Sep 28, 2006

Oberlin's alumni mag on Radio Lab

In a profile in the alumni magazine of Oberlin College, Radio Lab hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich discuss the show and its ties to their shared alma mater. "It feels like an extension of conversations I used to have at Oberlin," Abumrad says. "There's a playfulness that connects it to college. I hope that’s not just regression." A coda to the article features other Oberlin grads in public radio contemplating the connection between their college and their jobs.

YouTube - Sesame Streets

Put dialogue from Scorcese films into the mouths of Grover and Big Bird and you get Sesame Streets. (NSFW. Via WFMU's blog.)

Sirius drops PRI

As of Tuesday, Sirius Satellite Radio stopped carrying programs from Public Radio International.

Sep 27, 2006

FCC on LPFM and a public file violation

In actions announced today, the FCC denied a low-power FM application on localism grounds and fined WXLV-FM in Schnecksville, Pa., $10,000 for failing to maintain its public file (PDFs).

Knight seeks proposals for digital community connections

The Knight Foundation will spend $5 million in the first year (and perhaps $25 million over five years) for innovative digital prototypes, initiatives and experiments that improve connections among people in communities. Application deadline for the Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge: Dec. 31. Guidelines are posted at Applicants need not be journalists or have printing presses or transmitters. The foundation adds: "Nothing is too far out to qualify."

Hear 2.0: What the new Arbitron rules mean to you

Mark Ramsey comments on Arbitron's decision to include ratings for noncommercial radio in its market reports. "Public radio will now be on commercial radio's radar like never before," he writes. "Commercial radio will more aggressively learn from public radio, compete with it, and counter-program it." (Via Technology360.)

Soldiers' language wiped by fears of FCC

The New York Observer's NYTV columnist reports on how FCC indecency rules inhibit PBS's coverage of the war and other topics. “It’s a really sorry state of affairs if we’re Disney-fying combat,” says filmmaker Martin Smith, whose Oct. 3 Frontline documentary, "Return of the Taliban," will air without f-words spoken by soldiers in combat.

Sep 26, 2006

Center for Citizen Media: Do Public Media Believe in the Public?

Dan Gillmor and Dennis Haarsager share thoughts from last week's Open Content and Public Broadcasting conference, held at WGBH in Boston.

Robert Paterson's Weblog: Change - Seth's View - Public Radio

". . . [W]hat about an Internet Channel for Public radio that is run by the rebels and that has the new as its focus?" asks Robert Paterson in a blog post about innovation in public radio.

NPR Is Hiring a Blogger

NPR is looking for a full-time blogger for its Mixed Signals blog. "Other qualifications not mentioned are a strong liver and deep fondness for insult-flinging world leaders. Willingness to drunk-dial foreign bureaus on deadline also a plus," writes current blogger JJ Sutherland.

Ex-salesman sentenced in radio fraud

A former advertising rep for Michigan Public Media was sentenced to 18 months of probation last week for embezzlement charges, the Detroit Free Press reports. Jeremy Nordquist was one of three former MPM employees involved in the case. (Earlier coverage in Current.)

PubTV stations axe bio of Marie Antoinette

Fearing FCC fines from risque moments in David Grubin's historical biography of Marie Antoinette, Rocky Mountain PBS pulled the program from last night's schedule. The questionable scenes were "nothing worse than what you see on TV elsewhere," RMPBS President James Morgese told the Denver Post, "but in this era of heightened sensitivity by the FCC, fines are pretty stiff."

Las Vegas station to auction former ITFS channels

Sprint, NextWave, Clearwire and other wireless companies may bid on 72 MHz of microwave bandwidth worth an estimated $9 million to be leased at auction in coming weeks by the operator of Las Vegas pubTV station KLVX, the Clark County School District Board, says Las Vegas Business News. The FCC is letting businesses repurpose and reorganize the underused spectrum once used for ITFS school services, as Current reported in April. Wireless companies already own adjacent spectrum, which they plan to use for city-wide services resembling Wi-Fi.

Sep 25, 2006

"Maya and Miguel" introduces sign language

A new episode of Maya and Miguel debuting today introduces Marco, a character who speaks American Sign Language. The New York Times reports on the difficulties of animating sign language, as well as the socialization issues that producers sought to address in the program.

They got Google's attention

Vanderbilt University's 38-year archive of TV news broadcasts doubled its exposure on the Web, and nearly doubled its videotape rental income by catering to search engines, according to the Center for Social Media at American University.

Contesting conclusions of "Warhol" and "Now"

Viewers complain to PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler about the "stupid promo" that disrupted the conclusion of Ric Burns's American Masters bio of Andy Warhol. Others, including the American Conservative Union, took exception to Now's recent reports (Sept. 1 and Sept. 8) on voter registration.

Sep 22, 2006

FCC to decide soon on multicasting

The FCC will act soon on authorizing multicasting for digital radio, said Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in Dallas. But talks about public interest obligations on the new channels are causing a holdup, Radio World reports.

Diefenbach will be CPB TV production grantmaker

Greg Diefenbach, a longtime executive producer at a major supplier of PBS programs, Devillier Donegan Enterprises, is CPB's new senior v.p. for TV programming. At DDE he oversaw the PBS world history series Empires ("great eras of struggle ... explosive creativity, ultimate depravity...") among 100 hours of programming. He succeeds Michael Pack, who returned to documentary production. Pack colleague John Prizer remains at CPB as an advisor to President Pat Harrison.

Sep 21, 2006

Stern is named NPR's c.e.o.

NPR's Kevin Klose will cede his role as c.e.o. of the network Oct. 1 to Ken Stern, now executive v.p. Klose will continue serving as president and will lead a collaborative fundraising initiative to support public radio. Stern, who joined NPR in 1999, will assume all management duties.

Warren Bell: candidate for "This I Believe" essay?

Warren Bell is undoubtedly a vocal conservative, but does he support federal funding of public broadcasting? Conflicting accounts of the CPB Board nominee's views on pubcasting influenced the Senate Commerce Committee to drop Bell from today's nomination hearing, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Sep 20, 2006

Senate committee drops Warren Bell nomination

Television comedy writer Warren Bell will not appear at tomorrow's Senate confirmation hearing for CPB Board nominees, according to an news release posted by the Commerce Committee.

Where did NPR's burger money go? - The Boston Globe

Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam asks what Joan Kroc's gift has done for public radio. "Two hundred twenty-five million dollars later, public radio certainly hasn't gotten worse," he writes. "But I don't hear that it has gotten any better."

Andy Warhol looks a scream

Filmmaker Ric Burns explains to the New York Times why "Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film," debuting tonight on PBS's American Masters, is a "nerd film." Reviews in the Hollywood Reporter and San Francisco Chronicle note the artist who famously set the standard of 15 minutes of fame for everyone has himself been given four hours. Newsday's reviewer is disappointed that Burns "skims past" the less inspiring chapters of Warhol's life, "such as the endless evenings he spent cozying up to celebrities at Studio 54."

APTS may join fight against CPB Board nominee

The APTS Board will decide later this week whether to oppose Senate confirmation of CPB Board nominee Warren Bell. "We have not hesitated to express our strong reservations to the members of the Senate Commerce Committee about him," APTS President John Lawson tells Broadcasting & Cable. "We had hoped that he would come forward and reach out and help allay some of the fears that we have, but we haven't seen any attempts like that."

Sep 19, 2006

Senate may help CPB Board break deadlock

The CPB Board yesterday voted to reelect Cheryl Halpern as chair, but was unable to break a deadlock over nominees for vice-chair, according to Broadcasting & Cable. Gay Hart Gaines, a Republican fundraiser from Florida who was nominated for a second term as vice chair, will extend her service as vice-chairman until the board elects a successor by majority vote. The Senate Commerce Committee may help speed the board's decision making. It will hold a hearing on Sept. 21 on all three pending CPB Board nominations.

Chayes on post-Taliban Afghanistan

The Washington Post profiles Sarah Chayes, a former NPR reporter who left the network in 2002 to work for a nongovernmental organization in Afghanistan. Her new book, The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban, is "the kind of fleshed-out portrait that even the best on-the-run journalism rarely provides," writes Bob Thompson.

Reflections on PRPD

Jake Shapiro concludes a wrap-up of last week's Public Radio Program Directors conference with an observation that the annual meeting feels "a bit stuck." "Given NPR's New Realities meetings and the 'unconference' experiments underway elsewhere, it would be helpful to break out of panel mode for some open facilitated meetings -- tap into the wisdom of the crowd," he writes. Mary McGrath of public radio's Open Source also reflects on the conference: "Public broadcasters have been slow to wake up to the opportunities afforded by the Web. Some of the old timers just want to be retired before they have to really deal with it. Some are just confused or clueless or broke. Others, like the stations that carry Open Source, embrace the future of their medium with all of its uncertainties." (Keep reading for interesting comments from OS listeners.)

Sep 18, 2006

Nick beta-tests website for parents

Aiming to extend its relationships with parents of Nick Jr. kids, Nickelodeon is beta-testing a social networking website for parents, the New York Times reports. The site,, allows registered members to blog and plans to add user-generated video.

What should Kenneth do?

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram weighs in on the latest controversy involving Kenneth Tomlinson, the former CPB chairman who's in hot water over his leadership of the federal Broadcasting Board of Governors.

Sep 14, 2006

Tomlinson dodges attempted ouster

Democratic members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees U.S. international broadcasting efforts and is headed by Kenneth Tomlinson, tried to force the former CPB chair from the panel in response to a State Department probe suggesting he's abused his authority while on the job. The measure failed on a party line vote, however. Tomlinson has said the allegations stem from partisan divisions on the board.

FCC allegedly buried media study that supported localism

According to a former FCC lawyer, the commission ordered staffers to destroy copies of a 2004 report that suggested media ownership consolidation would hurt local TV news coverage, the Associated Press reports (via USA Today). That conclusion, the AP notes, is at odds with arguments the commission made "when it voted in 2003 to increase the number of television stations a company could own in a single market." The report came to light earlier this week during the Senate confirmation hearing for current FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, who said he did not know about the study in question. Martin succeeded former chair Michael Powell in 2005. A copy of the localism report, an anti-consolidation petition and a Godfather-esque shot of former FCC chief Powell are available at activist coalition site,

So many TV shows, what's a parent to do?

Associated Press reports on the dilemmas that parents face in limiting preschoolers' exposure to TV.

Sep 13, 2006

Tucker Carlson, "Dancing with the Stars"

Now here's something you'll really like: YouTube has a clip of Tucker Carlson's first (possibly last?) appearance on ABC's Dancing with the Stars, courtesy Wonkette.

NBC enters download biz, Apple aims at living rooms

The New York Times reports on two new developments in the race to get ahead in the "My Time" media biz: NBC created a new company that will distribute video to various Internet sites and reportedly take a 50 percent split of the ad revenues. And Apple CEO Steve Jobs yesterday unveiled a wireless device, dubbed iTV, that will pull video and music from the computer to the television. Apple also announced the pricing structure for downloads of new movies offered by its iTunes online store.

Huffington Posties take aim at "NewsHour"

A Huffington Post plug for last night's NewsHour segment on the ABC docudrama "Path to 9/11" drew some negative comments, and a lukewarm defense, of the NewsHour itself.

Farai Chideya replaces Ed Gordon at NPR's News & Notes

NPR said it has named Farai Chideya, a correspondent and sometime host for News & Notes, to replace Ed Gordon as host of the weekdaily public affairs hour. The network will also add online interactivity to the show produced with African-American pubradio stations. Chideya is founder of the Pop + Politics website and former talk host of San Francisco's KALW-FM who has worked for ABC News, CNN, MTV, Oxygen cable channel and Newsweek. Nicole Childers was promoted to e.p. NPR and Gordon swapped some finger-pointing this summer over responsibility for the program's limited carriage.

Digital theatrical screenings before PBS debut of Warhol bio

Ric Burns' four-hour American Masters bio, Andy Warhol: A Documentary Film, is having digital theatrical debuts hosted by pubTV stations that began Sunday in 20 cities around the country, WNET announced. (The late artist's brother, Paul Warhola, will appear at tomorrow's screening in the Pittsburgh area, where Warhol grew up.) Emerging Pictures, which seeks to put arthouse films on more screens around the country, is distributing to theaters [15 listed].

Sep 12, 2006

Common Cause targets CPB Board nominee

"He is the wrong man in the wrong job at the wrong time,” says Common Cause President Chellie Pingree, in a press release announcing an e-lobbying campaign against Senate confirmation of CPB Board nominee Warren Bell. The nominee's lack of interest in the field and provocatively anti-P.C. sense of humor disqualify him for the appointment, Common Cause says in a report posted on its website today.

Nielsen to expand into radio ratings?

TV ratings juggernaut Nielsen Media Research is in talks with Clear Channel's electronic ratings service about measuring radio listening, potentially threatening Arbitron's control of the industry, Mediaweek reports.

Sep 11, 2006

State accuses contractor with safety violations in Iowa tower deaths

A state agency has cited a tower service company for three violations of safety regulations involved in a fatal accident on an Iowa Public Television tower near Des Moines, TV Technology reported. Three workers, including the proprietor of the company, were being lifted to change light bulbs on the tower when they fell 1,200 feet and died in the March incident.

Caleca and Mendes depart PBS this month

Two of PBS's top technical officers are leaving this month: Ed Caleca, senior v.p. of technology and operations, and Andre Mendes, chief technology integration officer, according to TV Technology. Caleca leaves Sept. 15 and Mendes Sept. 29, the magazine's website said.

Amy Goodman to begin newspaper column

King Features Syndicate will begin distributing a weekly current-affairs column by Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman on Oct. 24, Editor & Publisher reports. She predicts "Amy Goodman: Breaking the Sound Barrier" will bring out voices of the "silenced majority." Goodman and her journalist brother David are co-authors of this year's Static: Government Liars, Media Cheerleaders, and the People Who Fight Back, now available at Wal-Mart!

Sep 8, 2006

PRI to launch evening comedy/variety show

This fall Public Radio International will launch Fair Game with Faith Salie, an hourlong evening program featuring interviews, political satire and in-studio musical performances. Host Salie has done standup comedy and appeared on TV shows including Significant Others and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Sep 7, 2006

Performance Today, SymphonyCast move to APM

Beginning early next year,
American Public Media in St. Paul, Minn., will produce public radio's Performance Today and SymphonyCast. NPR will end production of the shows as it prepares an online music service, which will include the classical music shows and other offerings from APM. (Coverage in the Washington Post.)

Sep 6, 2006

Conclusions and speculation on the effects of tots' TV

The New York Times reviews recent research findings on what toddlers learn from television while Slate speculates on whether there's a link between autism and TV watching in early childhood.

WNIT to relocate to South Bend

WNIT in Elkhart, Ind., plans to move to downtown South Bend in 2009, taking over a building to be vacated by the local CBS affiliate.

Sep 5, 2006

WTC's blue and white collar heroes

Of the two documentaries airing tonight that recall the fiery collapses of the World Trade Center's twin towers, New York Times Critic Virginia Heffernan prefers Spike TV's program over PBS's. "Once you give in to the program’s pointy-headedness, though, the pedantry is not worthless," she writes of Nova's "Building on Ground Zero."

Bozell to hand over reins of PTC

Brent Bozell will step down as president of the Parent's Television Council, the group that led the charge against broadcast indecency after Janet Jackson's 2004 "wardrobe malfunction." His successor is Tim Winter, a former NBC executive who wants to work collaboratively with broadcasters, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Claim: New TV tech will double visible color palette

Researchers in Switzerland say they're developing a nano technology that will allow future TVs to present every color the human eye can see, or roughly double the range offered by current plasma, LCD and projection screens, Wired reports. It will likely take at least eight years to get the technology, which uses an elastic, rather than fixed, diffraction grating that can be tuned to present additional colors, into commercial products.

Sep 1, 2006

Emmy broadcast prompts obscenity complaint

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Parents Television Council filed an FCC complaint over obscenities uttered by two actresses during the Aug. 27 live telecast of the Primetime Emmy Awards.

Ombudsman on PBS's online ads

Viewers aren't complaining much about PBS's online advertising practices, writes PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler, but criticisms leveled by media activist Jeff Chester are healthy. The objections are forcing "an airing about how this very important, and unique, public broadcasting service is gliding into a new source of revenue," Getler writes.

Tavis Smiley's "Covenant"

Writing for The Nation, Amy Alexander examines the impact of Tavis Smiley's The Covenant with Black America. "One doesn't just read The Covenant With Black America," she says. "Rather, to read this nonfiction manifesto-cum-workbook is to become part of a multimedia movement aimed at increasing black political and economic power."