Jul 30, 2007

FCC wants DTV education ideas

The FCC is seeking comment (PDF) on potential digital TV transition consumer education initiatives, the commission announced today. The FCC wants input on proposals designed to "convey the timing, logistics and benefits of the DTV transition to consumers," including PSAs, notices on consumer electronics equipment and in cable and satellite bills, employee training by consumer electronics retailers and tweaks to the partners program. Lawmakers last week complained about the government's meager efforts to educate the largely clueless public about the Feb. 17, 2009 switch-off of analog TV. APTS, which has been working to secure some of the relatively paltry $5 million the government set aside for DTV education, endorsed a bill earlier this month that would boost such funding to $20 million. An APTS study found earlier this year that roughly 61 percent of TV households that rely on over-the-air analog had no idea that these signals will cease in 2009.

Jul 27, 2007

Senators concerned about digital transition

At a hearing yesterday, Senators lamented the government's puny efforts to educate people about the digital TV transition, reports the Los Angeles Times. Speaking to Federal Communications Commission and Commerce Department officials, lawmakers said more funding was needed for government-sponsored public education, in part because the television industry was not doing enough. The anxiety is fueled by a Association of Public Television Stations survey that indicated 61% of respondents had no idea a digital switch was coming (Current, Feb. 12, 2007)."I think there's high potential for a train wreck here," said Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) imagined what would happen if TV screens went blank on Feb. 18, 2009: "They're not going to call you," she told FCC officials. "They're going to call me, and they're going to be mad."

Jul 26, 2007

"I think PBS has enormous potential to become an engine of change in the new world of democratized video," writes TV producer Michael Rosenblum, who spoke at last weekend's National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) board planning conference in New York [Via Technology360]. In his blog post following the speech, Rosenblum says, "Perhaps [PBS] is better positioned than anyone else to effect this change - this need for publishing instead of producing." Rosenblum's advice to pubcasters? "Become a node for video literacy. A place where people could come for training, have their work reviewed, edited and if good enough, published. A true voice for the community and a place where the community could learn to speak and resonate. It's a noble goal, and one that commercial broadcasters will not pick up."

NPR joins battle over satellite radio merger

The Washington Post reports on why the proposed merger of two "bit players in the media world"--satellite radio companies XM and Sirius--has stoked such a huge lobbying battle in Washington. The National Association of Broadcasters has mounted an aggressive public relations and lobbying campaign, while NPR quietly petitioned the FCC on July 9 to block the merger. Granting one company a monopoly on digital satellite radio would "substantially harm the diversity of voices" heard on the media platform, NPR lawyers wrote in the petition, because the merged companies would pare their channel line-ups and very likely drop some public radio programming. "A monopoly . . . would certainly be able to demand less favorable licensing terms, thereby forcing NPR and others to decide between program quality and carriage," NPR said. Sirius distributes many NPR talk shows and weekly series; XM offers the Bob Edwards Show and programs from Public Radio International and American Public Media.

Moyers letter to Ombudsman

Bill Moyers responded to PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler's July 20th column, which criticized Moyer's program about impeachment for lacking balance, by writing "The journalist’s job is not to achieve some mythical state of equilibrium between two opposing opinions out of some misshapen respect -- sometimes, alas, reverence -- for the prevailing consensus among the powers-that-be. The journalist’s job is to seek out and offer the public the best thinking on an issue, event, or story. That’s what I did regarding the argument for impeachment." The statement was part of a letter distributed to media who covered Getler's critique, including Romenesko and the right-wing NewsBusters. Getler had written that "there was almost a complete absence of balance, as I watched it, in the way this program presented the case for impeachment proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney." Moyers' letter also notes that Getler, in a previous column (January 5) , called for more aggressive reporting on issues surrounding the Iraq war -- including impeachment.

Getler has responded to Moyers' letter in a new column entry. He writes: "while conventional, equal-time balance is frequently a false measure, the absence of any balance can undermine any program."

Jul 25, 2007

Study: Social media building new connections in pubradio

The effectiveness of social media tools is hard to measure and such efforts don’t yet produce obvious financial rewards, but many pubradio stations are building new audience relationships with blogs, wikis, discussion boards and other participative online bells and whistles, according to a just-released study. The paper, titled “Public Radio’s Social Media Experiments: Risk, Opportunity, Challenge,” is sponsored by the Center for Social Media at Washington’s American University and the Public Radio Exchange. It represents one of the first efforts to track how and to what extent stations are incorporating social media tools into their websites. The resulting report isn’t meant to be a comprehensive picture of the system--its designers intentionally reached out to tech-savvy stations, said Jake Shapiro, PRX executive director. “It should be helpful to stations contemplating jumping further into social media experimentation,” he told Current. While such projects may not result in “easy-to-see increases in membership or dollars,” according to the paper, half of the survey respondents said the efforts had helped their stations connect with their communities. The study also outlines some loose recommendations based largely on interviews with staffers from four stations selected based on their “track record with social media”: Minnesota Public Radio, KQED in San Francisco, KUT in Austin and Chicago’s WBEZ.

APTS digital tv study

The Association of Public Television Stations reports that "older Americans are significantly more likely to receive their television signals over-the-air, and are therefore less prepared than the rest of the U.S. population to transition from analog to digital-only television in 20 months." The findings are from a new APTS study based on more than 10,000 phone calls earlier this year. The study also found that that only 17 percent of over-the-air viewers age 65 and older owned a digital TV.

APTS joins mobile DTV group

Public TV's lobbying group signed on to the Open Mobile Video Coalition, a consortium of broadcast station groups working to establish a mobile DTV standard, Broadcasting & Cable reports. MPH (Mobile-Pedestrian-Handheld), by Harris/LG, and Advanced-VSB, from Samsung/Rohde & Schwarz, are technologies competing to become the mobile DTV standard, which would allow broadcasters to use their DTV spectrum to beam content to mobile and handheld devices.

Michael Moore on TOTN in audio, video and web

When Lynn Neary interviewed filmmaker Michael Moore on Monday's Talk of the Nation, NPR Internet strategist Andy Carvin shot the interview on video and wrote about it on his personal blog. An edited version of the video and Carvin's behind-the-scenes blog entry is posted on Blog of the Nation. More video is also available on You Tube. "So we have air, web and video all combined and all open," writes blogger and NPR consultant Robert Paterson. He described the production as a "bit of history."

Jul 21, 2007

V-me at La Raza

V-me, the Spanish-language multicast channel launched in February in parternship with public television (WNET New York), is broadcasting this weekend from the National Council of La Raza's annual conference in Miami, Fla. Viva Voz, V-me's nightly public affairs program, will air three episodes from the event, including coverage of keynote speeches and interviews with national Latino leaders.

Jul 19, 2007

MPR/APM in talks to buy D.C. station

American Public Media Group, parent of Minnesota Public Radio, is negotiating to buy WGTS-FM, a noncommercial station in the Washington, D.C., area, MPR's newsroom reported yesterday. APMG would launch a station focusing on "global government issues," said President Bill Kling, noting that APMG had a good track record from its stewardship of KPCC, a Los Angeles-area station it has managed for several years. The Washington Times, citing unnamed sources, said the price could be around $25 million. The station, which now airs Christian contemporary music, is owned by a small, financially pinched Seventh-day Adventist school, Columbia Union College, here in leafy Takoma Park, Md. A group fighting to keep the station's format, Save WGTS, says the college rejected a proposal by the station's board.

Jul 17, 2007

News Emmys

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced nominees for the news and documentary Emmy Awards today in New York. Public broadcasting led with with 22 program nominations, including work by Frontline, The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer, P.O.V., NOVA and American Experience. Last week, NATAS announced nominations for news and documentary programs made for specifically for broadband. The website for the PBS documentary series Frontline/World ( tied with for the top spot--each had four nominations. Awards in news and documentary will be presented on September 24th.

Jul 16, 2007

In his July 13 column, PBS ombudsman Michael Getler discusses a recent episode of History Detectives that some viewers felt strayed unnecessarily into political waters. The episode investigated the history of a post-Civil War photograph that showed white soldiers and black soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder. "As the program pointed out," says Getler, "in Reconstruction-era America, such associations were frequently taboo." The investigation was followed by a commentary from another "detective" about the historical struggle for veterans' benefits. This discussion turned to John Kerry's activism against the Vietnam War and, eventually, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group the commentator described as "funded by a wealthy Republican campaign donor [and that] smeared Kerry’s military record and possibly cost him the election.” Viewers were irked by the infusion of what one letter writer called political "pontificating." Getler shares his opinion--that the comment simply seemed to come out of nowhere. Producers of the program also respond, contending that the statement in question is based on "a great deal of objective reporting."

Jul 12, 2007

PBS press tour notes

PBS announced that Ken Burns now has a place of his own in Apple's iTunes online media store. Viewers can buy and download Burns’ documentaries and related music, audiobooks and podcasts. Also at the summer press tour, PBS said it has scheduled African American Lives 2 for February, hosted by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and tracing the ancestry of Maya Angelou, Dave Chapelle, Morgan Freeman, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and one “ordinary individual,” yet to be announced. PBS also announced that pubTV's new digital multicast channel, PBS World, will launch nationally Aug. 15.

Burns adds new material at ends of "The War" episodes

Ken Burns told TV critics yesterday that 28 minutes of footage about Hispanic and Native American soldiers is being added to The War, AP reported. Material about two Latinos will appear before final credits at the ends of episodes 1 and 6 and about an Indian solider at the end of episode 5. "It doesn't alter the vision of the film that we made and completed a year and a half ago," he said. But adding the material at the ends of episodes may draw complaints from Latino leaders who had already objected to tacked-on heroes. Antonio Morales of the American GI Forum did not object in a statement: "The two Latino Marines who are part of the documentary 'The War' represent the honor and patriotism of all Hispanic-Americans," he said. Kansas City Star critic Aaron Barnhart quotes Burns: "I think we've found the right balance, had the right compromise, that permitted us not to alter our original vision and version of the film and at the same time honor what was legitimate about the concerns of a group of people who, for 500 years, have had their story untold in American history." The American GI Forum was one of two Latino groups that issued a joint agreement May 9.

Talent Quest names Round 3 contestants

The results from Round 2 of the Public Radio Talent Quest were announced yesterday. Three finalists eliminated from the competition were Bee Jellyfish, Carrie Kaufman and Komal Trivedi. The People's Choice winner from Round 2 is Rebecca Watson, the contestant who also received the ranked highest rankings among PRTQ online voters in Round 1.

Jul 11, 2007

PBS Ombudsman: fireworks, debates and Moyers

In a recent column, PBS ombudsman Michael Getler says his mailbag was slammed with letters from disconcerted viewers on the eve of July 4th. Many were in a tizzy that the “Capitol Fourth” telecast went off the air before the fireworks finale was over. One viewer wrote, “Who made the decision to run credits and leave the air before the Grand Finale of the Washington, DC, 4th of July fireworks display? Is he or she still employed by PBS?” Others wondered whether the extravaganza’s religious content belonged on PBS. “My fiance and I turned on the Capitol 4th PBS special to enjoy a celebration of what has made America great – our diversity,” wrote one viewer. “We were dismayed to find ourselves listening to a series of songs that while beautifully sung, were a celebration of Jesus.”

Response to Tavis Smiley’s “All-American Presidential Forum” (broadcast June 28) was generally positive. Some viewers, concerned with the racial makeup of the audience and the focus on “Black America,” took issue with whether the forum was “All-American.” Others thought the production was not up to par. Getler weighs in on Smiley’s controversial choice to use pollster Frank Luntz (covered by Media Matters for America) to analyze viewer feedback.

Letters about Bill Moyers’ indictment of Rupert Murdoch (Bill Moyers Journal, June 29) all similarly complained about “politically skewed programs.” Some viewers apparently thought Moyers was speaking for PBS – wrote one, “I assumed that PBS was politically neutral.”

Jul 9, 2007

Talent Quest finalists need your votes

Round 2 voting on the Public Radio Talent Quest finalists ends tomorrow, July 10, at midnight Eastern time. Online votes and assessments of the PRTQ judges determine which seven candidates move on to the next phase of the contest.

Albany's "hip classical" station goes Triple A

"What we are looking at is really being an old-style, progressive rock station," said Chris Wienk, WMHT radio v.p., describing the format switch that converted WBKK from a "hip classical" outlet to WEXT, a Triple A station dubbed "The Exit." The change, which took effect on Saturday, ended WMHT's 16-month experiment broadcasting two differentiated classical music services to Albany/Schenectady region of New York.