May 25, 2011

It's official: Pittsburgh's new pubradio FM to go all-news, jazz migrates to HD channel

Essential Public Media unveiled plans to operate 90.5 FM in Pittsburgh, the station now broadcasting NPR News and jazz as WDUQ, as an all-news station as of July 1.

Dennis Hamilton, a public radio veteran who is director of consulting for Public Radio Capital, will manage the new station on an interim basis.

Under a $6 million license transfer agreement now pending at the FCC, the station will get new call letters, and its new owners will reconfigure Pittsburgh's public radio landscape by launching the city's first all-news public radio service.

Jazz music programming, which fans of current format had hoped to preserve, will air on an HD Radio channel and Internet audio stream; six hours of jazz programming are slated for Saturday nights on the main broadcast channel. JazzWorks, the nationally syndicated jazz programming stream originating from WDUQ, will continue production under the new owners.

The partners behind the new station are Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting, licensee of Triple A station WYEP, and Public Media Company, a new subsidiary of Public Radio Capital. In addition, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Heinz Endowments, and the Pittsburgh Foundation have jointly committed more than $3 million towards its purchase and operations, according to a news release.

For the news service, EPM is developing two radio programs: Essential Pittsburgh, an hour-long interview call-in show; and Sounds of the City, a weekly news round-up. The line-up includes the pubradio mainstays already airing on WDUQ, such as NPR's news magazines, Fresh Air, Marketplace and This American Life.

The station will also publish news online at, and has forged a content partnership with PublicSource, a foundation-backed online news-start up run by Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

Wisconsin cuts public broadcasting funding — then cuts some more

The Wisconsin legislature's budget committee today (May 25) approved slicing an extra half-million dollars from an agency that helps deliver the broadcasts of Wisconsin Public Radio and Television, the Superior Telegraph is reporting. The nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau says the two-year cut to the Educational Communications Board is atop the roughly 10 percent reductions to most state agencies. The move passed on a 12-4 party-line vote. Across the country, states lawmakers continue to target pubcasting dollars (Current, April 18).

NPR Ombudsman: Criticism of Soros grant not confined to right-wing partisans

Outgoing NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard reviews the network's decision to accept an $1.8 million grant from George Soros's Open Society Foundations last fall -- a judgement call that, in the view of unnamed NPR journalists, put the news organization's credibility as an impartial, trusted news source at risk. "[A] deep current of concern has run through the newsroom about taking money from someone with a well-known, documented political agenda supporting Democrats and Democratic causes," Shepard writes. The two-year grant supports a worthy cause -- launch of the accountability journalism project Impact of Government -- but unwittingly opened NPR up to attacks from right-wing partisans. Shepard advises NPR to hurry up and announce additional funding for the project. "The sooner NPR can provide a varied list of funders . . . , the quicker valid concerns about perceptions and reality will diminish – if not go away."

KET pubcaster knows Oprah Winfrey as a doggone good host

All of America (well, nearly) is bracing for Oprah Winfrey's final talk show today (May 25). But Bill Goodman, host of Kentucky Tonight on Kentucky Educational Television, can say he personally knew her way back when. He was news producer and assignment editor at CBS affiliate WTVF-TV in Nashville when Winfrey, then a 19-year-old college sophomore, anchored its weekend newscast. He tells A.M. New York that even back then, Winfrey was "a perfectionist and she worked very hard. As one of the first African-American women on the air, she knew that a lot of people were watching her. She did not want to fail.” Winfrey even once volunteered to housesit for a week for Goodman and his wife, watching over their Cocker Spaniel.

Deal pending to bring PBS to Orlando via two universities

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that a deal has been reached to keep PBS service in Orlando after affiliate WMFE-TV's sale to religious broadcaster Daystar is finalized, perhaps as early as July 1. Under a proposed plan, columnist Hal Boedeker writes, the University of Central Florida in Orlando and Brevard Community College (home to PBS affiliate WBCC) in Cocoa will assume responsibility for broadcasting PBS in Orlando. Two UCF panels must agree. The university's advancement committee votes Thursday morning, and the full Board of Trustees meets Thursday afternoon. “PBS still needs to approve this action, should the UCF Board of Trustees approve it,” Grant Heston, assistant vice president of news and information at UCF, tells the paper. “This is a potential big step. We are not quite at the finish line yet.” The station is likely to have UCF in its call letters.

Social media magazine premieres at BlogWorld & New Media Expo

A new publication calling itself "the world’s first printed magazine dedicated to focus exclusively on the evolving technology area of social media" is launching at the BlogWorld & New Media Expo 2011, going on this week in New York City. The Social Media Monthly includes articles by the Heritage Foundation’s Rory Cooper and U.S. Ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa David Huebner exploring the role of social media within the executive branch and diplomatic communications, and the cover interview with Duleepa Wijayawardhana, founder of Empire Avenue, a social media exchange. The premiere issue sports a specially designed cover by artist Yiying Lu, known for her famous drawings of the “Fail Whale” used by Twitter and the “Pale Whale” featuring Conan O’Brien.