Apr 27, 2006

Consultant Robert Paterson shares some thoughts about public radio's New Realities forum, which takes place Monday and Tuesday in Washington, D.C. "For many who will attend, the issue is much more than the survival and health of public radio but the survival of the last large media space in America that can be trusted," he writes.
Minnesota Public Radio/American Public Media said yesterday it's creating a new Center for Innovation in Journalism, which will further develop its Public Insight Journalism system. APM's national programs are now starting to use PIJ after three years' development at MPR. In a Nieman Foundation report (PDF) last year, Michael Skoler, the MPR news exec who will direct the new center, described the system that uses Internet and database technologies to gather a large pool of volunteer news sources. MPR raised $2.25 million for the project in its capital campaign and topped the new wing of its St. Paul headquarters with a meeting room designed for in-person gatherings of PIJ sources. Skoler looks at the system's practical benefits for reporters in Current's May 1 issue.

Apr 26, 2006

Mara Liasson, filling in this week as NPR's Mixed Signals blogger, says she was "jolted" by a MasterCard ad — uh, underwriting credit — packaged with the web-only All Songs Considered.
WUNC-FM in Chapel Hill, N.C., is aiming to expand its presence in nearby Greensboro, a move which could increase competition with WFDD-FM in Winston-Salem, reports the Triad Business Journal. Jay Banks, WFDD's g.m., calls the prospect "frightening."

Apr 25, 2006

Joel Achenbach, a sometime science writer for the Washington Post and National Geographic, is spring cleaning his old files. He ponders a file about Carl Sagan, the late astronomer and PBS star, plunders some good quotes and (this is not a surprise ending) decides to keep Sagan around.
Earlier this month, PBS apparently strapped webcams onto several cows and launched MooTube, a bovine blog and video site promoting WNET's Texas Ranch House, set to debut May 1. "Ladies and gentleman, it is now official . . . the Internet is a wasteland," wrote TV blogger Richard Keller. "And, you can thank the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) for making it so." Less cynical reactions at Broadcasting & Cable and the Washington Times, among other outlets.
PBS has tapped SES AMERICOM to provide the satellite network for the PBS Next Generation Interconnection System, the network announced Monday. The current public TV interconnection system uses SES AMERICOM satellites as well. The NGIS, which will move the system from traditional program stream broadcasting to digital, non-real-time program file delivery, is scheduled to go into service later this year.

Apr 24, 2006

CPB has issued a Request for Proposals for a study that will analyze coverage and interference issues related to HD Radio. "CPB is concerned with the disenfranchisement of listeners due to the loss of services public radio currently provides to them and the underperformance or lack of HD service (i.e., technical availability) when the conversion of public radio stations to HD is complete," the RFP says.
National pubcasting orgs launched a website earlier this month designed to generate grassroots support as the system tries to stave off proposed federal funding cuts, reports the New York Times. In its first week, the website,, generated "a couple thousand" e-mail messages to Congress from 39 states, said Mike Riksen, NPR's v.p. for government relations.
Todd Mundt reviews Gather and Public Action, two public radio web services that aim to bring listeners together and solicit content from them. One comment: "In talking to some people in pubradio about Gather I’ve consistently heard two things: it doesn’t feel like public radio; and a lot of the stuff that users submit isn’t that good." (Coverage in Current, April 2006 and September 2005.)
Koahnic Broadcast Corp. in Anchorage, Alaska, has received CPB funding to handle program distribution for public radio's Native stations (press release, PDF). Native American Public Telecommunications in Lincoln, Neb., has until now served as the primary distributor of Native programming.

Apr 21, 2006

Trustees of Kilgore College in Kilgore, Texas, have unanimously approved selling the college's noncommercial FM station to the Educational Media Foundation for $2.46 million, reports the Longview News-Journal. The other top bidder, NPR affiliate Red River Radio in Shreveport, La., could only offer less than half of the religious broadcaster's winning bid. Kilgore's president says the university wanted to pursue "the greater dollar value." (Kilgore College press release.)
Broadcast Electronics will provide program-associated data for XPoNential Radio, the Triple A-formatted stream that NPR offers for digital multicasting, reports Radio World. Information about artists and song titles will be disseminated via Internet.
The Public Radio Slave blogs from an undisclosed station about wacky complaints and requests from listeners, such as, "Hi, I won't be able to listen to Fresh Air tonight because of a school play one of my kids is in. I was wondering if you could tape it for me?"

Apr 20, 2006

Christopher O'Riley, host of public radio's From the Top, recently released Home to Oblivion, an album of Elliott Smith tunes reworked for solo piano. O'Riley's previous two recordings gave a similar treatment to Radiohead.
Longtime public radio producer and program creator Jim Russell is leaving American Public Media and setting up shop independently as "The Program Doctor."

Apr 19, 2006

Several noncommercial broadcasters, including Philadelphia's WHYY and WMMT-FM in Whitesburg, Ky., received 2006 New Voices grants from the University of Maryland's J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism.
Daniel Ash, Chicago Public Radio's v.p. of communications, talks with Chicagoist about the broadcaster's upcoming format changes. "Our aim is to develop a service that is highly localized and a reflection of the Chicago area, which would include music," Ash says. Chicagoist, a local blog, was critical of the changes, as was this opinionator in the Chicago Tribune. But Trib blogger Steve Johnson offered words of praise.

Apr 18, 2006

Chicago Public Radio has angered local musicians with its decision to drop all music from its stations in favor of news and talk programming, reports the Chicago Tribune. "It's a major blow -- it's kind of criminal," says jazz musician Ken Vandermark.

Apr 17, 2006

Exposure on NPR's Fresh Air helped land the debut album of novelty act What I Like About Jew into Amazon's top 100 sellers, reports Reuters.

Apr 13, 2006

The sounds of the Philadelphia Orchestra will return to national radio thanks to a deal with NPR, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. Orchestra musicians have expressed frustration since the '90s that they have lacked a steady presence on national radio.
The New York Times has opted to sell its 50 percent stake in the Discovery Times Channel back to Discovery Communications Inc., ending its three-year-old partnership with cable network, the New York Observer reports (see earlier post). In a conference call announcing its first quarter earnings, Times CEO Janet Robinson told analysts today that the company will shift its focus to short-form programming for distribution on its recently redesigned website. "Advertisers are really coveting that," she said (via Romenesko). The Times previously partnered with a variety of public TV shows, such as Frontline, Now with Bill Moyers, Nova and The NewsHour.
The former development director of Ann Arbor's Michigan Radio pleaded no contest yesterday to a charge of embezzling from the station. The Detroit News reports that two other defendants, including the current g.m. of WDET-FM in Detroit, pleaded not guilty. News of the crimes did not appear to affect Michigan Radio's spring fund drive, reports the Free Press, though pledges are down at WDET. A station exec attributes the drop to a recent format change. (Additional coverage in the Free Press.)

Apr 12, 2006

Some analysts believe that public radio has benefited from Howard Stern's move to satellite radio, which left some former listeners looking for other earthbound alternatives, reports Reuters.

Apr 11, 2006

NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin reviews his network's new blog: "NPR has a well-deserved but perhaps overstated reputation for reporting the news with great seriousness, so the initial impressions one gets from reading 'Mixed Signals' are: 1) Why didn't NPR do this sooner? and 2) Who knew that the news organization with a reputation of earnestness could be so whimsical?" Dvorkin also reveals that he declined a request to turn his column into a blog.
IT Conversations is auctioning a month-long sponsorship of the podcast of Tech Nation, a show that also airs on public radio stations. Bidding opens today at $12,000. (Via Technology360.)

Apr 10, 2006

For the first time, NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin received more complaints about left-wing bias than right-wing bias over the past quarter, he says in his latest report on listener feedback.
Consultant John Sutton plays down the hype around podcasting. "Even at 10 times the current number of downloads, podcasting will have a minimal effect on the size of the traditional public radio audience. The more immediate issue facing public radio is the long-term collective effect of podcasting, satellite radio, and soon, wireless broadband."

Apr 7, 2006

Why is jazz singer Robin McKelle suddenly ranked fifth on the Amazon sales charts? It's the "NPR effect," says Robert Smith on Mixed Signals.
The Covenant with Black America, a book of essays edited by Tavis Smiley, has become a bestseller through radio, churches and word of mouth. "It's selling so fast we can't keep up with demand," its publisher tells the Washington Post.

Apr 6, 2006

A Forrester Research survey found that only 1 percent of a group of web users regularly listened to podcasts, reports Adweek. (Via Technology360.)

Apr 5, 2006

Susan Stamberg offers Katie Couric ten tidbits of anchoring advice. No. 6: "Combing one's hair was never a priority here, and I can't see why it should be for you."
NPR's Juan Williams told Bill O'Reilly of Fox News that "these kids don't know anything" in reference to Los Angeles students protesting immigration legislation, according to Media Matters.
McSweeney's presents "A Rejected Submission to NPR's 'This I Believe.'" Money line: "But then you realize your bat does, in fact, suck."
PBS's winners in the 65th annual Peabody Awards include documentaries presented by American Experience, P.O.V. and American Masters. Also: the international co-productions of Bleak House, recently broadcast on Masterpiece Theatre, and a Nature film that debuts this Sunday.
The New York Times might sell its stake in the Discovery Times channel, a joint venture with Discovery Communications, the New York Observer reports. Web video will have a larger presence on the Times redesigned website, which debuted this week, and some within the paper are reportedly unsatisfied with the Discovery channel's home in the cable "exurbs," the Observer reports. “We have a position on the dial you couldn’t find with a Sherpa,” one Times staffer said.
Wired explores the podcasting predicament: Pubradio wants to embrace convenient new platforms, but will giving content away for free hurt the bottom line? "You can go around and say the sky is falling, or you can see [podcasts] as an opportunity," says Ruth Seymour, g.m. of major podcaster KCRW. Another view: "All of the new delivery systems are great for the stations that produce the content. It's not good for the local affiliate in Eau Claire, Wisconsin," says consultant Paul Marszalek. "They're really, really reliant on programs from elsewhere to draw listeners and members." Marszalek previously urged pubradio to charge for its podcasts in a Current commentary. (This article was Slashdotted.)
Greg Guma, the new executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, reported to the network's board last month about the big issues he's been studying. Pacifica has also launched a new website,, a resource for staffers at Pacifica stations.

Apr 4, 2006

BJ Liederman, who composed the Morning Edition theme music, shares the little-known lyrics to the ditty.
Authorities in the Russian republic of Dagestan have been questioning Kelly McEvers, a public radio freelancer, and have asked her not to leave the region, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Garrison Keillor has contributed his voice to a British Honda ad.
"The radio station’s motto is 'Because there's always more to the story,'" writes the Washingtonian's Harry Jaffe about the new commercial news station, an extension of the Washington Post's print news, that's competing with the city's public radio stations. "But there's not always that much more."
FolkAlley from Ohio's WKSU-FM, "unlike most digital stations, feels like radio — it has intelligent, welcoming DJs who clearly know and love the music," writes the Washington Post's Marc Fisher. Fisher heard the service on a digital channel offered by Washington's WAMU-FM.
NPR's Brenda Wilson shared this remembrance of the late Kathy McAnally, a public radio freelancer who died March 24.