May 13, 2011

It's in the New York Times, it must be true: Keillor is indeed leaving PHC

OK, it's really, truly, finally official: A Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor is indeed retiring. That's what he tells the New York Times, anyway. “In order to have some say about this and in order to maneuver this, I should do this sooner rather than later,” he says in today's (May 13) story. “One should not wait for the very last minute, when one has become a pitiful hulk shambling on and off stage exciting the sympathy of the audience. I don’t want to come to that point.” When Keillor told the AARP Bulletin in March that he was leaving, Minnesota Public Radio chief Bill Kling, who brought Prairie Home into national distribution, downplayed the announcement as a publicity stunt.

WFCR takes new name: New England Public Radio

Western Massachusetts broadcaster WFCR-FM has adopted a new name — one that seems to speak of ongoing expansion: New England Public Radio. CEO Martin Miller announced the plans at a station event Wednesday night.

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the station announced it has arranged to buy new quarters in downtown Springfield, south of its longtime home in Amherst, and has bought a new FM frequency in the Berkshire Mountains town of Adams, northwest of Amherst.

The news and classical music station, licensed to the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, added a second program schedule, all-news/talk, on a leased station in the 1990s and in October acquired WNNZ-AM for the schedule. By building translators in addition, one or both of its program streams now span from southern Vermont to northern Connecticut, New Hampshire to Albany, N.Y. Where it may encounter competition from another growing regional public radio franchise, Northeast Public Radio (WAMC).

New England Public Radio’s new logo features a grove of five vertical bars to the left of its name. The five represent the cluster of four colleges that founded WFCR 50 years ago and the fifth that joined later on.

The broadcaster is based in a 4,000-square-foot space on the UMass campus in Amherst, and has added a studio at Springfield public TV station WGBY and the new facility in a historic office block in downtown Springfield. A 50th anniversary capital campaign aims to raise $7 million for facilities and other needs.

Onstage monologue goes swimmingly for Walters of "Radiolab"

The fifth issue of Pop Up Magazine — self-described as "the world's first live magazine" — unfolded onstage in New York last night (May 12) with a 25-member cast that included WNYC's Radiolab producer Pat Walters.

In a May interview, Pop Up's Editor in Chief Dougal McGray explained the group's origin in 2009: "We're a small group of old friends — writers, editors and designers who have worked for the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, Esquire, This American Life, The Atavist, Wired, Spin and Interview. On a whim, we decided to launch a magazine that would exist for just one night, live on stage. A live magazine. Nothing would get published, nothing would go online. Instead, we would present a rapid-fire series of new stories, images and ideas in an evening that unfolds like a classic print magazine."

Walters presented "One Breath," capturing the excitement and terror of freediving, or swimming underwater to enormous depths without using any breathing apparatus. (The world's record, by the way, is 288 feet in 3 minutes 30 seconds.) A review in AdAge said his was the "most interesting" offering of the evening.

The revue, at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, also garnered an enthusiastic review from Fishbowl NY on Mediabistro, which called it "a lot of fun."

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Online viewers of PBS content complain to ombudsman over sponsorship "experiment"

Late last month, PBS began "experimenting" with a new sponsorship format for online videos of its major broadcast TV programs, writes PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler. And now Getler is receiving letters of complaint from online viewers.

Videos of shows such as Frontline and Masterpiece now have a couple 15- to 30-second sponsorship messages from commercial companies inserted within the program, not before or after as in TV broadcasts. While only a "handful" of people have written to Getler, " it struck me as a potentially fundamental change in approach that was worth recording."

Jason Seiken, s.v.p. for PBS Interactive, told Getler that this potential revenue stream is necessary because has become, in a sense, "a victim of our own success," growing from two million to 115 million online video views monthly. He said PBS is "trying to be creative about offsetting those costs" with this trial run, which will last about six months.