Mar 15, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marfa Public Radio plans new service for Odessa

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

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

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

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

State GOP cancels upcoming debate at Oregon Public Broadcasting

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

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

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

County commissioners appear split on supporting WTVI merger to save station

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

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

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

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