Oct 26, 2011

Pubradio documentaries win Third Coast honors

Eight radio docs, including pieces for Radiolab, This American Life, Marketplace and WNYC Radio, won trophies from among 300 entries in the Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Awards, presented Oct. 23 in Chicago.

The winners are listed below and pictured on the Third Coast Festival's Facebook page.

Documentary, Gold Award: “The Wisdom of Jay Thunderbolt,” by Nick van der Kolk and sound designer Brendan Baker, with Nick Williams, a Love + Radio podcast “for mature audiences.” (On the Nieman Journalism Lab blog, Annie Gilbertson discusses van der Kolk's podcast about a Detroit strip club, which features profane language and dark subject matter.)

Documentary, Silver: “Finding Emilie,” by Jad Abumrad with Robert Krulwich and Soren Wheeler, the team from WNYC’s Radiolab.

Documentary, Bronze: “Patriot Games,” by Ben Calhoun, for This American Life, about two friends who formed a Tea Party chapter in Petoskey, Mich. Edited by Ira Glass and Julie Snyder.

Documentary, Honorable Mention: “Heel, Toe, Step Together,” by Katie Burningham (U.K.) about an octogenarian East End London dancer, broadcast on BBC Radio 4.

Directors’ Choice: “Children of Sodom and Gomorrah,” by English-language producer Sharon Davis and original German-language writer/producer Jens Jarisch, about a hellish, toxic computer waste dump in Accra, Ghana. English version broadcast on Australia’s ABC Radio National. Presented by 360 Degree Documentaries, Australia.

New Artist: “Kohn,” by Andy Mills (U.S.).

News Feature: “Deportations Before Reform: Anatomy of an Immigration Bust,” by Marianne McCune for WNYC, New York.

Radio Impact Award: “The Five Percent Rule,” by Sally Herships for Marketplace, about the government’s discount tobacco prices for military smokers. Edited by John Haas.

PRX will distribute a two-hour “Best of the Best” broadcast through pubradio stations, available Nov. 17.

Next year’s competition opens for entries in May 2012.

KLRN hires new station manager

Mario A. Vazquez, a board member of the Alamo Public Telecommunications Council, is the new executive vice president and station manager of San Antonio’s KLRN-TV. Vazquez was previously head of the contract administration department at NuStar Energy. "Mario brings exceptional skills to this new position," said KLRN President William Moll in a statement. "He was trained as a classical pianist, practiced as a paralegal, holds a degree in political science, and has long demonstrated a commitment of service to the communities of San Antonio, Laredo and South Central Texas."

Dish Network files with Supreme Court over noncom carriage mandate

Dish Network is asking the Supreme Court to rule on what First Amendment test should apply to its Congressional mandate to carry noncommercial stations in HD over other stations, reports Broadcasting & Cable. "At issue, if the Supremes take the case, could be the underpinnings of entire government must-carry regime," reporter John Eggerton notes.

Dish filed a petition for certiorari, asking for a review of a decision last February in which the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Congress could require a private party (Dish) to grant preferential treatment to noncommercial stations. Dish claims the government is favoring one type of speech over another. "Applying intermediate scrutiny, the Ninth Circuit upheld the preference based on the government's interest in increasing the popularity of federally funded stations to increase the flow of viewer donations. In other words, telethons trump editorial discretion," Dish said in its current filing.

It added: "Dish believes its viewers are more interested in seeing Harry Potter and the Super Bowl in HD than Charlie Rose and Sesame Street."

In July 2010, after several years of negotiations with the Association of Public Television Stations, Dish struck an independent HD carriage agreement with some 30 pubcasting stations.

UPDATE: In a statement today, APTS Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel Lonna Thompson said the group is "deeply disappointed" at Dish Network's request for a Supreme Court review of the carriage mandate. “Congress included this provision because Dish Network was blatantly discriminating against local public television stations and refusing to carry them in HD in markets where they were carrying all of the commercial broadcasters," Thompson said. “Unfortunately, Dish prefers to litigate this law rather than giving their customers what they want and deserve — high-quality public television programming. Congress listened to the American people on this critical issue and acted appropriately."

"The public depends upon Dish complying with the must-carry law as local public television stations do not have legal retransmission negotiation rights," she said. "Dish’s profound reluctance to do so contrasts starkly with Direct TV's voluntary agreement, now four years old, with APTS and PBS to carry the HD signal of every public television station in markets Direct TV serves in local HD."

Anonymous last-minute gift of $250,000 saves KCPW from default

An anonymous donor has emerged to save pubradio KCPW in Salt Lake City from a loan default on Nov. 1, reports The Salt Lake Tribune. The $250,000 gift came just as Mayor Ralph Becker threatened to block a second attempt by the City Council to loan the money to the struggling station. Attorneys for the city’s Redevelopment Agency deemed the aid inappropriate (Current, Oct. 17).

The donation "came as a complete surprise," said Ed Sweeney, president of the station’s owner, Wasatch Public Media, in a letter to members and supporters, "and was offered because of the inability of the city to provide the short-term funding."

KCPW needed between $200,000 and $250,000, depending on the success of its pledge drive, by Nov. 1 to pay off its loan. That would allow the station to restructure $2.4 million in loans taken out in 2008 to buy the station’s license (Current, June 9, 2008).