Dec 20, 2007

One respected news source recognizes another

A Sacramento Bee feature on Capital Public Radio's KXJZ describes a respected, nonsensational news source with a growing local news staff (seven going on nine, plus four regular contributors) that placed fourth in 25-54 morning audience this spring.

Dec 19, 2007

DirecTV picks up pubTV high-def channel

DirecTV and APTS said today the satellite broadcaster will carry local high-definition feeds of public TV stations starting next year, along with PBS video-on-demand programming and two national standard-def pubTV channels. The deal was approved yesterday by the APTS Board and faces votes by the PBS Board and the stations. DirecTV's lineup includes 265 channels, includng more than 80 in HD. (News release via

Ken Burns endorses Obama candidacy

The filmmaker and New Hampshire resident said he's disappointed in Hillary Clinton's negative tone and speculated she's getting bad advice, AP reported.

Dec 18, 2007

Four Silver Batons for pubcasting newsies

"Jihad: The Men and Ideas Behind Al Queda," a documentary funded by CPB's America at a Crossroads initiative, is one of four pubcasting programs to win 2008 duPont-Columbia Awards. During an awards ceremony to be held Jan. 16, the competition's silver batons will also be presented to This American Life for a report by Alix Spiegel on the discrimination faced by a Muslim family after 9/11; NPR and Daniel Zwerdling for investigative reporting on the treatment of Iraq War veterans suffering from serious psychiatric post-traumatic stress injuries; and to producers of "Through Deaf Eyes," a PBS documentary on the deaf community in the United States. Descriptions of each of the winning programs are posted here.

North Country Public Radio rebukes WAMC for going after its Lake Placid frequency

North Country Public Radio and WAMC in Albany, N.Y., are feuding over their competing applications to operate a full-power station in Lake Placid. For 21 years, NCPR has broadcast to the community on a translator on 91.7, the only frequency available in Lake Placid for a full-power station. During the FCC's October filing window for new noncommercial FM stations, WAMC applied to take over the channel. The Daily Gazette of Schenectady first reported on the dispute, but the Albany Times Union reported earlier on WAMC's plans to expand into the service areas of other regional pubcasters. The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reports on negotiations between NCPR and WAMC for the frequency. “A fellow public broadcaster is trying to take over a frequency on which we have broadcast for 21 years," NCPR's Ellen Rocco told the Daily Enterprise. "It’s truly amazing. I consider it predatory.” NCPR published a webpage about the dispute, with links to other coverage.

Dec 13, 2007

Media insiders debate OPB Radio purchase

Oregon Public Broadcasting's decision to buy an AM radio station in Eugene, hometown of NPR News and music station KLCC, prompted a spirited discussion on Oregon Media Insiders. KLCC, which has a longstanding news partnership with OPB to fund a news bureau in Salem, has endorsed the purchase.

Gates Foundation backs PRI health and development reporting

Public Radio International said Wednesday that it received a three-year, $5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to produce and distribute journalism on global health and development issues. PRI said more of its Our World Initiative remains to be announced.

Dec 12, 2007

Independent Lens online fest

Independent Lens has launched its second annual Online Shorts Festival of 11 comedy, drama and documentary films. The Grand Prize winner C. Beck was selected by the curators of the series and broadcast on PBS in November. A jury of industry folk selected the 10 online winners and awarded a Grand Jury Prize to Bullet Proof Vest. Viewers can download the shorts or watch them on-site, post comments, and rate films. The audience favorite award will be announced in February.

Dec 11, 2007

Details on LPFM protections just posted

The FCC released its report and order proposing new protections for low-power FM stations. Accompanying statements of commissioners are posted here.

Dec 10, 2007

Judge sues Georgia Public Broadcasting over debate program

"A senior Superior Court judge is suing the Georgia Public Broadcasting network because it won't air a debate the judge orchestrated and paid to produce," reports the AP. Judge Dann Winn apparently donated $5,000 to GPB and says there was a "handshake understanding" the pubcaster would air a Feb. 6, 2006, debate--featuring Winn--about the morality of dropping atomic bombs in WWII. The debate is available on GPB's online digital library. Winn, who represented the pro-bomb argument, said he wanted to challenge the idea that "America was barbaric and we were the bad guys."

Gillian Anderson is first of 3 new Masterpiece hosts

Three new Masterpiece Theatre hosts, starting with former X-Files co-star Gillian Anderson, are part of the series' previously reported makeover, and the familiar theme music will be reduced to a musical mention, the New York Times reported today. The new hosts succeed Russell Baker. Anderson will introduce the Masterpiece Classic period dramas from January to May, followed by two other hosts for the Masterpiece Mystery! shows in the summer and Masterpiece Contemporary in the fall. Anderson appeared on the series in Bleak House this spring. Viewers will see the makeover in January along with the Complete Jane Austen package.

Dec 6, 2007

Sesame Workshop unveils new research center

The Sesame Workshop unveiled its Joan Ganz Cooney Center today, named after Sesame Street's creator and aimed at literacy development. The center will "conduct and support research, create new media properties, and stimulate a national dialogue on how interactive technologies can be utilized to help accelerate children’s learning," according to a release. Its first report, "The Enduring Power of Pow! Wham!: Children, Digital Media, and Our Nation’s Future," finds that while the digital media play a huge role in kids' lives, they rarely provide educational content. The center has appointed three leaders: Michael H. Levine has been named executive director; Ann My Thai will oversee partnerships with high-tech and gaming industries and direct organization and growth; and Dixie Ching will direct the center's research.

Dec 3, 2007

Proposals sought for Latino pubradio service

CPB is seeking proposals for development and launch of a new public radio program service for Latinos in Los Angeles. Its request for proposals, which has a Jan. 17 deadline, identifies first-generation Latinos as the target audience.

Loan problem in the details for Peoria station

WTVP in Peoria, Ill., must restructure its capital loan by Jan. 15 or pay its $6.9 million balance, the station said, announcing that it would postpone its December pledge drive, the Peoria Journal Star reported Saturday. To prepare for DTV and move to new quarters in downtown Peoria, WTVP borrowed $10.3 million in 2001, but was found in default after some 2002 pledge figures slipped below the level required by the banks.

Probably unrelated dispatch from Peoria: John Morris, v.p. for development at the station, is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Congress. The former two-term Peoria City Council member has two prominent opponents for the nomination: a state legislator and the head of a big local chamber of commerce/economic development nonprofit. They’re running for the 18th District seat to be vacated by retiring Rep. Ray LaHood (R).

Nov 29, 2007

Ex-PBS chief giving TV museum a makeover

For one thing, it doesn't claim to be a "museum" anymore, thanks to Pat Mitchell, former PBS c.e.o. and current head of the recently renamed Paley Center for Media. Mitchell left PBS last year to lead the institution known as the Museum of Television and Radio until Mitchell changed its name, Newsday reports. She made the switch because she wants the center to embrace online media as well. Mitchell told the paper she left PBS because she was exhausted by the demands of the job.

Nov 27, 2007

Most Hyundais, Fords, Chrysler cars will have satellite radios installed

Sirius Satellite Radio said today that Ford Motor Co. aims to put its receivers in 70 percent of 2009 Fords and Mercurys, not to mention all Lincolns and Range Rovers. Last summer Chrysler Group made the same prediction for the 2008 year; the radios are standard in Sebrings and some other mid-priced lines. They're standard on some sporty VWs, too. XM Satellite Radio receivers, meanwhile, will be standard on 95 percent of Hyundais this model year and on all Buicks, Hummers and Saabs this year, and optional on some Toyota Corollas next year, XM said.

For holiday giving, Sirius is selling an iPod-size $149.99 radio that receives its signal from either satellite or the Internet (via WiFi) or plays recorded broadcasts or MP3s.

Meet the ones who plant and herd your food

Six pubradio stations and other producing organizations will collaborate on a CPB-funded five-part doc, The Farm, headed by Executive Producer Wes Horner, who has led numerous series including NPR's Performance Today, and John Biewen, correspondent and producer with APM's American RadioWorks for eight years. Over the course of a farm year, the team will introduce listeners to the members of five farm families who plant, harvest and herd their food. Participants include WFCR in Amherst, Mass.; WBHM in Birmingham, Ala.; Iowa Public Radio; Native Public Media and KUYI on Arizona's Hopi reservation; Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, Calif.; and Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies, where Biewen is based. The host will be author and magazine editor William MacLeish, who presented a Nova documentary based on his book Encounters with the Blue God in 1989.

Arbitron delays people meter roll-out

Arbitron announced late yesterday that it has postponed roll-out of its portable people meter ratings system in New York and other top markets. The company's official announcement is here and a report in today's New York Times is here. Also, reporting by Associated Press, MediaDaily News and the Wall Street Journal.

Nov 21, 2007

PBS announces numbers on The War

37.8 million people tuned in to watch all or part of Ken Burns' series The War, announced PBS in a press release yesterday. The series won a 4.7 national average household rating, and on average, 7 million people were watching the saga at any given time.

Nov 20, 2007

PBS tech chief: Satellite transfer in second phase

PBS is in the middle of transitioning to server-based distribution, which is the second phase of its switch to the Next Generation Interconnection System, John McCoskey, PBS c.t.o, said in this edition (MP3) of Television Broadcast's Two-Minute Drill. Stations have mostly completed the hardware build-out, which was the first phase, but will have to point their antennas toward new satellites next year, McCoskey said. Only 19 pubTV stations have yet to switch to digital broadcasting but those will be ready to go by the February 2009 analog shut-off, he said. PBS is now shifting its DTV focus to consumer awareness efforts.

CPB seeks audience research analyst

CPB seeks a senior analyst to manage next year's pubTV Audience Awareness, Attitudes and Usage Study (RFP). Application deadline is Dec. 5.

Nov 19, 2007

Old Sesame Street a "frightening glimpse of simpler times"

"The old Sesame Street is not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for softies born since 1998, when the chipper 'Elmo’s World' started. Anyone who considers bull markets normal, extracurricular activities sacrosanct and New York a tidy, governable place — well, the original Sesame Street might hurt your feelings," writes Virginian Heffernan in a New York Times Magazine article about how old school Sesame Street episodes, now available on DVD, "may not suit the needs of today's preschool child" and are a "frightening glimpse of simpler times."

San Diego city attorney withdraws KPBS records request

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre has withdrawn his request for KPBS records about programming decisions and its relationship with The San Diego Union-Tribune. "Aguirre made the decision after speaking with a First Amendment expert who advised him that his requests were inappropriate for a government official," reports the Union-Tribune. The investigation began in August after KPBS cancelled its local public affairs program Full Focus. Aguirre has maintained that the public needs to know why the show was cancelled. He accused the Union-Tribune, which he called a "conservative establishment newspaper," of influencing KPBS editorial content and decision-making, a charge the station has denied.

Public media encounters new media in Columbus

A social media gathering in Columbus, Ohio, last week brought local bloggers together to discuss how traditional and new media can collaborate to address community needs. WOSU and the Center for Science and Industry co-sponsored the event in their shared public space, WOSU@COSI.

Nov 14, 2007

Bryant Park co-host Burbank to depart

Luke Burbank, co-host of NPR's new morning show Bryant Park Project, told his listeners that he plans to return to his hometown of Seattle so that he can be closer to his daughter. Check out his "Long Goodbye" on yesterday's edition of BPP and this video blog entry with listeners' comments.

Nov 13, 2007

Martin proposes limits for cross-market ownership

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's proposal to allow cross-market ownership of newspapers and broadcast stations would limit acquisitions to certain conditions within the top 20 markets. Other pending proposals to change ownership rules for local radio and television stations apparently have been tabled. The FCC announced the proposal this morning and set a Dec. 11 deadline for comments. Free Press quickly dubbed the proposal "corporate welfare for big media" and said it appears to contain a loophole allowing consolidation in many more markets.

Columbia j-school honors PBS filmmaker Ofra Bikel

Tonight, Columbia University gives a black-tie salute to Frontline documentarian Ofra Bikel [profile]. She'll receive the $25,000 John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism. Her investigations have freed 13 people who otherwise would have been jailed because of breakdowns in the justice system, including aggressive plea bargaining, rigid mandatory sentences and reliance on faulty testimony. Among those freed are Terence Garner, whose crime was to have a name similar to a suspect's. Betsy Kelly, one of seven North Carolinians sentenced for child abuse and freed after Bikel's Innocence Lost reporting, will attend the dinner. "Ofra Bikel’s work has shone a stark light on the realities of the American justice system," said Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia j-school.

Nov 12, 2007

Listeners lose out if Sirius and XM merge

What will happen if federal regulators allow Sirius and XM satellite radio to merge? Washington Post radio columnist Mark Fisher concludes that listeners will have fewer channels to choose from and low-rated channels such as Sirius's NPR Talk may not survive.

Nov 9, 2007

Check your 2008 conference dates

Next year's major get-togethers are planned, mostly. Among them: pubradio's Music Personnel Conference in Mobile, Ala., Feb. 17-29; NFCB's Community Radio Conference, March 26-29 in Atlanta; Public Radio News Directors, July 16-19 in D.C.; Grassroots Radio Conference, also in July, in Portland, Ore. See Current's Calendar for more.

Nov 8, 2007

FCC announces window for FM applicants to negotiate deals with competitors

In a public notice issued today, the FCC has given applicants for new noncommercial educational FM stations 60 days to work out settlements with competing applicants or make technical amendments that would resolve conflicts between their applications. Applicants must identify competitors within their community of license by searching the commission's database.

KMBH board members dismissed without explanation

"Three members of the KMBH-TV [Harlingen, Texas] board of directors were dismissed in August without explanation, according to information that recently became public," reports the local Valley Morning Star. "According to the articles of incorporation filed with the state of Texas in 1983, the bishop or administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brownsville is the only member of RGV Educational Broadcasting [the station's owner]." Bishop Raymundo Peña dismissed the three board members--experienced pubcasters Bill Elliott, Chelse Benham and Betsy Price--without explanation. "Their dismissal reduced the board from its original seven members to four, one less than required by the station’s original articles of incorporation," reports the paper. KMBH had previously denied Star reporter Bruce Lee Smith financial documents, which are public, unless he revealed confidential sources at the station.

Nov 7, 2007

BitTorrent now offers pubTV downloads

PBS will make episodes of pubTV series including Nova, History Detectives and Teletubbies available as $1.99 downloads via, the two companies announced today. The same shows will be available at as well. BitTorrent is peer-to-peer file sharing protocol that reduces the hardware and bandwidth burden of sharing large media files, such as films, by breaking them down and using the various network clients to distribute bits of the file to one another. It is one of the most popular means of illicit online music and movie swapping, but the actual company, BitTorrent Inc., only offers licensed full-length films, TV shows and music videos from Fox, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and many other networks and cable channels.

KMBH refuses to turn over financials

KMBH in Harlingen, Texas, has refused to turn over financial documents to the local newspaper, the Valley Morning Star, unless a reporter at the paper reveals confidential sources who provided him with information about the station's finances, the Associated Press reported today. The station had earlier filed a police complaint against the reporter, accusing him of disorderly conduct and yelling at a receptionist while at the KMBH office, a charge the reporter denies. Currently on the KMBH website, there is posting titled "Financial Transparency Now Online," which invites visitors to "review our audited financial reports."

New PBS and CPB literacy initiative announced

PBS and CPB today announced a new literacy initiative, PBS Kids Raising Readers, to begin in January 2008. Supported by Ready to Learn funds from the U.S. Department of Education grant, the project will target 2-8-year-olds and feature on-air tips for caregivers, educational materials such as DVDs and books, and new Web content for kids and teachers, including a 32-week preschool curriculum and an online course for childcare providers.

Nov 5, 2007

Stations join NPR in launching music site

Promising "everyone from Aaron Copland to Aaron Neville," NPR and 12 producing stations released a beta version of the new NPR Music website today at Organized by genre, the site offers live and recorded performances, artist interviews, blogs and profiles, podcasts and more, tapping into the deejays, music archives and expertise of stations identified with music, including WBGO (jazz), WKSU (folk) and WXPN (Triple A). Other stations will be added as partners, NPR said. Websites of participating stations such as New York's WFUV feature links to items on the new site. One holdout was L.A.'s KCRW, Current reported in July. NPR also unveiled its new media player, based on Adobe Flash technology, that lets users create a queue of items to listen to.

Oct 31, 2007

Goodman recovering from Bell's Palsy

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! described her recent bout with Bell's Palsy in an online column for Truthdig.

Low power FM bill clears Senate panel

The Senate Commerce Committee approved S. 1675, a bill that expands the availability of low power FM frequencies by eliminating third channel protection, according to Radio Online.

PRPD reports on its classical music tests

Public Radio Program Directors has published the findings of its midday classical music study on its website, along with audio and graphics from a presentation at its recent conference in Minneapolis.

Oct 29, 2007

PBS Ombudsman: did funding compromise editorial content of Human Heart?

"What I didn't do at the time, yet should have in my ombudsman's role, was pay much attention to the main sponsors of the series [The Mysterious Human Heart]," writes PBS's Michael Getler. In a letter to the ombudsman, Jeffrey Chester, director of the Center for Digital Democracy, asked, "how PBS (and presenting station Thirteen/WNET in New York) sought and publicly promoted the involvement of Medtronic and AstraZeneca as underwriters? As you know, both Medtronic and AstraZeneca have major commercial interests involving heart disease related medical issues." Another viewer wrote, "Viewers are told that the best treatment for certain potentially deadly heart arrhythmias is an implantable pacemaker. Who's the leading manufacturer of such devices? Medtronic, of course." Getler includes responses from PBS, WNET/Thirteen and producer David Grubin, and concludes: "the seeming inappropriateness of funders for a number of programs" continues to be an issue for pubTV, and "It may be that this problem is never going to be resolved until some different funding scheme for public television is arrived at."

Merger recommmended for WMUB

A committee that examined WMUB's relationship with its licensee, Miami University of Ohio, has recommended that the station pursue a merger with other public stations and develop partnerships with academic programs within the university. General Manager Cleve Callison tells the Cincinnati Enquirer that he's been talking at a "fairly serious level" for six months with WYSO in Yellow Springs and Dayton's WDPR.

Martin worries about being pigeonholed

"We're trying to make a safe place to talk about hard things," said Michel Martin, host of NPR's Tell Me More, in Marc Fisher's Washington Post radio column. "One thing I'm more worried about than being pigeonholed as a black show is being pigeonholed as a women's show."

Oct 28, 2007

WCNY: no more "beg-a-thons"

"Two years ago when I took over as president of this station, I made my pledge to the community that we would be pledge-free within two years," Robert Gaino, president of WCNY in Syracuse, told the New York Post in an article titled "Syracuse Public TV Abandons Beg-A-Thons." The station's professedly last pledge period ended Sept. 23. Columnist Adam Buckman's previous complaints about pledge drew a written response from WNET President Neal Shapiro in August.

Oct 25, 2007

Wisconsin passes budget, pubcasting escapes cuts

Four months beyond deadline, the Wisconsin state legislature finally approved a two-year, $57.2 billion budget last night that will maintain funding levels for Wisconsin Public Broadcasting. WPB, a service of the University of Wisconsin that includes Wisconsin Public Television and Wisconsin Public Radio, had originally been targeted for a $13 million cut by Republican lawmakers, but the amount was fully restored in the final version of the budget.

Senate approves $420 million for CPB, but White House veto threat looms

On Tuesday, the Senate approved legislation that includes a $420 million advance appropriation for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in 2010, as well as 2008 funding for digital conversion, pubradio interconnection and educational programming for children. The House's appropriations bill for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education includes similar funding levels for public broadcasting, but the White House, citing excessive spending on discretionary social programs, has threatened to veto the legislation. NPR's David Welna reports on the spending stand-off here and a Congressional Quarterly report on the status of all 12 appropriations bills for 2008 is here.

Oct 24, 2007

Court orders "Prairie Home Companion" fan to leave host Garrison Keillor alone

A Minnesota court issued a restraining order against a Georgia woman who sent weird gifts and correspondence to Prairie Home Companion host Garrison Keillor, according to the Pioneer-Press. The episode began when Andrea Campbell, 45, met Keillor after a Prairie Home Companion performance in Georgia this spring. Campbell then sent him "disturbing" e-mails and letters, one of which "graphically described making love to me," Keillor wrote in a petition requesting the order. Early one summer morning, she turned up outside his family home in St. Paul. "I believe that without a harassment restraining order, [Campbell] will continue to contact and harass me both at work and home, and that [her] behavior could potentially escalate to physical confrontation, violent behavior, or public disturbances with the intent of disrupting the radio show," Keillor wrote.

Oct 23, 2007

KPBS loses transmitter in wildfire; music station lends its channel to keep news on-air

San Diego's KPBS-FM lost its main transmitter this morning as a wildfire burned Mt. San Miguel. By 8:30 a.m., its all-news coverage of the region's multiple fires moved from 89.5 to 94.9 MHz, using a music station's frequency lent by Lincoln Financial Media Co. KPBS uses a full toolbox of web services to help, including web streaming, Google Maps to show evacuation areas and shelter locations, Twitter to report developments as quickly as possible and Flickr to show photos shot by listeners. The fires have chased 500,000 people from their homes in the San Diego area, Reuters reported.

All-classical WOSU to add NPR newsmags

In a bid to expand its audience, Central Ohio's only all-classical station WOSU-FM will add NPR news and weekend programming to its line-up, the Columbus Dispatch reports. [WOSU's announcement of the format change is posted here.]

Oct 22, 2007

PBS' E2 environmental series cheerier than usual fare

"Most environmental documentaries try to persuade or preach or, these days, scare; E2 feels as if it’s trying to cheerlead and to sell," writes the New York Times' Mike Hale of the series' second season, which premieres this month. "That makes it an odd fit on today’s PBS, where news and public affairs programs like Frontline, Now and Bill Moyers Journal, with their reporting and advocacy on Iraq, civil liberties and other fraught topics, are simultaneously among the best and the gloomiest shows on television."

Wall Street Journal interviews Ken Stern

The Wall Street Journal asks NPR CEO Ken Stern whether the network's new morning show and online music service will undercut Morning Edition and the streaming services of member stations.

Oct 18, 2007

CPB's Islamists alert gets a slot on Fox News

Fox News Channel will air the CPB-funded doc Islam vs. Islamists on Saturday (9 p.m. Eastern time), with wraparound material in PBS style, Fox announced today. In the wraparound, Fox will interview the program's producers about their conflicts with PBS, which refused to distribute the film without further revision. Think-tank pundit and co-producer Frank Gaffney says PBS wanted "to bring more of an Islamist flavor" to his film. Exec producers of CPB's Crossroads series at WETA said the film's warnings about Islamist influence were alarmist and unsupported, and omitted it from the initial series aired by PBS in April. The DVD is selling for just under $25, including shipping.

Oct 17, 2007

Founding producer of American Experience dies

Judy Critchton, the founding executive producer of American Experience, died Oct. 14 at age 77, the New York Times reported. She succumbed to complications of leukemia. Crichton talked about the state of the documentary arts in 1997, after retiring from the program.

Oct 16, 2007

South Carolina ETC invites Colbert to announce presidential bid

After Stephen Colbert announced last week on CNN's Larry King that he might be running for president (on Republican and Democratic tickets), South Carolina ETV invited Colbert to formally announce his campaign on its air. South Carolina is Colbert's home state. Colbert's byline appeared Sunday in the New York Times, apparently the result of Maureen Dowd's dare that he write an Op-Ed. In his column, Colbert discusses his presidential aspirations and writes "I want to return to a simpler America where we ate our meat off the end of a sharpened stick."

Oct 13, 2007

Catholic school rejects Planned Parenthood aid to WDUQ-FM

Pittsburgh's WDUQ-FM stopped running underwriting credits for Planned Parenthood (essentially, ceased accepting donations from an abortion-rights advocate) on orders from its licensee, the Catholic-run Duquesne University, the Post-Gazette reported today. In a loosely analogous case 10 years ago, a federal court ruled that a Missouri university had the right to reject Ku Klux Klan underwriting on KWMU-FM, St. Louis.

Oct 10, 2007

Pick 10: FCC limits applications for new noncommercial FM licenses

During its Oct. 12-19 filing window for new noncommercial FM stations, the Federal Communications Commission will allow single entities to file no more than ten applications, according to a public notice issued this afternoon. The ten-application limit is "consistent with the localism and diversity goals reflected in the NCE FM point system and appropriately balances our goals of deterring speculative filings, facilitating the expeditious processing of window-filed applications with limited commission resources, and providing interested parties with a meaningful opportunity to file for NCE FM new stations," the commission said in the notice.

New-media exec is NPR's new COO

NPR’s new chief operating officer is Mitch Praver, a new-media exec with top-level experience at National Geographic and Discovery Communications. He'll take charge of the network's daily operations. Since leaving NGS in 2004, Praver managed an AOL unit that integrated AOL Instant Messenger into the online service and most recently ran business development and sales for Hillcrest Labs, developer of the Freespace interface technology used in the Logitech Air Mouse. The appointment was announced today by CEO Ken Stern.

Oct 9, 2007

Self-censorship on your local station

A New York Times editorial on broadcasters' growing tendency to self-censor points to weak-kneed decisions by public broadcasters: WBAI's retreat from broadcasting Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" and PBS's editing of swear-words from The War.

Legal battle over a media brand we like too

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Minnesota Public Radio is suing a Christian rock station in Virginia Beach over its use of the name "The Current," which is the brand name of MPR's Triple-A music service.

Oct 5, 2007

KPBS is imbalanced, says city attorney

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre concluded in an Oct. 3 report (PDF) that the city's KPBS-FM/TV is violating PBS's balance and objectivity standards after canceling Full Focus, a daily public affairs show. "The lack of balance and objectivity in KPBS-produced programming clearly contravenes PBS Editorial Standards and Policies," he wrote. Aguirre also took issue with the selection of hosts for Editors Roundtable, another public affairs show, but stopped short of proposing penalties for KPBS or asking the station to rectify the situation. KPBS News Director Michael Marcotte responds: "Taking Full Focus off the air was certainly a loss for our community –- because he’s right when he says it was one of the few sources of balanced, in-depth civic discourse on San Diego television. But it was removed for failing to draw viewers, which amounts to a responsible programming decision, not a dereliction of duty."

Oct 4, 2007

New Frontline lineup

Frontline announced its new fall lineup on PBS, beginning Oct. 16 with "Cheney's Law." Other doc subjects: America's relationship with Iran, the business of being an undertaker, the Darfur crisis, and CIA kidnapping of terror suspects (Frontline/World). [See a preview video.]

Fearing FCC fines, Pacifica's WBAI puts "Howl Against Censorship" online

A measure of how far the cultural battle over broadcast indecency has shifted: New York's WBAI, the Pacifica station that successfully challenged the FCC over George Carlin's "seven dirty words," created a special program commemorating the 50th anniversary of the court ruling that deemed Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" not obscene. But the program is being distributed online, not over the air. Bernard White, WBAI p.d., tells the San Francisco Chronicle that broadcasting "Howl Against Censorship" would put the station at risk for $325,000 FCC fines for each "dirty word" in Ginsberg's poem. "This is about the public airwaves," says Janet Coleman, WBAI arts director. "If we can't control what goes on them, then how much freedom do we really have?" [Via Rolas de Aztlan.]

Oct 3, 2007

NPR explains Bush decision, scolds Williams

In a follow-up to another mini-flap involving NPR's Juan Williams, someone at the network leaked an internal memo (via from news director Ellen Weiss explaining NPR's decision to reject an opportunity to interview President Bush. The network declined the White House offer because President Bush would only speak to Williams and NPR doesn't let subjects dictate who interviews them, Weiss said last week. Williams instead conducted the interview for Fox News (transcript, via Dan Froomkin, video at, where he is a regular commentator. In the memo released today, Weiss explained that NPR rebuffed a similar offer from Sen. Hillary Clinton--who agreed to let the network pick her interviewer--and said Williams violated company policy by criticizing NPR's decision in the press. All "media requests that come to you for interviews about NPR, our activities or decisions must be forwarded to the Communications division to handle," Weiss wrote.

NPR's Juan Williams under fire for defending Bill O'Reilly

NPR's Juan Williams has been sucked into the media feud over Bill O'Reilly's racial awareness. Bloggers for Media Matters and the Nation argue that Williams has discredited himself and NPR by defending O'Reilly. Video of Williams' recent appearance on O'Reilly Factor is posted here [scroll down to "Middle Man" headline]. An AP video with audio excerpts of O'Reilly's original remarks about his dinner at Sylvia's, the Harlem soul food restaurant, is here.

Oct 2, 2007

Swann sees intensifying HD competition

HD will be the battle cry for cable nets and competing satellite TV operators during the next year, said Phillip Swann of yesterday, issuing his annual 10 HD predictions for '08 at Iowa PTV's DTV Symposium. DirecTV will offer 100 HD channels, he foretold, but consumers will remain confused about what equipment they'd need to receive true HD, and many will buy $300 standard-def DTV receivers. Iowa Public Radio programmer Todd Mundt reacts to Swann at the symposium, confiding that, since installing an HD set, he has "grown to dislike watching" standard-def programs, and feels little allure from multicast SD channels. "When it comes to video," Mundt summarizes, "more isn’t better; better is better."

Philly mag flays WHYY

Philadelphia magazine runs a long, occasionally snide piece on WHYY and its well-compensated CEO, Bill Marrazzo. The writer takes aim at the station's perceived "lack of ambition to do public television" as well as Marrazzo's $400,000+ salary, and outlines mostly anonymous employees' concerns about both issues. The WHYY Board defended Marrazzo's performance and compensation in August in response to another local writer's criticism.

Website helps stations share materials about analog shutoff

What can stations do to smooth the transition when analog TV transmission ends? PubTV's Affinity Group Coalition has started a new website, The Analog Shutoff: A Repository, offering examples of on-air spots, web pages and other material to help educate viewers about new digital services and their reception options. The coalition's project is led by Larry Smith, g.m. of KUED in Salt Lake City, and the site was built by his staff. It features a ticker counting down to shutoff, 504 days away.

Oct 1, 2007

Pacifica picks Sawaya as executive director

The board of the Pacifica Foundation unanimously named Nicole Sawaya executive director of the left-wing radio network at its meeting in Berkeley, Calif., Sept. 29. Sawaya previously served as g.m. of KPFA-FM, Pacifica's station in Berkeley, where she enjoyed strong support from colleagues. Her firing in 1999 touched off protests and worsened the internal conflict plaguing the network at the time. Pacifica historian Matthew Lasar calls Sawaya's hiring as ED "great news": "It signifies that a critical mass of people at Pacifica have grown weary of chaos and drift."

What's all this about

Mark Ramsey interviews Tim Westergren, founder of The Internet radio website was mentioned frequently during music and research sessions at the recently concluded Public Radio Program Directors conference. [Via Technology360]

Sep 28, 2007

Lawmaker to push over-the-air performance royalty

Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) plans to introduce a bill next month that would require over-the-air radio stations to pay performance royalties for the music they play, a move the recording industry has been plotting for some time. Broadcasters have paid royalties to composers and music publishers for decades, but unlike satellite and online radio operators, they haven’t had to pay the performance rights holders--generally record labels--of recordings they air. The National Association of Broadcasters predictably vowed to fight the effort. "The big record labels are spinning the same old tune to Congress--asking them to impose a tax on radio to line the pockets of international record executives," NAB President David K. Rehr said at this week's NAB Radio Show in Charlotte, N.C. "We can't and won't let that happen."

CPB backs plans to build pubradio audience and major giving

To address the slowing in public radio's audience growth, CPB put out an RFP today seeking someone to lead a systemwide consultation and develop goals, audience-building strategies and best practices. Deadline: Oct. 31.

Earlier this week CPB gave the Development Exchange a $235,000 grant to plan a Major Giving Initiative for pubradio. The objective is to train radio fundraisers and otherwise help them find major donors, following completion of a similar project for pubTV.

Sep 26, 2007

Iowa Congressman finds mistake in Burns' WWII doc

Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley found a factual error in Ken Burns' The War, reports Radio Iowa. In his description of "one of the most famous Iowa families involved in that war," Burns says the five Sullivan brothers were from Fredericksburg. " 'That came as a great surprise to all of us living in Waterloo, home of Sullivan Park and the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center,' Braley says. Braley faxed a letter to Burns today, praising his work as a filmmaker but pointing out the error."

APMG to bring back classical format to Miami

Rebuffed last week in a bid to buy an FM outlet in the Washington, D.C., area, American Public Media Group has agreed to laid out $20 million for a station in the Miami area, according to a news report on APMG's Minnesota Public Radio. APMG plans to change the format of WMCU from Christian to classical music, a format that lost its longtime broadcaster a decade ago. APMG President Bill Kling said he's not on a buying spree, but the offer was "just too good to pass up." The seller is an affiliate of an evangelical school, Trinity International University. WMCU's last day on the air will be Sunday, Sept. 30. Public Radio Capital said that it brought the seller and buyer together and repped APMG in negotiations. The seller of the D.C.-area station was also a small Christian college, but its board changed its mind about selling.

What may become a frank and open chat with Jim Russell

The doctor is in. Jim Russell, the longtime radio producer who does business now as The Program Doctor, has just begun taking questions at, the website for public radio producers. Like other guests, Russell posted a conversation-starter, his 17-step guide to program development. (He had a hand in developing not only Marketplace, but also The World, Weekend America and more. Transom's previous guest was Ben Shapiro, a TV-and-radio producer who discusses visual storytelling for radio folks.

African-American museum already active online

More than 40 stories of black families recorded by the ongoing CPB-funded StoryCorps Griot Project are on the website of the Smithsonian's newest museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum, expected to be built on the Mall by 2015, aims to raise half of its expected $500 million cost and went online early to show donors that it's already at work, the Associated Press reported. The Griot Project mobile recording booth has already swung through Atlanta, Newark, Detroit, Chicago and Oakland and will be in Holly Springs, Miss., tomorrow through Oct. 6, and moves on to Clarksdale, Oct. 11-27, and Memphis, Nov. 1-Dec. 8.

Sep 25, 2007

Nine news Emmys for PBS shows

PBS received nine Emmys last night in the 2007 News and Doc ceremony in New York last night; CBS came in second among the networks with five. Both Frontline and P.O.V. drew special awards for excellence from the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Of the nine Emmys, six went to WGBH, including two to American Experience, two to Frontline and one each to Frontline World and one to Nova. Three went to WNET, including two to Nature and one to America's Investigative Reports. Here's the complete list.

Listening "won't feel like a civic duty"

Jesse Thorn ("America's Radio Sweetheart") doesn't mind that Esquire has listed his high-energy show, The Sound of Young America, in The Esquire 100. Esquire endorses it as "a public radio show that's specifically designed not for the kind of people who carry around canvas NPR tote bags." You want to check it out because: Listening to the show "won't feel like a civic duty." (Thorn himself compares the show to Fresh Air, "but more fun.") Thorn and friends started the show in 2000 at the college station at UC Santa Cruz. called his show "the greatest radio show you've never heard." He has since begun extolling "the New Sincerity." Perhaps for some other reason PRI began distributing the show this year. Archived podcasts and artifacts are at The Sound's site.

Sep 24, 2007

Election mash-up draws more than 1 million

The online build-your-own Democratic presidential debate--hosted by PBS's Charlie Rose--has attracted more than 1 million users since it premiered on Sept. 13, reports the Los Angeles Times. The site, created by Yahoo!, and The Huffington Post, allows users to compare video of each candidate answering Rose's inquiries about the Iraq War, health care and education. However, users seem more interested in another feature--the "wild card" questions posed by Bill Maher.

Sep 23, 2007

Two-thirds of PTFP outlays to DTV

The Commerce Department's Public Telecommunications Facilities Program announced its annual grants, grouped by state, this year totalling $22.4 million, two-thirds for DTV conversion. Twenty-four stations got aid to buy emergency generators. Some of the radio grants help launch the first pubradio signals for five localities.

Sep 21, 2007

NPR names Shepard new Ombudsman

NPR announced today that Alicia C. Shepard has been named the new NPR Ombudsman. In a memo sent to Jim Romenesko, NPR President Kevin Close said, "Lisa brings a strong portfolio in analyzing and explaining journalism and media policy. She is currently teaching a graduate-level course in Media Ethics at Georgetown University and writing a chapter on the media for the Center for Public Integrity's forthcoming book, The Buying of the President. She has also served as a journalism instructor at American University and the University of Texas." Shepard recently published the book Woodward & Bernstein: Life in the Shadow of Watergate and is co-author of Running Toward Danger: Stories Behind the Breaking News of 9/11. For nine years, she was a principal contributor to the American Journalism Review, where she received the National Press Club's top media criticism prize three times. She has written for the New York Times, Washingtonian magazine, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Newark Star Ledger and Washington Post, and she was a staff reporter with the San Jose (CA) Mercury News. "As we sought to fill this position now," writes Klose, "we also wanted to advance its role and duties within our organization to reflect how both the media and media criticism have changed in only seven years. ... Among her first duties, Lisa will work with the NPR News, Digital Media, Communications and Member and Program Services Divisions to deal with the increasing number of letters we are receiving, which are the result of everything from the public intensity over the upcoming elections to improved technology available to drive advocacy campaigns."

College nixes sale of station sought by APM

The trustees of a small Seventh-Day Adventist college just outside Washington, D.C., took its noncommercial FM station off the market yesterday, giving up, at least for now, expanding its thin endowment by some $20 million that American Public Media offered for WGTS. "The Lord performed a miracle today and we give him all the praise and thanks for what happened," says John Konrad, g.m., in announcements on the station and its website. The college didn't explain the board's decision or say whether the decision was final. Konrad said the sale was off "for now." If APM bought 91.9, its format was expected to leap from "family-friendly" Christian rock music to secular news/talk. Columbia Union College said in July APM would be the only bidder considered, but a spokesman said last week that a bid from the parent of K-Love, a big Christian radio net, was also in hand.

Sep 20, 2007

PBS viewers angry about exclusion of Kucinich and Gravel

In today's PBS ombudsman's column, Michael Getler posts letters from viewers who are angry about Iowa Public Television and AARP's exclusion of Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel from tonight's debate.

Kucinich criticizes Iowa PubTV for excluding him

Dennis Kucinich chastized AARP and Iowa Public Television in a recent release for excluding him from tonight's Democratic Presidential Forum, which will focus on health care and financial security. The Iowa Democratic Party has said Kucinich does not have an "active organization" in the state. Kucinich said: "How can AARP and Iowa Public Television claim they are committed to education and informing the voters of Iowa on the number one domestic issue in this campaign when they deny a voice to the only candidate who is leading the effort to bring real reform to the health care system by ending the control of for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical companies?"

Ken Burns' companion book already a best-seller

The companion book to Ken Burns' The War, co-authored with Geoffrey C. Ward, "was released last week and makes its debut today at No. 34 on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list," reports the paper. The $50 book follows successful print renditions of The Civil War and Baseball.

Sep 19, 2007

Top GOP candidates won't be at Smiley's forum

"The leading contenders for the Republican nomination have indicated they will not attend the All American Presidential Forum organized by black talk show host Tavis Smiley, scheduled for Sept. 27 at Morgan State University in Baltimore and airing on PBS," reports the Washington Post. Party leaders are concerned this decision may further alienate black and Latino voters--earlier this month, top GOP candidates (except McCain) declined an invition to debate on Univision.

Sep 18, 2007

Latinos plan protests of The War

"Four protests of [Ken] Burns' documentary at local PBS stations are planned Sunday in California; a Capitol rally is to be held in Austin, Texas; others will hold exhibits, commemoration days and panel discussions in their cities," reports the AP on Latino groups' continuing opposition to Burns' 15-hour PBS series The War, which premieres Sunday evening.

City Attorney posts documents from KPBS

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre, who requested public records from KPBS after it cancelled the public affairs show Full Focus, explained his actions in a recent press release: "Since the public records request was made public by KPBS, I've received more citizen concerns questioning whether KPBS is fulfilling its responsiblity as a public broadcasting station for the people. In addition, the Editors Rondtable's [a KPBS weekly radio program] regular opinon-maker is the Union-Tribune's Editorial Director, and people have expressed concern that the newspaper already enjoys a virtual monopoly on editorial content disseminated to the citizens of San Diego." (The documents obtained by Aguirre can be downloaded from his website under "Significant Reports and Legal Documents.")

Sep 17, 2007

Talent Questers unveil their demos

Online voting is underway on five-minute demos created by the five remaining contestants in the Public Radio Talent Quest.

Lehrer was soft on Petraeus and Crocker

Like many viewers, PBS ombudsman Michael Getler wasn't too impressed with Jim Lehrer's questioning of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on Sept. 12. Getler writes of the NewsHour segment, "For an issue that is at the heart of this moment in our history, the half-hour, as a whole, seemed too flat and dry to me, an under-utilized opportunity. It offered a calm nod to those frustrations that engulf millions of Americans about where this war is going without really pressing more specific questions about military and diplomatic strategy and the associated costs in lives, money and reputation that are on people’s minds." (See video and transcript of the segment.)

Also off-limits, South Side: Cokie Roberts

The suburban Chicago Daily Herald points to a broadcast segment about a bar fight between spunky two women to characterize :Vocalo, Chicago Public Radio's idiosyncratic new offshoot station for the young and nonwhite. The new station in Indiana, which reaches only southern parts of Chicago, went 24/7 this month, the Sun-Times reported. CPR President Torey Malatia described the thinking behind :Vocalo in Current. Listen for yourself.

Sep 13, 2007

City Attorney request documents from KPBS

San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre has requested documents from KPBS related to cancellation of its local program Full Focus, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Aguirre also requested documentation about the station's largest donors and how KPBS chooses participants for its Editors Roundtable. KPBS spokeswoman Nancy Worlie told the Union-Tribune, “There's not much in the documents, but whatever Aguirre does with this only Aguirre knows. We are flattered he wants to spend his time looking into us.”

Sep 12, 2007

Brown is the New Green aptly investigates Latino experience

"I've long thought that someone should make a documentary on the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the Latino experience in the United States," says San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. in a commentary about Brown Is the New Green: George Lopez and the American Dream (airing tonight on PBS). The film, says Navarrette, fulfills this wish. It unpacks Latino identity as it relates to "politics, business, entertainment, marketing and media," and also addresses the "contradictions and mixed messages that Latinos send everyone else." Navarrette quotes filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez: "'Latinos are such an enigma to America.'"

Sep 11, 2007

Underwriting sales agency bought by NPR, WGBH

The largest producing organizations in public radio and TV, NPR and WGBH, said in a release today that they're buying what is probably the largest broker of underwriting time on local stations, Boston-based National Public Broadcasting. It represents 60 stations in pubTV, 120 in pubradio, NPR,, and the NewsHour. Bob Williams, a sales exec who had built an earlier business selling ad time on cable TV, established the business 10 years ago as National Public Television and later expanded into radio.

PBS parrot star dies at age 31

Alex, the super-smart parrot featured on PBS's Scientific American Frontiers and the Nature episode "Parrots: Look Who's Talking," died last week at age 31. Alex--who could identify objects, colors and shapes--was known for his verbal interactions with Alan Alda on Scientific American (see video).

Sep 10, 2007

PBS Ombudsman: Crossroads needs context

Responding to viewer criticism about the latest American at a Crossroads doc--Robert Kaplan's "Inside America's Empire"--PBS ombudsman Michael Gelter says the programs need more introductory context. The problem for viewers, he says, is "the concept of what this Crossroads series is supposed to be."

Comic strip responds to Ken Burns' The War

In response to Ken Burns' The War, creators of the comic strip Baldo will introduce a Latino WWII vet character on Sept. 17, reports Editor & Publisher. Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, a University of Texas-Austin professor who has advocated against The War, helped creators Hector Cantu and Carlos Castellanos develop content for the new character.

Rural pubTV stations get USDA digital grants

The USDA gave six rural public TV stations a total of $4.95 million to build out their digital infrastructure in advance of the February 2009 analog TV shut-off. Pubcasters in Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota and Tennessee received rural development grants ranging from $1.86 million down to $25,510.

Yikes, a critic who is of two minds!

"As a reading lesson, Super Why! is brilliantly clever," says a New York Times review today. "As a lesson in literary interpretation, it fails miserably," writes Susan Stewart, who contends that the new PBS children's series neutralizes the power of dark but enduring fairy tales.

Sep 6, 2007

For those who hate wordless humming

Tomorrow afternoon ATC will announce the winner of a contest to write lyrics for the show's enduring theme. Nina Totenberg can be heard on warbling the four finalists culled from nearly 1,000 entries. Listeners' voting to pick the winner closed last night. A Californian named Bruce Dick is the finalist with the shortest entry, which nevertheless emphasizes quite a big claim for the show: "Not just many things considered / Not just most things / In fact, all." Now we can't get that out of our minds.

NPR talks with Made in L.A. filmmaker

On NPR's Talk of the Nation yesterday, Neal Conan talked with filmmaker Almudena Carracedo about her film Made in L.A., which debuted Tuesday on the PBS series P.O.V.

Sep 5, 2007

LA Times on Burns' The War: an epic poem

"[Ken] Burns sometimes gets dinged for being too heartland; a critic for this paper chided his 'pure Hallmark' moments. But the whole point here is the contrast, the Hallmark against the horrors," writes Paul Lieberman in a Los Angeles Times feature about Burns and his upcoming film The War. "He's not producing a textbook but 'an epic poem,' and he's tried to distinguish his from the other WWII films by focusing on the interplay of home front and war front, using Sacramento, Luverne, Minn., Mobile and Waterbury."

"Bluegrass makes hangovers go away!"

WAMU's announcement that it will drop bluegrass music from its weekend schedule later this month and upgrade its HD Radio service prompted nearly three dozen listeners to post comments yesterday on DCist. A handful of listeners applauded the change: "I just don't 'get' Bluegrass music. Waaay too twangy and countrified for me," wrote one. But many others found reasons to object. The new Sunday afternoon news/talk line-up is "extraordinarily lame AND lazy," wrote one listener. "This sucks. Bluegrass makes hangovers go away!" commented another. "I always liked WAMU weekends for the very reason that it wasn't just like WAMU on the weekdays," writes a fan of the Dick Spottswood Show and American Routes, Americana music programs to be dropped from WAMU's flagship service.

Sep 4, 2007

Made in L.A. another window into labor of undocumented immigrants

The film Made in L.A., which runs tonight on PBS as part of the P.O.V. series, is an "excellent documentary," according to a New York Times review. The doc follows the labor activism of three Latino women in L.A.'s garment manufacturing industry. Writes the Times' Andy Webster: "Congress may not be able to decide how to process the nation’s illegal immigrants, but the film understands that they’re simply here, an integral component of the economy."

WordGirl is funny, Super Why! is "sugary-sweet"

The new PBS kids' show WordGirl "doesn't just teach, it also entertains with humorous situations that should appeal to children and their parents," writes Pittsburgh Post-Gazette TV critic Rob Owen. The new Super Why!, however, is a "sugary-sweet show that may entertain its target audience of 3-to-6-year-olds, but may repulse parents the same way Barney does."

New York Times on new PBS series WordGirl

"WordGirl takes the [superhero] conceit back to an earlier era, with a sensibility that could only have been conceived by creators who may have watched too many Rocky and Bullwinkle shows," writes Elizabeth Jensen in a New York Times article about the new PBS children's series.

Armed and virtuous

Jody Foster's latest heroic movie role -- in Neil Jordan's thriller The Brave One -- is a public radio personality who becomes a vigilante when her fiancé is killed and the justice system fails to do justice. NPR's Bob Mondello says he hears talk the Warner Bros. film may be an award-winner. See the trailer on Fandango.

WAMU ends weekend bluegrass, bets that music fans will embrace HD Radio service

WAMU in Washington, D.C., announced that it is dropping all bluegrass programming from its weekend schedule and replacing long-running music shows with news/talk programming. The station will invest in upgrades to its HD Radio service, WAMU Bluegrass Country, by adding digital multicasts of live-hosted music programs on 88.5-2. It also will give away 1,000 HD Radios to listeners who contributed to its bluegrass programming within the past year. A third digital channel will combine news programming from the BBC and music from Triple-A outlet WTMD in Towson, Md. (All three schedules are posted here.) WAMU once broadcast more than 20 hours a week of bluegrass and other acoustic music programming, according to according to the Washington Post's Marc Fisher, who reports on the changes today on his blog. Six years ago, the station launched first digital service for bluegrass fans--as an online-only, 24-hour streaming service, but Fisher reports that the audience for music broadcasts on its flagship channel is much larger than that of the Internet service.

Unwelcome competition for NPR News audience on shores of Maryland

"I think there is enough competition in the media world. Between iPods and downloads, there is enough competition without worrying about another station," says Gerry Weston, g.m. of Public Radio Delmarva stations WSCL and WSDL serving Maryland's coastal communities. The Daily Times of Salisbury, Md., reports on plans for Baltimore's WYPR to begin beaming its NPR News service into Ocean City and examines how competition from the distant station will affect local pubradio outlets.

Aug 31, 2007

Pismo pays big bucks for PBS wine series

"We like public TV as much as the next viewer, but we wonder whether the city of Pismo Beach had enjoyed one glass of wine too many when it agreed to pay $50,000 to sponsor a PBS reality series called 'The Wine Makers'," reads an opinion piece in The Tribune, the newspaper of San Luis Obispo County.

Lessons learned in Iowa network's first year

"The creation of Iowa Public Radio, and its early success, should send an important signal to a public radio system that is vastly overbuilt," writes IPR Content Director Todd Mundt, in a blog entry describing the evolving state network's first year of service. "Maintaining local public service is not the same thing as maintaining hundreds of independent stations."

Portland church's political agenda prompts venue change for event featuring Ira Glass

After learning that a mega-church that actively opposes the gay rights movement had been booked for his upcoming appearance in Portland, This American Life host Ira Glass requested a change in venue, according to local news accounts. Oregon Public Broadcasting, which is hosting the event, defended its first choice of venue but later rented the convention center.

Aug 30, 2007

PBS ombudsman gets letters of support for Moyers

After his critique of Bill Moyers' commentary on Karl Rove, PBS ombudsman Michael Gelter says he got a load of pro-Moyers mail. In his Aug. 24 column, Getler questioned Moyers' reporting on Rove's religious convictions.

PBS programming for Hispanic Heritage Month

In a press release today, PBS details "a number of broadcast premieres and encore presentations that recognize the cultural, historical and societal impact of America's growing Hispanic community." The programs, to air during Hispanic Heritage Month, come in the wake of protests against Ken Burns' upcoming series The War. Latino groups, concerned about the lack of Latino vets in the WWII film, have asked PBS for assurance that it would work harder to include Latinos in “current and future programming” (Current, Aug. 27). Some Latino filmmakers have credited the Burns controversy with opening doors for them at PBS (via AP).

Georgia to resign as g.m. of Pacifica's KPFK

Eva Georgia, embattled g.m. of Pacifica's KPFK in Los Angeles, will leave the job on October 31, according to the Los Angeles Times. “Being General Manager of a progressive community radio station isn’t easy," said Greg Guma, Pacifica executive director, in a statement reaffirming the Pacifica National board's support for Georgia. "In fact, it’s a tough and draining job." Georgia has been accused of sexual harassment and racial discrimination in two pending lawsuits.

San Diego's progressive talk station contemplates format change

"I don't know that many liberals go to the AM dial, because it's full of right-wingers and sports," says Randy Dotinga, radio columnist for the North County Times, in a report on the likely end to the progressive-talk format on KLSD-AM, a Clear Channel station in San Diego. "If you don't like right-wingers and sports, there's no reason to flip to AM." Dotinga tells the San Diego CityBEAT that KLSD will always have problems competing with KPBS, the local pubradio outlet on the FM dial.

Stern previews NPR content, services to launch with help from Seattle outlets

"A lot [of] people outside our core demographics are interested in our content," NPR CEO Ken Stern tells the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "They're turned off by our conventions." In a P-I story published yesterday, Stern described several NPR initiatives of interest to Seattle's pubradio listeners, each of which launch in October: Bryant Park, a morning newsmag for twenty- and thirty-somethings cohosted by former KUOW reporter Luke Burbank, major upgrades to its music website featuring station-produced programming, and a new service that will deliver NPR content to mobile devices. Seattle's KPLU and KEXP are partners in the new music website and KPLU helping NPR launch the new mobile service, the P-I reports.

Aug 29, 2007

OPB documentary includes nudity

Nekkid in Oregon: "When Oregon Public Broadcasting airs Portland director Ian McCluskey’s Eloquent Nude this Thursday, Aug. 30, it will be showing a gorgeous, poignant documentary about the love affair between an iconic photographer and his model," reports the Willamette Week. "It will also be showing a nekkid woman." The program about Edward Weston, which airs state-wide at 10 p.m., already has been featured in Portland theaters.

Alt rock returns to Cinci airwaves via WVXU-HD

The Cincinnati Post reports on an unusual radio partnership: Cincinnati Public Radio's WVXU-FM recently began HD Radio broadcasts of, a station that brought alternative rock to southwestern Ohio in the 1980s and, after ending broadcasts three years ago, struggled to survive as an Internet-only station. "I see it as the perfect test run of a multicast channel to see what sort of legs it has," says Bryan Miller, g.m. "We have a built in audience. There is a pent up demand in the market for alternative rock."

An insider's account of Post Radio's demise

Why Washington Post Radio failed: unfulfilled promises to deliver in-depth news, clashes between the cultures of two different newsrooms, and too many moments when Post reporters froze up on the air, according to Marc Fisher, Post radio columnist and blogger.

Aug 28, 2007

CBS covers Moyers-on-Rove

In an online post, CBS News covers the "War of Words in MediaLand going on for more than a week now: Karl Rove versus Bill Moyers." This "war" has been facilitated mostly by Fox News, which hosted Rove and asked him to respond to Moyers' mention that Rove might be agnostic. Moyers wrote a letter to Fox host Chris Wallace and Wallace responded to Moyers on Fox News Sunday.

Bonneville to end its partnership with the Washington Post

During its first year on the air, Bonneville-owned Washington Post Radio failed to attract one percent of listeners in the metropolitan D.C. region, reports the Washington Post. Next month, the Post and Bonneville will end the 18-month partnership that put the newspaper's reporters on the air.

Aug 27, 2007

PBS Ombudsman on Moyers...Again

Bill Moyers is again the topic of PBS ombudsman Michael Getler's column. Getler addresses Moyers' farewell to Karl Rove on Aug. 17 and says he's less concerned with the "editorializing" than the reporting. The "reports" in Moyers' following line lacked attribution, says Getler: "At [Rove's] press conference this week he asked God to bless the president and the country, even as reports were circulating that he himself had confessed to friends his own agnosticism."

Crossroads documentary on anti-Americanism debuts tonight

The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal review The Anti-Americans (a love-hate relationship), a PBS documentary debuting tonight. The film is the latest installment of the CPB-backed America at a Crossroads initiative. Filmmakers Louis Alvarez, Andy Kolker and Peter Odabashian will be appearing today on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show and Tucker Carlson's MSNBC series.

The War controversy opens doors for Latinos at PBS

"Call it a guilt trip or a cultural awakening, but some Latino filmmakers feel that the controversy over Ken Burns' upcoming World War II documentary has unexpectedly opened doors for their work at PBS," reports the AP. Before The War's premiere on Sept. 23, PBS has scheduled to air five programs featuring Latinos. The program about marketing to (and representing) Latinos-- Brown Is the New Green: George Lopez and the American Dream (Sept. 12)--lines up with PBS's educational goals: "To a certain degree, Brown Is the New Green feels like a primer on Latino society for older white Americans — a big part of PBS' audience."

Vincent goes out swinging at KUOW

Program changes and compensation disputes at Seattle NPR news station KUOW prompted longtime host and engineer Ken Vincent to abruptly quit his job and go public with a litany of grievances over work conditions, as reported by The Stranger, a Seattle alt weekly, and the Seattle Times. Vincent and other employees object to the clipped on-air delivery style that Program Director Jeff Hansen has asked all on-air staff to adopt; Vincent describes the style change as "dumbing down the on-air sound." Turmoil among the KUOW air staff began amid rumors of big bonuses for management and a projected $2.5 million end of year surplus, according to Blatherwatch, a Seattle radio blog that interviewed former KUOW morning host Deborah Brandt about why she resigned early this year.

Aug 22, 2007

Ken Burns to participate in National Book Festival

Some 70 authors have been chosen to participate in The Library of Congress's 2007 National Book Festival on the National Mall, Sept. 29. Ken Burns and Geoffrey Ward (co-writer with Burns on several documentaries and the new book The War: An Intimate History, 1941-1945) will be part of the history and biography group.

Aug 21, 2007

WGBH and AARP to partner

Boston's WGBH and AARP Publications will partner to produce TV shows designed for viewers 50 and older, reports Broadcasting & Cable. The multiyear partnership will begin with “Caring for Your Parents,” a special that will be offered to public TV stations next spring.

MPT's V-me launch won't reach many Latino residents

Maryland Public Television's cable launch yesterday of V-me, the digital Spanish-language channel, didn't include areas with the state's largest Hispanic populations, reports the Washington Post. Apparently Comcast hasn't yet committed to a start date for carriage in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, and MPT officials say it could be as late as February 2009--the same time TV broadcasting goes all-digital. Maryland's Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) called on the public to pressure Comcast. The company says it has "no imminent plans" to carry V-me in the two counties.

Talent Quest blows off Windy City contestants

Two Chicagoans, Chuck Mertz and Anne Glickman, were eliminated from Public Radio Talent Quest, the online contest for future pubradio hosts. Still in the game: April Baer, Chris de Ville, Al Letson, Glynn Washington and People's Choice favorite Rebecca Watson.

Aug 20, 2007

Fiske celebrates 60 years in broadcasting

"I came up in a time when you couldn't say 'hell' on the radio," says retired Washington broadcaster Fred Fiske, recalling his mid-career decision to move from commercial to public radio. "I couldn't bring myself to do the insults." Fiske, who retired from American University's NPR station WAMU 20 years ago but continues to deliver weekly commentaries for the station, recalls highlights of his 60-year broadcasting career in a Washington Post profile.

Pubradio romance in full bloom

A union worthy of notice in the New York Times: NPR reporter Alex Cohen and former NPR webmaster Richard Dean were married this weekend.

Aug 17, 2007

Australia's native peoples now have TV channel

National Indigenous Television, a new satellite TV channel for Austalia's native peoples that launched in July, is seeking programming in many genres made "wholly or substantially" in Australia, with the priority on programs by aboriginal Austalians and Torres Strait Islanders. See its statement of purpose and commissioning guidelines. NITV has offices in Alice Springs and Sydney. Canada and New Zealand have similar channels.

Aug 16, 2007

This American Life: Paragon of quirk

Atlantic Monthly's Michael Hirschorn calls This American Life a quintessential example of a quirky indie sensibility that has gone too far. Also lumped in/dismissed: Wes Anderson's later films and canceled sitcom Arrested Development.

Aug 15, 2007

World goes national

PBS World, the digital doc and pubaffairs channel, goes national today on 55 stations representing 24 licensees reaching more than 27 percent of U.S. households, according to its producers. The channel, produced by PBS, Boston's WGBH and New York's WNET in partnership with American Public Television and NETA, features time-shifted signature pubTV offerings including Frontline, The NewsHour and Nova (schedule PDF) . John Boland, PBS content chief, discussed the channel at some length in a May Q&A. Also earlier this year: David Liroff, CPB senior v.p. for media strategy, discussed in a Current commentary how stations balance bandwidth limitations with the increasing abundance of high-def and multicast program options, which include other national streams such as Create and Spanish-language V-Me. (Liroff was WGBH's v.p. and chief tech officer when he wrote his commentary.)

Aug 13, 2007

Maker of tainted toys kills himself

The owner of a Chinese factory hung himself after the company was blamed for using toxic paint on Sesame Street and Nickelodeon toys sent to the United States, London's Guardian reported. The Chinese government had suspended the factory's export license. Zhang Shuhong died in the warehouse of his company, Lida Industries in Guangdong province, a world center of toymaking.

Trivedi keeps laying down Bricklane Beats

The Boston Globe profiles Komal Trivedi, a Public Radio Talent Quest contestant who was eliminated during Round 2 of the competition. Trivedi, host of the South Asian music show Bricklane Beats on Boston College station WZBC, is one of a handful of U.S.-based advocates for Bhangra, a traditional musical form from India and Pakistan that's infused with elements of Punjabi and Western dance music, according to the Globe.

Gunman's bullet narrowly misses KPFT dj

Early this morning, a gunman shot through an outer window of Pacifica station KPFT in Houston. The bullet came within 18 inches of hitting the head of Mary Thomas, the dj who was hosting a Zydeco music show, according to the Houston Chronicle. [Via Rolas de Aztlan.]

Variety on THE WAR scheduling

PBS should have thought more about courting viewers age 18-49 ("the demo") when it scheduled The War, argues an August 9 article in Variety. Writes Brian Lowry, "it's precisely 'the demo' that this massive undertaking cries out to be watched by, beginning with the children and grandchildren -- from baby boomers to Gen-X-Y-Whatever -- who grew up blanketed in liberty and wanton consumerism thanks to the war generation's collective sacrifice. Here, unfortunately, is where PBS' pigheadedness enters the picture, sending this seven-night event into battle starting Sept. 23 -- directly opposite the major networks' new fall season. So the heroes of 'The War' will go up against 'Heroes,' its medics against 'Grey's Anatomy,' its men of the much-decorated 442nd regiment against 'Two and a Half Men.'"

Aug 10, 2007

In his PBS ombudsman column today, Michael Getler posts mailbag letters from Wayne Dyer believers and unbelievers. One skeptic wrote, "I'm seeing a disturbing trend in some of the programs that PBS is airing for the past several years. I've noticed a sudden increase in the number of "self-help" programs/characters such as Dr. Wayne Dyer, Robert Kiyosaki, Suze Orman and several others that seem to frequent the PBS channel."

Gelter also posted letters from NewsHour viewers who were unhappy with Judy Woodruff's segment on the new Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act bill. Several letters noted that Woodruff seemed uninformed, and her two guests did nothing to illuminate what the new bill actually meant. NewsHour executive producer Linda Winslow respnds to the criticisms: "I think Judy handled the 'discussion' well, in keeping with the NewsHour's style. ..."I do agree that ultimately the segment shed more heat than light on the subject. Unfortunately, that sometimes happens in the course of producing a live television program; you don't get a 'do-over' when things don't go as planned." Winslow also responded to questions about why coverage of the Democratic debate in Chicago seemed to leave out Bill Richardson: "I think we erred in not including a clip of what Governor Richardson said. Our production team was trying to capture the flavor of the debate (which I think they did) and that involved focusing primarily on the dynamic of the exchanges between Clinton, Edwards, and Obama."