Feb 22, 2011

WBEZ, rejecting politicking

WBEZ 91.5-FM in Chicago is sending letters to members concerning the Congressional fight over CPB funding, but isn't using its airwaves or website to urge listeners to take action. Torey Malatia, g.m., explains to the Chicago Reader, "It is inappropriate for a public service institution committed to independent, fair journalistic practices to use its public service platforms to urge specific legislative action, even if — especially if — that action results in institutional financial benefit. Journalists either report content to the public in a way that rejects politicking or not. You either stick to principles or you really don't have any."

Judge grants injunction to keep ivi TV from streaming station signals without consent

A New York U.S. District Court judge today (Feb. 22) granted a preliminary injunction blocking ivi TV from streaming signals from TV stations without their consent. More than 20 broadcasters, including WNET/Thirteen, PBS and WGBH, had filed suit against the Seattle firm, which charges subscribers for retransmission (Current, Oct. 4, 2010) and insists that is permitted because ivi is a type of cable system. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said ivi was "extraordinarily unlikely" to be deemed a cable system under copyright law, and that it was posing that harm to broadcasters' business. Todd Weaver, ivi's c.e.o., released a statement that said in part, “This fight is for the people and their right to choice and control over their own entertainment – and it will continue. The oppressive big media networks must open their doors to innovators or they will inevitably fall. People want responsible choice, not the one-size-fits-all television offerings imposed by powerful media interests.” He said ivi will continue to operate during its appeal.

Former Frontline producer joins Center for Investigative Reporting's new production unit

The Center for Investigative Reporting is starting an in-house production unit for digital media and video. Sharon Tiller, former series executive director of Frontline/World on PBS and senior producer at Frontline, will lead the unit as the center's director of digital media. A release says the move is part of a larger business development strategy to create new models for investigative journalism to sustain itself and leverage new technologies to increase and engage audiences. Tiller will supervise a team of seven.

The center has had a 20-year relationship with Frontline. The first joint segment will air in spring 2011.

Frontline, NPR win Polk Awards for collaborative projects

Two public broadcasting collaborations have won prestigious Polk awards for their news projects. Frontline, ProPublica and the Times-Picayune of New Orleans won the Polk for television reporting, and NPR and ProPublica won for radio.

In a release, presenter Long Island University called the "Law & Disorder" Frontline collaboration "monumental." The reporting partners looked at the often brutal actions taken by the New Orleans Police Department in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, investigating charges that officers shot at 10 persons and killed four. The project revealed that law-enforcement commanders issued orders to ignore long-established rules governing use of deadly force. C. Thompson of ProPublica; Frontline Senior Series Producer Raney Aronson-Rath and Producer Tom Jennings; and Laura Maggi and Brendan McCarthy of the Times-Picayune will be honored.

The Polk radio reporting award goes to another collaboration, by NPR and ProPublica, which found the U.S. military was not adequately diagnosing and treating traumatic brain injuries suffered by soldiers. Honored for “Brain Wars” are T. Christian Miller of ProPublica, NPR Correspondent Daniel Zwerdling, and NPR Deputy Managing Editor of Investigations Susanne Reber. The project showed that the military medical system is failing to diagnose brain injuries in tens of thousands of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many veterans receiving little or no treatment for lingering health effects. Their investigation found that some 40 percent of soldiers suffering from concussions were not receiving a correct diagnosis from military doctors.

The awards, seen within the news industry as rivaling Pulitzers in their importance, were established in 1949 by Long Island University to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent who was murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war. The honors will be presented at a luncheon April 7 at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City.

Newsosaur to pubcasters: learn to live without federal aid or learn to share

Veteran newspaperman and news industry analyst Alan Mutter weighs in on the debate over CPB funding and concludes that it's time for public broadcasters to learn to live without their federal aid. Public broadcasting stations are "generally well-funded, well-known and well-established organizations," Mutter writes on his blog Reflections of a Newsosaur, noting that local stations derive an average of 15 percent of their annual revenues from Uncle Sam. "The fact that the public media operate with only a modest degree of federal funding is not only fortunate for them at a time of aggressive budget cutting but also a sign that government support of the public media has been an unqualified success," Mutter writes.

He points to the political pressure that's historically been exerted on CPB to influence content; six-figure salaries of executives at CPB, PBS and local stations; and the field's success in raising private sources of support to strengthen its service to make his case.

If policymakers see a continued need for federal assistance to nonprofit media, Mutter concludes, then new web-based start-ups such as New America Media and MinnPost should be included in the mix of grantees. These not-profit news ventures deserve a
n equal chance in competing for "the sort of seed money that helped build public broadcasting into the powerful organization it is today."

Pubcasters take to the sea for November cruise

Three public broadcasters are headliners on a 10-day PTV at Sea cruise in November. Gwen Ifill of Washington Week, Mark Samels, e.p. of American Experience, and Scott Simon, host of NPR’s Weekend Edition will be presenters and panelists on board Regent’s Seven Seas Mariner as it sails from Venice to Croatia, Malta, Tunisia, Monte Carlo, Florence and Rome. It's sponsored by Artful Travelers.

Pubcasting among cuts that may be "dead on arrival" in Senate, Time magazine says

Here's a good analysis by Time magazine about how this Washington showdown is different from back in 1995. "The $61 billion in cuts House Republicans called for in their 2011 budget passed Saturday include many provisions that are dead on arrival in the Senate," it says. "Proposals to defund health reform, Planned Parenthood and public broadcasting are all nonstarters for Democrats."