Jan 30, 2006

CPB announced production funding today for 20 of the 35 finalists in its America at a Crossroads initiative of 9/11-related films [RFP and lists of finalists]. Washington's WETA will package eight of the 20 as a series, CPB said.
Washington Week with Gwen Ifill will change its name Feb. 17, adding the words "and National Journal." The National Journal, an elite (subscriptions cost $1,800 a year) chronicler of the federal government, may someday share stories with the PBS program but will start as a partnership in marketing and fundraising, the New York Times reported today. Two National Journal advertisers, Boeing and Chevron, will join the program.
To make up for Congress's 1 percent rescission from this year's appropriation, the CPB Board juggled its budget Friday, moving $2.8 million to the Community Service Grant pool. The money comes from the "system support" part of CPB's budget, which also assist stations, covering some satellite and copyright costs.

Jan 27, 2006

The Palm Beach Post reports that the Florida Board of Education wants a $1 million cut from the proposed sale of WXEL-TV/FM.

Jan 26, 2006

Former KCRW commentator Sandra Tsing Loh weighs in on the Chris Douridas affair: "[I]f there is a silver lining for Douridas, it's that at least Ruth Seymour is not avowing his mentally (sic) instability directly to the press, and that she does not consider him, as she did me, a public danger." (Current's coverage of Loh's 2004 firing from the station.)
PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler endorses viewers' requests that PBS return Now to its original half-hour format, and agrees that programmers should evaluate the recent spate of Christian-themed PBS programs. "Is religious content being elevated these days? If so, why is that happening?"

Jan 24, 2006

NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin lays bare the "dibs" system by which the network's programs claim interviews with authors and musicians. Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition Saturday, argues that the setup is unfair to weekly shows such as his.
Former Pacifica host Marc Cooper delivers a tirade against his former employer and points out that Greg Guma, recently hired as the network's executive director, has endorsed arguments that the widely accepted account of what happened on 9/11 is untrue. "Look forward, if you can, to more programming and fund-raising that would be better suited for a UFO cult than for a serious or credible political and cultural opposition," Cooper writes. Meanwhile, the g.m. of Pacifica's KPFA-FM in Berkeley has resigned. In a letter on KPFA's website, he says, "This past year has provided me with a memorable introduction to KPFA/Pacifica's complex and challenging environment." (Coverage in the Berkeley Daily Planet.)

Jan 23, 2006

Showtime has ordered six episodes of a television version of public radio's This American Life to air this fall at the earliest. The new gig doesn't endanger the radio version of TAL, promises Ira Glass, host and e.p. The show's website features a brief announcement of the news.
The Boston Globe profiles, the blogging and social-networking website backed by the parent company of Minnesota Public Radio. "We think of Gather as doing for user-driven content what eBay did for user-driven retail," says Gather founder Tom Gerace. "Today, the problem in the blogosphere is finding what you want." The startup announced last week that it received another $6 million in equity financing, some from Southern California Public Radio, a sibling to MPR.

Jan 20, 2006

Nearly all Poynter Institute staffers surveyed say they listen to NPR as part of their daily news diet.
"In the radio business, if someone's not criticizing you for something, you're probably not doing your job," says Gerry Weston, who has stepped down as president of the Public Radio Partnership in Louisville, Ky. A Louisville Courier-Journal article presents a host of speculations about why Weston has resigned, reportedly under pressure from his board of directors. "It's a complex situation," says a former employee.
"[NPR's leaders] still believe it is the responsibility of the journalist to focus the attention of the listener on issues that are important," says Ted Koppel in a Wall Street Journal article about network TV reporters recently hired at NPR. NOTE: New host Michel Martin will have to adjust to a lower salary. "I'm going to save a lot of money on haircuts," she says.

Jan 19, 2006

Does "a maze of twisty little roads, all alike" ring a bell? To some alert geeks, it did, and NPR science reporter David Kestenbaum has 'fessed up to slipping that reference to an early text-adventure computer game into a recent story on Morning Edition.
The Radio Research Consortium has commissioned Audience 2010, a study led by researchers George Bailey and David Giovannoni that seeks to understand public radio's recent decline in audience and to recommend tactics for reversing it.
Louisiana Public Broadcasting Executive Director Beth Courtney and her husband paid a $10,000 fine after the state ethics board determined that TV production subcontracts involving Bob Courtney's company violated conflict of interest laws, reports the Baton Rouge Advocate. (The ethics opinion is posted here.) Accuracy in Media, a right-wing media watchdog group that endorsed Kenneth Tomlinson's campaign to balance public broadcasting, issued a news release calling for a federal investigation into whether Beth Courtney, a CPB Board member who opposed Tomlinson, violated CPB's ethics code.

Jan 17, 2006

Greg Guma, co-founder of the Vermont Guardian, will become executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, left-of-center operator of five pubradio stations [Pacifica website], the Guardian reported today. Predecessor Dan Coughlin held the position three years before resigning in June 2005. Guma has edited two other progressive publications, owned bookstores, coordinated the Peace and Justice Center in Burlington and headed a legal services group for immigrants in New Mexico. Meanwhile, the board of Pacifica's KPFA-FM in Berkeley has reportedly recommended firing the station manager there, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
A co-host of War News Radio on Swarthmore College's public radio station discussed the show on public radio's The World last week. (Link launches Windows Media Player file.)
Chris Douridas, a host on KCRW-FM in Santa Monica, was arrested last week on suspicion of drugging and trying to kidnap a teenaged girl, reports the Los Angeles Times. "We believe in Chris as a person, and we think he has strong character," said a KCRW exec. (Press release from the Santa Monica Police Department.)
Will Oprah come to Masterpiece Theatre's rescue? A Reuters story suggests that PBS will ask Harpo, Oprah Winfrey's production company, to sponsor MT miniseries, quoting outgoing PBS President Pat Mitchell. "Oprah is incredibly philanthropic with her money and supports so many good causes," Mitchell told reporters at last weekend's Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena. "This would be one." WGBH sources aren't aware of any plans to approach Winfrey with sponsorship proposals, however. MT has been looking for a major sponsor since ExxonMobil turned off the cash pumps after the 2004 season. More from the press tour: PBS needs more money. "Some things never change for the Public Broadcasting Service: 'Sesame Street,' British theater and empty pockets," reports the Associated Press; despite the fact that she's a short-timer, Mitchell has declined to blast Kenneth Tomlinson or otherwise "speak frankly" about last year's controversy, according to the Hartford Courant; New York's WNET is producing new docs on the Supreme Court and American comedy and has committed to two more seasons of Wide Angle, the fifth and sixth for the Emmy-award winning international affairs show hosted by Bill Moyers. WGBH's American Experience will produce a doc on New Orleans. "With the recent devastation to the city, the time is right to reflect on the rich history of New Orleans," said American Experience executive producer Mark Samels.
A former freelancer for NPR has filed a lawsuit against the Museum of Modern Art alleging that the museum got him fired from his reporting job. David D'Arcy claims that MoMA officials lied to his editors at NPR and demanded a false correction. An NPR spokeswoman denied the charges in the suit, according to a UPI clip.

NPR reporter sues MoMA over firing

Jan 13, 2006

Gerry Weston is stepping down as president of the Public Radio Partnership in Louisville under pressure from the nonprofit's board, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Jan 12, 2006

NPR has named Ted Koppel a senior news analyst and hired ABC's Michel Martin (bio) to host a daily two-hour public affairs show aimed at African-American listeners. Koppel will provide analysis on newsmags and other shows about 50 times a year and be on hand for breaking news and special events coverage. Martin will contribute to programs and serve as a substitute host until her own show debuts later this year.

Jan 11, 2006

Peruse WFMU's extensive collection of velvet paintings (featuring the likenesses of Zell Miller, Osama Bin Laden and JonBenet Ramsey, among others) in all their splendor. (Oh, and news to us: WFMU has a home on Flickr.)

Jan 10, 2006

A major AM news station's switch to FM in the nation's capital is "a direct attack" on the city's public radio stations, writes a Billboard Radio Monitor analyst.
NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin says some of his network's breaking coverage of the West Virginia mine disaster showed "a lack of sensitivity for the miners and their families."

Jan 9, 2006

News about angry pubradio listeners' lawsuit against Detroit's WDET made the New York Times today. Seven station members on Dec. 19 sued the station for fraud, claiming the music station tricked them into pledging in October even as managment planned to switch its daytime schedule to national news programming. "It's a better business decision and it's a better service to this urban market," Michael Coleman, general manager of WDET, told the Times. "I think public radio needs to be about more than music programming." The disgruntled listeners started a website,, and are trying to negotiate a compromise with WDET or its owner, Wayne State University, according to the Times.

Jan 6, 2006

"Fairness and balance, Mr. Brancaccio, keep it in mind." CPB Ombudsman Ken Bode chastises Now's host for lobbing "softball questions" at Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice, a chief critic of Rep. Tom Delay, during a Sept. 30 interview. The program, which included a report critical of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, prompted a complaint from South Carolina Republican Congressman Bob Inglis. In his Dec. 30 column examining the same edition of Now, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler came to different conclusions.
Professionals from the fields of public radio and the performing arts will meet in New York this month for the Music & Media forum. The two-day event, staged by representatives from public radio's major networks, will focus on finding new ways to collaborate and increase audiences for jazz, classical and alternative music on the air and in performance.

Jan 5, 2006

"[W]ho wouldn't love a big, friendly, stoned (and "energetic") tree sloth and all his singing, dancing buddies?," asks Blogging Baby, in a review of the new PBS Kids show, It's a Big, Big World. A critic for the LA Times notes that series creator Mitchell Kriegman followed the Mister Rogers paradigm in casting his lead character Snook as a giant tree sloth who talks and moves slowly. But the Boston Globe's reviewer wrote that Snook is too laid back to stand out in the crowded field of beloved kids TV characters.
Slate's Andy Bowers (formerly of NPR) picks podcasts of the year, including a couple from the world of public radio.
U.K. residents (but not the rest of us) can now download 80 notable packages of news footage from the BBC archives, the AP reported. For instance, they can watch the Berlin Wall come down in Windows Media, Quicktime or MPEG-1 formats, and then edit the footage and use it for noncommercial purposes, giving credit. The few restrictions are laid out in the Creative Archive License, which requires users to share their derivative works under the same terms. Channel 4, the British Film Institute and the Open University will issue material under the same license, the BBC said. The Open News Archive was proposed in 2003 by Greg Dyke, then head of the Beeb.
WFMU's blog cites rumors that the FCC will open a five-day filing window for noncommercial educational stations within six months. But communications attorney John Crigler says a better guess would place a window later this year, after the commission has cleared a backlog of mutually exclusive proceedings.
The nation's capital will pick up a new commercial news/talk station that's described in The Washington Post as "NPR on caffeine." The Post, in fact, will program the station and previously sought a similar partnership with the city's WETA-FM.

Jan 4, 2006

Broadcast technicians represented by NABET Local 31 voted to reject "best and final" contract proposals offered separately by PBS and NPR. To pressure PBS to reconsider its offer, the union plans to appeal to workers to withhold their donations to PBS stations, according to the Washington Times.
By the end of 2006, WGBH aims to raise $40 million for its new headquarters under construction in Boston's Brighton neighborhood, according to its website. Included is a $10 million endowment to cover operating costs of a planned event hall, a 200-seat theater and other new spaces. Also online: a live webcam showing construction, architect's renderings and the plan's eco-friendliness. [Earlier Current article.]
Public Radio International named Alisa Miller its new president. Miller formerly served as senior v.p. of PRI's content wing and joined the corporation in 2001.

Jan 1, 2006

Looking back to a Sept. 30 segment on PBS's Now, correspondent Maria Hinojosa did "some good work" providing insights into FEMA's post-Katrina Gulf Coast problems, writes PBS ombudsman Michael Getler, but he's troubled by her unsupported claim that FEMA had treated Florida much better in 2004 because it was a swing state in an election year. A segment on Rep. Tom DeLay's legal problems was also "noticeably one-sided." In the stories, Getler says, Now's valuable reporting is diminished by unnecessary "political touches" and the omission of even a file clip of DeLay's self-defense.
A New York Times feature contrasts next week's PBS doc, Country Boys, with predictable accounts of the poverty cycle. "Everyone wants things to be all black and white, but with me everything is nuance," Sutherland says. Shot in 1999-01, the project debuts Jan. 9 on Frontline. The filmmaker estimates it's "a half-million dollars over budget, and two and a half years late." Current
profiled the project and two other Appalachian doc series in 2004. Sutherland is known for the earlier observational doc, The Farmer's Wife, aired in 1998. Sutherland says he still gets 30 e-mails a week about that series.