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]