Jun 29, 2012

Free Press proposes new definition of pubmedia; GFEM renames itself

PHILADELPHIA — A new Free Press report released at this week’s annual Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media conference here envisions an expanded, more inclusive and better coordinated public media for America.

Craig Aaron, president of the media-reform group, presented “Greater Than the Sum: Creating Collaborative and Connected Public Media in America” Thursday (June 28) to some 100 media makers and funders.

Drawing from the report, Aaron proposed six categories for inclusion in a broader definition of public media:
  •  Noncoms such as NPR, PBS and Link TV;
  • Community media, including radio stations owned by local nonprofits and nonprofit online journalism projects;
  • Independent producers in film, radio, print and digital multimedia, such as the Association of Independents in Radio;
  • Independent nonprofit publications and websites, such Mother Jones and ProPublica;
  • Information media, including websites that aggregate information or offer informative interactive applications, such as SeeClickFix; and
  • Capacity-building organizations, like the National Center for Media Engagement, that provide resources and analysis for the field.
Aaron said that while he recognizes the hurdles in bringing the diverse groups under one umbrella, only through such collective action can public media access adequate funding and move forward.

In the meantime, GFEM itself is doing a little redefining. The group, an association of grantmakers working in the fields of media arts and public-interest media, unveiled a name change at the conference, meant to reflect its own broader mission. The organization will now be called Media Impact Funders. — Debra E. Blum

"Fresh Air" heading into Radio Hall of Fame

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the popular talk show from WHYY in Philadelphia and distributed by NPR, is being inducted into the Chicago-based Radio Hall of Fame, reports Chicago media writer Robert Feder. Other honorees, with details from Radio Info: Legendary shock jock Howard Stern; Cincinnati on-air personality Gary Burbank; Ron Chapman of Dallas; Art Laboe, who coined the phrase "oldies but goodies"; 90-year-old Luther Massingill, still on the air at WDEF in Chattanooga, Tenn., after more than 70 years; and a posthumous induction for Jack Cooper, an African-American announcer in Chicago in the 1930s. They'll all be honored at ceremonies Nov. 10 at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, set for national telecast.

"No strip club on Sesame Street!"

Looks like WPBT2 in Miami may be getting a nudie bar as a new neighbor — literally on the road dubbed Sesame Street, where the station is located. The Miami Herald reports that Thursday night (June 28), the North Miami City Council lifted a ban on alcohol sales in strip clubs, which the owners of Sunny Isles Eatery had requested. They want to invest $2 million in a building next to the studio for the club.

A previous Herald story said Sunny Isles Eatery also ran Thee Dollhouse in Sunny Isle Beach, "where female dancers performed friction dances and participated in onstage showers with each other –– or with customers."

“For me this isn’t about adult entertainment and their [having a] right to exist. Of course they do," said WPBT2 President Rick Schneider. "This isn’t about morality or free speech.” Schneider said that children are often at the station. “Alcohol is what makes it problematic," Schneider said. "It’s the combination of alcohol sales at adult entertainment venues that creates a concern.”

A website from opponents declared, "No strip club on Sesame Street!"

Pubcasters form new group, Kentucky Public Radio Network

Pubradio stations in Kentucky have created the Kentucky Public Radio Network to promote statewide collaboration and advocate for public broadcasting, according to member station Louisville Public Media.

KPRN also will run public radio’s state capital bureau in Frankfort.

The founding officers are Donovan Reynolds, Louisville Public Media, board chair; Roger Duvall, WEKU, Richmond, vice-chair; Kate Lochte, WKMS, Murray, secretary; and Tom Godell, WUKY, Lexington, treasurer.

Other charter members of the organization are WKYU, Bowling Green; WMKY, Morehead; and WNKU, Highland Heights.

Jun 28, 2012

SoCon drops deals with four public TV stations for game coverage

The Southern Conference has cut short its three-year deal with four public television stations, reports news site in Boone, N.C.

SoCon, a Division I college athletic conference affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, announced the deals last year with South Carolina ETV, UNC-TV, Georgia Public Broadcasting and WTCI in Chattanooga, Tenn. (Current, Dec. 12, 2011). But SoCon wanted its games televised statewide in all five states within the league, which also included Alabama.

"We also had a second broadcast package last year with ESPN3," SoCon spokesman Jason Yaman told Current. "This year all of our events will be shown through ESPN3 and we will not have a conference package with public television."

Nancy Zintak, spokesperson for GPB, told Current: "We enjoyed our relationship with SoCon last year and we wish them well with ESPN3.  Our core sports business is really in the high school arena, which is where we're able to connect with our communities all over Georgia and celebrate academic excellence both on and off the field."

"The Takeaway" goes from four hours to one hour in September

Starting Sept. 3, The Takeaway, the weekday live drivetime pubradio news show that launched in April 2008, is shrinking from four hours to one hour.

Jennifer Houlihan, spokesperson for co-producer WNYC, told Current that the show's staff was informed of the decision today (June 28). Some positions will be eliminated; those will be determined by mid-July, Houlihan said. All employees are guaranteed jobs through Aug. 30, and some may continue to work in other roles at WNYC.

The show's format "will be refined," but still focus on news, conversation and analysis, Houlihan said. The show also was tweaked 17 months after its premiere (Current, Sept. 8, 2009).

Currently, 65 stations carry the program, according to Houlihan. "Some stations had already begun airing parts of The Takeaway outside of morning drive," she said, "and we're enthusiastic about its potential as a strong mid-morning/daytime news offering, as well as a digital property available on multiple platforms."

"Radio Ambulante" strives to give Latino stories a radio home, in Spanish

Because public radio "isn't creating permanent spaces" for "introspective stories about Latinos," Peruvian-American novelist Daniel Alarcon and a group of veteran writers and radio producers are nurturing Radio Ambulante, writes poet and KPCC Reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez on KCET's SoCal Focus blog. Guzman-Lopez describes Radio Ambulante as "a sort of This Latin American Life in Spanish."

Guzman-Lopez writes that in do-it-yourself tradition, "Alarcon and his crew didn't find the radio program they wanted to hear, so they set out to create it." Radio Ambulante, which loosely translates to "walking radio," currently is available streaming and as a podcast; producers hope to air on stations in Latin America and the United States.

"National Public Radio is dismayingly white," Alarcon said, "and I think they know that and we all know that. That's not news. The question is what are they going to do about it."

Guzman-Lopez notes that organizations like Youth Radio in California, NPR's training unit and schools of journalism "are giving more of these motivated Latinos the critical ingredient, the analytical tools, and the storytelling formulas, to fashion compelling stories."

Alabama PTV legal memo, meeting minutes and two mission statements now online

Now on, additional background content on the Alabama Public Television firings (Current, June 25). In a May 23 legal memo from longtime pubcasting attorney Todd Gray to former APT Executive Director Allan Pizzato, Gray said he believes there is "a systemic risk to AETC [Alabama Educational Television Commission] and its public broadcasting mission if specific programming decisions come to be made by the Commissioners." Also, minutes of the AETC's March 20 and June 12 meetings reveal the brewing controversy. And both APT's rewritten mission statement, adopted at the commission's June 12 meeting, and its former "Mission, Vision, Values, and Diversity Statement" are now online for comparison.

Jun 27, 2012

Oregon university names interim director of JPR network

Southern Oregon University has appointed Paul Westhelle as interim director of Jefferson Public Radio, as longtime executive director Ron Kramer prepares to depart June 30. Westhelle has worked at JPR since 1990 and has served as the network’s associate director for 12 years.

The new interim director is grateful for his time working with Kramer, Westhelle said in a press release. Kramer “has been a friend and mentor,” he said.

SOU, which holds the licenses of some JPR stations, dismissed Kramer in March after a university audit found that his leadership of both JPR and a sister nonprofit, the JPR Foundation, presented a conflict of interest. (Current, April 9, 2012.)

Meanwhile, Kramer told KOBI-TV in Medford, Ore., that he’s unsure how the JPR Foundation will finish restoring the Holly Theater in Medford. Work on the building, which the JPR Foundation bought in 2010, has stopped while SOU and the foundation attempt to resolve a dispute about how JPR is operated. The parties recently agreed to take a 90-day breather and to give mediation another try. (Current, June 25, 2012.)

“There’s no glory to have a building whose facade has been restored and its interior unusable, so I would hope something is going to happen to put the theatre back to life,” Kramer said.

Rhode Island PBS to transition from state to community licensee

The Rhode Island Public Telecommunications Authority voted Tuesday (June 26) to transition WSBE/Rhode Island PBS from a state licensee to a community licensee, the station said in a statement on its website. The vote followed approval of the state budget that extends the station's funding only through the end of the fiscal year on June 30, 2013.

"We are pleased that the state budget restores much of the funding WSBE needs to give us the time necessary to execute a comprehensive and viable plan for alternative funding and operating strategies, without crippling the station during the process," said WSBE President David Piccerelli. He estimates the FCC application and review process for the license transfer could take up to 90 days.

Authority Chair Michael Isaacs called the board's action "an important first step toward WSBE's independence."

The station already has one unique revenue stream: It receives $200,000 annually for its management oversight and operational support of the state's public access channels (Current, May 29).

Jun 26, 2012

It's Glass vs. Nuzum, over future of "Car Talk" Saturday slot

Now on, commentary from This American Life host Ira Glass, who says Car Talk should be pulled from its Saturday slot when its famous hosts retire; and a response from Eric Nuzum, NPR's v.p. of programming, who thinks listeners should decide.

Copyright Royalty Board seeks comments on upcoming noncom royalty rates

The Copyright Royalty Board of the Library of Congress has set noncom royalty rates for 2013-2017, and is seeking comments on those rates for the use of musical performances, as well as the use of "published pictorial, graphic and sculptural works," by PBS, NPR and other pubcasters. Deadline for comments is July 26. Radio World has an overview of the radio rates, and here is a link to the Royalty Board document in the Federal Register.

Rock Hall to house "Austin City Limits" entire musical archives

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland has agreed to preserve 37 years of content from KLRU's Austin City Limits. Materials will be housed at the museum's library and archives, and will include more than 800 performances recorded live by KLRU from 1975 to the present day. “Austin City Limits uniquely represents more than three decades of some of modern music’s most significant artists and their performances — from iconic musicians to cutting-edge talent,” said Terry Stewart, president of the Rock and Roll Hall. “It’s one of the most significant archives that documents the American culture and Austin City Limits shares our mission of celebrating and interpreting popular music’s impact on our world.”

Texas Tech to cut all funding to KTTZ-TV

Texas Tech University will stop funding its PBS member station, KTTZ, in 14 months, reports the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. The university said in a statement that the cut will allow for more support for academics. KTTZ-TV has received $605,000 annually, and is set to receive $305,000 next fiscal year. In response, "we are trying to increase our underwriting efforts,” said John Kirby, KTTZ general manager.

In January, KOHM and KTXT, South Plains Public Radio and Television, merged with KTTZ in a money-saving effort, according to the university's Daily Toreador.

Jun 25, 2012

University of Central Florida board okays deal to buy WMFE-TV; sale advances to FCC

Jose Fajardo, president of WMFE in Orlando, Fla., told Current on Monday (June 25) that the University of Central Florida's board approved its purchase of WMFE-TV, so the deal now moves to the FCC for approval. The board of WMFE, a community licensee that also operates a radio station, approved the sale contract at its May meeting.

The former PBS flagship, which had been set for sale to religious broadcasters, announced on June 21 that it will be sold to UCF for $3.3 million.

UCF, also in Orlando, played a role in preserving PBS service to the market last year when WMFE moved to sell its TV operation and focus on its public radio station. UCF partnered with Brevard Community College in Cocoa to convert WBCC, a pubTV station licensed to the community college, into a full-service PBS station broadcasting as WUCF.

The partnership will end when UCF’s purchase of WMFE is approved. The Cocoa station will broadcast non-PBS programs, said Christine Dellert, spokesperson for WUCF.

In April 2011, WMFE President Jose Fajardo announced that his pubcasting operation was casting off its TV station with a sale to Community Educators of Orlando Inc., a local nonprofit affiliated with Texas-based religious broadcaster Daystar Television. That deal, which generated more than 450 comments to the FCC, hit a roadblock at the commission, and WMFE withdrew from the sale in March. The FCC questioned whether the Daystar-affiliated operator met its criteria for localism and educational programming.

WMFE received another bid from Independent Public Media, a group aiming to preserve noncom spectrum by buying struggling pubTV stations, but turned it down last month (Current, May 14).

“WMFE had entertained a number of offers, but believed selling Channel 24 to a local organization already invested in PBS better served the community’s best interests,” the seller and buyer said in a joint statement last week.WMFE’s Channel 24 will broadcast from WUCF TV’s studio at the university with leased master control space in WMFE’s building, about five minutes away from UCF, Dellert said.

Commercial model for pubcasting would result in net loss of funding, report finds

Now on, an analysis of CPB's June 20 report to Congress that explores alternative funding sources for public broadcasting — which includes switching to a commercial advertising model. But that move would result in a net loss for pubcasting, Booz & Co. analysts find. For public TV, ad sales would exceed the present revenues from underwriting, but a partial desertion by individual donors, foundations and underwriters would more than offset that gain. Booz estimates that the system would lose $62 million a year in donations, setbacks of 15 percent to 40 percent in those giving categories.

House fire may have killed Alaska radio g.m.

Fire officials in the small village of Galena, Alaska, believe that a house fire Friday may have killed Terry Fair, g.m. of community radio station KIYU in Galena. The fire occurred at the home of Fair and his wife, Kim, who have not been seen or heard from since. Two bodies were recovered from the fire and are being identified, according to the Anchorage Daily News. Fair’s radio handle is “Shadow Steel,” and the g.m. is known as a “real character” in the area.

An inside look at Pizzato, Howland firings in Alabama

Now on, an in-depth, inside look at the June 12 firings of Alabama Public Television Executive Director Allan Pizzato and his deputy, Pauline Howland, and how the state commission's suggestion that APT run videos from a controversial evangelical historian figured into Pizzato's termination. The Alabama Educational Television Commission's involvement in program decision-making had been so persistent that Pizzato had spoken in recent months with several public TV colleagues about his concerns."Allan told me he was struggling with some influential stakeholders who have a very different understanding of the core mission of public broadcasting and the inherent responsibilities," said one public broadcaster who declined to be identified due to the confidential nature of the conversation. "He was determined to work with them on achieving an understanding." Also at the June 12 meeting, the commission approved a new mission statement for the station; two sources said that was to remove a clause on diversity because it encouraged diversity of sexual orientation.

Jun 23, 2012

NET's Rod Bates to retire in March 2013

Veteran public broadcaster Rod Bates, who has led Nebraska Educational Telecommunications for 16 years, will retire in March 2013, reports the Lincoln Journal Star. Bates told the NET staff on Friday (June 22).

The newspaper notes that Bates is only the second leader in the statewide network's 58-year history. He took over from founding General Manager Jack G. McBride retired in 1996.

“I don’t think the place has ever been in any better shape than it is now,” Bates said. “It’s time to bring somebody new in now.”

Bates is highly active within the pubcasting system, having served on boards for PBS, the Association of Public Television Stations, the Organization of State Broadcasting Executives, the National Educational Telecommunications Association and Native American Public Telecommunications.

WGBH-FM's jazz revamp prompts Facebook protest

WGBH-FM is revamping its jazz programming, dropping content on weeknights, moving longtime weeknight host Eric Jackson to weekends and killing off a show, according to the Boston Globe. Steve Schwartz, whose Jazz on WGBH on Fridays is ending, told the newspaper the moves could have a negative impact on WGBH membership, because WGBH Jazz Club members have access to studio concerts that may no longer be produced.

"For jazz fans," reports the Boston Phoenix, "the hit that really hurts is the crimping of Jackson, who has been broadcasting at WGBH since 1981 and is a fixture of the local scene."

The Facebook "Save Eric in the Evening Group" already has more than 2,000 members.

Fatal plane crash lops off top of W.V. pubcasting antenna

The crash of a small plane Friday morning (June 22) killed the pilot and damaged one of West Virginia Public Broadcasting's radio towers. Broadcasting Director Bill Acker told The Associated Press that the top of the antenna is gone. The accident occurred in Monongalia County, in north-central West Virginia, according to local MetroNews.

Jun 22, 2012

Chicago Public Media to buy Radio Arte

Chicago Public Media is paying $450,000 to buy Radio Arte, the low-power station programmed by and for Latino youth and operated by the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. CPM also plans to buy programming from Radio Arte to add to its Vocalo service.

“This partnership between two youth-driven public radio stations builds on a collaborative history and their complementary community missions,” the new partners said in a press release. CPM will also sponsor museum activities and events as part of the arrangement. The museum decided last year to sell the station, citing tight finances, according to the Chicago Reader.

Jun 21, 2012

WMFE-TV sells for $3.3 million to University of Central Florida

WMFE-TV in Orlando has been sold for $3.3 million to University of Central Florida, also in Orlando. "WMFE had entertained a number of offers, but believed selling Channel 24 to a local organization already invested in PBS better served the community’s best interests," the two organizations said in a joint statement. The boards for UCF and WMFE must approve the purchase agreement before it is submitted to the FCC.

UCF is also home to the new PBS primary station in the market, WUCF TV, a collaboration with Brevard Community College in Cocoa, which took over primary status after WMFE annouced its sale. Once the FCC approves the license sale, UCF will drop its partnership with BCC, Christine Dellert of WUCF TV told the Orlando Sentinel. “The new venture has our full support, and we are committed to assisting UCF to ensure a smooth transition,” John Glisch, BCC spokesman, told the paper.

The Orlando dual-licensee decided to sell off its television operation to concentrate on its NPR station more than a year ago (Current, April 18, 2011). A potential $3 million deal with Daystar never solidified, with the FCC, after months of delay, questioning whether the religious broadcaster met its noncom criteria for localism and educational programming (Current, March 26). And just last month WMFE-TV turned down an offer from Independent Public Media, a group aiming to preserve noncom spectrum by buying struggling pubTV stations (Current, May 14).

Report proposes, once again, a spectrum fee to support public media

In a spectrum policy research paper released today (June 21), the New America Foundation proposes replacing upcoming one-time spectrum auctions with annual fees to sustain public media. However, it defines "public media" as specifically reaching beyond public broadcasting stations.

Advances in communications technology "require us to expand our notions of public media to include media produced by the public for civic purposes across multiple platforms and not just its historic format of mission-oriented noncommercial media produced for the public," the report says. "Public Media can no longer be equated with just public broadcasting, but can be produced by a variety of individuals and entities working within established goals and standards."

The paper suggests the government collect a "modest spectrum use fee" of 5 percent of revenues from commercial broadcasters to feed a federal trust to support "an expanded public media" including CPB and new journalism outlets.

Similar ideas has been floated before, the report notes, such as from Carnegie II in 1978, and former FCC Chair Newton Minow and former PBS President Lawrence Grossman's “Digital Opportunity Investment Trust" (Current, April 9, 2001).

The entire New America Foundation report is here.

Help KPBS "prepare for the next zombie invasion"

KPBS in San Diego is offering a handy pledge premium. "This hand-cranked radio will keep your family connected to KPBS when the dead rise from the earth once more," an announcer says.

Yes, it's a Zombie Pledge Drive.

No, really.

"Reading Rainbow" app updates popular pubcasting show

Reading Rainbow, a pubTV fave until its demise nearly three years ago (Current, Aug. 6, 2009), has returned with its own app. “What were [kids] doing in the 80s? Sitting in front of the television,” host Levar Burton told Mashable. “So we went where they were to steer them back in the direction of where we wanted them to go.” The iPad app incorporates segments from the show, 16 new video “field trips” starring Burton and 150 narrated interactive books. For $9.99 a month, users may purchase unlimited access to the content, which will be updated regularly.

Burton announced in September 2011 that he was partnering with WNED in Buffalo, N.Y., Reading Rainbow's original presenting station, on the app.

Jun 20, 2012

CPB report to Congress on alternative funding finds no viable substitute for federal support

If Congress were to zero-out federal appropriations to public broadcasting, 54 public television stations in 19 states and 76 pubradio stations in 38 states would be at "high risk" of shutting down,  CPB reported in  "Alternative Sources of Funding for Public Broadcasting Stations," a comprehensive revenue analysis produced by Booz & Company and delivered to Capitol Hill today (June 20).

Lawmakers requested the research paper in December 2011 when they approved CPB's fiscal 2014 advance appropriation for $445 million.

The report identifies five new or alternative funding options for public media — TV advertising, radio advertising, retransmission consent fees, paid digital subscriptions and digital game publishing — but says none of these offer "a realistic opportunity to generate significant positive net revenue that could replace the current amount of federal funding that CPB receives."

"A shift from a noncommercial model to a commercial advertising model," the report says, "would have dramatically negative consequences for many of the communities that public broadcasters serve. In the absence of federal funding, there are small urban stations, small-market stations, rural stations and stations that serve diverse communities that will likely fail because they do not have the capacity to either shift to a commercial model or raise the revenue to replace the loss of CPB funding."

The analysis predicts a domino effect of systemic collapse if Congress were to cut off the flow of federal aid to local stations. As at risk stations go dark, "a cascading debilitating effect" will spread to remaining stations and the national programming services provided by PBS and NPR. "At bottom, the loss of federal support for public broadcasting risks the collapse of the system itself," the report says.

Even upcoming broadcast spectrum auctions aren't a viable source of support, the report says, because the money would flow "on a one-time basis and only to television stations willing to give up their channels." Even if proceeds could be placed in an endowment fund for the system, "they would not be sufficient to provide an ongoing source of funding for public television and radio stations that could replace the federal appropriation."

A link to the entire document is available here.

Blue Ridge PBS lays off three staffers due to state budget cuts

Blue Ridge PBS in Roanoke, Va., is cutting three staff positions in anticipation of a July 1 loss of state funding that comprises about 11 percent of its budget, according to the Roanoke Times. The station is laying off its two-person educational services staff and cutting an engineering job.

A $305,000 education services grant and a $97,000 community services grant were cut from the state budget signed last week by Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican.

“It’s hard to lose employees, but we’ve lost important educational services that we provide to schools, too,” Will Anderson, Blue Ridge PBS v.p. of production and operations, told the newspaper.

PRX debuts Spotify app drawing on KCRW hosts, archives

The Public Radio Exchange has created the first public-media app for Spotify, the popular music-streaming service. PRX worked with KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif., to create a Spotify version of KCRW’s Music Mine app, originally designed for the iPad. The app introduces users to musicians picked by KCRW DJs and also offers a music stream and archived shows.

Jun 19, 2012

"Whad'Ya Know?" announcer Jim Packard dies at 70

Jim Packard, longtime announcer on pubradio's Whad'Ya Know?, died Monday (June 18) at a New York City hospital. He was 70.

Host Michael Feldman told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Packard suffered from cardiopulmonary disease and that "his lung fuction had been decreasing visibly" for the past eight months.

The newspaper said Packard had been in New York for a live broadcast of the popular quiz show on June 9, at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University. He entered the hospital on June 10. Feldman said Packard was "great" on the June 9 show, although "noticeably slower in his delivery."

Feldman said he would address Packard's death on Saturday's show. "I'll speak from my heart for a while," he said, "and do the show. Jim would tell you, the show is the thing."

Packard had retired from Wisconsin Public Radio in 2010. "We're all deeply saddened by the news," said WPR Director Mike Crane on a tribute page on the station's website. "We loved Jim, and Jim returned that love to his colleagues and to listeners everywhere."

Oregon net's licenses are in jeopardy as board considers options

A mediated agreement between a fundraising arm of Oregon’s Jefferson Public Radio and Southern Oregon University would sever the foundation from the network, according to the Mail Tribune. But the paper cites anonymous sources who say that members of the foundation’s board may instead resign en masse this week rather than accept the agreement. SOU holds the licenses for some of Jefferson Public Radio’s stations.

Disbanding the board may jeopardize some of JPR’s broadcast licenses and other assets, though a lawyer has advised the foundation that accepting the mediation agreement could have the same effect. The agreement reportedly would require the JPR Foundation to transfer the licenses and other assets to a new nonprofit. But in a letter obtained by the newspaper, communications attorney John Crigler warns that the licenses could be revoked if transferred without FCC approval.

The university and JPR have been locked in a dispute over the leadership of the network and its foundation, as well as management of related assets. For background, see our earlier article about the situation. JPR Foundation board members will meet Friday to discuss the proposed agreement for settling the dispute.

Jun 18, 2012

Madison County Democrats call for Alabama ETV Commission resignations over firings of Pizzato, Howland

The Madison County (Ala.) Democratic Party issued a statement today (June 16) calling for the resignation of the Alabama Educational Television Commission members responsible for the terminations June 12 of APT Executive Director Allan Pizzato and his deputy, Pauline Howland, as well as reinstatement of four Alabama Educational Television Foundation Authority board members who resigned in protest.

At least one commissioner had requested that the station air videos featuring David Barton, an evangelical minister and conservative activist whose publications and media appearances promote his theories about the religious intentions of America’s founders. Pizzato and staff that reviewed the content had “grave concerns” that the videos were inappropriate for public broadcasting due to their religious nature, Howland said.

Clete Wetli, Democratic party chair, responded in the statement, saying in part: "Our state elected officials and their political appointees are pushing their personal agendas at the expense of one of the core beliefs our country was founded upon: to include a very clear separation of church and state. There is plenty of room on the TV dial for religious programming, but not on state-supported stations. PBS and APT have always been for educational television, and the programming being pushed strays far from that mission.”

iOS podcast app could be "boon" to public radio, Ramsey says

Apple is rumored to be preparing a new standalone app for podcasts as part of iOS6, the next version of the iPhone operating system. “To say this would be a tremendous boon to public radio is, of course, an understatement,” writes media strategist Mark Ramsey on his blog. “The ‘work’ to use podcasts today is far too great — the thresholds are too high for most consumers. Anything that makes that process easier and more attractive will mightily contribute to acceptance and usage.” Ramsey adds that broadcasters should be developing effective podcasting strategies and experimenting with ways to make money from their podcasts.

Jun 17, 2012

Pubcasters cancel longtime AlaskaOne joint programming service

AlaskaOne, a pubTV service created in 1995 to consolidate programming services for the Bethel, Fairbanks and Juneau areas, is ending, according to a statement from University of Alaska Fairbanks.

AlaskaOne was created during an eight-month scramble to restructure the state system after the Republican majority in the state government announced plans to zero-out state aid to pubcasting (Current, Nov. 6, 1995). Fourteen years later, the stations studied an even greater consolidation of services (Current, Aug. 3, 2009) but ultimately pulled back from a full statewide merger (Current, Sept. 19, 2011).

"When the Alaska Public Broadcasting Service board voted to move the distribution point from Fairbanks to Anchorage," the statement said, "KUAC determined that the move would ultimately be detrimental to Interior communities’ service. The solution was to opt out of the statewide service and continue as a standalone station, which allows KUAC to tailor programming to the needs of the Interior."

Starting July 1, pubTV signals to the Interior will be provided by KUAC-TV in Fairbanks, while Bethel and Southeast Alaska will receive service from KAKM-TV in Anchorage.

Jun 16, 2012

Alabama ETV commissioner says attorneys deem religious-right videos "appropriate" for public TV

A member of the Alabama Educational Television Commission said it has consulted attorneys on the legality of airing programming produced by a controversial conservative historian, The Associated Press reports. The request by Commissioner Rodney Herring to run the content appears to be linked to the sudden terminations of Alabama Public Television Executive Director Allan Pizzato and his deputy, Pauline Howland, by the commission on June 12.

The programs include videos by David Barton, whose WallBuilders organization says on its website that its goal is to "exert a direct and positive influence in government, education, and the family by (1) educating the nation concerning the Godly foundation of our country; (2) providing information to federal, state, and local officials as they develop public policies which reflect Biblical values; and (3) encouraging Christians to be involved in the civic arena." Barton's American Heritage Series runs on Christian broadcast networks Cornerstone Television and Trinity Broadcasting Networks.

"The material is appropriate for public television according to the attorneys we have consulted," Herring, a chiropractor in Opelika, told AP. "(But) there will be no change in Alabama Public Television programming . . . for at least two or three months."

ETV Commission Chair Ferris Stephens, an assistant attorney general for the state, told Current that the board wants to take APT "in a new direction.”

Soon after the terminations of Pizatto and Howland, four members of the Alabama Educational Television Foundation Authority board resigned in protest. The authority board consists of the seven Educational Television Commissioners as well as five members appointed by the commission. Resignations included Authority Chair Joe Mays.

Jun 15, 2012

Respondents feel, station websites "too subtle" in donation requests

PBS Interactive has an update on research on PBS's Prosper online fundraising project.

One interesting finding so far: Universally, "respondents felt that both and the station sites they looked at were too subtle in the donation placement," said Amy Sample, PBS Interactive's director of web analytics. "That said, there is a limit to how overt the appeal can be. We still have to respect the essence of the brand. Clearly there is room for experimentation and testing of donation appeals."

Phase I of the research in May involved focus groups of existing and potential donors in Baltimore and Chicago; Phase II begins in July and will survey existing station donors nationwide.

Sample expects to have a final report on the research findings by the end of summer.

BREAKING NEWS: Four Ala. Educational TV Foundation Authority members resign to protest firings

Three members of the fundraising Alabama Educational Television Foundation Authority have quit in protest of the terminations Tuesday of Alabama Public Television Executive Director Allan Pizzato and Pauline Howland, deputy director and c.f.o., by the Alabama Educational Television Commission.

Foundation Authority Chair Joseph B. Mays Jr., a Birmingham attorney; Vanzetta Penn McPherson of Montgomery, a retired U.S. Magistrate Judge; and Allyson Edwards of Leeds, a Honda executive, have resigned.

UPDATE, 6 p.m. Friday: Foundation Authority member Robert E. Nesbitt of Birmingham has also resigned.

Mays told Current that after speaking privately with several commission members, “I thought it best that I resign.” He declined to provide details of those conversations.

“I have the highest regard for Allan Pizzato and Pauline Howland,” Mays said. “They are both consummate professionals. First-rate, top-flight people.”

The authority is a public nonprofit corporation comprising five Foundation members as well as the seven members of the Alabama Educational Television Commission. Foundation members are appointed by the Commission and serve four-year terms.

Mays has served on the board for longer than 12 years.

The Foundation receives, invests, and spends donations “related to the promotion, development, and growth of educational and public broadcasting and television in Alabama,” according to the Code of Alabama.

UPDATE: For Current's full story on the Alabama Public Television situation, posted June 24, click here.

Alabama PTV's Jon Beans dies at 50

Jon Beans, a reporter and host on Alabama Public Television for more than 20 years, died Wednesday (June 13) at a Montgomery hospital from sickle cell anemia, according to The Associated Press. He was 50.

Beans was with APT from 1990 through 2011, as a producer, executive producer for news and public affairs director. He appeared on For the Record, Capitol Journal, Alabama Stories and other programs. He was also an adjunct professor in communications at Alabama State University.

Survivors include his wife, Sagusta; their daughter, Kaitlyn; and son, Jonathan.

Funeral arrangements are pending. (Photo: APT)

PBS wins two Promax/BDA Gold Awards for its Be More "What if?" image ad campaign.

The Promax award credited Lesli Rotenberg, senior v.p., marketing and communications; Judy Braune, now retired v.p.; John Ruppenthal, senior creative director; Kelly Chmielewski, senior director, brand strategy; and Susan Redford, associate director, print/online.

The Promax (marketing) award covered the consumer or trade print ad campaign for TV networks or channels; the Broadcast Designers Association award was in the category of image campaigns in consumer publications.

The awards for electronic media promotion and design were announced June 14 at the associations' joint conference in Los Angeles.

Broadcasters need spectrum repacking info, bidding flexibility, research paper says

A new paper argues that in upcoming spectrum auctions, broadcasters should be allowed to offer multiple bids, such as one for channel sharing and another to sell their spectrum entirely, and be able to place "combinatorial" bids contingent on multiple station bids being accepted, reports Multichannel News.

The paper, "Incentive Auctions: Economic and Strategic Issues," is co-authored by former FCC chief economist Thomas Hazlett, and David Porter and Vernon Smith of research firm Arlington Economics. Hazlett is on the panel at an event today (June 15), "Improving Spectrum Access Through Reverse Auctions," at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

The paper also notes that the FCC needs to release its model for repacking TV stations in time for broadcasters to determine if it is in their interest to give up spectrum.

"The whole purpose of the auction is to get the spectrum where it has the most value," Porter told Multichannel News. "That might mean staying with broadcasters or it might not. Everybody is saying that it will be wireless companies, but we don't know what the bids will be or the repacking costs. Until all those things are determined, who knows what the best hands are."

Jun 14, 2012

NJTV Board approves merger with Foundation for NJ Public Broadcasting

The nonprofit board that operates NJTV is merging with the fundraising Foundation for New Jersey Public Broadcasting, reports the Star-Ledger. The move comes nearly a year after the state government closed its New Jersey Network and outsourced the state's pubTV service to Public Media New Jersey, a subsidiary of WNET in New York (Current, June 13, 2011).

WNET spokesperson Kellie Specter told NJBiz that two administrative positions at PMNJ will be eliminated. Steve Priolo, foundation president, will be employed by WNET as an underwriting rep for NJTV, and NJ Today host Michael Aron will become an employee of PMNJ.

University Station Alliance asks for input on economy's effects

Public radio’s University Station Alliance is asking people in the field to take an 11-question survey about the economy’s impact on stations. The survey is available here and can also be found on the USA’s website.

US Ignite partnership will push for apps using a faster, smarter Internet

The state-operated Utah Education Network and several municipalities are among about 100 members of US Ignite, a new partnership creating services for future broadband networks running up to 100 times faster than today’s Internet.

This White House announced the partnership this morning, and President Obama will sign an executive order streamlining the approval process for building broadband infrastructure on and under federal property and coordinating excavations. It will reduce costs, for instance, by permitting broadband construction during highway-building.

For a vivid demo of the power that the new networks make possible, John Underkoffler of Oblong Industries, showed off a video of G-speak, a commercially available human-machine interface based on Oblong's design for the Wii-like technology used in the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report.

The press conference kicked off a day-long series of sessions and other events.

Subra Suresh, director of the National Science Foundation, the lead agency in US Ignite, said the government wants to "jump start the next revolution in networking" for the public interest, including education, advanced manufacturing, medical monitoring and emergency preparedness.
NSF published a Dear Colleague letter today, urging researchers to develop the apps while it announced Mozilla Ignite, a competition open to nonprofessionals as well.

The Mozilla challenge, sponsored by the open-source software group Mozilla and NSF, aims to spark development of new public-interest apps that use a much faster, upgraded Internet. Prizes in three rounds will total $500,000. The first round, with entries due Aug. 23 and $15,000 in prizes, is just looking for the best ideas. (Register for email updates.)

NSF itself will allot an additional $20 million to its GENI (Global Environment for Network Innovation) “virtual laboratory” for networking research involving more than 300 researchers at dozens of universities. (GENI  will hold its annual engineering conference July 9-11 in Boston.)

With NSF money, for example, researchers at the University of Missouri in Columbia are developing a telemedicine system with unobtrusive sensors that helps maintain the health of senior citizens living in their own homes.

A map shows many of the US Ignite members. One member is from public media -- the Utah Education Network, operated by public TV station KUEN, sister of KUED-TV in Salt Lake City. UEN is expanding to serve 780,000 kids in Utah schools by December. UEN received an earlier $13.6 million federal grant to upgrade and extend its network to 130 schools and other community institutions.

A number of US Ignite members are municipalities, including San Francisco and UTOPIA, a consortium of Utah cities. Santa Monica, Calif., already operates a 10 gigabit fiber optic network that attracts and keeps media, tech and gaming companies. Wilson, N.C., a city near Raleigh that operates its own Greenlight fiber network, will develop apps for such services as smart-grid electrical power monitoring.

Cleveland researchers showed off Surgical Theater, an app that allows surgeons to rehearse difficult surgeries using interactive 3-D computer models while consulting with colleagues in other cities who can see the same simulation.

Many partners in US Ignite are private telecom companies. Verizon will experiment with 20 Philadelphia households, raising their Internet speeds from about 20 megabits per second to 300 Mbps.

US Ignite also includes:
  • equipment manufacturers such as Cisco Systems and Hewlett-Packard;
  • medical institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, which has been leading the expansion of a regional telemedicine network in southeast Minnesota;
  • nine federal agencies such as the Agriculture Department’s Rural Utility Service, which released $14.6 million for more than 50 distance-learning and telemedicine projects serving rural residents; and
  • philanthropies including the Lyndhurst Foundation, a backer of the Gig City initiative that made Chattanooga, Tenn., the first city in the hemisphere to offer 1 Gig Internet service to all of its residents. Another member, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, gave US Ignite a planning grant for workforce training and other projects in its hometown, Flint, Mich.

"Car Talk" led the way to homogenization of noncom radio, writer says

"Car Talk is the exemplar for consolidation and homogenization on the noncommercial end of the dial," writes Paul Riismandel, adviser to WNUR-FM at Northwestern University, on Radio Survivor. Riismandel notes that "as syndicated programming has taken over the programming schedule of public stations, local news, information and culture is pushed off. Car Talk is a program which pushed the frontier of this movement." He cites the 1997 uproar when Wisconsin Public Radio canceled its popular local About Cars program to carry Car Talk, which culminated in a hearing before the state legislature (Current, March 17, 1997).

UPDATE: For a nuanced view of the About Cars vs. Car Talk controversy, see the transcript for This American Life from April 25, 1997. And thanks for that tip to the helpful blog reader who chooses to remain anonymous.

Letter threatened JPR Foundation with "expensive" lawsuits

Southern Oregon University's law firm threatened the Jefferson Public Radio Foundation board with "expensive" lawsuits in a letter addressing issues of ownership and control of the pubradio stations, the Mail Tribune in Medford, Ore., reports.

More than 12 phrases in a six-page March 22 letter from the Portland firm of Miller Nash LLP, obtained by the newspaper, suggest or threaten potential legal action, and describe "in great detail," the newspaper said, possible legal strategies against JPR Executive Director Ron Kramer and the board — including the potential of dissolving the JPR Foundation entirely.

Kramer oversees both JPR and the foundation; OSU terminated his station duties on March 25, effective June 30 (Current, April 9). The parties reached a tentative agreement this week following mediation on the issues, which surfaced during an OUS audit calling for greater separation between JPR and its fundraising foundation.

Jun 13, 2012

Exclusive: Dismissals at Alabama PTV linked to concerns over proposed broadcast of videos from religious right

Two top managers at Alabama Public Television were fired from their jobs June 12 with no explanation of the cause for the immediate dismissals.

The Alabama Educational Television Commission came out of an executive session Tuesday afternoon and ordered veteran pubcaster Allan Pizzato and his deputy Pauline Howland to clean out their desks and leave APT’s headquarters in Birmingham.

“All I can say is that it was an irreconcilable difference in opinion of the future direction of the station,” Pizzato told Current. “I serve at the pleasure of the board. They want to take it in a different direction, and that’s up to them.”

Pizzato had served 12 years as executive director of APT, a statewide network governed by a board of seven political appointees.

Howland, deputy director and chief financial officer, described the firings in an interview with Current and said she was "baffled" by the dismissals. But she also recalled how Pizzato had asked staff in April for advice about a series of videos that AETC commissioners wanted APT to air.

The videos featured David Barton, an evangelical minister and conservative activist whose publications and media appearances promote his theories about the religious intentions of America’s founders. He frequently appears on political commentary programs hosted by conservative Glenn Beck.

The American Heritage Series, a 10-part DVD series offered by Barton’s Texas-based organization WallBuilders LLC, “presents America's forgotten history and heroes, emphasizing the moral, religious and constitutional foundation on which America was built.” Christian broadcast networks Cornerstone Television and Trinity Broadcasting Networks air the series, according to the website.

AETC Commissioner Rodney Herring, an Opelika-based chiropractor, had provided the series to APT for broadcast consideration. Herring joined the commission last year and was elected board secretary in January. As of late Wednesday evening, Herring did not return a voice message from Current.

AETC commissioners serve staggered 10-year terms, a provision that was intended to protect the state network from political meddling, said former APT director Skip Hinton, who now heads the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Each commissioner represents one of Alabama’s seven congressional districts. Alabama’s governor nominates commissioners and the state Senate approves the appointments.

Herring was appointed by former Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, in early 2011, according to Howland.

She participated in the staff review of Barton’s series. The programs “talked about how our government forefathers were very religious men,” Howland said, “how the country was founded on religious principles, and how we need to go back to that.” The content “was very much advocating that position,” she said.

Pizzato and his staff had “grave concerns” that the videos were inappropriate for public broadcasting due to their religious nature, Howland said.

Pizzato declined to discuss the videos, or how he responded to the commission’s request that APT schedule them for broadcast.

The commissioners had planned to discuss broadcast of Barton’s series at the end of their meeting, but dropped the agenda item after firing both directors, Howland said.

“It’s our job to protect the license,” Howland said, “and provide the best advice we can to the commission, whose members are usually not broadcasters.”

APT is among the public TV networks that have taken big hits in state funding during the recession. Its state appropriation has dropped 50 percent since 2008. Last summer APT shut its state capital bureau, suspended production of its political roundtable, Capitol Journal, and laid off 19 staffers. APT also scaled back operations at its Huntsville station and ended production of its music series, We Have Signal. A revamped Capitol Journal returned in January 2012. — Dru Sefton

UPDATE: For Current's full story behind the Alabama terminations, posted June 24, click here.

Longtime "Sesame Street" writer dies

Judy Freudberg, who wrote for Sesame Street for almost 40 years, died June 10 of a brain tumor, according to Hollywood Reporter. She was 63. Freudberg won 17 Emmy Awards for her work on the pubcasting series, and collaborated with Tony Geiss on Sesame Street’s first feature film, Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (1985), and on two animated movies for executive producer Steven Spielberg: The Land Before Time (1985) and An American Tail (1986). Freudberg joined Sesame Street in 1971, during its third season, as a script typist and began writing for the program four years later.

Three trophies put WNYC atop pubmedia's Murrow winners

WNYC led public media in the 2012 national Edward R. Murrow Awards announced June 12 by the Radio Television Digital News Association.

Among 17 pubcasting entities receiving Murrows for excellence in electronic journalism, the New York station won three trophies for two of its nationally distributed shows — Studio 360 and Radio Rookies.

Three pubcasting outlets received Murrows in two categories: BBC World News, which won in the division for radio networks; Boston’s WBUR, a winner among large-market radio stations; and WITF in Harrisburg, Pa, scoring a double in the small-market radio division. Alabama Public Radio also stood out among small market radio stations, taking a Murrow for overall excellence.

Public stations winning national Murrows in large- and small-market radio divisions excelled during an earlier phase of RTDNA's annual journalism contest -- the regional Murrows awarded in 13 multistate contests this spring.

Public media news outlets won national Murrows across four divisions.

Radio networks: WNYC’s Studio 360, a coproduction with Public Radio International, for feature reporting and use of sound, and Radio Rookies, writing; BBC World Service, hard news reporting and news documentary; American Public Media’s Marketplace, investigative reporting; and NPR, website.  

Large-market radio stations: WBUR, investigative reporting and use of sound; KUT in Austin, Texas, continuing coverage; WCPN in Cleveland, feature reporting; WUSF in Tampa, Fla., news documentary; Mississippi Public Broadcasting, news series; and WFAE in Charlotte, N.C., writing.  

Small-market radio stations: WITF in Harrisburg, Pa., news series and sports reporting; Alabama Public Radio, overall excellence; WBOI in Fort Wayne, Ind., feature reporting; KUNC in Greeley, Colo., investigative reporting; WUFT in Gainesville, Fla., hard news reporting; WSLU in Canton, N.Y., news documentary; and KSMU in Springfield, Mo., writing.  

Local online news operation: The Lens New Orleans and the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism in New Orleans, investigative reporting; and the Texas Tribune in Austin, website.

The national Edward R. Murrow Awards have recognized outstanding electronic journalism since 1971. This year’s winners will be honored at the RTDNA Awards dinner in New York on Oct. 8.

Editor's note: This blog post has been amended to include information omitted from RTDNA's announcement of national Murrow winners: Studio 360 is a coproduction of WNYC and Public Radio International.

JPR Foundation, SOU reach "tentative resolution" in standoff over leadership

It appears that Southern Oregon University and the fundraising organization for Jefferson Public Radio made progress in their mediation talks held last week. In a statement, SOU said, “The JPR Foundation and Southern Oregon University are pleased to announce the tentative resolution of issues related to the ownership and operation of Jefferson Public Radio, subject to final approvals of their respective governing entities. Additional information will be made available once such final approvals are obtained.”

Ron Kramer, executive director of both the foundation and the radio station, told the Medford Mail Tribune that he was not a party to the agreement that was reached.

Previous story in Current: “Did Kramer overreach in Oregon?”

Ahoy, NPR journos!

Public Radio at Sea, a cruise that's "a celebration of the exceptional programming and beloved personalities of NPR," sets sail next March.

"Presumably," notes, "karaoke, comedy acts and belly flop contests will not be part of the itinerary."

NPR journalists including All Things Considered host Michele Norris will be onboard the "all suite, all balcony" ship, which will visit ports in China, Vietnam and Thailand.

“This isn’t like going to a radio station event where you hear [PBS NewsHour host] Jim Lehrer talk for 20 minutes and then go home,” Kevin Corcoran, president of Artful Travelers, which helped organize the event, told “You’re sailing with these people for two weeks; it creates this level of intimacy where you get to know them and understand what makes them tick.”

“It’s an opportunity for fans to get to know our journalists, how they do their work and what that experience is like,” said Dana Davis Rehm, NPR spokesperson. “The hope is that they’ll step forward and be more generous in the future.”

Alabama PTV appoints interim director after departure of Pizzato

Allan Pizzato, executive director of Alabama Public Television for the past 12 years, has left that position. A press release from the station provides no details.

The Alabama Educational Television Commission (AETC) announced Tuesday (June 12) the appointment of Don Boomershine as interim director. Boomershine is a past president of the Better Business Bureau for Central Alabama, v.p. of the Metropolitan Development Board, and v.p., national division of SouthTrust Bank. The announcement also said Boomershine "appeared regularly for 25 years" on Alabama television and radio stations, and received the Outstanding Broadcaster Cooperation Award from the Alabama Broadcasters’ Association.

In the announcement, AETC Chair Ferris W. Stephens said the board thanked Pizzato "for all of his years of service as director of APT.”

Last year, Alabama PTV endured programming and staff cutbacks due to state funding losses. Its weekly political roundtable, Capitol Journal, had been suspended in June 2011 but returned to the air in January 2012.

Pizzato had been elected to the board of the Association of Public Television Stations in January.

As expected, FCC decides to sunset analog/digital viewability rule

The FCC is officially ending its viewability rule, which required cable operators with analog/digital systems to deliver must-carry TV stations in both formats, reports Broadcasting & Cable. Broadcasters wanted  the FCC to extend the requirement another three years, but the cable industry backed the FCC proposal to sunset the rule. Cable operators must still provide dual carriage for a six-month transition period and give customers 90 days' warning before ending analog transmissions. If too many consumers complain, the FCC may reinstate the requirement.

The National Association of Broadcasters "remains concerned" that the decision "has the potential to impose negative financial consequences on small local TV stations that are a source for minority, religious and independent program diversity across America," said Dennis Wharton, NAB spokesperson. Those stations had protested the end of analog signals.

Jun 11, 2012

Wildfire takes Colorado radio station off air

The main transmitter of KUNC-FM in Greeley, Colo., is off the air due to the High Park Fire, a wildfire covering almost 37,000 acres. “KUNC’s main transmitter is located on Buckhorn Mountain which is directly in the fire zone of the High Park Fire,” says a post on KUNC’s website. “There is no power at the site and as a result, KUNC is not on the air on 91.5fm.” KUNC is covering the wildfire on its website, however.

UPDATE: KUNC President Neil Best emailed Current: "With the main signal down we have lost service to a translator in Boulder, the KENC station in Estes Park, and a translator on the eastern plains in Morgan County.  All of our other signals are satellite fed or take their signal from one of those sites.  Of course we are also on-line and our website is very active with information about this fire."

Kerger among winners of annual Brand Builder Awards

PBS President Paula Kerger is one of four honorees for the 10th annual Brand Builder Awards, sponsored by Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and Promax/BDA, the international membership organization for major media marketing professionals. Other winners this year are FX Networks President John Landgraf, Sony Pictures Television President of U.S. Distribution John Weiser, and Walmart. All will be honored this week during the Promax/BDA conference in Los Angeles.

"WGBH Music" kicks off on YouTube

WGBH in Boston has launched a YouTube music channel. WGBH Music will offer radio listeners a look at short videos featuring classical, jazz, celtic, singer/songwriters and more.

Pubradio needs new ideas and courage to try them, MPR's Collins says

Can public radio still take risks?

That's the headline of a thought-provoking post on Minnesota Public Radio's News Cut blog by writer Bob Collins, an MPR journalist, in the wake of the Car Talk hosts' retirement announcement.

"This has been an interesting time in public radio of late," Collins writes, "and the next few years are going to test whether it's capable of taking a risk enough to give an outlet to new ways of doing things. Car Talk is gone, [Prairie Home Companion's Garrison] Keillor is retiring, [MPR newsman Gary] Eichten has retired, and an increasing number of people who basically built public radio are turning things over to the next generation, which has not been well schooled in the art of betting it all on an idea."

"You can do a lot of creative things when nobody listens to your radio station because there's little downside to taking risk," Collins writes. "But not anymore. Public radio has never been more popular and taking a risk has never been more dangerous. The early A Prairie Home Companion would have a most difficult time getting on the air — anywhere — today. Essentially, public radio is where commercial radio was 30 years ago, just before it went on its suicidal path toward irrelevance by playing it safe in order not to alienate an existing audience."

Jun 10, 2012

Kerger suggests viewers contact NEA "if they have issues with the focus of their funding"

In an article in the Deseret News, PBS President Paula Kerger advises viewers to reach out to the National Endowment for the Arts to voice their support for PBS arts programming. “I’ve not tried to encourage any large, grassroots efforts," Kerger said, "but I think people should let the NEA know if they have issues with the focus of their funding.” The NEA recently broadened its Arts on Radio and Television fund to Arts in Media, resulting in far fewer grants to public radio and TV programs (Current, April 23).

Kerger "recommended addressing concerns to Rocco Landesman, NEA chairman, either through direct correspondence or a phone call," the Salt Lake City, Utah, newspaper said in the Saturday (June 9) story.

Academic study on thank-you gifts for donations yields unexpected results

A new study on thank-you gifts in exchange for donations has produced counterintuitive results, according to Psychology Today: Receiving a gift unconditionally, such as with a solicitation letter, can have a positive effect, but conditional gifts — an offer of receiving a gift later, in return for a donation — may actually suppress donations.

The research was conducted by George E. Newman, assistant professor of organizational behavior in the Yale School Management, and Y. Jeremy Shen, of Yale's school of psychology, and will be published in an upcoming Journal of Economic Psychology

Researchers asked study participants who they thought would donate more money to public broadcasting: a group offered a commemorative pen in return for a donation, or a group not offered the pen. Of the respondents, 68 percent thought it would be the group offered the conditional gift. The predicted average amount was $30.89 for people receiving a gift, $22.26 for those not receiving a gift.

But when two separate groups of people were asked how much they would actually be willing to give, either with a conditional gift or no gift, "results ran counter to lay beliefs and the pattern was reversed," Psychology Today noted (with gift, $19.18; no gift, $28.60).

A non-hypothetical experiment also yielded the same results. Participants were entered into a lottery for a $95 gift certificate, and asked how much of their winnings they would donate to Save the Children. Those offered a tote bag in return donated an average of $18.25, compared with $23.81 among those who weren’t offered anything.

"This has clear implications for the solicitation practices of charitable organizations," Psychology Today noted. "In order to increase donations, organizations may be better off 'giving for thanks' than 'thanking for giving.' Unfortunately, the first option is much more expensive and the extra cost of gifts may end up being higher than the potential gain in donations."

Jun 9, 2012

Car Talk guys retire, but archive editions of shows will continue indefinitely

NPR announced Friday (June 8) that Tom and Ray Magliozzi, hosts of the popular and long-running Car Talk, will lay down their wrenches and stop recording new episodes as of October. The show will continue, however, with producers repackaging calls mined from Car Talk’s 25-years-deep archive.

The Magliozzis, also known as Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, started recording Car Talk 35 years ago at Boston’s WBUR (Current, June 19, 1995). NPR brought it to national distribution a decade later. It grew into public radio’s most popular show, as measured by average-quarter-hour listening, and became a fixture on many weekend morning lineups on public radio.

“We’ve managed to avoid getting thrown off NPR for 25 years, given tens of thousands of wrong answers and had a hell of a time every week talking to callers,” said Ray Magliozzi in an NPR press release. “The stuff in our archives still makes us laugh. So we figured, why keep slaving over a hot microphone?”

Archive editions of the show, which will not be promoted or identified as such, will continue indefinitely. “We’re hoping to be like I Love Lucy and air ten times a day on ‘NPR at Nite’ in 2075,” Tom Magliozzi said in a typically jocular announcement on Car Talk’s website. (Try reading the script of the back-and-forth without hearing their voices in your head.)

Materials distributed to press and NPR member stations suggest that Tom, who at 75 is 12 years the elder Magliozzi, made the decision to quit. An FAQ sent to stations said that Tom was “pretty certain” he’d never return for any future appearances, while Ray, as the “non-geezer brother,” “seemed more circumspect.”

At Tom’s announcement that he’s retiring, Ray replied, in the NPR release, “If you retired, how would you know?”

The programs that will start airing in October will recycle calls from previous shows. Car Talk’s producers have systematically archived all the calls and rated each one on an “entertainment” scale of 1 to 5.

Doug Berman, c.e.o. of Car Talk production company Dewey Cheatham & Howe, sent a letter to stations assuring them that a less-than-fresh Car Talk will still attract strong audiences. “25 years in, we’re actually going back and editing the series, to make it better, stronger, and funnier,” he wrote (emphasis in original).

In fact, NPR has already been testing the approach by distributing more archived shows in recent years. According to Arbitron Portable People Meter data from 16 “important” markets, measured across 28 weeks from 2009 to 2010, encore hours did not consistently draw significantly fewer listeners than new episodes did.

NPR also surveyed listeners about their awareness of hearing old Car Talk calls. Seventy percent disagreed with the statement “It seems that Car Talk is repeating old shows.”

Berman also said that listener loyalty to the show increased over the past year, even as archived shows increased, and actual listenership stayed level.

While most listeners surveyed made positive comments about the show, some were less kind. “The guys’ act is getting a bit old,” one said. “And my father taught me to despise men who laughed at their own jokes.”

The encore shows will be presented just as today’s shows are, according to NPR. “The fact that the guys are no longer recording new shows will be public, but we don’t feel it’s in the interest of the series to continually advertise that at the beginning of each new show,” the network said in an FAQ distributed to stations.

The Magliozzis will continue to give out the 800 number listeners call for advice, but callers will hear a message stating that the program is no longer accepting calls.

The archived episodes may include dated references, such as mentions of older car models, but NPR said producers will remove nonessential references such as “mileage numbers that seem excessively low, or advice that a caller go immediately to his nearest Yugo dealer (although the old “Fiat dealer” references can go back in now!).”

The brothers will continue to record timely “Even though …” kickers for the ends of episodes and will also keep up their newspaper column.

The continuation of the show is good news for everyone, Berman joked in his letter to stations, “except the Zamfir Pan Flute show that’s been coveting Car Talk’s timeslot.”

Reaction to the announcement was swift and widespread. KQED compiled a Storify version of how it all played out.

Lamberson takes interim spot at KOTO-FM in Telluride, Colo.

KOTO-FM ("Radio Almost Like the Professionals"), listener-supported community radio in Telluride, Colo., has hired Beth Lamberson as interim executive director, to bolster its fundraising efforts, reports the Telluride Daily Planet. She'll be with the station for six months, through Dec. 1, replacing former Executive Director Steve Kennedy, who left in April. Lamberson has been in pubradio for 20 years, most recently as as e.d. of Four Corners Public Radio, KSUT in Ignacio, Colo. In July 2011, KOTO said it was considering accepting underwriting for the first time, after a financial pinch that included staff and salary cutbacks.

Jun 8, 2012

Fred Rogers goes viral with "Garden of Your Mind" video remix

An Auto-Tuned video of pubcasting icon Fred Rogers is going viral, with more than 700,000 views as of Friday (June 8) afternoon. The three-minute video was remixed by Symphony of Science's John Boswell for PBS Digital Studios. "When we discovered video mash-up artist John D. Boswell, aka melodysheep, on YouTube," the studio said in a statement, "we immediately wanted to work together. Turns out that he is a huge Mister Rogers Neighborhood fan, and was thrilled at the chance to pay tribute to one of our heroes." It's the first in a series of PBS icon remixes.

UPDATE: Here's how the launch and reaction unfolded, via Storify from PBS. As of Saturday morning (June 9), YouTube hits were up to 1.8 million.

"Live from Lincoln Center" creator retiring after more than 30 years

John Goberman, who created Live From Lincoln Center more than three decades ago, is departing as executive producer on June 30 after more than 200 live national telecasts.The series continues in its 37th season on PBS this fall.

Goberman was cited by Symphony Magazine as one of the 50 most important individuals making a difference in American music. He pioneered the video and audio technology by which concerts, opera, ballets and plays could be telecast during live performances without disruption of performers and audiences. His television work has garnered 13 national Emmy Awards, three Peabody Awards and the first Television Critics Circle Award for Achievement in Music.

Goberman also created the concept of “Symphonic Cinema,” in which orchestral scores are performed live to the films for which they were originally commissioned. After departing Lincoln Center Goberman will focus on those events, as well as staging concert galas and video presentations across the country.

"Click and Clack" announce retirement

The hosts of Car Talk, the popular pubradio show celebrating its 25th season this fall, are retiring, they announced to listeners today (June 8). Tom and Ray Magliozzi, aka Click and Clack the Tappet Brothers, actually started the show 10 years earlier at WBUR in Boston. Tom is 74 years old, Ray is 63.

An NPR press release said that they will not tape new shows but their weekly call-in series will continue to be distributed from their archives of 1,200 shows beginning in October. The two will continue to write their twice-weekly "Dear Tom and Ray" column.

Car Talk evolved out of what was supposed to be a call-in show with a panel of mechanics, according to a June 1995 story in Current. The WBUR volunteer/producer called the brothers to sit on the panel and Tom agreed, thinking that it would generate business for the pair's fledgling garage. As it turned out, Tom was the only one of six mechanics who showed up. "It was a wild success," said Ray, "two or three people called in." The producer, who soon left the show, asked the brothers to do it every week. "And we figured 'What the hell!'," Ray said.

UPDATE: KQED has Storyfied fan reaction to the announcement.

Small and indie TV stations protesting FCC bid to end analog viewability rule

A group of more than 200 TV stations is protesting the FCC's proposal to end the viewability rule in December 2013, reports Multichannel News.

In September 2007, in anticipation of the digital transition, the FCC decided that cable operators would be required to convert digital signals to analog so must-carry channels could still be viewed by households with analog television sets. The FCC now wants to sunset that requirement, citing the availability of free or low-cost converter boxes.

But Independent Voices for Local Television, representing smaller and independent TV stations, say that 12.6 million households of more than 34 million viewers don’t have any digital TV sets. "Many millions more have analog sets in their bedrooms, even if they have one digital set in the living room," the group says on its website. "If the FCC shifts the burden to consumers, these cable viewers will lose access unless they lease new equipment."

"Voices for Local TV will have to talk fast," Multichannel News notes: The FCC's proposed order needs to be voted on by June 12 or the rule sunsets immediately.

Jun 7, 2012

Vince Gardino bound for orchestra post after NY Public Radio departure in July

Vince Gardino, New York Public Radio's executive director of underwriting, is departing the station after 14 years to become executive director of the American Classical Orchestra, which performs music from the 17th to 19th centuries using authentic period instruments. His last day with the station is June 8, and he'll start with the orchestra July 2.

For 12 years, Gardino served as chair of the PMDMC Heritage Group, a best-practices working group of corporate support leaders of major market stations. He also was lead negotiator with the Radio Research Consortium for pubradio’s Arbitron contracts, and recently was appointed as the pubradio representative on the Arbitron Radio Advisory Council.

"His consistent focus and hands-on style with the clients and sales team helped propel revenue growth through both robust and challenging financial landscapes," the station said in a statement.

George Thomas retiring from his longtime jazz show on Vermont Public Radio

The host of Vermont Public Radio's Jazz with George Thomas is stepping away from the mic after more than 11 years. Thomas has announced he is retiring from VPR, with his final show in late June. “It has been an honor and I am grateful to have been able to share jazz with VPR's avid, curious and astute listeners, who often suggested artists, songs and albums to play,” Thomas said.

The show is heard from 9 to 11 p.m. Eastern Monday through Thursday and Friday nights until midnight. Jazz music "will continue to have a presence in the VPR programming line-up, but the details have yet to be finalized," the station said.

Robin Turnau, president of VPR, wrote in a memo to staff: “As Ella Fitzgerald once said, ‘It isn't where you came from, it's where you're going that counts.’ I know that we all wish George the best of luck in where he’s going, and will be cheering him on from the front row.”

Television Critics Association nominates five PBS shows for honors

PBS scored five nods in the 28th annual Television Critics Association Awards, announced Wednesday (June 6) in Los Angeles. Masterpiece's Downton Abbey and Sherlock are going head-to-head in the movies, mini-series and specials category. Frontline was nominated in news and information; Sesame Street, in youth programming; and Downton again in program of the year. Details and a full list of nominees at

Jun 6, 2012

State orders W.V. network to craft plan, calls for review of executive's performance

The state Educational Broadcasting Authority has ordered West Virginia Public Broadcasting to develop a strategic financial plan by July 31, according to the Charleston Gazette. Authority members also called for a formal review of network Executive Director Dennis Adkins' job performance.

The newspaper said that as of April 30, contributions to the network are down 7 percent from the same time last year, and corporate underwriting is down 8 percent from 2011 and 36 percent from 2008.

Mike Meador, finance director at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, said the agency also has been told by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration to expect a 5 percent cut in its state appropriations next year, amounting to about $300,000. The state appropriation, $5.64 million in fiscal 2012-13, provides more than half of the network's operating budget, which includes $300,000 for Mountain Stage and $45,000 to the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame.

Pubcasting stations' transit of Venus webcast attracts 436,000 worldwide

The June 5 live webcast of the heavenly transit of Venus by pubstations WPBT2 in Miami, Las Vegas PBS and KNPB in Reno, was an "astronomical success," the stations said, attracting more than 436,000 viewers worldwide from as far away as Australia and Japan.

Viewers chatted with Bill Dishong, series producer for WPBT2's Star Gazers, during the rare celestial event, during which Venus moved across the path of the sun, from 6 to 11 p.m. Eastern.

The webcast was initially planned to originate at KNPB, but the transit wasn't visible there due to weather conditions. Las Vegas PBS, contacted at the last minute, agreed to host the event.

Randy Feldman, at helm of WYES in New Orleans since 1990, to retire

Randy Feldman, president and g.m. of pubstation WYES in New Orleans since 1990, will step down at the end of the year, reports New Orleans CityBusiness magazine. Feldman announced his retirement to WYES board members Monday (June 4) and said he wanted to focus on his personal life. He said he plans on finishing up private fundraising for the $2.5-million second phase of a capital campaign for construction of a new $7 million, 20,000-square-foot station facility. “This is as good a time as any," Feldman said. "We’ll have funding and other things in place and then someone can take it home from there.”

McCarroll to retire from Oklahoma pubcasting network by year's end

John McCarroll, executive director of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA), will retire by the end of the year, he told the authority's board this week. McCarroll arrived at OETA in 2003 from KLRU-TV, the PBS station in Austin, Texas. His accomplishments include completion of the $12 million digital conversion of the Oklahoma Network, which included replacement of 18 transmitters; a new OETA studio; and two regional Emmy Awards for his work on OETA projects. Dr. James W. Utterback, chairman of the OETA board, said it will form a search committee for McCarroll's replacement.

Universities becoming incubators for news startups, J-Lab reports

J-Lab has posted an overview of university news websites, with information culled from its meeting last week with three dozen site editors and founders. The schools are becoming incubators for entrepreneurial news startups, according to J-Lab.

"The degree to which student production of news stories for these startups is fully integrated in the curricula is still a nut that needs to be cracked," notes J-Lab Executive Director Jan Schaffer. "But there is no question that students involved in these initiatives are learning not only how to produce stories on a faster turnaround than most classroom assignments, they are also getting firsthand experience in how to operate a news business."

Models vary widely; J-Lab has funded some 24 university news sites since 2005.

J-Lab is supported by a $2.4 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and is part of the School of Communication at American University (also the parent organization of Current).

Mediation talks between Jefferson Public Radio and university system start tomorrow

A mediator will start talks this week between representatives of Jefferson Public Radio and the Oregon University System, which holds the broadcaster’s license, in an effort to settle a dispute over JPR’s leadership structure. Retired federal judge Terry Lukens begins mediation talks tomorrow, according to the Mail Tribune.

The university system terminated the contract of JPR Executive Director Ron Kramer in March (Current, April 9). A university audit advised that Kramer’s dual roles as head of the radio station and of a separate fundraising nonprofit had created a conflict of interest. The audit also said that JPR’s fundraising efforts were at odds with the university’s. Both sides in the dispute have agreed not to discuss the issues at hand until the mediator makes a non-binding recommendation.

Jun 5, 2012

Florida, Nevada pubstations join to live-stream today's transit of Venus

WPBT2’s Star Gazers, in partnership with KNPB, will live-stream today's historic transit of Venus from Reno, Nev., starting at 6 p.m. Eastern. The stations, based in Miami and Reno, have previously partnered on other celestial events.

During the transit, Venus will pass directly between the Earth and the sun. This will be the last transit of Venus to occur in this lifetime.

Viewers can join the conversation here. Bill Dishong, series producer, will provide commentary, and Star Gazers host Marlene Hidalgo will answer questions from the online audience as the transit unfolds.

Paul Bartishevich, longtime radio producer, dies at 53

Radio producer Paul Bartishevich, head of Finger Lakes Productions International, died June 1 at his home in Trumansburg, N.Y., of an apparent heart attack. He was 53.

FLPI produced and distributed daily radio programming to NPR affiliates nationwide as well as more than 120 countries and territories via the Voice of America and American Forces Radio. Popular titles, which reflected Bartishevich’s interest in science, nature and technology, included Bird Watch, Nature Watch, Animal Instincts, Ocean Report, Our Ocean World, EnvironMinute and Microbeworld.

In 1998, FLPI founded and launched the Radio Voyager Network (RVN), which became the first English-language commercial radio network to broadcast throughout Europe. In 2010, it launched, to “educate citizens, young and old, about the importance of science and environmental research and discovery.”

Bartishevich was also known for mentoring young people. Each of his interns was given a copy of Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich, an inspirational business text. He also served as a guest lecturer at Cornell University and Ithaca College.

He was born in Lyons, N.Y., the son of Charles and Ruth (Austin) Bartishevich. He began his “lifelong love affair with broadcast radio at Lyons High School,” his obituary in the Ithaca Journal said, “where he learned to modulate a sonorous authoritative presence behind the microphone reciting the school's morning announcements.” He married Karen Youngs, his high school sweetheart, in 1984; she survives him.

Also surviving are four children, Benn, Jay, Alec, and Anna Bartishevich; his mother, Ruth Bartishevich; brother, Sergei (Paula) Bartishevich; sister, Lynne (Loren) Maslyn; five nieces and nephews and numerous cousins.

He was preceded in death by his father and brother, Richard Bartishevich.

A memorial service begins at 1 p.m. Thursday (June 7) at the First Presbyterian Church of Ulysses, 69 E. Main St., Trumansburg, with burial following in Grove Cemetery. The family suggests memorial donations to the American Red Cross, 201 West Clinton St., Ithaca, N.Y., 14850 or the American Cancer Society, 13 Beech St., Johnson City, N.Y., 13790.

U.S. terminates support of $20 million Pakistani "Sesame Street" project

Following reports of corruption, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan has terminated $20 million in funding for to develop a Pakistani version of Sesame Street, according to the Associated Press, citing a report in Pakistan Today.

The USAID money was funding the Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, a local group working on the program with Sesame Workshop. Embassy spokesman Robert Raines confirmed that the funding was terminated but declined to provide details.

Pakistan Today, citing unnamed sources close to the project, said "lack of proper planning, mismanagement and financial irregularities have all been rampant throughout the project, leading to an initial delay of a year and a half and finally the suspension of aid."

Rafi Peer has denied the allegations, and said the U.S. government ended its participation after providing $10 million due to lack of funds.

UPDATE: Sesame Workshop provided this statement to Current.

“Sesame Workshop was surprised and dismayed to learn about the serious allegations made against Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. Beyond what we have read in the press, we do not know the specific details of these allegations. We trust that the facts will be fairly and fully assessed, and we will wait for the full report.  It is our hope that the achievements of Sim Sim Hamara, and the gains we have made in the lives of children in Pakistan, will carry on. 

"When Rafi Peer was selected by USAID in 2010 to work on Sim Sim Hamara, a multi-platform children’s educational media program, Sesame Workshop was selected independently by USAID as one of the sub-award recipients on the project. We are grateful for USAID’s initial investment which has allowed Sesame Workshop to provide its expertise in children’s media to help Rafi Peer reach three million children, many of whom otherwise would not have access to any early childhood education.

"Sesame Workshop will continue to work to improve the lives and futures of children in Pakistan and elsewhere around the world.”