Mar 30, 2007

In Albuquerque Journal, PBS is "losing the battle"

"[I]t is fundamentally wrong to exclude the Latino experience on a subject of the magnitude of World War II, especially in a high-profile, publicly supported project like The War," says Eduardo Díaz, executive director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center, in an Albuquerque Journal report on the controversy over Ken Burns' forthcoming PBS series. In an editorial published today, the Journal calls on KNME to drop Burns' documentary from its schedule and highlight local programs on New Mexico's WWII veterans.

Grandmas get their game on

The gaming industry has discovered an enthusiastic and growing audience among retirees, according to the New York Times. “Baby boomers and up are definitely our fastest-growing demographic, and it is because the fear factor is diminishing,” said Beatrice Spaine, marketing director. “Women come for the games, but they stay for the community....It’s kind of a MySpace for seniors.”

Mar 29, 2007

Art of "self-help hucksters" explained

Vermont PTV's Ann Curran describes the art of pledge programming to a Burlington Free Press writer who can't tell the difference between Suze Orman and Christiane Northrup.

Hispanic caucus presses PBS on "The War"

Leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus met with public TV executives on Tuesday to discuss their concerns about the absence of Latino-American veterans in The War, Ken Burns' 14-hour World War II documentary series slated for a PBS debut in September. Lawmakers may try to restrict pubTV's federal funding if PBS doesn't address their concerns, according to Politico, a newspaper and website covering the Washington, D.C., political scene. "The bottom line is we also have the right to do what we can economically with PBS to show our displeasure," said Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas). "I hope it won't come to that."

Kartemquin Films honored by MacArthur Foundation

The MacArthur Foundation named Chicago's Kartemquin Films, a frequent pubTV producer, as one of this year's eight recipients of its MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. The Chronicle of Philanthropy profiles Kartemquin, headed by co-founder Gordon Quinn. The company is known for Hoop Dreams, Refrigerator Mothers and the series The New Americans, among other social documentaries.

Mar 28, 2007

Critics bash boomer mythologizing on PBS

TV writers at the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times agree: tonight's two-hour PBS documentary The Boomer Century is a tiresome rehash.

Investigative reports cited with IRE Awards

Nuestra Familia/Our Family, a Center for Investigative Reporting doc for public TV about the Latino gang that grew in California's agricultural valleys, received an IRE Medal and the Tom Renner Award for crime reporting from Investigative Reporters and Editors Inc., IRE announced Monday. The award credits producer/director Oriana Zill de Granados, Julia Reynolds and George Sanchez of CIR. CPB and Latino Public Broadcasting were among the funders. [Program website.] The doc premiered last year on KQED and aired nationally last fall as part of Latino Public Broadcasting's Voces series, distributed by American Public Television. The film was edited by David Ritscher, who is also production coordinator for Frontline/World. NPR's Daniel Zwerdling, Anne Hawke and Ellen Weiss won an IRE Certificate for "Mental Anguish and the Military," about emotional damage suffered by Iraq War vets.

FCC clears NCE backlog

The FCC released details yesterday about the settlement of 76 groups of mutually exclusive applications for new full-power noncommercial educational stations. (PDFs of order, attachment.) Universities affiliated with Iowa Public Radio are in line to receive a total of seven construction permits. Other current operators of public radio stations who prevailed include Spokane Public Radio, the University of Wyoming, Temple University and the University of Massachusetts. Unsuccessful applicants: Jefferson Public Radio, Kentucky's Murray State University and WSKG in Binghamton, N.Y. The commission also announced plans to open a filing window for new noncoms in October.

Savage takes on Keillor

Dan Savage erupts over a Garrison Keillor column about modern families and gay parenting. "These couples deserve our gratitude and support," Savage writes. "What they don’t deserve is a rich, old hypocrite insinuating that they’re more interested in their fussy hairdos and over-decorated apartments than they are in raising their kids."

Mar 27, 2007

PBS strain of March Madness infects bloggers

"All I'm saying is, if PBS has to tart itself up as something it's not in order to attract donors, isn't that a de facto admission that their regular schedule isn't enough of a draw to justify their existence?" A Huffington Post column by Eric Williams drew nearly two dozen comments from blog readers eager to rip up public TV pledge programs.

Mar 26, 2007

Shales reviews Discovery's TV landmark

"Years will pass before another program poses a serious challenge to this landmark," writes Tom Shales, Washington Post TV critic, in a review of Planet Earth, an 11-part BBC series that debuted last night on Discovery.

These viewers aren't mad about basketball

March spreads a special strain of madness among PBS viewers.

Mar 22, 2007

Paste Magazine: NPR's "All Songs Considered"

Paste magazine looks at Bob Boilen and his show, NPR's web-only All Songs Considered: "What is a fresh sound? Who the heck knows? But I look for something that has a vitality, that has a sense of creativity to it, maybe that's breaking new bounds—or something that just feels great."

Mar 21, 2007

This American Life - Ira Glass - TV - New York Times

The New York Times previews the TV debut of This American Life: "Mr. Glass was greeted as a conquering rock star in various American cities during a recent live tour, and Showtime is hoping that the rabid, embedded fan base of "This American Life" — as well as the tsunami of media coverage generated by reporters who love to write about someone who actually tells real, live stories — will give it visibility in a cluttered television universe."

Mar 20, 2007

Broadcasters Challenge Streaming Rules: Financial News - Yahoo! Finance

NPR, Clear Channel and other broadcasting groups filed challenges yesterday to the Copyright Royalty Board's ruling on webcast fees, reports AP. NPR also plans to take the matter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.

Citizen reporters sought for Assignment Zero

Assignment Zero, a web-powered collaboration between citizen and professional journalists, recently began assigning stories to volunteer reporters, according to the New York Times.

Mar 19, 2007

The latest squirmish over "The War"

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler reports and comments on criticism that The War, the Ken Burns documentary series debuting in September, ignores the contributions and sacrifices made by Hispanic-Americans during World War II. "[W]hat interests me most among the critical public statements, and the questions and criticisms raised by viewers in letters to me, is whether, during the six years of production, anyone did actually think about the Hispanic veterans," Getler writes.

On PBS, no Chiquita bananas for Curious George

Curious George, the top-rated PBS Kids show, is having trouble selling all of its underwriting slots, according to Advertising Age. Could part of the problem be that PBS prohibits product placement in its programs?

WNYC, PRI plan a.m. show

WNYC, Public Radio International and other partners plan to produce a morning show that will go up against NPR's Morning Edition and pursue a younger audience, reports the New York Times. "We have a vision of what we think is needed, and we think we are the right people to do it," says WNYC President Laura Walker. (More details from WNYC, via PRPD's blog.)

Mar 16, 2007

Burns tribute explores a primetime 'war'

Some Friday levity: This video puts a Ken Burns spin on The War that Divided NBC's "The Office" and its fans. (Audio mildly NSFW.)

Mar 15, 2007

HearVox News: Shared Public Integrated Digital Media Mission Distribution Association

Independent producer Barrett Golding laments the state of public radio conferences in a Web 2.0 world: "Once there was a time-honored tradition of spending conference nights genuinely interacting with real folk, i.e., chasing hookers and hootch. Nowadays, everyone runs back to their hotel rooms to blog, stream, cast, and flickr."

Mar 14, 2007

'This American Life' -

Ira Glass of This American Life talks about the TV version of his radio show in a chat on the Washington Post's website: "This week we just finished a six-city tour . . . and in some of the cities, when I'd ask the audience 'were you worried when you heard we were doing a TV show?' they'd ROAR back yes. In Minnesota our director Chris Wilcha joked it's like when Dylan went electric and a guy in the audience yelled 'Judas!'"

Current Interview re Digital Distribution at Jake Shapiro blogs sometimes.

Jake Shapiro has blogged the transcript of an e-mail interview with Current in which he discusses efforts to create a digital distribution system for public media. "I think some version of it will happen, and soon," he says. "The question is whether it will be a truly collaborative venture or something just one or two players begin together."

SIRIUS Satellite Radio :: SIRIUS Satellite Radio Renews Long-Term Programming Deal With NPR

Sirius Satellite Radio renewed its programming deal with NPR and will carry the network's forthcoming news show aimed at younger listeners.

Public radio: ideal cab soundtrack

A Philadelphia Weekly writer waxes poetic about public radio: ". . . [L]istening to NPR in a warm cab during winter might be the best transportation experience in existence."

Has Success Spoiled NPR? - Media & Politics (

In a long article, Washingtonian magazine looks at NPR's evolution from alternative news source to high-profile outfit that might be recovering some of its old spirit. "We're moving away a little from this gray wash that I've been hearing too much of," says Susan Stamberg. "It's starting to breathe again in ways that remind me of the very earliest days, when we would take any chance, do any goofy thing."

Mar 12, 2007

Public radio station widens coverage

WFCR-FM in Amherst, Mass., will shift its all-news AM feed to a local station owned by Clear Channel, reports the Republican. Clear Channel will be able to sell underwriting spots on the station as part of the arrangement.

Vermont Public Radio eyes college station

Vermont Public Radio has expressed interest in buying an FM channel from St. Michael's College near Burlington, reports the Free Press. Trustees will consider the sale at an April 13 meeting.

Mar 10, 2007

John Inman: He's free

John Inman, campy star of the Britcom Are You Being Served?, died Thursday at age 71, the London Times reported. His bustling, punning, happily effeminate shopclerk character rose from background to foreground in the hit BBC comedy in the 1970s and added U.S. fans through repeated play on public TV. Inman's stereotyped behavior appalled gay liberationists at the time, but columnist Matthew Parris salutes "that lifesaving human compromise, the open secret," which was kept through "a dark age" by Inman, Liberace and generations of sissies and drag queens who announced that homosexuals certainly seemed to be present ... and turned "what was once seen as shame into light entertainment."

Mar 8, 2007

Getler steps into the "News War"

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler sifts through responses to Frontline's "News War"--from viewers and media critics--and provides a forum for producers to respond. He also offers his own critique of the series: as long as Frontline examined how other news organizations failed to challenge the Bush Administration's case for invading Iraq, Getler writes, producers should have been "a little more upfront" in examining their own record in the Nov. 2001 Frontline documentary, "Gunning for Saddam." While prescient in some respects, "this program presented the equivalent of the Full Monty in making the hardliners' case for war."

Mar 6, 2007

Thanks for the Marine recruits, PBS!

Marines and their supporters refuted criticism of the Feb. 21 program that PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler recently described as a "very well done testimonial and recruiting film masquerading as a documentary." Getler's critique was lost on one viewer who wrote: "Documentary or recruiting — whatever you want to call it, it was a pretty good show. I want to say 'thank you' in advance for the new ones who might sign with the Marine Corps just because they saw this show."

NPR: Blog of the Nation

NPR has launched a blog for Talk of the Nation. (Via Andy Carvin.)

The Sound of Young America: Public Radio Talent Quest: Let's Try Some Shit.

Jesse Thorn promotes the Public Radio Talent Quest and comments on public radio's approach to creating shows and cultivating talent. "New programming in public media is largely driven by pre-existing funding, which turns the development process backwards," he writes. "Instead of having a great idea, or a great host, or a great producer and feeding it resources, we find a need or niche we decide to fill, then look for money, then actually build the creative elements. It's anti-entrepreneurial and rewards sameness"

Mar 5, 2007

Texas Southern University Library to Receive Rare Speech Recordings

The Pacifica Radio Archives will donate digital copies of recorded speeches by Malcolm X, Langston Hughes and others to Texas Southern University, reports Diverse. The Archives is donating recordings to universities as part of its Save Our Sound tour. (Via Rolas de Aztlan.)

"Public media content delivery is happening without us."

Dennis Haarsager lays out his plea for a unified content delivery network in this blog post, which follows the February release of the Digital Distribution Committee report and commentary on that effort.

LA Times columnist critiques Frontline's "News War"

Los Angeles Times media columnist Tim Rutten reacts to the third installment of Frontline's "News War," which examined the ongoing turmoil at his newspaper.

Saluting Robert Schenkkan, public broadcasting pioneer

The public stations in Austin, Texas, honored public broadcasting pioneer Robert Schenkkan over the weekend with a celebration of his 90th birthday, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Schenkkan helped to create Austin's KUT-FM and KLRU-TV, and also defended public broadcasting against a defunding threat from President Nixon in the 1970s. "Bob Schenkkan is a hero to me and everybody else in public broadcasting," said Jim Lehrer. "He gave us life and then he saved us."

Larry Bensky will leave Pacifica

Longtime Pacifica host and reporter Larry Bensky announced last week that he will retire from the network at the end of April. In his farewell letter, he cites frustration with the state of the network: "As I see it, the so-called 'democratization' of our local and national governance structure has not enhanced our effectiveness as a media outlet, or as a force for peace and social justice. In fact, despite the best intentions of a few people involved, Pacifica's current governance and administration is a wasteful, counterproductive, and far from transparent distraction."

Mar 2, 2007

Open Source’s Shiny New MacArthur Grant

Public radio's Open Source has received a $250,000 grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to support its integration of radio and the Web. "If you're not familiar with Radio Open Source, this is an approach worth at least serious consideration, and perhaps outright emulation, by broadcasters elsewhere," writes Poynter blogger Amy Gahran.

PRPD starts blog

The Public Radio Program Directors Association has started a blog.

Why no PayPal on public broadcasters' websites?

Media consultant Amy Gahran asks why most public broadcasters don't allow their web visitors to donate via PayPal: "Seems to me that Paypal [is] a friendlier, less intrusive way to start and build a donor relationship than forcing people to labor through a form and immediately become a member."

Can a silent 'humble Farmer' stay the course in Maine?

A longtime volunteer host on Maine Public Radio has silenced himself after network execs disapproved of his politically flavored commentary, reports Village Soup. "The guidelines set me up so I have to fail," the host says. "If I don't say anything, they can't get rid of me."

Mar 1, 2007

Public Radio Talent Quest

The Public Radio Exchange has launched the website for its Public Radio Talent Quest. (More on the Talent Quest.)

LA Times editor responds to "News War"

In a memo to his newsroom, Los Angeles Times Editor Jim O'Shea describes this week's installment of Frontline's "News War" as "simplistic and excessively negative." The documentary, which aired on Tuesday, examined the newspaper's struggle to continue covering national news as shareholders press for lower costs and higher profits. [Via Romenesko]

PBS enhances, renames website for educators

PBS Teachers, a web portal serving up educational content from both PBS and local stations, went live today. The site includes a new guest-hosted blog, Media Infusion.