May 9, 2012

Two congressmen asking for support on letters to defund CPB

Sen. James DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) are collecting signatures from colleagues on Capitol Hill on letters asking Congressional leaders to defund CPB, reports Broadcasting & Cable. Both have previously sponsored bills to end CPB support. "As you know, our country is more than $15 trillion in debt," the letter says. "We simply cannot afford to continue funding all of the programs that we have in the past."

Despite his longtime opposition to federal pubcasting funding, Lamborn last year appeared in a fundraising video for Rocky Mountain PBS.

After negotiations, PBS moves "Independent Lens," "POV" to Mondays

Independent Lens and POV, the PBS series at the center at a dispute about public TV's commitment to independent film, are moving to Monday nights, PBS's highest-rated evening.

The schedule change, which takes effect Oct. 29, will be the second in a year for the documentary showcases. After PBS uprooted the indie film series from their longtime Tuesday timeslot last October, station carriage and viewing audiences dropped in the new Thursday-night slot  (Current, March 12).

This latest move to Mondays at 10 p.m. (Eastern) will position the shows to begin winning viewers back. Ratings powerhouse Antiques Roadshow leads PBS primetime on Mondays, and PBS will be putting a lot of promotional power behind Market Warriors, a new series slated for 9 p.m. that will become the lead-in for indie films.

Ratings for Mondays in Nielsen metered markets scored 42 percent above the PBS primetime average of 1.09 last fall, according to audience analysis firm TRAC Media Service. Thursday nights, by contrast, scored 24 percent below average. Independent Lens has languished in its Thursday timeslot, its ratings plunging at one point more than 40 percent over the previous season.

For the new scheduling plan, PBS and producers agreed to create a multiplatform film festival for mid-2013 to showcase independent filmmakers. “Much like we've done with the PBS Arts Festivals,” said PBS Programmer John Wilson, “we’ll use the film festival to shine a brighter light on independent work.”

“We are thrilled with PBS’s decision to move the programs to Mondays as part of an overall strategy for independent programs,” Simon Kilmurry, executive director of POV, said in a statement from PBS. “Filmmakers and viewers will benefit from a public television experience that fully embraces the power and impact of independent documentaries.”

Sally Jo Fifer, ITVS president, said: “By broadcasting indies’ mission-focused stories on Monday nights, we hope that more PBS viewers will have the opportunity to engage in the community and educational activities that independent films inspire.”

The scheduling outcome is the result of months of high-level negotiations among representatives from PBS; POV; and the Independent Television Service, producers of Independent Lens. Talks intensified after Chicago documentary house Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams, Interrupters) posted an online open letter to PBS expressing concern over the Thursday timeslot; among more than 1,000 signatories were veteran newsman Bill Moyers, activist Michael Moore and Oscar winners Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side) and Barbara Kopple (Harlan County). Drawing on that support, Kartemquin established a permanent PBS Needs Indies Steering Committee, in partnership with the International Documentary Association, to work as a liaison between filmmakers and PBS.

Gordon Quinn, a founder of Kartemquin, reacted to the new schedule in the statement from PBS: “We are happy that PBS has chosen this exciting way forward and we stand ready to support the new strategy and PBS in every way we can.”

See the next issue of Current, coming May 14, for further coverage.

Yuki Noguchi?

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton?

Mandalit del Barco?

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson?

Douali Xaykaothao?

Help decide the best name in public radio.

KCET production partner Eyetronics struggling, Los Angeles Times reports

Eyetronics Media & Studios, which last year announced a $50 million production deal with KCET in Los Angeles, "has been reduced to a tiny operation that has been late on some of its bills," the Los Angeles Times is reporting. Four people who worked for the Encino, Calif.-based firm told the newspaper that they and others had gone without pay for as long as six weeks during the last year. And a representative for the landlord said owner Dominique Bigle owes several months' back rent. Bigle's attorney denied some of the claims to the newspaper, saying that employees "have been fully compensated," that Eyetronics is "unaware of any ongoing disputes or claims" and that any rent owed is due to the landlord's failure to properly maintain the building and provide security.

Current reported in August 2011 that the production deal was for at least five original series. So far one, the retro Classic Cool Theater, has made it to air; Bigle had told Current the show was based on titles from his own extensive film library of some 3,000 titles including historical footage, newsreels, old serials, documentaries and TV movies. But three people familiar with Eyetronics told the Times that parts of Classic Cool episodes have simply been "ripped" from DVDs the company bought from sources like Amazon.

KCET Board Chair Channing D. Johnson told the Times that "the financial status of Eyetronics is not relevant to KCET, period. As long as Dominique Bigle delivers the content he has indicated that he will, then we are fine." He added that Bigle "is not a crucial part of the KCET business plan. He is one content provider. He is the icing on the cake, not crucial to the cake."

Poggioli, covering "everything from politics to pasta, Britain to Berlusconi"

Here's a lyrical look at NPR Senior European Correspondent Silva Poggioli's everyday life in Rome, from the Boston Globe: "In Rome, NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli covers crises and eats well." And what a life it is! "Campo de’ Fiori is still Poggioli’s favorite place to shop," the Globe reports. "On a sunny spring day, a street musician tightens his bow, a small group of nuns floats by in their gray habits, and Poggioli, in a long cardigan in hues of garnet and orange, with a scarf casually wrapped around her neck, heads for a vendor she knows well. Claudio Zampa, co-owner with his brother, Massimo, of Da Claudio a Campo de’ Fiori, greets Poggioli with a warm 'Carissima!' They banter in Italian. Poggioli notes that the Zampa brothers’ market was in a scene in Woody Allen’s new film, To Rome With Love."

Admit it: That's just what you expected, right?

It's the 90th anniversary for WOSU, and WBAA

WOSU in Columbus, Ohio, is marking quite the milestone this year: 90 years on the air, reports The Lantern, the college paper of licensee Ohio State University. Tom Rieland, g.m., said the former WEAO (Willing Eager Athletic Ohio) was one of only a few pioneering educational radio stations in the country. “The programming was almost all live and included broadcast of lessons by faculty at Ohio State, farm news and musical concerts,” Rieland said. Now there's WOSU-TV, a PBS member station, and two radio stations, 89.7 NPR News and Classical 101. In 2010 the station moved its full-time news service to 89.7 after its all-news AM station failed to attract listeners (Current, Aug. 9, 2010).

Rieland said that because the station had a large celebration for its 75th anniversary, the 100th will be quieter: a lunch for staff and volunteers, and tours of the station for OSU faculty, staff and students.

UPDATE: And thanks for the heads-up from WBAA at Purdue University, also celebrating its big 9-0 this year!

Connecticut PTV loses broadcast rights to popular UConn women's basketball games

Connecticut Public Television is losing its broadcast rights to University of Connecticut women's basketball, which has been a huge ratings winner for the station for the past 18 years (Current, Dec. 12, 2011). In a four-year, $4.5 million deal, the university selected SportsNet NY to show the games, according to NBC Connecticut.

"This new agreement with SNY will bring UConn women's basketball to more Husky fans than ever before throughout the region and the nation," UConn President Susan Herbst said in a statement

"Obviously we are devastated and disappointed that they went with a New York-based firm," CPTV President Jerry Franklin told NBC. "We have had an 18-year history with UConn and thousands of people have told me over the years that we helped build UConn women's basketball into a national phenomenon. We have been inundated with people who are upset about this, and tomorrow there with be thousands more people who are upset. We think we have done more to increase visibility of women's basketball than any other media outlet." The games drew ratings up to 16 shares, Franklin told Current last year.

Franklin said CPTV requested a chance to match SNY's bid, but was not given that opportunity.