Sep 20, 2011

Vermont net raises funds for Hurricane Irene relief

A one-day Vermont Public Radio fundraiser for Hurricane Irene relief Sept. 13 raised more than $628,000 for the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund. More than 4,600 listeners called to pledge support or donated online during the 16-hour campaign.

“We know that our listeners are community-minded, but this outpouring of support went beyond anything we imagined,” said VPR President Robin Turnau. The hurricane rampaged through Vermont Aug. 28.

VPR received a special one-day waiver from the FCC to allow it to raise funds for an organization other than itself.

The network's news staff is still posting followup stories on its special hurricane blog.

Ramer, Cahill now heading CPB Board

Bruce Ramer was re-elected chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Board of Directors at its meeting today (Sept. 20) at headquarters in Washington, D.C. The new vice-chair is Patricia Cahill, general manager of KCUR-FM in Kansas City, who joined the board in August 2009.

WPBT2 show wins National Academies honor

“Sentinels of the Seas,” an episode of WPBT2’s Changing Seas, has won a 2011 Communications Award in the Film/Radio/TV category, from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine. The episode explained what Florida's bottlenose dolphins reveal about the health of coastal waters and human exposure to chemical contaminants. The awards recognize excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering and medicine.

Other public media finalists included Richard Harris and Alison Richards for "Gulf Spill May Far Exceed Official Estimates" on NPR; Richards, Christopher Joyce, Jon Hamilton and Joe Palca for "The Human Edge: Finding Our Inner Fish" also on NPR; and Gary Hochman, Steve Reich and Paula Apsell for "Secrets Beneath the Ice" on Nova.

Pictured is the production team for Changing Seas: Sentinels of the Seas, from left:  Ray Ratliff, graphic designer; Jeremy Nicholson, editor/videographer; Kandra Velez, producer; Veronique Koch, associate producer; Alexa Elliott, series producer; Allan Farrell, videographer; and Sean Hickey, editor/videographer. (Image: WBPT2)

Big MacArthur kudo to Jad Jad Jad Abumrad rad rad

The MacArthur Foundation today publicly confirmed what fans already know: Jad Abumrad, auteur/producer and co-host of WNYC's Radiolab, is some kinda genius. He is one of 22 scientists and other creative types who received $500,000 MacArthur fellowships in recognition of their achievements and potential. “This show is the central creative mission of my life right now, and the money might give me the space to bring new things into it,” Abumrad said in a New York Times article reporting the awards.

Abumrad probably will have more to say Wednesday morning when he keynotes the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Baltimore.

MacArthur Fellows are U.S. residents who have shown "exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work."

In a video interview for MacArthur, Abumrad shows a bit of his process for orchestrating words, sentences and sounds into informational music:

On the radio production showcase, Ira Glass expresses his admiration and jealousy ("I feel jealous") about the heights of effective radio that Abumrad and his co-host Robert Krulwich achieve on Radiolab, partly through carefully conceived and sometimes re-recorded "spontaneous sounding" banter. Glass  commends to listeners the Radiolab episodes about coincidence and randomness, parasites, a beloved mayor who has had a big operation, and being in a coma.

Glass also contrasts the show's real-people tone, and a different real-people tone of talk-radio personalities, with the standard style of pubradio news: "One way the opinion guys kick our ass and appeal to an audience is that they talk like normal people, not like news robots speaking their stentorian news-speak," Glass writes.

Link TV announces new c.e.o., former ABC News exec Paul Mason

Nonprofit satellite channel Link TV today (Sept. 20) announced a new c.e.o., former ABC News executive Paul Mason. After 30 years in commercial television, Mason told Current, he “wanted to go someplace optimistic, where there’s tremendous passion about mission.”

“That’s happening in not-for-profit media,” he said.

He takes over as Link launches several initiatives, including LinkAsia, a half-hour online news show hosted by Yul Kwon, a former FCC deputy chief and host of the upcoming four-part PBS series America Revealed; and, an online media hub funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that  “highlights progress in reducing hunger, poverty and disease in developing nations,” as Link describes it, with stories of the people helped by global development organizations such as Save the Children, Oxfam, UNICEF, CONCERN and Bread for the World. The site deploys new technology to analyze the context and meaning of the videos and generate links to the latest related content available.

The channel began 11 years ago after the FCC set aside part of the satellite TV spectrum for public-service purposes, and satellite broadcaster DirecTV gave a channel to Link’s WorldLink service (Current, Dec. 13, 1999). Like one of its cofounders, the Independent Television Service, Link brings viewers an assortment of diverse voices. It partners with independent producers worldwide as well as major broadcasters such as Al Jazeera and France 24. In addition to carriage on DirecTV, Link is now on the other satellite TV service, Dish Network, and some 200 cable affiliates, claiming a total reach of around 57 million households.

As a former senior v.p. of ABC News, Mason oversaw the network’s morning and weekend shows and Nightline, documentaries and investigations, and produced for its magazine shows. He also was a former v.p. of the Overseas Press Club Foundation.

Link’s 40 employees are spread among offices in San Francisco, New York and Washington. It receives most of its support from a variety of organizations including the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation. (Disclosure: Another funder, the Wyncote Foundation of Philadelphia, is also supporting Current’s transition to American University.) Mason said viewers contribute about $2.5 million of its approximately $8 million annual operating budget.

Former c.e.o. Karen Stevenson assisted in the search for Mason before her departure Sept. 2. “Karen did a fantastic job setting new policies in place, streamlining operations and building the board,” said Wendy Hanamura, Link’s g.m. and v.p. of strategy. “She told us that she felt that she had accomplished what she does best and it was time to step aside for a visionary who could lead us to a new Link, a Link 2.0.”

Here's a video of Mason discussing his vision for the network. (Image: Link TV)

Hearst TV exec to head World channel

Elizabeth Cheng, a Hearst Television executive, is the new general manager for the World channel, WGBH announced today (Sept. 20). Cheng will oversee all business, technical and creative aspects of production, distribution and marketing for the digital multicast service, which was developed by WGBH and WNET in 2004 and relaunched on multiple platforms last year (Current, June 7, 2010) with funding from CPB.

At Hearst, Cheng was a vice president, as well as director of programming and communications for WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston and director of programming for WMUR-TV Channel 9 Manchester, N.H., both ABC affiliates. In addition to executive producing specials and series programming, she was in charge of Chronicle, WCVB’s nightly news magazine covering the New England region.

"As a long-time fan of public media — in fact, my first job in TV was at a PBS station — I’m thrilled to be part of a team delivering unique news and informational content to a national audience,” Cheng said. She worked as a producer at WSBE-TV in Providence after graduating from Brown University. (Image: WCVB)