Feb 3, 2011

MacArthur Foundation grants P.O.V. $1.5 million

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has renewed its support of the  P.O.V. documentary series with a grant of $1.5 million for three years, it announced today (Feb. 3). The money will go to the PBS program as well as its related online and educational activities.

Digital media needs "deeper purpose," Bole contends

Public media thoughtleader Rob Bole is at it again, posing intellectually challenging questions to pubcasters everywhere. "Where is our online boldness?," he writes in a blog post Wednesday (Feb. 2). "Where are the great challenges we are addressing in the lives of our audiences that have show us so much trust, loyalty and enthusiasm? Are we going to be incrementalists? How can we capture the art and vision that we put into our documentaries and journalism and turn that to the digital spaces that our country is rapidly inhabiting?" Intrigued? More here.

Knight News Innovation Lab will bring together journalists, computer scientists

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today (Feb. 3) announced a four-year, $4.2 million grant to Northwestern University for the Knight News Innovation Laboratory. The Knight Lab will be the first of its type in the nation, a partnership between Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism and the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern. Journalists and computer scientists will join forces to create new digital tools, build partnerships with media organizations and expand the media innovation community. Even the historic blizzard in Chicago couldn't stop the announcement. A formal launch at the snowed-in university was scrapped for an online question-and-answer session with Eric Newton, vice president of the journalism program at Knight Foundation, and his team.

Sesame joining National Children's Museum for programs and exhibits

The National Children’s Museum, opening in Prince George’s County, Md., in 2013, will partner with Sesame Workshop, the two announced today (Feb. 3). The two will collaborate on museum programming for the young visitors, and Sesame Street characters will be featured in the exhibits.

U.S. Ambassador to Greece greets WTTW's "Grannies on Safari" travelers in Athens, click here for photo...

U.S. Ambassador to Greece Daniel Smith, center, was on hand Wednesday (Feb. 2) to welcome travelers accompanying co-hosts for the public broadcasting show Grannies on Safari as they arrived at the Athens International Airport from Luxor, Egypt. The group had landed in Egypt on Jan. 26, as the country began to explode into anti-government protests. They finally made it out on a U.S. State Department charter flight. First row, from left: Jessie Shropshire of Ohio, Gail Bikel of Indiana, Ann Pinkney of Illinois, co-host Regina Fraser, Smith, co-host Pat Johnson, the ambassador’s wife Diana Smith, and Julio Martinez of Illinois, the show’s photographer. Second row: U.S. Consular Officer Tom Fraser, left, and Linda Slaughter of Chicago. Two additional consular officers were not identified for security reasons. (Image: Courtesy U.S. State Department, Prodromos Triantafillou)

Rick Lewis quits WLRN Friends after friction with licensee

Updated, Feb. 7: Rick Lewis, c.e.o. of the fundraising group Friends of WLRN for nearly seven years, will step down at the end of February. Jorge Perez-Alvarez, c.f.o. of the Friends group, will serve as interim chief executive.

Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County public schools, which owns WLRN-TV/FM, has objected to the independence of the nonprofit Friends group, which raises funds for the stations, and complained about the six-figure compensation of underwriting sales reps for the Friends group (Current, June 21).

The Friends board has given Carvalho a voice in appointing Lewis’s successor, which he wanted. Friends Chair Charles Tatelbaum told Current that both he and the superintendent will appoint members of the search committee. He said misinformation about the Friends group had been given to the superintendent, but that had been resolved.

Since Lewis joined the private nonprofit, its annual revenues have grown nearly 60 percent. “Rick announced to the board that he felt he had completed most, if not all, of his goals with our organization, and decided that he wanted to explore new opportunities,” said Tatelbaum.

“Our relationship with the school district licensee has been recently transformed, and Friends looks forward to further developing and expanding its working relationship with the superintendent, as well as members of the Miami-Dade School Board,” Tatelbaum said. “Although the decision to accept Rick’s resignation has been bittersweet, as an organization, Friends is the beneficiary of Rick’s superb leadership.”

Annual equipment grant deadline set: St. Patrick's Day

Public media applications for funding by the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program are due March 17. The full Funding Opportunity notice details the PTFP priorities and eligibility standards, and the FAQ has more info.

A series of hourlong webinars to train applicants begins next week. Dates are Feb. 10, 14 and 23, and March 7. All begin at 2 p.m. Eastern. To reserve a spot in the webinars, write to Lynn Chadwick,, before the close of business the day before.

Last fall the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration bestowed about $20 million in matching grants to public stations and other nonprofit and noncommercial organizations. The grants typically pay 50 percent to 75 percent of project costs.

In Chicago blizzard, pubcasting "failed the public," writer says; WBEZ news exec disagrees

Chicago public broadcasting outlets are taking a hit from local media columnist Robert Feder. In his blog post today (Feb. 3) on how the media performed during this week's massive blizzard that crippled the city, both WTTW-Channel 11 and Chicago Public Radio WBEZ were declared losers. In fact, he writes, WTTW was the "biggest loser," because it "declared Wednesday a snow day and shut down its entire news operation."

"Viewers who tuned in to Chicago Tonight expecting an analysis of the city’s response to the crisis or an examination of the blizzard’s political and economic impact were stunned to see a rerun of the public television station’s forum with mayoral candidates from Jan. 17," he adds.

As for WBEZ, that was "equally disappointing," he says. The station canceled its Wednesday airing of Eight Forty-Eight, its morning newsmagazine.

"In both cases," he says, "public broadcasting failed the public."

Current left messages at both stations for comment. The city is attempting to dig out from under more than 20 inches of snow.

UPDATE: Sally Eisele, managing editor for public affairs at WBEZ, tells Current that Feder was "incorrect  when saying we abdicated our responsibility" for covering the blizzard. Eight Forty-Eight "is just one component of the station's local programming," she says. "We had more air time devoted to this story yesterday than any local story I can remember. We had over three hours of coverage, in addition to regular news break-ins," and even more coverage during All Things Considered. She says the newsroom was not shut down. "Everyone who could get into work did," she says. "And as in any major emergency, we're not talking eight-hour days, we're working through the middle of the night." And some station staffers stayed in nearby hotels before and during the storm. "I stand behind our coverage," she says.

Would pubcasting funding cutback affect Los Angeles music scene?

The Los Angeles music community will lose an important ally if  Republicans on the Hill have their way and cut back or zero out pubcasting support, reports LA Weekly. NPR affiliate KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif., is a longtime source to launch new bands. "What's at stake locally is no less than KCRW's ability to provide its current musical programming — credited by sources across the industry for breaking L.A. bands and taking indie acts to national prominence." KCRW librarian Eric J. Lawrence estimates that 20 percent of its programming is devoted to local bands. But rights for all of that music are covered by a license negotiated and paid for by CPB. If that was zeroed out, KCRW g.m. Jennifer Ferro says, KCRW would lose its licensing deal, endangering up to half its programming.