Dec 29, 2005

Seven listeners have sued Detroit pubradio station WDET for fraud, claiming they were tricked into pledging for a music-oriented station in October while management was planning to switch its daytime schedule to national news programming, the Detroit Free Press reported. The change took place Dec. 13. The worst time to make such a switch is after a pledge drive, commented Chicago Public Radio's Torey Malatia, quoted in the Chicago Tribune. Via Romenesko.
StoryCorps, the oral history project launched by pubradio producer David Isay, has announced 2006 stops for its two traveling audio studios. One MobileBooth visited Gulfport, Miss., earlier this month and the other will come to New Orleans in May. The project has taped nearly 2,000 personal stories in 26 cities so far. Booths also operate at Grand Central Terminal and the World Trade Center in Manhattan.

Dec 23, 2005

The bones of former Masterpiece Theater host Alistair Cooke were illegally sold after his death, reports the New York Times. "At this point, we're just reeling," said his daughter. "It's so horrific on so many fronts."
NPR's reporting is less liberal than critics charge, and The Newshour with Jim Lehrer hews close to the political center, according to a forthcoming study of media bias led by a political scientist at the University of California Los Angeles.

Dec 21, 2005

"I believe NPR relies too much on think tanks in general and on conservative think tanks in particular -- especially when it comes to economics, and defense policy issues," writes NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin, clarifying views expressed in his previous column.
The format change at Detroit's WDET-FM is "a very risky move," says former General Manager Caryn Mathes in the Detroit Metro Times.

Dec 20, 2005

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler faults producers of Now for their handling of a Nov. 18 field report about wages paid to Latino electricians hired for reconstruction work in New Orleans. Complaints about the report from BE&K Inc., the subcontractor whose wage and hiring practices were examined, and the producer's response are posted on Now's website.
Meanwhile, CPB Ombudsman Ken Bode faults Getler for being too easy on PBS and producers of Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories in Getler's Dec. 2 critique.

Dec 19, 2005

Students at Swarthmore College and pubradio veteran Marty Goldensohn are producing War News Radio, a show about Iraq reported entirely from stateside. "We thought we were at a disadvantage not being on the ground in Iraq," a student tells The New Yorker. "But when you hear from reporters there that they can't even leave their hotels you start to think."
Robert Krulwich is returning to NPR. "My feeling has always been that there's a kind of imprinting going on if you do journalism and broadcasting for a living," he says. "Like if you're a duck and the first thing you see is a duck. I imprinted on NPR — it's the duck I know and the duck I own, and I'm going back to my original duck."

Dec 16, 2005

Peter Sagal tells Chicagoist how he became host of Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me!: "[L]ike a lot of public radio geeks, I would sit around saying, 'I could do that. Why don't they put me on the air? I can be pompous just as they can! What's the problem here? What do they have that I don't?'"

Dec 15, 2005

Bill Moyers shares his side of a "sordid little story" about Kenneth Tomlinson, Paul Gigot, and the ideological battle over Now.

Dec 14, 2005

The Knight Foundation and PBS said today that Knight will give the network a $2.5 million challenge grant to launch a multicast Citizen's Channel next fall and $500,000 for the pilot of a nightly show for the channel, Global Watch. The show, produced by KCET of Los Angeles and KQED of San Francisco, will cull stories from around the world. It will be followed nightly by ITVS Presents, a showcase for indie docs. The channel will also feature video blogs and vox pop segments, live coverage of major press conferences and congressional hearings and repeats of PBS nonfiction shows. PBS developed its Public Square plans with a Knight grant awarded two years ago.

PBS's blue-ribbon Digital Future Initiative panel will release its report tomorrow at an invitation-only "summit" in D.C.
New York magazine culture critic John Leonard named David Grubin's Destination America as the best nonfiction TV program of 2005. The four-part doc debuted Oct. 19 on PBS. "This is the sort of television that puts faces on stats, but it’s also almost elegiac: These are the doors we are bolting behind us," Leonard wrote.
Five rules from the NPR drinking game. There's also the PBS pledge drive drinking game.
Sesame Workshop and New York-based cable provider Cablevision on Monday launched Sesame Street Games, an interactive video game service available to customers in the New York metropolitan area. The educational games, available on Cablevision's interactive digital cable tier, feature Muppets and are designed for children ages 2-5, who will use the cable remote control to make choices on their TV screens. The service costs $4.95 per month.
Radio consultant John Sutton had a staticky introduction to owning a digital radio: "I tried everything I could to get a better signal. It all seemed so old-fashioned, so 'analog.'"

Dec 13, 2005

WDET-FM in Detroit has gone all-news during middays, replacing a mix of locally originated music. "Public radio listeners let us know they're looking to us to provide news and information, and public affairs programming," says Michael Coleman, g.m. "That's what we're responding to." (Compare with the Audience Research Analysis study, below.)
A new report from Audience Research Analysis (PDF) begins to address public radio's recent stagnation in audience growth by looking at some listening trends. One observation: "At a time when many station managers seem certain that airing more local programming is their best competitive strategy, listeners are generally showing less interest in listening to it."

Dec 12, 2005

"[T]he few extra bucks aren't worth it." PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler writes that WGBH and PBS erred by allowing the Las Vegas Convention Authority and other local groups to underwrite Las Vegas: An Unconventional History.
The Traffic Directors Guild of America is completing its annual salary survey for traffic continuity, office and business managers in public and commercial broadcasting. The online survey ends Friday, Dec. 16. Results will be published in mid-January. For more information on the guild, see its website.
CPB seeks to award a three-year contract to a distributor of programming to Native radio stations.
The audience of WETA-FM in Washington, D.C. is "smaller, no more generous than the classical audience was, and no more reflective of the demographics of the Washington area" 10 months after the station dropped classical music in favor of news, writes the Washington Post's Marc Fisher. (Earlier coverage in Current.)

Dec 11, 2005

CPB Chair Cheryl Halpern personally co-funded, with El Al Airlines, a joint exhibition of 61 paintings by 50 young Israelis and Palestinians, and trips to London for four teenage artists for the opening at the Ben Uri Gallery, the Hampstead and Highgate Express reported last week. The peace-minded paintings featured such images as doves flying over the Mideast and the Palestinian and Israeli flags flying side by side. The exhibit closes Dec. 23.

Dec 9, 2005

A ruling on the fate of KALW-FM in San Francisco is expected later this month, reports the East Bay Express. Station execs are accused of misrepresenting the state of their public file. [Details of the FCC accusation in 2004 FCC document, in Word format: Commission orders hearing on whether KALW lied.]
Seattle's KEXP-FM went ahead with plans to lease a signal in Tacoma despite opposition from many senior staffers, reports the Seattle Weekly. The station recently cut the satellite frequency loose to shore up its finances.

Dec 8, 2005

An Editor & Publisher columnist suggests that newspapers might get a new lease on life by emulating public broadcasting's nonprofit model.
Conservative columnist George Will takes aim at congressional plans to subsidize DTV converter boxes. "Call it No Couch Potato Left Behind," he writes.

Dec 7, 2005

NPR's entry into podcasting is going "spectacularly well," says Ken Stern, executive v.p., in Radio World. (Earlier coverage in Current.)
Pubradio consultant John Sutton ponders the idea of "news fatigue" in his latest blog post. "'News fatigue' sounds like a handy answer to questions about public radio's audience decline," he writes. "But it is a 'blame the listener' response."
Media activist Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy has asked PBS's new ombudsman to see whether the network's underwriting rules are permitting underwriters to back programs that serve their interests. He cites the recent American Experience history of Las Vegas, underwritten by the city's tourist authority and a foundation related to the Las Vegas Sun. [Current article.] WGBH told Current that most funding for the show came from usual series sources not related to Las Vegas and that none of the funders saw the program before underwriting the episode.
Peggy Girshman, NPR's assistant managing editor, shares a recipe for tri-color butter cookie swirls in advance of the annual NPR Cookie Day.
NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin reads a 1988 article about NPR and laments that his network has lost some of its past quirkiness.
The Bergen (N.J.) Record profiles WFMU-FM in Jersey City, N.J., and music director Brian Turner. "One of the things I really love about music is discovering and finding out about all these things that dwell on the margins that you didn't even know existed," Turner says. Also: a blogger listens to (almost) nothing but WFMU for a week and lives to tell the tale.

Dec 6, 2005

The Chicago Tribune reviews Sound Opinions, a rock-criticism radio show that jumped from commercial radio to Chicago's WBEZ-FM last weekend. The debut "kept things punchy and unprofessorial," writes Steve Johnson.
A recent This American Life segment about Africa (RealAudio) dismayed a blogger with experience in the country. "In the only story in 2005 I can recall that mentioned Africa, you . . . managed to reinforce the majority of stupid Africa stereotypes I’ve encountered in 12 years of working on African issues and periodically living on the continent."

Dec 5, 2005

In a farewell delivered on the final installment of PBS's Journal Editorial Report, Paul Gigot thanked his producers, former CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson and viewers. "To the many PBS stations that carried us around the country, thank you for your commitment to public affairs programming that represents more than one point of view," Gigot said. "We wish every station shared that commitment."
In his first column as PBS ombudsman, Michael Getler faults PBS and producers of Breaking the Silence: Children's Stories for a "flawed presentation." He writes: "There was a complete absence of some of the fundamental journalistic conventions that, in fact, make a story more powerful and convincing because they, at a minimum, acknowledge that there is another side."

Dec 1, 2005

New York's WNYE-FM is simulcasting music programming from XM Satellite Radio, reports Radio and Records. (Via DCRTV.)
Fox News Channel announced that it will add the Journal Editorial Report to its lineup in January. Developed for PBS, the show has been at the heart of the Kenneth Tomlinson balance controversy. It will appear on PBS for the last time Dec. 2. "Roger Ailes and the Fox News Channel team have proven they can attract viewers with serious news programming and commentary," said Paul Gigot, the show's host and editorial page editor for the Wall Street Journal. "I look forward to working with them to make the Journal Editorial Report part of their successful lineup."