May 31, 2006

Charlie Rose - A Prairie Home Companion / Daniel Gilbert w/ Harold Varmus - Google Video

Rolling Stone film critic Peter Travers, filling in for Charlie Rose, interviews Garrison Keillor and Robert Altman about the film adaptation of A Prairie Home Companion (free Google video).

May 30, 2006

Robert Paterson's Weblog: Future of Public Radio - A Parable Part 1 - "The Members"

Consultant Robert Paterson relates the tale of his recent 300-kilometer bike ride and explains how it ties into his work with NPR and public radio. "The leadership job is not to control my bike ride but to provide every biker with the optimal experience that fits them uniquely," he writes. "Do you offer this to your staff or to your listeners?"

RadioSutton: Time to Make Station Health Public Radio's Number One Priority

John Sutton proposes a goal for increasing listening to public radio: "By the end of 2010, 75% of all public radio stations will have increased their AQH [average quarter hour] audiences by at least 10 percent over their calendar year 2005 average."

KUOW launches second FM service

Seattle's KUOW-FM will launch a second news/talk service on KXOT-FM in Tacoma starting July 1. The station will carry national news and information programs not already airing on KUOW. KXOT is owned by Public Radio Capital and was previously operated by KEXP-FM, which was unable to keep up payments on the station and let it go dark in January.

Gwathmey to retire

Joe Gwathmey is retiring as president of Texas Public Radio in San Antonio. Gwathmey was a member of NPR's founding board of directors and one of the network's first employees.

KOCE sale invalidated by court

The fate of the Los Angeles area's second largest pubTV station is up in the air again after a state appeals court on Friday nixed the sale of KOCE to a nonprofit affiliated with the station. The seller, a community college district in Orange County, must either keep the station or put it up for sale again, the Los Angeles Times reported. Selling KOCE to the nonprofit instead of a higher-bidding religious broadcaster was "the rankest form of favoritism," the court concluded after rehearing the case. Daystar, the religious broadcasting chain, filed a separate suit alleging discrimination. The nonprofit now operating KOCE thought it wrapped up the purchase in October 2003.

May 24, 2006

"The digital revolution cannot be ignored," says PBS prez

In a speech at Washington's National Press Club yesterday, PBS President Paula Kerger touted new digital media as a means for public TV to "take our service to a new level." But "bias was the first topic raised during a question-and-answer session," reports the Washington Times.

May 23, 2006

Legislative auditor's report on Louisiana Public Broadcasting

Louisiana's legislative auditor released a report [PDF file] yesterday that said Louisiana Public Broadcasting, a state-funded public TV network, illegally deposited $11 million over three years in accounts held by its private non-profit, the Foundation for Excellence in Louisiana Public Broadcasting. Leaders of the three boards with oversight over LPB and its fundraising non-profits challenged the auditor's controversial conclusions. "[W]e will guard jealously every dollar donated to LPB and will not allow it to be diverted for any other purpose," they said in a statement. “There is not even a hint of allegation that any LPB funds were spent in an inappropriate manner,” said Joe Traigle, chairman of the foundation, in today's Baton Rouge Advocate.

University issues RFP to run jazz station KKJZ, Long Beach

Pacific Public Radio, operator of KKJZ-FM, the major jazz station in the Los Angeles area, is asking fans to urge license-holding California State University at Long Beach to renew its contract, which expires Aug. 1. The university has asked L.A.'s three other big pubradio stations -- KCRW, KUSC and KPCC -- plus Stevie Wonder's Taxi Productions and the incumbent Pacific Public Radio to submit proposals to run KKJZ. Sean Heitkemper, KKJZ's acting g.m., says the university's RFP calls for adding "information" to the jazz/blues format and for the university to receive a share of revenues. Frank Sinatra Jr. told the Los Angeles Times that KKJZ is "the last lighthouse in the fog" for straight-ahead jazz on the radio. The station lost its g.m., Judy Jankowski, when she retired in December after it lost an $800K lawsuit. Coming up Sept. 2-3: the station's annual Long Beach Blues Festival, headlined this year by Joe Cocker.

May 19, 2006

WDET g.m. pleads no contest to embezzlement charges

Michael Coleman, g.m. at WDET in Detroit, pled no contest to a reduced embezzlement charge Thursday and "faces up to 93 days in jail and $500 fine when he is sentenced June 22," according to the Ann Arbor News. The charge stemmed from Coleman's tenure as deputy director of Michigan Public Media, during which he and two colleagues kept Persian rugs, event tickets, a pool table and other donated goods and services for themselves, according to an internal audit by the University of Michigan, the station's license holder. Coleman has agreed to pay $3500 in restitution to his former employer. WDET will retain him as g.m. despite the plea, station officials say. A no contest plea is not an admission of guilt but is treated as a guilty conviction for sentencing purposes. Justin Ebright, former MPR development director, was sentenced to two years probation, 50 hours of community service and $10,000 restitution. Former account executive Jeremy Nordquist still awaits trial, according to the Associated Press (via

PBR sponsors NPR

Pabst Blue Ribbon, the former bottom-shelf beer that has become a hipster beverage of choice in recent years, is now underwriting NPR's All Songs Considered, reports the Boston Herald.

Senate votes to raise indecency fines

The Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would increase FCC radio and television indecency fines tenfold, from $32,500 to $325,000 per offense, reports Multichannel News. A House version would raise naughty word fines to $500,000. Congress has threatened to dramatically raise indecency penalties since Janet Jackson's breast sparked a furor about broadcast decency standards in 2004, but the two houses still need to reconcile differences between the bills and pass a final measure before new levels can go into effect.

May 17, 2006

One pledge drive, under a microscope

A Sacramento Bee media columnist stares in the face of extreme boredom without flinching: he listens to almost all of Capital Public Radio's pledge drive and writes about the experience. "Oh, it's all there: intriguing suspense, riotous humor, wrenching pathos and pure spoken-word poetry," he says. "It's a wonder that the Peabody Award judges have yet to recognize the genius of the KXJZ (88.9 FM) pledge drive."

May 16, 2006

Wired News: Brave New World for Public Media

Wired summarizes last weekend's Beyond Broadcast conference. "I think we're at a very strange point of all these enormously powerful, old, rich institutions -- the great brand names of the business -- dying in front of our eyes. And they won't pick up the clue phone," says Christopher Lydon, host of public radio's Open Source.

May 15, 2006

NPR : Guilt by Association: The NPR-FOX Connection

NPR Ombdusman Jeffrey Dvorkin examines a recent blog-induced foofaraw regarding Mara Liasson and Fox News and concludes: "These blogs appear to be making our public life even more crude and vulgar than it has been up to now." (UPDATE: Media Matters, one of Dvorkin's culprits, responds.)

Jay Allison profile

Chicago's Center for Arts Policy presents a lengthy profile of pubradio indie Jay Allison and his myriad projects (PDF). "He is not a man of moderation but living a life at full tilt, waving the flag from his post where the individual gives way to something beyond himself," writes Lauren Cowen.

NGIS promises lower sat costs, increased automation

Broadcasting & Cable breaks down the ongoing development of PBS's Next Generation Interconnection System, scheduled to go online this fall. (subscription req.)

Aggregation and Consolidation: A Rationale

Todd Mundt and Mark Fuerst aim to answer the question: "Why do we need aggregation and consolidated technologies?" (Stephen Hill comments here.)

John Barth on New Realities

John Barth, managing director of the Public Radio Exchange, shares his thoughts and concerns about the public radio's recent New Realities National Forum. One idea: "[W]hy shouldn’t NPR, PRI, APM and PRX all merge? . . . We do all waste a lot of money, resources, time and talent on competition with not much distinction."

More churn at Kentucky's Public Radio Partnership

The interim president of the Public Radio Partnership in Louisville, Ky., will step down June 30, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal. Bob Irvine cited "disappointments and frustration" with the Partnership's board in a letter to senior staff and board members.

What is public media?

After attending the Beyond Broadcast conference, Dennis Haarsager considers the nature of public media and says "a bright line definition" probably won't be found.

May 12, 2006

Story Booth (is not equal to) StoryCorps

Public radio's StoryCorps is taking pains to distance itself from the "Story Booth," a promotional tool launched by the JetBlue airline. It just so happens that both will be in Washington, D.C., next week.

KILI hopes to return to the air

KILI-FM, a Native station in Pine Ridge, S.D., hopes to get back on the air with emergency government funding after lightning hit its antenna, reports AP. "When I go out into the community, everybody asks, 'When you gonna be on?'" says business manager Tom Casey.

May 8, 2006

Rukeyser remembered

Washington Post business columnist Jerry Knight points up the differences between the iconic, pun-cracking Louis Rukeyser, recently-deceased original host of Maryland Public Television's Wall Street Week, and over-the-top stock modern stock pickers such as Jim Cramer. "Watching Jim Cramer on CNBC, ripping the head off a toy bear, then raking his audience with machine-gun sound effects, left me longing for the days when Louis Rukeyser was considered 'too showbiz' to be talking about stocks on television," he writes. (See earlier post for Rukeyser obit.)

Dennis Haarsager receives 2006 PRRO Award

Public Radio's Regional Organizations gave their 2006 PRRO Award to Dennis Harsaager, associate v.p. and g.m. of educational telecommunications and technology at Washington State University. "His is a constant voice pushing the envelope of exploration of the most effective ways in which technology can help public radio best enhance its service to the American people," said Ron Kramer, president of Western States Public Radio.

Sutton on New Realities

"One of my takeaways from the New Realities forum is that we simply haven't organized our thinking to effectively deal with the two separate but inter-related challenges of nurturing our core service while embracing new opportunities," writes John Sutton in his latest blog post. "About the time a station manager gets around to thinking about audience loss, she has to turn her attention to the latest big announcement about podcasting technology."

Cast and creators discuss PHC movie

"It's very simple and it's very complicated at the same time," says Meryl Streep of the new film adaptation of A Prairie Home Companion, which opens nationwide June 9. "Nobody says much about this, but the theme of this film is about death," says director Robert Altman in a Minnesota Public Radio article about the film. The Los Angeles Times says Keillor comes across onscreen as "a sort of hulking Jimmy Stewart."

Podcast with NPR's John Hendren

Talking Communications presents a podcast interview with John Hendren, NPR's Pentagon correspondent, who discusses his experiences reporting from Iraq.

NPR blog a "work in progress"

Answering a reader's complaint, NPR's Ken Rudin says the network's newish blog is "not seen by anyone here as a 'by the way'" and remains a "work in progress."

May 5, 2006

Smithsonian-Showtime deal spurs legislative response

A House funding committee yesterday moved to cut Smithsonian salaries and expense accounts by $5 million and limit the institute's "ability to execute any contract or legal agreement which could limit public access to the Smithsonian collections." (See also the Washington Post.) The action was a response to recent revelations about the Smithsonian-Showtime programming deal, which gives Showtime first look at programs that aim to incorporate more than an "incidental" amount of the Smithsonian's resources, and about high salaries at the Smithsonian's commercial sales division, which are the subject of an investigation by the institution's inspector general. Former Citibank exec Lawrence Small, head of the cash-strapped institute, earns roughly $813,000 annually, including a housing allowance. Last week, leaders of the House subcommittee that funds the Smithsonian also called for a probe into the Showtime deal.

May 4, 2006

CPB responds to November IG report

Have a few hours to kill and a love for pubcasting inside baseball? The CPB Board released its 70-page response to a November report by Inspector General Ken Konz that documented contracting, hiring and oversight problems within the corporation. Konz's investigation was spurred by press reports about former Board Chair Kenneth Tomlinson's transgressive efforts to "balance" pubcasting. For the first time in its 40-year history, says the executive summary, CPB has "initiated a top-to-bottom review of its operations and procedures. Never before has the organization undertaken a major organization of every task, operation and practice." The Board instituted several governance policy changes and enhancements earlier this week (earlier post) and will continue to "engage in an ongoing review of the Corporation's fulfillment of its statutory mission," the response document says, "including that of objectivity and balance in radio and television programming."

Times-Picayune feature on WWOZ

"I think Katrina firmly entrenched WWOZ as the keeper of the groove," says dj Black Mold in a Times-Picayune feature on the New Orleans community radio station.

May 3, 2006

CPB board adopts new governance policies

The CPB Board adopted new governance policies and approved changes to others earlier this week as part of its ongoing effort to reform operations within the funding agency in the wake of last year's controversy. The Board approved changes to its Code of Ethics for Directors and Conflicts of Interest policy; outlined new procedures for ensuring that the corporation follows all open meetings requirements and does not include "political tests" in hiring decisions; more explicitly spelled out the responsibilities of board members, the board chair and president; and created a new "whistleblower policy" to protect CPB staff from retaliation for reporting suspicions of waste, fraud or other violations of the law or CPB policy (see also Broadcasting & Cable, subscription req.). CPB Inspector General Ken Konz, whose November report on former Board Chair Kenneth Tomlinson's misdeeds spurred the reform effort, must report back to Congress by June on the work CPB has done to right the ship. Audio of the Board sessions and copies of resolutions and new policies are available here.

Sandy Tolan's "Lemon Tree"

Independent public radio producer Sandy Tolan's new book, The Lemon Tree, has been published by Bloomsbury USA. The book explores the relationship between an Arab family and a Jewish family in the Middle East.

Fellowships for pubradio reporters

Fellowships galore for public radio reporters: a Knight Fellowship from Stanford University for Andrea Bernstein at WNYC in New York; a Knight-Wallace Fellowship from the University of Michigan for NPR's Anthony Brooks; and a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for Clark Boyd of The World.

New Realities -- or the same old ones?

Todd Mundt assesses this week's New Realities forum for public radio halfway through and finds enough "mediocrity buttressed by self-satisfaction . . . to last me a lifetime." Consultant Rob Paterson, who helped organize the conference, responds that he saw "evidence of a shift in culture to a more self-sufficient, confident and adult way of being" at the end of the event. More observations from Paterson on his blog and on a New Realities blog of opinions, photos and reports. One new blog to come out of the event: HD Public Radio.

The atmosphere of canned radio

Laura Cantrell, a musician and a DJ on WFMU-FM in Jersey City, N.J., contemplates the art of conjuring a distinct atmopshere on radio, whether the host is live or recorded. Along the way she makes examples of public radio's Garrison Keillor, Eddie Stubbs and Vin Scelsa.

Rukeyser dies at 73

Louis Rukeyser, 73, died Tuesday after a long struggle with a rare bone marrow cancer. The son of one of the first financial columnists in U.S. newspapers, he became the first financial reporting star in TV. "He was the franchise -- proof that the star system worked even for PBS," said media professor Douglas Gomery in the Baltimore Sun. Rukeyser outlived the new version of Wall Street Week devised by Maryland Public Television to replace his original WSW, which he hosted for 32 years. Rukeyser refused to take a reduced role in the new program planned by MPT. He left in a fury and went on to host a show like the old WSW on the CNBC cable network for 18 months, until he began cancer treatments. David Stewart tells how WSW got started in a Rukeyser profile.

May 2, 2006

The contextual ads that began introducing in January will begin expanding onto more of its websites, Cindy Johanson tells "Once we have more inventory in place, we see sponsored links as one of several strategies to help generate revenue," Johanson writes in an e-mail Q&A.
Two of the San Francisco Bay Area's five public TV stations -- San Francisco's KQED-TV/FM and KTEH-- announced they are merging into a new nonprofit, Northern California Public Broadcasting. KQED's Jeff Clarke will be president. Both stations are in good financial shape, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The combo also includes TV station KCAH in Monterey and KQEI-FM in Sacramento. Mergers in public TV have been rare. Two recent ones involved New York's WNET, which combined with neighbor WLIW in 2001 and acquired control of WXEL in Palm Beach, Fla., this year. In 1994, Seattle's KCTS took responsibility for a KYVE in Yakima, Wash.
Edtech expert Andy Carvin hosts PBS's new blog for K-12 educators, Carvin's first column, posted today, challenges school districts to develop more reasonable approaches to filtering Internet content.

May 1, 2006

Podcasting legal guide released

The Berkman Center and the Stanford Center for Internet and Society have published an online legal guide to podcasting. Writes Lawrence Lessig in the foreword: "Something fantastic has changed: technology now invites the widest range of citizens to become speakers and creators. It is time that the law remove the unnecessary burdens that it imposes on this creativity."
Kilgore College in Texas decided to sell its public radio station to a religious broadcaster in part because its audience growth had stagnated and few of its members lived near the college. "What obligation does the board have to expend college funds to bring a service well beyond its service area or tax district?" asks Kilgore College President Bill Holda in the Longview News-Journal.
The Washington Post's Rob Pegoraro reviews HD Radio: "Seeing this technology inch its way into the market is getting to be as frustrating as trying to find some originality on your FM dial." Mark Ramsey links to Pegoraro's article and comments: "For the life of me, I don't understand why we're planting receivers with print guys."
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports on the return of public radio's American Routes to a damaged city and a new home there. "The question we're all facing with the culture so disrupted is how we'll make a living -- not just financially, but how will we live here and feel whole?" says host Nick Spitzer.
"This thing called public radio is a club, and they're not trying to let everybody in," says Tavis Smiley in a Washington Post profile that touches on his disagreements with NPR and with WAMU-FM in Washington, D.C., which airs his show at 2 a.m. (Related coverage in Current from 2003.)