Jan 5, 2012

Noting that Romney likes pubcasting, Kerger is glad for bipartisan support

PASADENA, Calif. — PBS President Paula Kerger is not fazed by Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s recent comment favoring an end to federal aid to public broadcasting. Nor is she worried by Romney’s call for advertising on Sesame Street.

“I’m glad that he said that he liked public broadcasting,” Kerger said during a Jan. 4 press conference at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour. “You know, we have always had bipartisan support.”

The country must make tough decisions about government spending, Kerger said, but federal money costs only $1.35 a year per American.

Broad support for public broadcasting, as shown by research, “should translate into political leverage," Kerger said. “We will be working with our stations to make sure that our elected officials know of the support that those stations have through the people in their community.”

Any move to run ads with Sesame Street would violate FCC restrictions on noncommercial broadcasters, Kerger said.  

She also reminded critics that cable channels that launched as commercial alternatives to PBS have since ditched their documentaries and performing arts for reality shows. The History Channel “found that the way to survive was to create a very different type of programming,” she said. “Programming like Pawn Stars and American Pickers is not the same as American Experience and Ken Burns.”

As in previous press tours, Kerger noted PBS’s success with content on video platforms. PBS had just announced that saw more than 11.7 million unique visitors in November, a 20 percent increase over a year ago. The site serves an average of 98 million video streams per month, making it the most-visited free children’s video site on the Web.

“We’ve reached a new and different audience through our digital platforms,” she said. Later, however, one critic reminded her that, despite promises to use social media, Kerger hadn’t personally tweeted since Nov. 11. “I knew I was going to get nailed on that,” she said. “The thing that’s really kind of stupid about it is that I do use social media a lot and I love reading other tweets just for informational purposes — particularly when there’s breaking news.”

Kerger also fielded questions on veteran newsman Bill Moyers, who is returning Jan. 13 to public television — though not through PBS (Current, Aug. 29, 2011) — and Charlie Rose, host of the PBS late-night talk show who begins co-anchoring the CBS This Morning weekday show on Jan. 9.

Kerger said PBS talked to Moyers about distributing his new program on PBS Plus, a service that allows public TV stations to choose and schedule shows, such as Rose’s program, as they see fit. “He (Moyers) made the decision for various business reasons to go through APT (American Public Television) and we will distribute it through our COVE video player, so he’s very much a part of the PBS family.”

As for Rose, “my only concern is that he get enough sleep,” Kerger said. “He has said to me consistently that his most important project is his nightly show on public broadcasting.” — Barry Garron for Current

(Image: PBS/Rahoul Ghose)

Comments, questions, tips? bgarron /at/

Portland, Ore., mayor worries about security costs for OPB Republican debate

Sam Adams, mayor of Portland, Ore., went public Wednesday (Jan. 4) with his concerns about security costs for an upcoming GOP presidential debate at Oregon Public Broadcasting. He wants OPB and the Oregon Republican Party, co-sponsors, to move the event to a location closer to the airport to reduce the number of police necessary. "The costs are real," Adams told the Oregonian — and already $1.5 million over budget. "I don't know what else to say. We just don't have the budget for this." OPB President Steve Bass said it would be cost-prohibitive for the station to move the event from the OPB studios.

The newspaper countered with an editorial Thursday saying, "Oh, suck it up, Portland. When the president or serious candidates for president come to town, you don't whine about the costs of ensuring their safety or ask them not to stray from the airport. You welcome them the way Iowans just did — you go overtime."

The debate, set for March 19, was announced last October.

Moyers talks to KCET about inequality in America, Obama's lack of fighting spirit

SoCal Connected on KCET in Los Angeles will air an interview with Bill Moyers on Friday (Jan. 6), a week before the veteran newsman returns to pubTV with the weekly Moyers and Company. In the sit-down with host Val Zavala, Moyers provides his current assessment of America, saying that "the growth of inequality in this country is the biggest story of our time. The have-nots now have less than they ever did. The have-it-alls now have more than they ever did." His show takes on the issue in the first three episodes. Moyers also says of President Barack Obama: "You gotta fight for the people. He's not a fighter. He's a good, smart guy, but he's not a fighter."

Chiotakis of "Marketplace Morning Report" moving to KCRW

Steve Chiotakis, host of Marketplace Morning Report, is moving to the local All Things Considered anchor spot on KCRW, the Santa Monica, Calif., station announced Wednesday (Jan. 4). Chiotakis has hosted the American Public Media show since 2008. In a statement, he said that KCRW "is a natural fit for me. It’s home to terrific and talented people. It’s an L.A. institution with a world-class sensibility. I’m excited about what’s possible and can’t wait to get to work telling the stories of this great city." He'll start in late January.

GOP plan may doom spectrum auctions, Blair Levin contends

A spectrum auction to free up bandwidth space for mobile devices will probably fail if Congress adopts a Republican House plan, said Blair Levin, former executive director of the Federal Communications Commission’s Omnibus Broadband Initiative that proposed the auction, reports the TVNewsCheck website. The proposed legislation would give the FCC authority to conduct incentive auctions and share proceeds with the Treasury and broadcasters who voluntarily give up spectrum, but it also contains provisions designed to protect broadcasters who keep spectrum. "The legislation ties the FCC’s hands in a variety of ways," said Levin, who is now with the Aspen Institute. "It opens it up to litigation risk, which then, in conjunction with the other handcuffs, makes it difficult to pull off a successful auction. The nature of the bill dramatically increases the probability that there will be less spectrum recovered and less money for the Treasury."

PBS reveals "Roadshow" producer's new "Market Wars" series

PBS on Wednesday officially announced its upcoming 20-episode Market Wars, at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour. In it, four antiques experts search cross-country for unique items to take to auction. Whoever makes the highest total profit at auction in each episode is named the winner. "With affectionate humor, Market Wars follows the combatants, gleaning the best tactics from the battlefield and arming viewers to pursue their own successful treasure hunts," PBS said. Executive producer is Antiques Roadshow's Marsha Bemko. Pubcasters first heard details of the show at the NETA convention in Kansas City, Mo., last October (Current, Nov. 7, 2011).

“I think it’s clear,” Kerger assured reporters at the press tour, “that reality shows have not taken over public television, but we think that there’s a place for smart reality programming.”

"Antiques Roadshow continues to be such an important destination for so many of our viewers that we thought to expand upon that work a little bit on Monday nights and to give another opportunity for people to look a little behind the scenes at the antiques business — and to really learn from people that are doing great work around the country would be an extension of that,” Kerger said.

Noted the Washington Post's TV columnist Lisa de Moraes: "If you take that sentence and replace Antiques Roadshow with Pawn Stars, you’ve got History Channel’s announcement of its Cajun Pawn Stars spinoff, debuting Sunday. And replace Antiques Roadshow with American Pickers and you’ve virtually reenacted History’s announcement of its plans for an American Pickers spinoff."