Jan 4, 2011

"This American Life" invades the Great White North

This American Life, the wildly popular pubradio show hosted by Ira Glass, is going international: It will be heard on CBC Radio One this season.

Marketplace and KCET are collaborating on simultaneous radio/TV special

Marketplace from American Public Media and KCET's SoCal Connected are partnering on a program that will run simultaneously on radio and TV. The special report, “Lot 354: A Tale of America’s Housing Meltdown,” will premiere on Jan. 13. Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal traces that specific property over several years. He speaks with the couple who bought the home for a bargain in 2002, improved it, and sold it four years later at almost triple the price; the couple who then bought the home at a high price but lost it to foreclosure; and the couple who recently purchased it at a fraction of that high price. The story also includes Lot 354’s real estate broker, an auctioneer, and a housing banker. SoCal Connected’s Val Zavala and Ryssdal will anchor the program, which will probe how economic forces led to the housing crisis and what the future may bring for buyers and sellers. Online content will include a guide for home buyers and sellers on, and will carry additional interviews and the latest housing market research and statistics.

Indie KCET's channel moves off VHF on two cable systems

Two California cable systems have shifted Los Angeles's KCET from its VHF position into the harder-to-find digital tier, now that the station has departed PBS. Charter Communications and Cox Cable made the move to keep PBS's new primary station, PBS SoCal/KOCE, "in the more trafficked VHF band," according to Variety (free registration required to view story). KCET President Al Jerome said it made "a strategic decision to retain its digital multicast channels ... This has impacted our channel positions with some cable services." The move affects around 377,000 Charter viewers; Variety did not list the number of Cox subscribers. Jerome said the channel remains the same on other cable outlets, including Time Warner and Comcast.

Writer disputes that Masterpiece downsized "Downton" because its plot would "baffle" Americans

"Downton Abbey", premiering this week on Masterpiece, will be a slightly shortened version of the British Edwardian hit. Its original episodes, which aired across the pond on commercial channel ITV, have been edited to six from eight to ensure the character of Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) arrives at the stately home in the first episode rather than in the second, the Brit paper Daily Mail reports. It adds: "PBS also believes its audiences will need an American to outline the key themes of the show. So before the first episode, actress Laura Linney will explain the inheritance principle." (Linney is a regular host of Masterpiece Classic.)

The story ran under the bold headline,"Downton downsized by two hours because American TV executives fear its intricate plot will baffle U.S. viewers."

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION: Au contraire, according to Daily Beast writer Jace Lacob, who also spoke with the Daily Mail reporter for the piece, but was not quoted. On his Televisionary blog, he writes: "To put it bluntly: it's simply not true. ... I actually did the math for (the reporter) during the interview, demonstrating in no uncertain terms that there weren't two hours missing from the U.S. broadcast of the series. The only thing missing here are, in fact, the commercials themselves." Other "small changes" were made to fit the episodes to the time slots, he added.

Roger Ebert selects replacement co-host for Elvis Mitchell

Chicago-based blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky will be Christy Lemire's co-host of Roger Ebert Presents at the Movies, which debuts Jan. 21 on nearly 200 PBS stations. He fills the opening created by the still-mysterious departure of Elvis Mitchell, host of KCRW's The Treatment. Vishnevetsky founded the alternative-cinema site Cine-File.

Classical South Florida to acquire WXEL in West Palm Beach

Barry University has applied to the FCC to transfer its pubcasting station WXEL in West Palm Beach, Fla., to American Public Media's Classical South Florida in Fort Lauderdale, reports the All Access Music Group website (third item). Deal price: $4.05 million. APM owns adjacent-market noncom Classical WKCP in Miami. The agreement is the culmination of several years of negotiations for WXEL, which was nearly sold to New York City's WNET five years ago (Current, March 6, 2006) and, more recently, a local community group and school district.

Journalism prof joins Ohio University station as interim director

Ohio University pubcaster WOUB is welcoming a journalism professor as its interim director and g.m., as part of a push to integrate the college with the station in Athens, Ohio. Tom Hodson served as the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism's director from 2003 to 2010. He is replacing outgoing Director and General Manager Carolyn Bailey Lewis, who will retire this month. The station is a nonacademic unit of the college and broadcasts PBS and NPR content as well as student-produced programming to Southeast Ohio and neighboring states. It's run by student volunteers and full-time technical employees and editors.

Open Mobile Video Coalition brings aboard electronics manufacturers

The Open Mobile Video Coalition has expanded its membership to firms other than broadcasters for its new OMVC Mobile DTV Forum. Dell, Harris, LG Electronics and Samsung Mobile are among the first companies to join. "By expanding our membership beyond broadcast companies, we hope to bring greater resources to the task of perfecting the Mobile DTV consumer experience, while bringing an exciting new class of digital mobile devices to the American public," coalition CEO Vince Sadusky said in a statement. The voluntary association of television broadcasters works to accelerate development of mobile digital television. Its 900 members include the Association of Public Television Stations, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS.

This year, there'll be city-by-city rollouts of Mobile DTV as device manufacturers ready more than two dozen new receivers, tablets, and accessories, the coalition also said. It will show off a few at its booth at the 2011 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show), kicking off Thursday (Jan. 6) in Las Vegas.