Mar 8, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Breitbart's "exclusive" Obama video has been on Frontline's site since 2008

Before his death on March 1, conservative online publisher Andrew Breitbart hinted that he had video of a 1990 speech given by then-Harvard student Barack Obama that Breitbart said was evidence of President Obama's longtime radical political beliefs. It was posted on his site Wednesday (March 7) as an "exclusive." But it turns out the footage was shot by Boston's WGBH and has been on the Frontline website since 2008. Frontline provides details in a web post, along with unedited footage.

Well-schooled in start-up culture, Corey Ford returns to public media

Public Media Accelerator, the incubator launched in December with a $2.5 million grant from the Knight Foundation, will be led by a former Frontline producer who left the field to immerse himself in the technology start-up culture of Silicon Valley.

Corey Ford
earned production credits on 17 Frontline films before earning his M.B.A. at Stanford University. His interest in multidisciplinary approaches to technology innovation led him to take a fellowship at Stanford’s Institute of Design, and from there he was recruited to direct the runway for Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s venture capital fund, Innovation Endeavors.

Ford is now bringing that experience back to public media as director of Public Radio Exchange’s latest initiative to spur innovation, the Public Media Accelerator (PMX).

“I feel like my whole career has been built for this opportunity,” said Ford, whose appointment was announced March 8 during the Integrated Media Association conference in Austin.

PMX is being positioned as a potential game-changer in defining the future of public media. By adopting a start-up model that’s been in wide use in the tech world, PRX and Knight aim to identify, recruit and nurture "mission-driven entrepreneurs changing media for good,” as the Accelerator’s tag line goes. PMX will explore business models that aren’t limited by public media’s traditional, grant-driven processes for creating new content and services. Part of Ford’s job will be to bring in these new funding sources.

“One of the reasons we’ve taken on the model of an accelerator is to help reveal to the field what is happening in Silicon Valley,” said Jake Shapiro, PRX c.e.o. “Accelerators are cropping up all over place, and this is an opportunity to help explain and leverage how you can create something new” in the fast-paced world of tech innovation. Accelerator-backed concepts will demonstrate the key ingredients for new public media start-ups, as well as metrics for defining success with audiences and funders.

Shapiro pointed to an earlier PRX project that scouted new creative talent for the field. “This is another kind of Talent Quest," he said, referring to the CPB-backed initiative to open a new path for public radio stardom. Two of the producers identified by PRX’s online recruiting process earned full backing to produce their shows, Snap Judgment and State of the Re:Union.

WHYY hires Pulitzer-winning cartoonist for NewsWorks

NewsWorks, WHYY's collaborative website covering Philadelphia-area news, has hired Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Tony Auth, formerly of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Chris Satullo, WHYY's v.p. for news and civic engagement announced Wednesday (March 7) that starting in April, Auth will be "digital artist in residence" for NewsWorks and WHYY. Auth's national political cartoons will not be published on NewsWorks but will continue to be available through syndication. Auth's residency will be funded in part through a grant from the Thomas Skelton Harrison Foundation.

PBS announces second web-based arts program

PBS is launching on March 14 a new series on YouTube, Idea Channel, which it calls an "irreverent, personality-driven" project that "examines the unique places where art, culture, technology and the Internet intersect." Hosting will be Mike Rugnetta, a composer, programmer and performer who is part of  MemeFactory, a three-man performance group exploring Internet culture.

Off Book, another PBS web-only series focusing on experimental and nontraditional forms of artistic expression, began its second season Wednesday (March 7). Off Book launched in fall 2011 as part of the PBS Arts initiative and over the course of 13 episodes generated more than a half million views on YouTube, PBS said.

“These series are part of our strategy to reach new audiences with online video that is compelling and highly sharable,” said Jason Seiken, PBS s.v.p. interactive, product development and innovation. “Our hope is that consumers continue to discover PBS not only as a source for great television content, but also as a source for unique, web-only video that they can enjoy wherever they are.”

Barry University sells WXEL-TV for $1.4 million

Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla., has approved the sale of PBS member WXEL for $1,446,102 to a group led by Bernie Henneberg, station president, reports the Palm Beach Post. The WXEL Public Broadcasting Corporation received a $1.5 million loan from Public Radio Capital, and a $500,000 line of credit. The university also gets five years of free advertising, worth about $273,000, and $170,000 when the group's loan is paid off in five years.

The station is in the red some $199,000, Henneberg told the board. But, he added, "We have made an investment in personnel and equipment that will allow us to go forth and be successful. We have a plan for 2013 that is almost break-even."

The station had been in play for eight years (Current, Nov. 29, 2004).  Barry sold WXEL-90.7 FM to Classical South Florida for $3.85 million  in May 2011.

UPDATE: See Current's story here.