomplished musician himself, playing trumpet, euphonium, trombone and bluegrass banjo. He often played with the Sauerkraut Band, a German group known for local Oktoberfest performances.

WVTF announcer and composer Steve Brown frequently wrote music for Williamson. "It was such a delight to compose for his euphonium, knowing how happy he would be to play it,” Brown said. “He always knew how to have fun with each piece.”

Brown will host an on-air musical tribute from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 12, featuring the music that Williamson enjoyed sharing with his thousands of listeners throughout the years.

Funeral arrangements are pending. (Image: WVTF)

"Welcome to 'Thoughts on Thoughts' "

In case you missed it, NBC's Parks and Recreation opened with a hilarious two-minute send-up of an NPR interview with character Leslie Knope on Thursday night (Oct. 7). Here's a link.

Public media remembrances of Steve Jobs

WGBH Open Vault, the Boston station's online media archives and library, has posted raw footage of a May 1990 interview the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. (The final version of the edited interview is here.)

NPR's David Greene hosted a live streaming special on Oct. 6 that remembered Jobs' life and assessed his legacy. The hour-long special was featured on the NPR News iPhone app and on "We wanted to make sure [the special] could be heard on the devices that Jobs created," said spokesperson Emerson Brown.'s archive of the show, which may be broadcast on NPR member stations, is here. Greene interviewed friends and colleagues of the Apple innovator and talked with record producer Phil Ramone about how the iPod and iTunes changed the music industry.

The special also highlights one of Jobs' most resonating public speeches, his 2005 Stanford University commencement address.

Medical professor complains to PBS ombudsman over "Curious George" episode

A Curious George episode titled "Monkey Fever" has Dr. Carl E. Bartecchi, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of Colorado, hot under the collar. "The lack of rational science in that show was appalling," he writes to PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler. Dorothea Gillim, executive producer for WGBH, responds.

Oct 6, 2011

BBC to shed 2,000 jobs

The BBC Trust, in consultation with BBC management, today (Oct. 6) announced proposals including cutting some 2,000 jobs from across the network to save nearly $2 billion annually by 2016-17. The changes "follow a review last year of the future strategy for the BBC," the Trust said in a statement, "which culminated in Trust approval for four new strategic priorities for the corporation — distinctiveness, value for money, serving all audiences and openness and transparency. The proposals have been shaped by these priorities."

BBC Director General Mark Thompson said the changes would lead to "a smaller, radically reshaped BBC."

Attention RSSers: Breaking news

Don't miss Current's story on Independent Public Media, a new consortium of five nonprofits headed by public media activist John Schwartz that is aiming to purchase and help revitalize financially at-risk public TV stations. Schwartz, who helped found WYBE in Philadelpha, KBDI in Denver and WYEP in Pittsburgh, is heading up the initiative, along with Ken Devine, former v.p. of media operations and chief information officer of New York's WNET.

New PIN collaborations editor is Pulitzer Prize winner

Pulitzer Prize winner Jacqui Banaszynski will lead reporting efforts as collaborations editor for American Public Media's Public Insight Network, it announced today (Oct. 6). Banaszynski holds the Knight Chair in Editing at the University of Missouri. As a reporter for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, she won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for “AIDS in the Heartland,” an intimate look at the life and death of a Minnesota farm couple. She's also a a former editor for The Seattle Times and The Oregonian in Portland.

Banaszynski will work to expand PIN's editorial team, as well as use the network in her journalism classes to establish a partnership between APM, the University of Missouri’s journalism school and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the university.

WBFO listeners want new owner to enhance local music, news programming

During an Oct. 4 public meeting on the pending sale of university-owned WBFO-FM to WNED, listeners called for preservation of weekend music programs and local coverage, according to the Buffalo News and ArtVoice, an alt-weekly that questions whether Buffalo will be well-served by the sale of the city's flagship NPR station on 88.7.

WNED, a public TV and radio operation owned by community licensee Western New York Public Broadcasting Association, plans to tailor WBFO's appeal to Canadian audiences, a service strategy that has been very successful for its public TV station.

The Buffalo News estimated that 80 people attended the session in WNED's studios in downtown Buffalo "with the enthusiasm so great for local public broadcasting that the scheduled 60-minute session ran more than 80 minutes." Many attendees called for an end to rebroadcasts of talk shows, and for more time slots devoted to local music and news.

Oct 5, 2011

Republican National Committee sanctions OPB presidential debate in March 2012

Oregon Public Broadcasting will produce and provide to NPR and PBS stations exclusive coverage of a Republican presidential debate at its studios on March 19, 2012. The debate "will come at a critical time in the campaign," said OPB President Steve Bass in a memo to stations. "Super Tuesday is on March 6 but delegate counts indicate that it will not be possible for the nomination to be won by any candidate by then. Political observers believe that the nomination contest could very likely go into the late spring."

The Republican National Committee has officially sanctioned the debate, which "virtually assures the participation of the front-running candidates," Bass said.

"We believe that this is the first presidential candidate debate that has ever been exclusively available through the nation’s public broadcasting stations (both TV and radio)," Bass added.

No decisions have yet been made on the moderator or panelists for the event, which is sponsored by the Oregon Republican Party. The Washington Times is also a media partner.

WFMU convenes radio, digital innovators to explore radio's future

The freeform broadcasters of Jersey City's WFMU are producing the first-ever Radiovision Festival in New York later this month, a weekend-long confab to highlight creativity in radio and technology's potential to unleash it.

On Oct. 29, panelists from WFMU's own talent roster will be joined by the likes of This American Life creator Ira Glass, media innovator Kenyatta Cheese, and blogger Andy Baio of, among many others, for a day-long symposium on the future of radio. On "Hack Day," Oct. 30, code-writers, digital story-tellers, musicians and others will "reinvent radio" by using WFMU's Free Music Archive to create new programs and software applications.

The festival opens Oct. 28 with a live performance by Joe Frank that's already sold out, but tickets are still available for the symposium and Hack Day. The event coincides with WFMU's annual Record Fair, also held at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan.

WFMU General Manger Ken Freedman described his objective for the festival in a recent interview with Radio Survivor: "I think it’s more important than ever to explore how radio is evolving and changing and taking on new forms. The very question of 'What is Radio?' is now debatable, which it never was before. It’s exciting to discuss these ideas with radio artists and digital pioneers."

New PBS UK channel will be promoted as "where television matters"

PBS UK, launching Nov. 1 in Great Britain, has hired the Braben firm to handle public relations and boost brand awareness, "as it looks to target ‘upmarket adults’ under the banner ‘where television matters,'" reports PR Week. "Our job is to make the channel famous," said Braben Director James Matheson. "We will position the channel as a British curator of American content and help it gain the trust and reputation that it enjoys in America."

Houston Public Media selects commercial TV veteran as executive director

Lisa Trapani Shumate is the new executive director and general manager of Houston Public Media, the umbrella organization for the University of Houston's KUHT-TV and its KUHF (88.7 FM) and KUHA (91.7 FM) radio stations, reports the Houston Chronicle. The university announced plans in January to merge its TV and radio stations, which employ about 165 people, to streamline operations and improve fundraising.

Shumate will continue in her current post as director of programming and marketing for local CBS affiliate KHOU until assuming her new responsibilities in November. Previously, she was an executive director at Belo Corp., a Dallas-based company that owns 20 commercial broadcasting television stations and two regional 24-hour cable news television channels. She also was a reporter and manager of marketing and special projects at ABC affiliate KTRK in Houston.

The paper said Shumate would not speculate on possible staff consolidation, but said the merger "is an opportunity for everybody to work across the aisle. It's no different than what is happening at any media outlet where people publish for the web or shoot their own video. It's happening on the TV side already."

John Profitt, c.e.o. of Houston Public Radio, said he "will be a team player with the organization and it will be up to (Shumate) how she wants to move forward." The Chronicle said John Hesse, station manager of Channel 8, was not available for comment Tuesday afternoon (Oct. 4).

Oct 4, 2011

"To the Contrary" host Erbé delays return to show

Bonnie Erbé, founder and host of To the Contrary, has had a slight setback that will delay her return to the show. Erbé took a serious spill from her horse Stand Out in a show over Memorial Day weekend (see story in the Oct. 3 issue of Current) and, after months of rehab, had hoped to be back in the host's chair this Friday (Oct. 7). But now she's adjusting that date a bit and is aiming to return to the air in the next two weeks. Guest hosts including Democratic political strategist Donna Brazile and former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala have been filling in.

When Erbé injured two cervical vertebrae in the accident on May 29, her doctor gave her a 50-50 chance of walking again. Her physical therapist said regaining her mobility would take six months or more, but she was up and walking within five weeks.

She's been working in the show's Washington, D.C., office for a couple days a week for several weeks now.

Nov. 1 is premiere date for PBS U.K. channel

The PBS U.K. channel will be available to viewers across the pond starting Nov. 1, Bloomberg Businessweek is reporting. The pubTV network's first international channel, bankrolled by a Canadian entrepreneur (Current, Aug. 8, 2011), will open with an episode of Nova. The biz magazine says the PBS U.K. office in East London has four full-time employees and a dozen freelancers, and "that number may grow as the channel’s distribution and viewers expand."

While PBS has sold programs to U.K. programmers through its distribution arm, which is also helping manage the new venture, some channels have become more reluctant to use its content and what does appear isn’t clearly branded as a PBS show, said Richard Kingsbury, general manager of PBS U.K. "A lot of networks don’t like to take programs from others. The BBC used to pick up quite a lot, but I guess they’re under pressure not to acquire.”

Amy Goodman, two producers, receive settlement over 2008 arrests

Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, and two of the show's producers will get $100,000 in a settlement over their arrests during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, the Associated Press reports. The agreement was reached Friday (Sept. 30) in Minnesota. The cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis agreed to pay $90,000 and the federal government will pay $10,000. The lawsuit named the federal government because a Secret Service agent confiscated the press credentials of three journalists.

Goodman and producers Nicole Salazaar and Sharif Abdel Kouddous were among an estimated 40 to 50 journalists arrested while covering street protests outside the convention (Current, Sept. 15, 2008). Authorities ultimately dropped all charges against the arrested journalists.

Goodman is currently in New York City covering protests on Wall Street. She said the settlement money will go to "support independent, unfettered" journalism. "Dissent is what will save our country," she said. "Dissent is what our country was founded on. It's our job to find a place for those voices."

Here's the press release on the settlement from Democracy Now!