Mar 30, 2012

Three longtime staffers retiring from Illinois Public Media

Three talk-show staffers at WILL-AM in Urbana, Ill., are retiring, Illinois Public Media said on its website. Departing will be David Inge, longtime host of morning show Focus; the show's producer, Harriet Williamson; and Afternoon Magazine host Celeste Quinn, married to Inge for 24 years after the two met at the station.

Inge, retiring June 30, has conducted more than 12,000 Focus interviews in his 29-plus years as the program’s host. He started at the station as a classical music announcer, then became a reporter. He also hosted WILL-TV’s pubaffairs Talking Point from 1992 until it ended in 2001. Williamson began at the station as a volunteer, joining the staff in 1996 after careers as a medical librarian and nurse. Quinn began working at WILL in 1980 as a reporter, covering police, courts and the city councils before taking on hosting  duties for Afternoon Magazine in 1993. For the past year, she has been editor of WILLConnect, Illinois Public Media’s community engagement website. She retires April 30.

The station is "planning to carry on the strong tradition" that the three have established over the last 30 years, General Manager Mark Leonard said. “We’ll be hiring people for several positions to help us do that.”

Story of the OPB presidential primary debate that wasn't to be

Now on, a behind-the-scenes look at the work at Oregon Public Broadcasting in the months leading up to its scheduled national GOP primary presidential debate, canceled just days before the high-profile event.

Kartemquin establishing liaison group to advocate for indie filmmakers with PBS

Kartemquin Films is beginning work to form a permanent advocacy group to serve as a liaison between independent filmmakers and PBS, in the wake of the controversy surrounding PBS's rescheduling of Independent Lens and P.O.V. and their subsequent ratings and carriage woes (Current, March 12, 2012). Gordon Quinn, artistic director and founder of the Chicago documentary production house, said he is in conversations to partner with the International Documentary Association on the effort.

Public television "is not just another outlet for independent producers," Quinn told Current. "The public aspect of it is of vital importance to us."

Following Current's story, Kartemquin posted on its website an open letter to PBS expressing concern over its shift of the two programs from their longtime home on Tuesdays to Thursdays, which many stations program with local shows. Hundreds of filmmakers signed and the controversy was covered widely, from the New York Times to multiple documentary-oriented websites. PBS agreed to find a different timeslot for the shows, and its negotiations continue with reps from ITVS, home to Independent Lens, as well as P.O.V.

Quinn said he and documentarian Carlos Sandoval are approaching 10 to 20 filmmakers to serve on a coordinating committee. "Ultimately I'd like to see us become part of the dialogue with PBS about the future of the whole system," he said, "sitting down and talking with them about larger issues," perhaps several times a year.

Michael Lumpkin, executive director of IDA, said the group is "very interested" in working with Quinn on the idea.

PBS proposed FY13 budget has 2 percent membership dues increase

PBS's fiscal 2013 draft budget, which the board today (March 30) approved to send to stations for comment, contains a 2 percent membership dues increase. At the board meeting at headquarters in Arlington, Va., Barbara Landes, PBS c.f.o., said this is the first dues increase for stations since fiscal 2009. Also at the meeting, directors unanimously approved a change in language in PBS's common-carriage policy to align with PBS's ongoing primetime revamp. The two-hour nightly limit was removed to accommodate three-hour programming blocks. The change does not affect total common carriage hours over the season, or station flexibility to preempt common-carriage programming.

Mar 29, 2012

Wisconsin to experiment with "text to pledge" mobile giving model

Wisconsin Public Television will be testing a "text to pledge" model that it hopes will combine the immediacy that mobile users expect with the more nuanced interaction that stations need to establish a lasting relationship with members. David Dickinson, online manager at Wisconsin Public Television, writes in a post on the PBS Station Products & Innovation blog that the station wants to provide users the ability to text a number with a pledge for any amount, then the station will contact them to fulfill payment and become a member if they choose.That approach "may offer the best of both worlds," Dickinson writes.

"We'll funnel half our mobile donation traffic to our existing page, and half the traffic to a new page asking for a text-to-pledge," he adds. "After a few months, it will be interesting to see the results."

Partnership models emerging in collaborative journalism, writes Stearns of Free Press

Several basic partnership models have emerged in the growing collaborative journalism ecosphere, writes the Free Press's Josh Stearns on MediaShift. There are commercial partnerships, often contractual agreements among newspapers and TV stations; nonprofit and commercial agreements, such as the recent NBC-pubmedia partnerships (Current, Jan. 17); public and noncom collaborations, connecting pubmedia outlets with one another or with other nonprofit news organizations (Current, March 30, 2009); university collaborations; and community and audience cooperative work, including APM's Public Insight Network (Current, Jan. 24, 2011).

"We are still at the early stages of experimentation with large- and small-scale collaboration across the news and journalism ecosystem," Stearns writes. "Partners differ, motivations differ, needs differ and funding differs. This list isn't meant to suggest that news organizations only draw lessons from partnerships that most closely resemble their own — indeed quite the opposite is true: We should be drawing on the lessons from across models, but we should do so with an awareness of the unique context of each collaboration."

FCC announces three firms to assist in designing spectrum auctions

The FCC has selected three companies — Auctionomics, Power Auctions and MicroTech — to help it design upcoming spectrum auctions, reports Broadcasting & Cable. Leading the team is Auctionomics Chairman Paul Milgrom, a Stanford professor and member of the National Academy of Sciences who was the main academic contributor to the FCC's original spectrum auction design. Also on the board of Auctionomics, reports TV Techology, is Reed Hundt, former FCC chair. Power Auctions, based in Washington, D.C., has designed spectrum auctions for Canada and Australia, and MicroTech of Vienna, Va., will lend technical expertise. Congress last month authorized the FCC to conduct auctions of TV spectrum to free up bandwidth for mobile devices (Current, Feb. 28).

WFDD general manager Denise Franklin "can't comment" on her departure

Denise Franklin is gone from her post as general manager of NPR member station WFDD at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C. "There are a lot of talented professionals at WFDD, and I wish them the best," Franklin told the Winston-Salem Journal. "I can't comment beyond that." Brett Eaton, Wake Forest spokesman, confirmed to the paper that Franklin is no longer employed by the university but declined further comment. Franklin had been with the station for 11 years, first as a news host. She became g.m. in 2007. Interim g.m. is Molly Davis, the station's director of marketing and community outreach.

Lore joins MPT as vice president and chief development officer

Rick Lore is the new vice president and chief development officer at Maryland Public Television, responsible for membership, on-air fundraising, major and planned giving, publications, outreach and community engagement at the station in Ownings Mills, Md. Lore had joined the station on an interim basis last fall following the departure of Joe Krushinsky, MPT's former vice president of institutional advancement, who is now director of station development services at PBS.

Previously he served as executive director of Friends of Milwaukee Public Television, the fundraising affiliate of Milwaukee Public TV. Earlier, he worked for nearly eight years as director of on-air fundraising for PBS, as well as director of development for pubTV stations in New Hampshire and Dayton, Ohio. He began his public television career in 1989 in San Jose, Calif.

He's won eight PBS development awards and is a frequent conference speaker. (Photo: MPT)

Mar 28, 2012

Patricia Simon stepping down from helm of PBS39

Patricia Simon, president of PBS39 in Bethlehem, Pa., is leaving the station after 10 years to pursue other opportunities, reports the local Express-Times. Station Board Chair Jamie Musselman announced today (March 28) that Timothy Fallon will act as c.e.o. while the board of directors begins a search for a new leader. Fallon has been involved with the station since 1995 and served as chairman 2002-04.

WTMD to move from Towson campus to City Center

NPR member station WTMD-FM is moving from an 1,800-square-foot facility in the center of the Towson University campus to an 8,000 square-foot broadcast and community gathering place this fall in the new Towson City Center. The new home will provide a live-music performance space, a community meeting room and classroom, studios and offices. WTMD’s General Manager Stephen Yasko said on the station's website that the new building will be contain than a pubradio station serving the Baltimore region. “We’ve designed this space to be a combination: a music lovers’ clubhouse, community meeting space and education center," he said. "Our listeners and the public will be invited into WTMD every day to experience the best in national and Baltimore bands.” WTMD members also may use the space for social and corporate events. The station also plans to move its transmitter and antenna to atop the City Center, to provide a better quality signal to its current coverage area and possibly extend its signal reach slightly farther west.

"Masterpiece" and KPBS split $1 million gift to Masterpiece Trust

The Masterpiece Trust has received a $1 million gift from San Diego philanthropist Darlene Shiley. It's the largest gift to date for the Trust, which was established in January 2011 to allow major donors to directly support the Masterpiece strand, and enable those donors to provide part of their gift to a local station. Half of Shiley's gift, made on behalf of her and her late husband Donald, will go to KPBS in San Diego.

Shiley was one of the first donors to the Trust, with a previous gift of $250,000.

Other stations that have received a local portion of major gifts to the Trust include WNET, New York City; Vermont Public Television; WTCI, Chattanooga, Tenn.; WGBY, Springfield, Mass.; and WTTW, Chicago.

The PBS NewsHour recently revealed it is modeling a giving effort on Masterpiece Trust, to be called Friends of NewsHour.

How about affinity credit cards to help support the pubcasting system?

Matt MacDonald of PRX has an idea for funding pubcasting. "Public radio and television stations should collaborate and work together with Visa, Mastercard or American Express to create an nationally branded affinity public media credit card," he writes in a blog post today (March 27), which is an extension of his recent session at IMA. "Each transaction made with that credit card would get rounded up to the nearest dollar and the card holder uses a website that allows them to determine how it gets allocated back out to participating stations, programs and producers."

If there are 170 million people using public media each month, MacDonald writes, "then there are a large number of credit card transactions each day performed by public media consumers. With a coordinated effort could public radio and television stations switch 1 percent of their consumers over to using a public media branded card?" If so, and if that 1 percent of 170 million averaged one transaction daily with an average round-up of 52 cents, that could generate more than $322 million annually for the system, he notes.

CPB Board okays $7 million for seven-station centralcast project in Florida

The CPB Board on Tuesday (March 27) unanimously approved spending up to $7 million for a joint master-control project linking six stations in Florida and one in Georgia, similar to its centralcast project in New York state (Current, Oct. 3, 2011). The Jacksonville Digital Convergence Alliance LLC will run one master control for WJCT in Jacksonville; WFSU, Tallahassee; WPBT, Miami; WBCC, Cocoa; WUCF, Orlando; Tampa stations WUSF and WEDU; and WPBA, Atlanta. The facility will be in Jacksonville. CPB estimates cost savings to the stations of $15 million to $20 million over the next 10 years.

Also at the meeting in Washington, D.C., Michael Levy, e.v.p., corporate and public affairs, updated the board on the Appropriations Committee’s request for a report on possible alternative support sources for stations in lieu of federal funding. Levy said CPB has hired Booz & Co. to analyze the short- and long-term impact of the hypothetical elimination of federal funding, as well as revenue outlooks from various sources. Levy said he expects research to be completed by mid-April, which will be shared with stakeholders. A draft of the report should be to the CPB Board by the end of May and is due to Congress June 20. A similar report CPB commissioned in 2010 revealed no high-revenue options that are relatively easy to secure (Current, April 18, 2011).

Tim Isgitt, s.v.p., government affairs, also reported that CPB secured 116 signatories from the House of Representatives on its letter of support for pubcasting funding addressed to leaders of the Labor HHS Appropriations subcommittee. Six Republican members signed the letter, “which is six more than last year,” Isgitt noted.

Stalking the wild pubradio reporter

KPCC is giving the public a rare (tongue firmly in cheek) chance to see the public-radio journalist in its natural habitat — "an idyllic and fragile Eden free from the bias and bile of the 24-hour news cycle" —  in this hilarious two-minute pledge promo. In the takeoff on a wildlife doc, an intrepid explorer/host intones, "Make no mistake, the future of this highly developed species is imperiled. Only one thing can save it: A symbiotic relationship with another highly developed species — the public radio listener."

KVCR president put on administrative leave for "undisclosed matter"

Larry Ciecalone, president of dual licensee KVCR in San Bernardino, Calif., has been placed on administrative leave "while an undisclosed matter is investigated," the Press-Enterprise in Riverside is reporting. Bruce Baron, chancellor of licensee San Bernardino Community College District, announced the decision to the station staff Tuesday (March 27). He told the newspaper that the issue was a personnel matter and declined to discuss details. The investigation is expected to take about three months. During that time, Baron will head up station operations, TV Station Manager Kenn Couch will oversee both TV and radio, and Charles Fox remains head of the new First Nations television, funded by the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians (Current, July 26, 2010). KVCR is one of three PBS member stations working to collaborate in the Los Angeles market (Current, Dec. 12, 2011).

UPDATE: Mel Rogers, president of PBS SoCal, PBS primary station in Los Angeles, tells Current he's not sure "how this will all play out" in regard to the collaboration. The three station partners are scheduled to meet early in May in a collaboration-related meeting with CPB there. Strategic program scheduling and online cross promotion continues with both KVCR and KLCS. "We continue to do events with KVCR, and a small bit of on-air cross promotion as well," he said.

"We are also discussing internally the need to be helpful to our sibling stations as we go forward," Rogers said. "I'm not sure what that means exactly but we, obviously, want to make sure public bandwidth is preserved and well-utilized for the good of the 18 million people in this region."

Mar 27, 2012

Arkansas pubcasting advocate of nearly 50 years dies in Little Rock

Jane Krutz, an enthusiastic advocate for more than 47 years for the Arkansas Educational Television Network, died Sunday (March 25) in Little Rock. She was 86. "It is literally true that there might not have been an AETN without her," Allen Weatherly, executive director of AETN, said in a tribute on the network's website. "In fact, she was advocating for a public television station for Arkansas years before we finally made it to the air in the mid 1960s."

Krutz frequently appeared during membership drives, testified before Congress for public broadcasting in 1995, served since 1996 on the AETN Commission, and received the PBS National Volunteer of the Year award. The original studio at AETN, still in service, is named for her. "She was just a remarkable person," Weatherly said.

Masterpiece Trust concept sparks new "Friends of NewsHour" effort

The PBS NewsHour is developing a Friends of the NewsHour initiative, similar to that created for WGBH’s Masterpiece strand, to allow viewers to contribute directly to the weeknight news program. The fund would solicit gifts from major donors. Bo Jones, president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, told Current that he’s just begun to plan the project. “We want to consult with local stations to elicit ideas and their input,” he said. “We plan for Friends to be a cooperative effort with the stations.” The Masterpiece Trust has raised more than $2.5 million since January 2011, said Ellen Frank, director of major gifts at WGBH in Boston. For the Trust, a station that brings a major Masterpiece donor to WGBH gets half the resulting gift. Masterpiece supporters contacting WGBH directly may earmark a quarter of the gift for their local station. So far, seven stations have brought in contributions.

CPB backs NPR's foreign coverage

CPB has awarded a $500,000 grant to NPR in support of its international news coverage.

The grant, announced during a March 26 awards dinner honoring NPR correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, supports travel costs for reporters and their producers, as well as the work of NPR's foreign desk editors, according to CPB Chair Bruce Ramer.

As NPR's foreign desk steps up its reporting from the Middle East, Asia and Africa, reporters are putting themselves "on the frontline of historic news events," Ramer said."This will help NPR stay on the story as long as it takes."

"This is going to be so important for our work," said NPR President Gary Knell. "There's nothing more important to me and my colleagues than the foreign reporting work that we do."

Garcia-Navarro, recipient of CPB's 2011 Edward R. Murrow Award honoring outstanding contributions to public radio, described the grant as "a real gift to those of us who work in the field, and it has actual, practical implications."

"Never has covering the world been more dangerous and more vital," she said.

Mar 26, 2012

Silicon Valley offices of KQED move to downtown San Jose

KQED has moved its Silicon Valley offices to downtown San Jose, within walking distance of City Hall. The new site includes office space, multiplatform production facilities and the TV studio for KQED Plus, the new identity of KTEH after the Monterey pubstation merged with KQED six years ago (Current, May 15, 2006).  KQED Plus is led by Executive Director Becca King Reed, producer of This is Us, the weekly magazine show profiling individuals from South Bay. KQED's main headquarters remains in San Francisco.

An inside look at Andy Carvin's one-man newsroom

Now online at A year after Andy Carvin's groundbreaking coverage of the Arab Spring uprising via social media networks, Carvin remains a rare breed. While more journalists are using Twitter to find stories and connect with sources, Carvin, NPR's senior strategist on its social media desk, says few use it as he does. He sometimes writes for NPR’s website, but his Twitter activity rarely yields full articles. Instead, the nonstop chatter among his networked community serves as both process and product. “It’s not that I’m just using Twitter and integrating other forms of journalism,” he says. “It’s that I see Twitter as the newsroom where I spend my time.”

Licensee fires Jefferson Public Radio head Ron Kramer, effective June 30

Southern Oregon University has fired longtime Jefferson Public Radio Executive Director Ron Kramer, the Mail Tribune in Medford, Ore., is reporting. Kramer held both positions since 1974. University President Mary Cullinan presented Kramer with the termination letter on Friday (March 23). The move does not affect Kramer's position as head of the JPR Foundation, the station's fundraising organization. A recent university audit had advised against Kramer holding both those positions, citing a potential conflict of interest. Kramer's termination is effective June 30.

Mar 24, 2012

Jefferson Public Radio Foundation, university licensee going to mediation over audit findings

The Jefferson Public Radio Foundation is headed to mediation with the pubstation's licensee, Southern Oregon University, according to the Mail Tribune in Medford, Ore.

A recent university audit cited a potential conflict of interest in Ron Kramer's role overseeing both the station and its fundraising group. It also said the foundation's debt ratio was "twice as high recommended," the newspaper reported, and that the foundation's $7 million project to restore several buildings in downtown Medford could strain its resources.

The foundation board met in a two-hour executive session Friday night (March 23) before voting to enter into mediation with the university, which SOU President Mary Cullinan had requested.

If the university "is required to take protective legal action, this situation will quickly move past the point where we can reach an amiable, amicable resolution," Cullinan had told the foundation board.

Mar 23, 2012

Moyers, Winship encourage PBS to "reverse bad decision" of indie program shifts

In an essay on their Public Affairs Television website, veteran pubTV newsmen Bill Moyers and Michael Winship discuss the importance of the diverse voices on Independent Lens and P.O.V. to the PBS programming schedule. Since the network shifted the shows from Tuesdays to Thursdays, Independent Lens has suffered ratings and carriages losses. Moyers and Winship are encouraged that PBS has signaled it is willing to consider other timeslots for the programs, and that the network told the New York Times it is "fully committed to independent films and the diversity of content they provide.”

"That can quickly be demonstrated," the two write, "by reversing a bad decision and returning to a national core time slot the independent documentaries created — often at real financial sacrifice — by the producers and filmmakers whose own passion is to reveal life honestly and to make plain, for all to see, the realities of inequality and injustice in America."

Philanthropist honors 20th year of gay newsmag "In The Life" with $1 million

New York philanthropist Henry van Ameringen is donating $1 million to In The Life Media to honor of the 20th anniversary of pubTV's longtime gay newsmagazine In The Life, he writes in a column today (March 23) on Huffington Post. He writes of first seeing the program in 1992: "At the time, the show was more focused on entertainment; it wasn't until a few years later that it became a newsmagazine. The simple fact that there was a television program, airing on public television stations around the country, that represented LGBT people in such a genuine and accurate manner was stunning, and even more so that it had been produced by a tiny staff on a threadbare budget." He soon became a key funder. "And in the past 20 years the stories that have been told have had a tremendous impact, creating the social change and momentum we now see toward full equality," he writes. Here's a look at the show in 1997 from Current's archives.

A special letter to the editors

Peters D. Willson, longtime friend of Current founder Jim Fellows and the executor of his estate, has penned a tribute to the paper's outgoing Managing Editor Steve Behrens, and notes: "Now more than ever public broadcasting needs Current's independent news perspective and the public forum it offers for sharing and debating opinion and commentary about the future of public media." In 1977, Fellows persuaded Behrens to join him at the National Association of Educational Broadcasters to design and launch Current.

Ira Glass on "Downton Abbey": "Complete and utter (expletive)"

Apparently This American Life host Ira Glass is no fan of the PBS hit Downton Abbey. In an interview with Duke University's Chronicle, Glass says he watched three episodes of the Edwardian costume drama on Masterpiece, "and wanted to punch someone in the face for the complete and utter bulls**t that it is. It’s the most romantic, y’know, romantic piece of tripe, it just made me want to kick somebody."

Audit recommends separating heads of Jefferson Public Radio, fundraising group

An Oregon University System audit of Jefferson Public Radio and its fundraising organization is citing a potential conflict of interest in having Ron Kramer as executive director of both JPR and the JPR Foundation, according to the Mail Tribune in Medford, Ore. Jim Beaver, SOU spokesman, said university administrators agree with the recommendation to have two separate executive director positions and hope to have a plan in place to do so by the end of June. Kramer denies there is a conflict, and told the paper that his oversight of the foundation was a condition of his employment with SOU. Kramer also questioned the timing of the audit and its conclusions. "Times are tough" fiscally, as budgets continue to be slashed, Kramer said. "One could conclude the university is trying to gain control over the foundation's assets." The audit also recommended against the foundation's plans to renovate two historic downtown properties, reports local KOBI-TV News.

After 20 years, BBC moving distribution of World Service from PRI to APM

The BBC has selected American Public Media as the exclusive distributor of its World Service to pubradio in the United States, ending its distribution relationship of more than 20 years with Public Radio International. The BBC told Current today (March 23) that the new five-year contract begins July 1. “I appreciate the support that Public Radio International have given to BBC World Service in the U.S. over the years," said the BBC's Richard Porter, controller, English, in a statement, "and we will continue to work with them on our co-productions, including The World.”

FCC challenging Daystar qualifications to purchase pubstations in Waco, Orlando

The FCC is questioning the Daystar religious broadcasting network’s qualifications to purchase two public television stations, citing lack of sufficient proof of local control and educational programming.

A March 13 FCC letter provides insight into the commission’s nearly yearlong delay in approving the sale of WMFE-TV in Orlando, which the station canceled last week, and could affect the pending purchase of former PBS affiliate KWBU in Waco, Texas. The Daystar Television Network was the buyer in both cases — and also bid on KCSM-TV in San Mateo, Calif.

In the letter, Barbara Kreisman, chief of the video division of the FCC’s media bureau, addressed the two local entities involved in those sales: The Community Educators of Orlando, and Community Television Educators of Waco. Officers for both entities are Marcus Lamb and his wife, Joni, founders and top execs of the Bedford, Texas-based Daystar.

The six-page letter gives the groups 15 days to “demonstrate that the stations will be used to advance an educational program and will be locally controlled.” Without that proof, “we cannot conclude” that the groups meet the eligibility requirements to hold a noncom license, the letter says.

Longtime public broadcasting attorney Ernest Sanchez said that in the FCC letter, Kreisman is questioning whether the local Waco and Orlando entities “are genuine, functioning, local groups, or are they ‘window dressing’ for some third party, such as Daystar?” Undisclosed third party control of a station is prohibited, he said.

The FCC is also asking for more explanation from Daystar on local programming, Sanchez said, as it appears that the two stations would carry the same content, mainly Daystar shows. And the proposed involvement of Daystar personnel in the local stations, along with Daystar’s work in helping finance the sale transactions, has the FCC wondering if Daystar “is a ‘real party in interest,’ which would secretly control the nominally local and independent stations,” Sanchez said.

On March 14, WMFE-TV in Orlando informed the FCC that it had withdrawn from its sales agreement. The station had been waiting for FCC approval since April 2011. “The deal was simply dragging through the process longer than we’d anticipated,” said Jose Fajardo, WMFE president. The FCC’s letter “helped us make our decision to opt out.”

In Waco, the letter caught KWBU President Joe Riley by surprise. “We’re thinking and talking, we don’t know what our next move will be,” he said.

Daystar declined comment to Current. Riley said he spoke briefly with Daystar reps since the letter went public. “They’re trying to figure out what to do too,” he said.

The letter could also affect work by the Independent Public Media group, headed by John Schwartz, founder of WYBE in Philadelphia and KBDI in Denver as well as WYEP-FM in Pittsburgh, and Ken Devine, a former WNET v.p. The IPM, funded by $40 million from Schwartz’s EBS Companies, is bidding on KCSM in San Mateo and wants to acquire other public TV stations to keep noncom spectrum within the pubcasting system. “We have seen the letter and are reviewing the issues raised in it with our attorneys,” Devine said.

The issues in the FCC letter are similar to those 14 years ago when religious broadcaster Cornerstone TeleVision tried to purchase WQED’s second TV channel in Pittsburgh. Back then, the FCC asked Cornerstone for “further demonstration of the overall general educational, cultural and instructional nature” of programming it would air on reserved Channel 16, saying it provided “insufficient documentation” of its educational purpose or programs. Ultimately, the FCC approved the deal but Cornerstone backed out. — Dru Sefton

PBS agrees to consider moving indie showcases after online outcry from filmmakers

In reaction to recent pressure from the indie film community following Current's story on PBS's move of Independent Lens and P.O.V. from Tuesdays to Thursdays, the network has agreed to consider shifting the indie showcases to another night, reports the New York Times. An open letter to PBS from Kartemquin Films now has several hundred signatories. And PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler weighed in on the controversy in his column Thursday (March 22). His concerns as a PBS viewer, he writes, "are two-fold. One is that the series not be marginalized if that is what the schedule change winds up doing. The other is that, at least at this stage, the current situation seems to fit a pattern that I sense of diminishing or less prominent public affairs programming distributed specifically by PBS in recent years."

Two ex-candidates sue WNIN, alleging exclusion from 2010 debate

Two former Libertarian candidates for Congress are suing pubcaster WNIN in Evansville, Ind., contending they were wrongly excluded from a debate at the station, according to the Evansville Courier & Press. Other defendants named in the suit are the League of Women Voters of Southwestern Indiana, the president of that organization, and the national League. John W. Cunningham and Edward Gluck are asking for $450,750 in damages. The lawsuit centers on a Oct. 26, 2010, debate at the WNIN-PBS9 studio between one Republican and one Democratic candidates for the 8th District seat.

Mar 22, 2012

News editor Khalid gone from Baltimore's WYPR-FM

Sunni Khalid, managing news editor at WYPR-FM in Baltimore, is gone from the station after more than nine years, reports The Baltimore Sun. His last day was March 16. According to the newspaper, Khalid "had been on probation in February for comments he posted on the Facebook page of a friend questioning the influence of Israel on American politics."

Former WGBH broadcast engineer Vern Coleman dies

Vern Coleman, who spent 14 years as a broadcast engineer at WGBH working on such shows as The Boston Pops and The French Chef, died March 18 at his home in Marstons Mills, Mass., after a long battle with leukemia, according to his obituary in the Cape Cod Times. He was nominated for a primetime Emmy Award for best live sound in 1976, for his work on New Years's Eve at Pops; he attended the ceremonies in Hollywood but lost to the soundman for Johnny Carson. Coleman also spent time as a contract engineer for WBUR in Boston. A memorial service will be April 28 at Federated Church of Hyannis, Mass.

Mar 21, 2012

DEI and AIR will mentor radio producers in proposal writing

Amie Klempnauer Miller, who has written proposals that raised more than $20 million, will mentor a pilot group of AIR producers this spring. Application deadline: April 18. The Development Exchange (DEI) and the Association of Independents in Radio are jointly organizing the four-hour training session for the first time. Miller, who is DEI’s foundation support coordinator, will help producers find their way, identifying and building relationships with possible funders and designing case statements specifically for them. Info online. Contact: Erin Mishkin,, 617-825-4400.

NPR hires Edith Chapin from CNN as new senior foreign editor

NPR News announced today (March 21) that it has hired CNN v.p.and deputy bureau chief Edith Chapin to lead its foreign desk, starting May 14. It also promoted Didi Schanche to deputy senior foreign editor; she has been an editor with that unit since 2001. Chapin will oversee correspondents based in 17 bureaus worldwide as well as a team of editors and reporters in Washington, D.C.

Chapin has spent her career at CNN, beginning in 1987. Based in London in the early 1990s, she covered events in Bosnia, Rwanda, Zaire and Ireland. For seven years she directed editorial coverage from CNN's New York bureau, including its reporting on 9/11 and its aftermath. Since 2007, she's been vice president and deputy chief of CNN's Washington, D.C., bureau. The daughter of a Foreign Service officer, Chapin grew up in Brazil, Ethiopia and Guatemala and speaks fluent Spanish, French and Portuguese. (Image: CNN)

Aero files countersuit to complaint from PBS, WNET, other broadcasters

Aereo, an new online TV service supported by media mogul Barry Diller, has filed a countersuit against PBS, WNET and several other broadcasters who are claiming copyright infringement, according to Reuters. The suit, filed Tuesday (March 20) in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, also includes plaintiffs Fox, Univision, and WPIX, a CW station in New York City. It comes about a week after Aereo filed a similar suit in response to a complaint from ABC, CBS, NBCUniversal and NBCUniversal's Telemundo.

The new service, which launched this month in New York City, says it offers "proprietary remote antenna and DVR" technology "that consumers can use to access network television on web-enabled devices." It provides over-the-air signals from various broadcasters to its subscribers for $12 a month.

Charlotte's WTVI to merge with local community college

The merger of PBS member station WTVI in Charlotte, N.C., with Central Piedmont Community College was approved Tuesday (March 20) by Mecklenburg County commissioners in a 6-3 vote, reports the Charlotte Observer. “This is not about saving a legal entity, it is about saving local programming that is valuable to our community,” Chairman Harold Cogdell said. “It’s about access to education through programming, as well as those (students) learning to put together that programming at the community college." The county will provide financial support for the merger of $357,000 to finalize the deal and some $800,000 over the next four years for equipment upgrades.

WTVI made cuts in 2010 after the county slashed its support from nearly $860,000 to just $95,000. In June 2011, station president Elsie Garner said WTVI's survival was in jeopardy, and it was "bleeding money." And earlier this month Garner said the station could go dark if the merger wasn't approved.

The station is in an overlap market with UNC-TV at the University of North Carolina, and South Carolina ETV in Columbia.

Mar 20, 2012

NPR plans to develop geotargeting app for Facebook

NPR is applying for a Knight News Challenge grant of $340,000 to develop an app, GeoGraph, based on its successful experiment last year that drove visitors to Seattle's via geotargeted posts on the NPR Facebook page.

"The project could have an impact on how other media companies — and possibly brands — distribute content through Facebook," noted the Inside Facebook website.

In its News Challenge application, NPR said, "We will enable publishing through specific pages on Facebook, starting with NPR’s 2.3 million 'likers' in partnership with our 268 member stations. We will build our GeoGraph tool using Facebook’s Graph API. We worked with Facebook during a proof of concept; they committed to assisting us with it moving forward." After launching with the grant from Knight, "member fees will provide ongoing funding," it said. They anticipate the project will take seven months.

UPDATE: PBS also has been geotargeting Facebook posts for member stations, reports Kevin Dando, director of digital marketing and communications for the network. "In any given week, we probably have 10 to 20 geotargeted posts on the PBS Facebook page," Dando told Current. More than 100 stations have been geotargeted on the site over nearly two years, he said. "Depending on the size of the geotarget (sometimes it’s an entire state, sometimes it’s just a few small cities), the traffic from the PBS Facebook page can range from hundreds of people on up to tens of thousands." Stations may learn more here.

Other public media applicants to the Knight News Challenge include:

Public Radio International, for the iGeoQuiz, a mobile and online game based on the GeoQuiz segment from PRI’s global news program, The World;

Audiofiles from WBUR in Boston, which describes itself as "a 'purpose-built network' constructed upon Facebook and Twitter," to enable sharing of audio stories;, which would initially piggyback on the Boston station's CommonHealth blog to provide coverage of science while connecting scientists and the public;

The Question Bureau, an effort to link the question-and-answer community, and NPR journalists.

NewsHour offers more international coverage than rest of TV newscasts, Pew report finds

The State of the News Media 2012, the annual report from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, was released Monday (March 19). Among the data of interest to pubmedia stakeholders: A look at how community news is faring ("The future for local and regional sites probably will see increased use of news networks and partnerships — with public radio, local television, even local daily newspapers that may have resisted such alliances just a few years ago"); a section on Native American media ("Mark Trahant, a former president of the Native American Journalists Association, described the state of Native media as 'a narrative of expansion'"), and an in-depth look at the PBS NewsHour's ratings, staffing, financial support and content ("The PBS NewsHour differs in its agenda from other television news programs. The most striking difference is that the NewsHour offered more than a third more coverage of international news proportionally in 2011 than the rest of the media over all, including all other forms of television news"). Here's a press release that details major findings, including that some 27 percent of Americans now get their news on mobile devices, and for most of them, this is increasing their news consumption.

NPR offering new online system to map analog, digital radio and TV signal coverage

NPR Labs has launched an interactive online mapping system, reports Radio World, to give pubradio and pubTV stations a better idea of analog and digital coverage of their signal in cars, on mobile handheld devices and indoor receivers. NPR Labs Senior Technology John Kean told the site that the system allows overlays to compare analog and HD radio at original and higher FM power levels. The DTV coverage, especially for  mobile devices, will predict how well viewers can receive full service and translator systems. The ATSC-M/H coverage was developed with assistance from the Open Mobile Video Coalition. “The demographic data is ideal for gauging and comparing coverage for actual populations, which planners and underwriters may use,” Kean said. The system is free and works best with online browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer 9 and above.

FCC announces plan to resolve backlog of FM translator apps

The FCC took another step yesterday toward licensing more low-power FM stations, which advocates for community radio have been awaiting for years. The commission will begin to work through a backlog of thousands of applications for FM translators under a new system that it adopted yesterday, a modified version of a proposal that it floated last summer (Current, July 25, 2011). The translator applications must be processed first because some could conflict with potential LPFM stations.

The FCC will toss out FM translator applications in larger markets to make way for LPFMs in those areas while continuing to process applications for translators that would serve less-populous areas. The commission will also limit applicants to a maximum of 50 translator applications nationwide, in an effort to prevent the kind of speculative filing seen in previous application windows (Current, March 28, 2005). The FCC also asked for comment on a variety of measures affecting noncommercial radio, including some that would give a boost to Native American groups.

The Prometheus Radio Project, an advocacy and support group for low-power broadcasters, welcomed the FCC’s action. “We are pleased that the FCC has taken such a careful approach to preserving channels for community radio,” said Policy Director Brandy Doyle in a press release. “And we’re particularly glad that the FCC has taken our recommendation to ensure that the frequencies set aside are in populated areas, where they are needed.” The FCC could begin accepting applications for new LPFMs by the fall, according to Prometheus.

The FCC’s own press release is here, and the full texts of its actions are also available (Fourth Report and Order and Third Order on Reconsideration; Fifth Report and Order, Fourth NPRM and Fourth Order on Recon).

Mar 19, 2012

Writers Guild of America, East, voices support for "Independent Lens" petition

The Writers Guild of America, East, is urging its 4,000 members to sign Kartemquin Film's online open letter to PBS protesting the network's move of indie showcases Independent Lens and P.O.V. from their longtime Tuesday timeslots to Thursday nights (Current, March 12). In an email to its members, WGAE President Michael Winship, senior writer on Moyers & Company, said, "It is imperative that we all support high quality public affairs programming and give it the opportunity to reach the widest audience possible."

"PBS’s decision to move these two programs from their long-held primetime slots is a disservice to viewers and undercuts a critical part of public television’s mission by diminishing the independent voices essential to diversity and democracy," he wrote. "That is why we urge everyone to sign the petition.”

American Graduate launches revamped website

The website for CPB's American Graduate initiative relaunched today (March 19) with a new research center, video from pubstations around the country, and connections to more than 600 local partners. The research center includes indices for all 50 states and information on how dropout data is being used to inform and drive action. There are also full-length pubmedia programs and specials focused on the crisis, along with local content such as student stories and teacher town hall meetings and highlights from upcoming broadcast premieres.

Concern over "Independent Lens" shift to Thursdays grows

Current's March 12 story on the ratings and carriage drop for Independent Lens, and larger issues associated with programming diverse content, is getting wider attention. The New York Times followed up in an article posted Sunday (March 18). It noted that as of that afternoon, 65 indie producers, including Bill Moyers, Stanley Nelson (screenwriter, director of Freedom Riders) and Alex Gibney (producer, director and a writer of Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), had signed Kartemquin Films' online letter to PBS protesting the scheduling change. (By Monday, that had grown to more than 100.)

Also, the International Documentary Association is encouraging producers to sign Kartemquin's letter.

And Patricia Aufderheide, director of the Center for Social Media at American University, posted an online commentary, "Antiques or Independents? Why it Matters Where PBS Puts Independent Lens and POV" on Saturday (March 17). Aufderheide writes that PBS's move of the programs "shows an imbalanced understanding of its priorities. The most dangerous part of PBS’s decision is its demonstration that PBS’s leaders don’t recognize the need to invest in core-to-mission programming. That puts not only the endangered programs but the service itself at risk." (Disclosure: American University is also home to Current.)

Mar 17, 2012

Deadline approaching for INPUT travel grants

Want to go to INPUT, the International Public Television Screening Conference, May 7-12 in Sydney? CPB is providing a limited number of travel grants via South Carolina ETV, the U.S. secretariat for the conference. It's the worldwide forum for professionals involved in television in the public interest. More than 1,000 participants from some 50 countries will meet to discuss the challenges of producing public television, and get a chance to see 80 hours of content from around the world including five programs from the United States. Deadline to request a grant to help with airfare, registration and lodging is April 2; application details here.

Mar 16, 2012

Ira Glass on his nervous pitch to monologist Mike Daisey

Current's Feb. 27 story on This American Life's recent breakthroughs with enterprise reporting describes the inspiration behind "Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory," the story on Apple factories in China that was later retracted.

Glass tells Current that after seeing Daisey's monologue last October, he was already “editing the radio version in my head” as he left the theater.

“I thought [Daisey] was doing something remarkable,” said Glass, “which is taking a fact that we all already know — that these devices we love are made in China in conditions that are probably not so wonderful, and he makes us feel something about it.”

Glass invited Daisey to lunch, and he recalls feeling nervous when they met Nov. 16. “I came with a whole big speech on why he should do it,” said Glass. “My fear was he wouldn’t want to do anything while the play was still up.”

But Daisey, 37, loved the idea. He wanted his material published as broadly as possible.

Scripps Howard Awards include pubmedia journalists

Several public-media reporters are winners of the annual Scripps Howard Awards, recognizing excellence across multiple platforms. Journalists from California Watch and the Center for Investigative Reporting won the Roy W. Howard Award for public service reporting, and $10,000, for "On Shaky Ground," a 19-month investigation exposing flaws in seismic safety compliance and oversight at public schools; Paul Kiel and Olga Pierce of ProPublica won the William Brewster Styles Award for business and economics reporting, along with $10,000, for exposing the failure of industry and government responses to the foreclosure crisis; and Dan Grech and Kenny Malone of WLRN and The Miami Herald won the Jack R. Howard Award for radio reporting and $10,000 for "Neglected to Death," a series that uncovered abuse and neglect within Florida's assisted living industry. A list of all winners is here.

OPB nearly got to star in "Daily Show" mock-debate sketch

The cancellation of the GOP presidential debate set for Monday at Oregon Public Broadcasting may have disappointed a lot of people, but the writers at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart saw it as an opportunity for a wacky segment playing up Portland's offbeat reputation.

Earlier this week, OPB President Steve Bass heard from the show, which originally wanted to cover the debate. But after the event was canceled on Thursday, they still wanted to come — to use the studio set for a segment.

What they were planning "actually sounded pretty funny," Bass said. The concept: Portland was so disappointed that the event wasn't happening that a Make-a-Wish Foundation-style organization comes in to grant the city's wish for a debate. In the sketch, The Daily Show Correspondent Aasif Mandvi would interview Bass and Allen Alley, chair of the Oregon Republican Party, a debate co-sponsor. "They wanted me to be the straight man," Bass said. "That I could perfectly understand."

The whole thing sounded like a lot of fun, but ultimately proved problematic given The Daily Show's notorious comedic edge. With a Portlandia-style sketch, "I could just picture a guy with a bone through his nose playing Newt Gingrich," Bass said. "If we're making fun of the debate process, that's okay, it's not okay to make fun of the candidates," given that OPB is a news organization.

So, alas, in addition to the debate that never was, the segment remains The Daily Show gag that never was.

The debate set will get a send-off on Monday, when OPB staff and others in the community involved in planning the event gather in the OPB studio for a farewell lunch.

UPDATE: WMFE-TV holding out for more lucrative offer

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the sale of WMFE-TV in Orlando, in the works for more than a year, has been canceled. “Due to the protracted approval process at the FCC and changes within the broadcast market, WMFE has voluntarily opted out of its current proposed deal to sell WMFE-TV to Community Educators of Orlando, Inc.,” WMFE President Jose Fajardo said in an email to the paper. “WMFE is currently pursuing new options that will prove to be more beneficial to WMFE and to the Central Florida community.” The pending sale, to a local group representing religious broadcaster Daystar, created a scramble for a new primary in the Orlando market last spring (Current, April 18, 2011).

UPDATE: Fajardo says the station is opting to await a better offer than the $3 million offered by Daystar. "The market conditions have changed in a favorable way to be able to pursue other options for WMFE," he tells the Sentinel.

Kartemquin Films asks indie fans to protest PBS's move of shows

Kartemquin Films, a nonprofit Chicago production company that's home to such films as The Interrupters and Hoop Dreams, is asking independent filmmakers and pubmedia fans to sign an open letter to PBS protesting the network's decision to move indie showcases Independent Lens and P.O.V. from their longtime Tuesday night spot to Thursdays, often used by stations for local programming (Current, March 12, 2012).

The letter says that independent films "serve a critical function in the public broadcasting ecology. They serve the democratic mission of public broadcasting."

"Public television is not just a popularity contest, or a ratings game," it says. "Taxpayers support public broadcasting because democracy needs more than commercial media’s business models can provide.  PBS’ programming decision makes a statement about PBS’ commitment to the mission of public broadcasting." 

It concludes: "We are deeply concerned that PBS’ poorly-considered decision could jeopardize both the meeting of public broadcasting’s mission and also stifle the innovation that is crucial to the future of public broadcasting."

UPDATE: Gordon Quinn, artistic director and co-founder of Kartemquin, told Current that as talks at PBS on the future of the two series move forward, "we'd like to be kept in the loop and become part of the discussion." The independent filmmaking community is "very concerned" about both shows, he said, not only because they carry so much of their work but also because "they are really a vital part of attracting diverse and younger audiences to PBS."

Marketplace reporter uncovers fabrications in TAL broadcast on Apple factory

This American Life retracted "Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory," its Jan. 6 broadcast that adapted theater monologist Mike Daisey's stage play about working conditions in Apple manufacturing plants in China.

"Daisey lied to me and to This American Life producer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast," said TAL host and creator Ira Glass, in a statement. "That doesn't excuse the fact that we never should've put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake."

When adapting Daisey's play, "The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs," for broadcast on TAL, producers attempted to confirm key elements of the story, but Daisey refused to provide contact information for the interpreter who helped him research the piece.

"At that point, we should've killed the story," Glass said. "But other things Daisey told us about Apple's operations in China checked out, and we saw no reason to doubt him. We didn't think that he was lying to us and to audiences about the details of his story. That was a mistake."

Rob Schmitz, China correspondent for American Public Media's Marketplace, independently contacted the interpreter, who disputed details of Daisey's account. His scoop will run on this evening's edition of Marketplace. This American Life will devote all of this weekend's broadcast to the errors in its original show.

Glass and company had put Daisey's material through a fact-checking process, as Current reported in February.

Daisey stands by his work. "My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge," he said in a statement. "It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity."

"What I do is not journalism," Daisey said. "The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism."

"Women, War and Peace" recognized as "Television with a Conscience"

The PBS miniseries Women, War and Peace is one of seven programs receiving Television Academy Honors. The awards were established by the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences to recognize “Television with a Conscience," the programming that inspires, informs, motivates and has the power to change lives.

In the announcement, the Academy said that the five-part Women, War and Peace "challenges the conventional wisdom that war and peace are a man’s domain. Women embroiled in the midst of today’s conflicts bring viewers inside their lives, forever changing the way we look at war." The programs were produced by Thirteen and Fork Films in association with WNET and ITVS.

The fifth-annual honors will be presented May 2 in Beverly Hills.

Thirteen's Celebration of Teaching & Learning starts today

WNET/Thirteen's two-day Celebration of Teaching & Learning kicks off today (March 16) in New York City. Some 10,000 educators are expected to participate. It's the seventh annual event, which this year expands into a global conference, with officials, advocates and experts from around the world tackling pressing issues surrounding education.

Mar 15, 2012

"Saddle Up" host convicted of fraudulent practices, acquitted of two other charges

Dennis Brouse, host of the pubTV show Saddle Up with Dennis Brouse, was convicted of fraudulent practices in Polk County, Iowa, on Thursday (March 15), in connection with a state filmmaking tax-incentive program, according to the Des Moines Register. Brouse, who had been charged in January, also was acquitted on charges of theft and ongoing criminal conduct.

Brouse's Changing Horses Productions had been awarded $9.27 million in tax credits for five projects, but a state audit last year reportedly found discrepancies including $2.18 million in expenditures claimed by Changing Horses paid to companies outside Iowa, which wasn't allowed, and $1 million in expenses not supported by documentation.

Nine individuals were charged in connection with the tax-credit program; Brouse is the seventh convicted. The tax incentives were suspended in September 2009 after state officials discovered several filmmakers were exploiting what the newspaper termed the program's "liberal rules and lax oversight" to qualify for millions of dollars in tax credits. The paper said Brouse "parlayed Iowa film tax credits into new cars, a ranch and millions in profits."

The newspaper reported the scandal also led to the firings of six persons in the Iowa Department of Economic Development.

In October 2009, before he had been charged, Brouse addressed the reported abuses of the tax credit program in a statement on his website.

Marfa Public Radio plans new service for Odessa

John Barth, managing director of the Public Radio Exchange, dropped in on Marfa Public Radio in Marfa, Texas, and wrote an account of his visit for the PRX blog. The station proved to be a lifeline for listeners after wildfires swept the area last year. Now it’s looking to expand its service vastly as it starts a station in Odessa. Marfa Public Radio’s founder told Barth that he expects the new station will reflect the “conservative, faith-based community” it will serve. You can read more about Marfa Public Radio in this article from Current, published last August.

AJR looks at Kinsey Wilson, NPR's new content chief

American Journalism Review profiles Kinsey Wilson, NPR’s first chief content officer. In his position, Wilson oversees the distribution of all of NPR's content through its many channels. NPR and its stations have expanded their audience throughout a challenging time of digital disruption to media, which puts the system in ”a position of tremendous strength as we adapt to these technology changes,” says Wilson.

The new CCO started out in journalism at Chicago’s City News Bureau: “You got a very quick education in a sort of gritty, boots-on-the-ground neighborhood reporting.” He later went on to get an introduction to digital journalism at Congressional Quarterly in the '90s. We blogged last month about his promotion at NPR.

State GOP cancels upcoming debate at Oregon Public Broadcasting

The Oregon Republican Party has canceled the GOP presidential debate that had been scheduled for Monday (March 19) at Oregon Public Broadcasting, the station is reporting. While former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich had accepted the invitation, candidates Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum both declined. The debate would have been a first for a public broadcasting station, with OPB producing and feeding the program to the nation. See the next issue of Current on March 26 for the backstory on how the debate was sanctioned, and the partnership behind the event: OPB, the Oregon Republican Party and the Washington Times newspaper.

Studio 360's campaign to rebrand teachers grows into PRI's first iPad book

Public Radio International has released its first book for the iPad, the Studio 360 Teacher Redesign multi-touch book, available free via the iBookstore. For the last five years, PRI's culture show Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen, produced at WNYC, has hired graphic design teams to rethink the images of things as diverse as Uncle Sam, the gay-pride flag, the Monopoly board game and Valentine's Day. Last fall teacher Kate Ahearn of Haverhill, Mass., suggested a revamp of the image of teachers. Studio 360 recruited New York design firm Hyperakt, which created new campaigns to recruit teachers, designed new bathroom signage — even temporary tattoos. The creative process and those visuals are documented in the interactive iPad book. The book and more information on the project is also available at its site,

County commissioners appear split on supporting WTVI merger to save station

The fate of 47-year-old PBS member station WTVI-TV in Charlotte, N.C., could be decided by Mecklenburg County commissioners next Tuesday (March 20), reports the Charlotte Observer. Commissioners "appear to be split" on support the station needs for a merger with Central Piedmont Community College.

At this week's meeting, commissioner Bill James said he felt WTVI has no chance to succeed, as public broadcasters UNC-TV and SCETV also serve Mecklenburg. Commissioner Karen Bentley said Charlotte is a tough market to support three stations. “I don’t think bringing WTVI to CPCC is going to change that,” she said.

Elsie Garner, WTVI executive director, said the station has “by far” more viewers in Mecklenburg than the other two stations, little overlap in programs, and 75 percent of WTVI’s programs are locally produced. “Without WTVI there’d be no local education outreach,” she said. “The other two stations won’t support our nonprofits. We’ve promoted and celebrated the work of local independent producers.”

Board Chair Harold Cogdell supports Charlotte having its own public TV station. “It allows some local entity to tell Charlotte’s story,” he said. “They’ve (WTVI) done a good job over the years of doing that. If we can help with the transition and CPCC can raise private sector money … I believe we ought to consider it.”

Mar 14, 2012

"Market Wars" may become "Flea Marketeers"

Looks like the upcoming companion program to Antiques Roadshow (Current, Nov. 7, 2011) might get a new name. Its working title has been Market Wars, but PBS is now asking Facebook fans to vote. An early fave: Flea Marketeers. Catchy!

Former unpaid intern sues "Charlie Rose," claims show violated wage laws

A former unpaid intern for pubcasting talk show Charlie Rose has filed a lawsuit against Rose and his production company, the New York Times is reporting. Lucy Bickerton contends New York State wage laws were violated because the show’s interns were not paid. Bickerton and the law firm representing her, Outten & Golden, told the paper they were seeking to bring the lawsuit as a class action on behalf of all unpaid interns working for the show since March 2006.

Paul C. Curnin, a lawyer for Charlie Rose Inc., told the Times, “We will review the complaint and respond. We are confident that Charlie Rose Inc.’s employment practices are appropriate.”

Maine governor's supplemental budget once again would zero out pubcasting funding

Maine Gov. Paul LePage has presented lawmakers with a supplemental budget that includes further spending cuts, such as eliminating all support for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, reports the Bangor Daily News. The move took MPBN President Mark Vogelzang by surprise. In a story on the station's website, Vogelzang said he has been unsuccessful in attempts to meet with the governor. "MPBN has taken our fair share of cuts in response to the challenges that this state faces," he said. "But this looks like it's punitive, it looks like it's political rather than financial."

Some elements of the supplemental budget, including the zeroing out of MPBN, were initially included in the governor’s biennial budget proposal, but were restored in a subsequent spending plan.

Adrienne Bennett, the governor’s spokesperson, told the Bangor newspaper that the governor believes the pubcasting network should be funded by advertisers.

Mar 13, 2012

Attention RSSers: Exclusive to Current, commentary from outgoing APM exec Joaquin Alvarado

Public media's officially designated ambassador from (to?) the future was laid off this month amid American Public Media budget cuts. In a parting Current commentary he reflects warmly about rank-and-file station staffers but finds the decision-makers too risk-averse and homogeneous to prevent the system from being eclipsed. "The ratio of risk-takers among the stakeholders is not high enough in public broadcasting to motivate significant change," he writes.


  • "People tend to take risks when we have to. . . . But so far public broadcasting has not run out of options."
  • "The lack of diversity in public broadcasting should be someone’s responsibility. Whose is it? Who gets fired when we fail on our public commitments to diversity?"
  • "The architecture of public media has to be reimagined immediately or the millennials will build their own parallel universe separate from the public broadcasting universe their Boomer grandparents live in."

Attention RSSers: ITVS, PBS meeting over Independent Lens ratings drop

A 42 percent drop in ratings this season over last has prompted ongoing high-level negotiations between the Independent Television Service (ITVS), which strives to bring diverse voices into the schedule via Independent Lens and other shows, and PBS, which is reworking its primetime lineup to retain audience from one show to the next. See Current's story, now online.

Development pro Becky Chinn joining Lewis Kennedy Associates as a partner

Becky Chinn, senior director of membership and marketing at Oregon Public Broadcasting, is leaving the station to become a partner with Portland-based Lewis Kennedy Associates, effective May 1. Chinn has worked in fundraising, marketing and communications for more than 20 years, 17 of those at OPB.

At LKA, "she will focus her energies on helping clients remain at the leading edge of fundraising and communications while effectively maximizing results," the firm said in a press release. She joins partner Nova Hamar, and founding partners Helen Kennedy and Jim Lewis at the company, which provides fundraising and direct marketing services to organizations in public broadcasting, healthcare, arts and culture, education, social services and conservation.

In her years in the pubcasting system, Chinn served on the PBS Development Advisory Committee, the PBS Funding the Vision Station Advisory Council and the Contributor Development Partnership Advisory Council. Chinn was an original member of the PBS Leadership Development Program, a master teacher for PBS Membership and Pledge Academies, and has presented numerous sessions at national conferences.

UPDATE: In a memo to OPB staff, Dan Metziga, s.v.p., development and marketing, named Paul Loofburrow, marketing manager, as the new director of marketing. Metziga announced Chinn's departure "with great sadness," and added that Chinn "excelled" in her various positions at the station. As marketing director, "she has recruited a number of new members for the marketing team, and she has always exceeded her fundraising goals," Metziga said.

Romney won't be at OPB debate, his campaign confirms

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has pulled out of the debate this coming Monday (March 19) at Oregon Public Broadcasting, the network has announced. The debate sponsors — OPB, the Oregon Republican Party and the Washington Times — said that a Romney campaign aide confirmed the candidate will be in Illinois on March 19, the eve of that state’s primary. Organizers are still talking with the other candidates. The only confirmed debate participant so far is former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. The debate, which would be the first produced at a public broadcasting station, was sanctioned by the Republican National Committee in October 2011.

Mar 12, 2012

Two pioneering WHYY pubcasters die

Two broadcasters who were part of the history of WHYY in Philadelphia have died.

John B. Roberts, one of the founding directors of WHYY in 1957, died March 8 of a spinal infection at his home in the retirement community of Rydal Park in suburban Philadelphia. He was 94.

Roberts also founded the Temple University public radio station, WRTI-FM, now classical and jazz, in 1953, and taught communications at Temple from 1946 to 1988.

Paul Gluck, former WHYY-TV station manager and now on the Temple faculty, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "For people like me, who worked as practicing journalists and transitioned into the academic world, he is a near-perfect role model."

Bruce Harrison Beale, who spent 20 years at WHYY and 30 years at WHRO in Norfolk, Va., died of an apparent heart attack on March 8 at his home in Norfolk. He was 82.

Beale worked as a director, production manager and program director for WHYY in the 1960s and ’70s, and appeared on the air as host of a weekly program on the University of Delaware Blue Hens. He left in 1979 for WHRO, where he was production manager, retiring around a decade ago.

His son-in-law, Tom Kranz, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Beale was “artful in preparation and planning of a television product with all of its multilayered elements; perceptive in the choice of assembling talent in front of and behind the camera . . . masterful in delivering a worthy television product in a timely manner.”

ITVS kicks off Living Docs Project to support emerging styles of online documentaries

ITVS is launching the Living Docs Project today (March 12) in partnership with Mozilla, the Tribeca Film Institute, BAVC, and the Center for Social Media. The online project "brings together documentary filmmakers, developers, funders, and the audience to make the case for a new kind of storytelling on the web," ITVS said in the announcement. "The web has given documentary filmmakers a powerful mechanism to distribute their films, but we have only scratched the surface of how it can change storytelling. The Living Docs Project sees the web as a canvas on which new types of documentaries can be told."

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro to receive Edward R. Murrow Award from CPB

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR foreign correspondent based in Jerusalem, is the latest recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award from CPB, which recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to public radio. CPB said in a statement that it selected Garcia-Navarro "for her in-depth coverage of world events, particularly from volatile regions — a hallmark of her reporting — and in honor of all international correspondents and journalists who undertake great risks to report on the people and cultures impacted by conflict."

“Covering foreign news has become more dangerous, expensive and complicated than ever but it has never been more vital," said Garcia-Navarro. "My overseas colleagues often put themselves in harm’s way to report stories that illuminate global events and their impact for our audience. I humbly accept this award on behalf of my fellow foreign correspondents and the local staff who help them.” 

CPB will present the honor later this month in Washington, D.C. Prior recipients include This American Life's Ira Glass, former NPR President Kevin Klose and, last year, Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for NPR.

PR director for Maine pubcasting departs after Arbitron ratings release

Lou Morin, director of marketing and public relations for Maine Public Broadcasting, has left the network, reports Down East: The Magazine of Maine (second item). His departure came after Morin released to Down East proprietary Arbitron ratings estimates for radio stations in Portland and Bangor, according to the site, and suggested that the figures may not be accurate; Morin retracted that release in a comment here. Arbitron responded in a comment here.

PBS member WTVI may close if takeover by community college fails

Elsie Garner, president of WTVI, tells the Charlotte Observer that there's a "dire possibility" the station may have to close down — perhaps as soon as June — if a planned takeover by Central Piedmont Community College can't go forward. Under that plan, the college would use WTVI as a new base for journalism and videography courses, and to develop a digital media curriculum. But to do that, the college says, it needs $357,000 from Mecklenburg County to cover the merger and around $800,000 over the next four years to replace equipment.

County Manager Harry Jones said in a memo to commissioners last week: "I consider this proposal to be a government-funded bailout of a failed business model, and believe county taxpayers should not pay. As regrettable as it may be that WTVI would cease operation, it is important to remember that WTVI has had multiple years to redesign and reshape its business model to reflect the new normal."

The paper notes that WTVI "has tried to find a niche" between overlap stations UNC-TV and SCETV by offering "alternative — and lower cost — public broadcasting shows and providing local programming."

"It seems to me to be excessively simple to create something like this of such value to the community so we could continue uninterrupted," Garner said. "With CPCC's help, we would have a lot more resources to create local programs."

Barry Diller defends streaming service Aereo at SXSW

Broadcasting giant Barry Diller spoke up in defense of the new subscription streaming TV service Aereo, which his company is backing, during a panel at the SXSW Film Festival Sunday (March 11). He's looking forward to battling several broadcasters including WNET in New York and PBS, who have filed a copyright infringement suit against the service, which says it uses "proprietary remote antenna and DVR" technology to enable subscribers, for $12 a month, to watch over-the-air broadcasts on their smart phones, tablets and computers.

"It's going to be a great fight," Diller said in Austin.

"This is not some evil thing," Diller said of Aereo, which is set to launch in the New York Market on Thursday (March 14). And the lawsuit "is absolutely predictable. Media companies have hegemony over it (broadcast TV) and they want to protect it."

In their suit, the broadcasters say: "No amount of technological gimmickry by Aereo — or claims that it is simply providing a set of sophisticated 'rabbit ears' — changes the fundamental principle of copyright laws that those who wish to retransmit Plaintiffs' broadcasts may do so only with Plaintiffs authority."

Mar 11, 2012

Is "KONY 2012" a documentary?

P.O.V.'s blog has an interesting analysis of the viral phenomenon of KONY 2012, the 30-minute film on Ugandan guerrilla group leader Joseph Kony that's been viewed more than 80 million times since it was posted on YouTube and Vimeo on March 5, written by guest blogger Heather McIntosh of Documentary Site.

Invisible Children, the advocacy organization that produced the film, "labels KONY 2012 a documentary, and it is one that falls squarely into the propaganda/persuasion traditions developed in the work of Frank Capra, Leni Riefenstahl, and Pare Lorentz," McIntosh writes. "But KONY 2012 pushes the boundaries of these traditions. It attempts to go for the heart strings and not just tickle them but instead rip them out and stomp on them. The emotional appeals throughout this piece often overwhelm, and they run the risk of alienating a more questioning audience."

One commenter identified as "Dr. Doc" pointed out: "As a documentary filmmaker, I am disappointed to see the KONY 2012 video included in my genre, especially on this site. It is many things: an advocacy piece, a motivational speech, a stemwinder, and an emotionally-charged, very personal fundraising trailer. However, it falls far short of certain journalistic standards to which documentary filmmakers must adhere, even with our comparatively greater degree of freedom to adopt a particular perspective than traditional news reporting."

UPDATE: More on KONY 2012 from The Takeaway on Public Radio International.

NBC didn't think "Downton" would be a hit

NBC turned down Downton Abbey, which is produced by NBCUniversal's Carnival Films in London, "believing that American audiences wouldn't have the appetite for a very British historical drama set in a country manor in Edwardian England," reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

An NBC official told the paper that the decision was made under previous NBC leadership, and it's pleased that sister company NBCUniversal found success with the show, which was picked up by Masterpiece on PBS. But that exec acknowledged that even the current NBC brass could have overlooked Downton's potential. "The official said it was hard to imagine any network — including PBS — thinking Downton would become a hit," the paper said.

Gareth Neame, Downton executive producer, told the paper although the series is a historical drama, it's told in a modern style. In fact, one model for the program was The West Wing, he said.

As for PBS, Neame added, "they have always been there for British producers. They don't have the biggest checkbook, but they are consistent."

Mar 10, 2012

"Michael Eric Dyson Show" senior producer says host has left program

The Michael Eric Dyson Show will go off the public radio airwaves at the end of the month, and its host has already left the program, reports the Journal-isms blog. "There's something else potentially in the works, but the show as it exists now is about to end," Carla Wills, senior producer, told the blog. "The contract was over. We didn't do another round of funding." Wills said Dyson was increasing his appearances on MSNBC's Martin Bashir Show as well as continuing his speaking engagements and teaching at Georgetown University. Guest hosts will fill in for the final shows.

LaFontaine Oliver, Dyson's producer and g.m. at producing station WEAA-FM at Morgan State University in Baltimore, said about a dozen stations were carrying the show.

The show was a successor of News and Notes on NPR in 2009 (Current, April 23, 2009). Support for a competing program, Upfront with Tony Cox, soon ended up splitting the African American Public Radio Consortium (Current, Oct. 13, 2009).

Mar 9, 2012

Media watchdog aims to air out dispute between KUOW and antiabortion group

A media-oversight nonprofit in Seattle will hold a hearing later this month to consider an antiabortion group’s allegation that KUOW-FM, the city’s all-news pubradio outlet, aired an inaccurate report about the group last year and fell short of correcting its missteps.

The complaint by the Vitae Foundation centers on an April 2011 story by reporter Meghan Walker about the foundation’s billboard advertising campaign for a website,, that discusses choices available to women with unplanned pregnancies. The story began with a Planned Parenthood representative discussing the YourOptions website but did not include comment from anyone with Vitae. Deborah Stokes, Vitae’s c.o.o., objected that Walker did not contact the foundation for comment and that her story implied that does not present abortion as an option, when in fact it does.

In a reply, Walker said she regretted not contacting Vitae but stood by the story as accurate and balanced. Stokes continued to press her complaint against the station with News Director Guy Nelson. KUOW added a note to the online version of the story clarifying that lists abortion as an option, but Stokes, unsatisfied, filed a complaint with the Washington News Council. The nonprofit promotes accuracy, fairness and accountability among news outlets in Washington state.

“The story was in essence a Planned Parenthood editorial about Vitae’s message,” Vitae said in its June 2011 complaint. (WNC has provided a PDF compiling the correspondence among Vitae, WNC and KUOW.)

The WNC board unanimously agreed that the complaint raised “serious questions of journalistic performance or ethics” but took no position on the merit of the complaint. WNC encouraged Vitae and KUOW to seek resolution. Nelson interviewed Stokes by phone and posted a transcript of the interview on KUOW’s website. “However, the station did not acknowledge that the original story was incomplete and misleading, as they had conceded privately,” WNC said in a press release. “Nor did they do an on-air story, which was part of the proposed compromise.”

KUOW has considered doing a follow-up story and continues to, Nelson told Current, which is in accordance with WNC’s recommendation. “We have met all of the recommendations from the news council,” he said, citing the clarifications posted on the station’s website. “It’s an ongoing situation, and we will certainly do more coverage of this issue when it becomes newsworthy.”

WNC said “little progress” has been made since September, when KUOW posted the interview transcript, and it scheduled a hearing at the request of Vitae. The “open discussion of journalistic standards,” in WNC’s words, will be held at the University of Washington March 31 unless KUOW and Vitae resolve the matter before then.

Update: Chinese execution talk show available via PBS International is abruptly canceled

A pre-execution interview show on death row in China, set to air as a documentary on the BBC next week and available via PBS International, has abruptly been canceled by the Chinese producer, ABC News is reporting. Legal TV, the station in Henan province that produced and broadcast the show for the last five years, confirmed to ABC News it has been canceled, effective immediately, due to “internal problems.” The program has a viewership of some 40 million.

Mar 8, 2012

CPB, PBS join to offer free educational apps in underserved communities

CPB and PBS are collaborating on free educational apps that will be available at Head Start centers, member stations and other organizations in underserved communities, the two announced Thursday (March 8). The outreach is part of Ready to Learn, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education.

Recent research shows that access to computers, smartphones and tablets is much less prevalent in low-income households, which limits children’s exposure to educational applications, the two said in the announcement. This program will work to increase access to educational mobile content for children from low-income families at community organizations equipped with mobile and tablet devices.

Now through September, PBS and CPB will work with Head Start centers and PBS stations to distribute app codes, which will be used to download the two apps onto devices that serve children in Head Start centers, Title I schools, and other community-based organizations in low-income areas.

The apps, "All Aboard the Dinosaur Train!" for iPad and "Dinosaur Train Camera Catch!" for iPhone, launched Thursday on the App Store. They're based on the Dinosaur Train series produced for PBS Kids by the Jim Henson Company, and are designed to help children ages 3 to 5 build critical math skills.

Sutton: View stations' situations in "context of market forces"

Writing on his blog, public radio consultant John Sutton argues that the inability of some stations to support themselves can be blamed on national organizations more concerned about their own priorities than those of stations. “NPR’s primary goal these days is to further grow its direct-to-listener offerings and audience,” he writes. “CPB is now primarily funding projects that will help it get funded again. Neither organization is doing much to help stations become more self-sufficient in the open marketplace. That’s what they have to want in order to help stations.” Sutton’s post was inspired by our coverage of the Public Media Futures Forum, held last month in Washington, D.C.