Aug 31, 2009

'Self-indulgent' reports had him 'screaming at his radio'

Greg Collard, news director at WFAE in Charlotte, released a little collard spleen this month about a couple of NPR veterans getting personal with stories: Margot Adler, with her elegy on storm damage to Central Park trees near her apartment in the West 90s, and Larry Abramson, with a piece about parents (like him) outfitting their kids' dorm rooms. Collard concludes in the station's blog: "NPR humor. Sometimes it's hard to defend, especially when it's so self-indulgent."

Six pubcasting towers in the line of wildfire on Mt. Wilson

The situation on Mt. Wilson, where six Los Angeles area pubcasting outlets have transmitters, is increasingly dire, according to the Los Angeles Times. Fire fighters were taken off the mountain this morning because it was too dangerous to have them working so close to the tower facilities. "There is a good chance the fire will hit Mt. Wilson today," said Ray Dombroski, spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service. Pubcasting stations with towers in jeopardy include KOCE-TV in Orange County; KLCS-TV, which is owned by the Los Angeles Unified School District; Pacifica Radio’s KPFK; classical KUSC-FM; and, as previously reported, KPCC in Pasadena and KCET-TV. Scott Fybush, a broadcast journalist who tracks and blogs about radio transmission facilities, provided the list of pubcasters on Mt. Wilson. KUSC has a back-up transmission site on Mt. Harvard, which he described as a “hilltop about half a mile south of the main Mount Wilson towers.” KPFK posted a photo of the tower site, taken this morning through clouds of smoke. This Facebook page is posting regular updates on the fires around the antenna farm. Earlier today, a commander told KPCC's Patricia Nazario there's "absolutely nothing they can do to keep the fire from consuming Mt. Wilson." Full audio of her report is here. Earlier item here.

Pubcasting shows score Daytime Creative Arts Emmys

PBS was honored with 13 Daytime Creative Arts Emmys, the most of any network, in ceremonies on Saturday night. Included are outstanding children’s animated show (WordWorld), preschool children’s series (Between the Lions) and lifestyle show (This Old House). Three shows not distributed by PBS but running on the network, BizKids, Equitrekking and Diary of a Foodie, also won honors. ABC won 10; Nickelodeon, eight; CBS, five; Food Network, three; and Cartoon Network and NBC, both two. The awards were presented at the the Westin Bonaventure Hotel and hosted by Alex Trebek. Here's a full list of winners. At the main ceremonies the next night at the Orpheum Theatre, a lifetime achievement award went to Sesame Street, now in its 40th year. Actress Sandra Oh was joined onstage to salute the show by Big Bird, Elmo, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster. Also this past weekend, KCET scored six Los Angeles Emmys, and KLCS one. Here's a list of those winners (PDF).

Aug 28, 2009

Stroud disengages in Madison

Maria Alvarez Stroud, public TV’s outreach advocate for most of this millennium, is moving to a new position at the University of Wisconsin-Extension. She’s been executive director of the CPB-backed National Center for Media Engagement in Madison since its founding as the National Center for Outreach in 2000. Stroud’s new job is special assistant to the school’s provost and vice chancellor, working on broadband delivery of public media projects. Charles Meyer is serving as interim e.d.

Now on PBS heading to MIPCOM

Now on PBS, a WNET production, will be presented at the prestigious MIPCOM International Film and Program Market for Television, Video, Cable and Satellite in October in Cannes, France. It's one of the world's biggest entertainment trade events. "This series has been on the air for seven years in the U.S., but this will be the first time that it has ever been introduced to the international market," said Marielle Zuccarelli, senior veep of international sales for distributor GRB Entertainment. It's good news for the show, which earlier this year told its staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave to offset a $1 million budget shortfall (Current, March 30).

Farewell, Reading Rainbow

Nice tributes out there to Reading Rainbow as sun sets today on the 26-year pubcasting fave (as Current reported earlier this month). Here's one from NPR's Morning Edition, in case you missed it. Veronica Harley, a blogger for AOL, takes a sentimental look back; more than a dozen folks left comments on what the show meant to them--including this one: "I am highly upset! I'm 17 yrs old & I still watch Reading Rainbow as soon as I come home faithfully!" But the program won’t die completely, reports Business First in Buffalo. Reading Rainbow will remain available in the educational video market for use by teachers.

Aug 27, 2009

News site posts controversial WYCC videos

A few of the videos that sparked a federal lawsuit by a former g.m. of WYCC in Chicago are now posted on a local news website. Chi-Town Daily News, which broke the story last month, reports that the PBS station, owned by City Colleges, produced videos that appeared to benefit politicians and friends of former chancellor Wayne Watson. The programs never aired. Maria Moore, former head of the station, said in her suit that she was fired after she complained to Watson about the productions. Her lawsuit also asserts that the chancellor's orders to make the videos violated terms of the station's government grant funding and broke federal tax rules for charities, as CPB funds cannot be used for political purposes.

University agrees to postpone WLIU sale

WLIU-FM 88.3 at Long Island University has secured a reprieve, if only for a two more months, reports The Southampton News. University officials recently announced that it would stop funding the station on its Stony Brook Southampton campus on Oct. 3, the day its lease expired, and put it up for sale. Wally Smith, station manager, said that a negotiated agreement will allow WLIU to continue broadcasting at least until Dec. 3. Smith is forming a nonprofit corporation to raise funds to purchase the station’s licenses and equipment; he also hopes to keep the same staff. LIU Chief Financial Officer Robert Altholz told Current: “As much as I and others love the station, it’s running a deficit”--more than $1 million for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31. “What we’re really doing is taking tuition revenue and subsidizing a radio station.”

Aug 26, 2009

CPB looking for researchers on tent-pole strategy

CPB has issued an RFP for research studies to evaluate the tent-pole pubTV programming strategy along with awareness, attitudes and usage among certain audiences. Deadline is Sept. 7.

How much is Martha's stinky chair worth? Stay tuned ...

Now here's a unique partnership: Antiques Roadshow and Martha Speaks. In the season premiere of the pup-ular PBS Kids show on Sept. 14, Martha's favorite "stinky" napping chair ends up on the Roadshow (photo courtesy WGBH/Susan Meddaugh). Appraiser Noel Barrett lends his voice (and face) to the episode, which teaches young viewers words such as antique, donate and valuable. One amusing moment in a preview clip on YouTube: The elderly Mrs. Demson, upon hearing that well-known PBS tagline ". . . and viewers like you, thank you," responds, "Hmph. You're welcome."

BBC production going green, slowly

The production team on the BBC drama Being Human is taking baby steps toward going green, earning praise from the Center for Social Media at American University. There are now recycling bins on the set and in offices, and staffers are working on using less paper for scripts and call sheets, reports blogger Andrew Buchanan. He adds, "OK, it won’t make the series carbon neutral, but it’s a great first step. . . . It would be great if all productions everywhere go carbon neutral as soon as possible, but entrenched behavior and customs take a while to change." The center offers a Code of Best Practices for Sustainable Filmmaking for ideas on how to go green. The BBC show, by the way, is about a werewolf, vampire and ghost who share an apartment. No word if their abode is carbon neutral.

Aug 25, 2009

Oh that Julia!

Pubcasters' memories of Julia Child keep proliferating like profiteroles in Paree. Here's one from Jim Lewis of Oregon-based fundraising consultants Lewis Kennedy Associates: Back in 1985, Child was receiving an honorary doctorate in humane letters from her alma mater, Smith College in Massachusetts. She agreed to attend a donor event at WGBY, thanks to a former classmate and friend of the station, Charlotte Turgeon. "As general manager," Lewis told Current, "I was given the honor of driving Julia from Northampton down to our studio in Springfield." Child's husband Paul was in front next to Lewis; Turgeon and Child were in back. "As I drove down Interstate 91, Julia loudly carried on in back, talking about food trends with Charlotte," also a cookbook author and editor. "And those food faddists!" Child loudly exclaimed. "They're ruining the entire concept of a meal. These vegetarians! How can you prepare a meal without meat? It's a (bleep)!" Child suddenly paused, mid-epithet, "staring at the nape of my neck," Lewis said, "apparently aware of my presence for the first time. Leaning forward, she gave me a rough slap on the shoulder. 'Oh dear,' she said, 'you're not one of those, are you?'" Classic Julia Child. "It was all I could do to keep the car on the road," Lewis added. "A really funny moment, delivered in full roar."

Julia's book sales: proof of the power of movie publicity

If anyone doubts the power of Hollywood and its well-trained media machine, note what the New York Times reports this morning: Within days after Columbia Pictures launched an affectionate bio of Julia Child by an expert screenwriter and featuring two highly likeable stars who draw free publicity from a zillion magazine, blog and TV reports, the 48-year-old book at the heart of the plot is selling far better than ever before. Mastering the Art of French Cooking, by Child and co-authors, was selling 22,000 copies a week, more than in any entire year in its history, the Times reported. A Barnes & Noble exec said the $40, fatty and fat (750-page) book sold seven times as many copies in a month as in a typical year. Even discount stores that previously never stocked the book are ordering it. Next week, for the first time, the book will top a Times bestseller list, in the how-to category. Public TV anticipated the movie's publicity value, angling for web and TV audience based on Child's early shows.

You might attend SXSW next March?

Vote by Sept. 4 on panels you'd like to attend at any of the three South by Southwest conference-festivals to be held in Austin, Texas: interactive, March 12-16; film, March 12-20; music, March 17-21. Example: Jacob Harris of the New York Times wants to hold a panel "Shut Up and Code! (Hacking the Future of News)": "Talk is cheap. Talk about the future of news is cheaper still, especially since so little leads to action." To enter competitions: The interactive festival will accept entries Oct. 16 through Dec. 18 (entry fees escalate). The film festival will accept short or feature-length entries Nov. 5 through Dec. 11 (entry fees escalate). No trailers or works-in-progress. FAQ.

Aug 24, 2009

Judicial Watch sues FCC over DTV delay documents

A self-described conservative watchdog group is suing the FCC to release documents related to the delayed DTV transition. Judicial Watch's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit in U.S. District Court for District of Columbia says an adviser to President Barack Obama stood to benefit from the delay, which slowed up Verizon's new broadband network to compete with Clearwire. The lawsuit also alleges that documents the FCC did provide to the group were highly redacted, and other documents were withheld.

Aug 23, 2009

A return to culture wars ahead?

Documentary filmmaker Deborah Kaufman writes in The San Francisco Chronicle of her fears that what she sees as the increasing attacks on controversial films may signal a return to the "culture wars" of the 1990s (Current, Dec. 12, 1994). She recalls working across the hall from Marlon Riggs, director of Tongues Untied, which sparked a furor for PBS at that time (Current, June 24, 1991). "Often forgotten in these battles," she points out, "are the many thousands in the audience hungry for knowledge, political debate and unfettered creativity who continue to line up at theaters from Melbourne to Edinburgh, Tokyo to San Francisco."

Aug 22, 2009

9/11 conspiracy doc is a top pledge show for Denver

Denver's KBDI-Channel 12 has stirred up local discussion with recent pledge content. Joanne Ostrow, arts and entertainment columnist for The Denver Post, writes that the station "aired controversial documentaries promoting conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 and claiming taxes are unlawful. Answering the phones during the pledge drive were conspiracy believers who reportedly encouraged callers to believe." KBDI Membership Director Shari Bernson told Ostrow that her goal in selecting pledge shows is to provide a forum for many different viewpoints and present things not seen on other stations. 9/11: Pressed for Truth was one of KBDI's top five fundraisers in the past year, and it plans to repeat it in September.

Aug 21, 2009

Pubradio's Diane Rehm recuperating from a fall

Talk show host Diane Rehm fell and cracked her pelvis yesterday and will be off the air for several weeks. Guest host Susan Page told listeners of the injury on this morning's edition of The Diane Rehm Show.

Stations receive STEM content grants

CPB has granted nine pubTV stations a total of nearly $900,000 to create content on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that will be shared with the system and other educational organizations. Stations, their projects and grants are: Louisiana Public Broadcasting, "Global Warming Consequences and Mitigation, $118,777; Maryland Public Television, "Changing the Balance: Digital Assets Investigating Climate Change," $125,000; Nebraska Educational Telecommunications Commission (NET Television), "Antarctica's Climate Secrets," $125,000; Northern California Public Broadcasting (KQED), "Clue into Climate: A Digital Media-Based Curriculum Unit on Climate Change," $97,200; Utah Education Network (KUEN), "Utah Climate Literacy Partnership," $125,000; WGBH, Wisconsin Public Television and ThinkTV, "Climate Literacy Collaborative," $226,481; WOSU Public Media, "What Ice Cores Reveal About Climate," $80,655.

Aug 20, 2009

Julia Child, toaster-oven chef

So many Americans have fond memories of Julia Child's legendary cooking shows on PBS. But Bohdan Zachary, chief programmer at KCET, is lucky to have memories of a very special experience: visiting Child in 2002 in her apartment at a Montecito, Calif., seniors' complex. "Julia was the one and only resident allowed to turn her guest bedroom into a kitchen," noted Zachary, who was there with a camera crew to interview Child for a retrospective to run during a fundraiser. Zachary made an interesting discovery in the kitchen -- a toaster oven. Child told him she enjoyed learning new ways to prepare food using the handy little appliance.

What does it mean to be a "NextGen" station?

The availability of station webstreams through iPhone apps such as the Public Radio Player "ramps up the pressure on local broadcast stations to figure out what their unique value proposition is, given the opportunities for bypass," says PRX's Jake Shapiro in this extensive Q&A with Xconomy Boston. Mobile phone subscribers are increasingly using the devices to tune into the pubradio outlets and programs of their own choosing, but it will be a "some time" before this new distribution technology cuts into the audience for pubradio's traditional broadcast service, he adds. "So one of the risks is actually that there isn’t the same sense of urgency, because it doesn’t feel like a crisis, even though there is a fairly widespread agreement that the transformation is underway." Stations offering their streams on the Public Radio Player and programming secondary channels now have a "leg up" in transforming themselves into multimedia hubs, Shapiro says, but it won't be a cakewalk: "[T]hey have a window of time where a direct appeal to a sizeable audience can help them develop a Web presence that’s meaningful. And they have a lot of potential assets at play. But there is still some strategic confusion, I think, over what it means to be a next-generation station." Shapiro elaborates on the challenges of creating the player, and what it will take to convince Apple to allow public media to solicit donations on its iTunes platform, in the full interview.

Aug 19, 2009

What's on magazine covers? Faces!

"Faces are how I sold 60 Minutes," recalls the late Don Hewitt in an interview being reaired by KCTS in Seattle this week. "I wanted 60 Minutes to be a magazine, and I said, 'How do they sell magazines?' The covers sell magazines. I haven't got covers--I'm gonna use faces. Mike Wallace, Diane Sawyer, Leslie Stahl, Harry Reasoner, Ed Bradley." Scroll horizontally to see a clip from KCTS's interview at right (or click here). Hewitt also put in a word for good writing. The retired 60 Minutes e.p., 86, died of cancer today on Long Island. KCTS interviewed Hewitt last year when he won Washington State University's Murrow award for lifetime achievement. The station scheduled repeats of the show from its Conversations at KCTS 9 series for Friday night, Sunday morning and next Tuesday night.

La, la, la, LINOLEUM....

On Nov. 10, exactly 40 years after Sesame Street's debut, Sesame Workshop will release Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days, with five hours of famous segments (remember "Rubbery Ducky"?) and guest appearances including actor Robert De Niro. It'll cost $20.99; look for it on Amazon.

Aug 18, 2009

Chance meeting charms PBS Hawaii staff

PBS Hawaii staffers were treated to a meeting of two divas in the station lobby recently, reports President and CEO Leslie Wilcox in her blog. Both Hawaii Opera singer Marlene Sai and Broadway actress Loretta Ables-Sayre starred in productions of South Pacific; Ables-Sayre landed a Tony nomination for her performance. The two, in the station for separate tapings of the weekly show Long Story Short, hugged, held hands and chatted "for a long time," Wilcox says.

Twelve WUFT employees riffed in Gainesville

Campus-wide lay-offs announced yesterday by the University of Florida include 12 employees of Gainesville's WUFT-TV/FM, the public broadcasting outlets that are being reorganized by outside consultants to College of Journalism and Communications Dean John Wright. "I don't know how they're going to run things," Bill Beckett, program manager of WUFT-FM, tells the Gainesville Sun. As a faculty member, Beckett has a year before his job ends; staff who aren't on the faculty will be out the door in 45 days. Lay-off notifications came down on the same day that classical music fans mounted a street protest of WUFT's recent switch to an all-news format. The Chalkboard, a blog following UF news, has details of 60 jobs lost across the university; comments posted there so far deal entirely with the changes at WUFT. (Corrected from an earlier post after WUFT General Manager Larry Dankner confirmed that the Sun misreported the number of lay-offs. Pink slips went to employees of the public radio and television stations; the university's commercial stations, WRUF-FM/AM, were not affected by the riffs.)

Aug 17, 2009

PBS cancels Dev Con, folds it into broader spring conference

With registrations for the upcoming PBS Development Conference running "very low," network President Paula Kerger said network management made the"extremely difficult decision" to cancel the Oct. 1-3 conference and fold it into the PBS Showcase event next spring in Austin, Texas. On behalf of attendees, PBS cancelled hotel reservations for the Dev Con in Orlando, Fla. The network now plans a broader Showcase event for fundraisers as well as general managers and program execs. In the meantime, Kerger said, PBS will plan more webinars and other professional development options for fundraisers.

Sesame to introduce several new shows at confab in France

Perky little Abby Cadabby gets a 3D animated makeover in her new Abby’s Flying Fairy School, which Sesame Workshop will show off in October at MIPCOM. Characters for the CGI-animation series were created by Peter De Séve, character designer for the big-screen Ice Age. Each segment works to foster preschoolers’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills, according to a Workshop press release. Abby, along with new pals including fairies, trolls and a part-gerbil/part-unicorn named Niblet, attend Fairy School with Ms. Sparklenose. Other shows debuting at MIPCOM include Munchin' Impossible, teaching healthy eating; and Elmo's Backyard, introducing science concepts.

Savidge shifts from anchor chair at Worldfocus

Martin Savidge, anchor of WNET.ORG's Worldfocus since its launch (Current, Sept. 2, 2008), is shifting from that seat to become a special correspondent in the field. Daljit Dhaliwal, a contributing correspondent, will become anchor. The changes are effective Aug. 31, according to a statement from the show. Dhaliwal has most recently hosted Foreign Exchange, a weekly half-hour international affairs series on PBS; she will continue in that position in addition to her new role with Worldfocus, according to APT, which distributes both programs. Eight weeks after its premiere, Worldfocus was seen in the top 30 markets (Current, Dec. 22, 2008) and this January debuted Worldfocus Radio on the online network BlogTalkRadio.

Community Broadcasters Association closes

The Community Broadcasters Association (CBA) disbanded July 15 and has canceled its trade show scheduled for this fall, it announced last Thursday, according to Broadcasting & Cable. The group represents more than 2,800 Class A and low-power television stations and has drained available funds in recent regulatory battles, including work to ensure that all DTV converter boxes eligible for coupon discounts include analog pass-through capability. Amy Brown, CBA’s former e.d., predicted that around 40 percent of Class A and LPTV station operators may have to shut down in the next year if they are not helped through the digital transition.

Iraqi troops returned with Muppet booty in 1990 invasion

Tapes of Sesame Street episodes along with a Muppet camel were stolen by Iraq's Republican Guard troops during their 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell tells's World website. "To this day, they've never been recovered," Knell added. "That's how much the show is loved there." Children in some 120 countries watch versions of the show, and the Workshop hopes to add to that number with localized programming in other conflict areas such as Pakistan, according to the site. Meanwhile, in Denmark ...

Early review of NPR's new News app: "awesome"

The NPR News App for the iPhone and iPod touch is now available for free downloads from Apple's App Store. The application, one of several that NPR is developing, is the first news-oriented app allowing users to read or listen to news stories and programs, or to do both simultaneously. It also offers live or on-demand streams from 600 NPR stations. NPR introduces its news app here, where Weekend Edition's Scott Simon hosts a video demo of its features and navigation. Unlike the Public Radio Player, which serves up web streams and programming information for more than 300 pubradio stations, the NPR News app is focused on the "NPR experience," Kinsey Wilson, senior v.p. of NPR Digital, tells paidContent. "They’ve taken a comprehensive view and tried to encompass every single show produced at every station," Wilson says, referring to the Public Radio Player. "It does create some performance issues and some navigation issues. We wanted to keep it a little more compact, a little more focused on what 80-90 percent of the audience is listening to." The app was released just yesterday so there aren't many detailed techie reviews of it yet, but here's one that just gushes with praise: "NPR finally has an iPhone app, and it is awesome."

Aug 14, 2009

The cost of dismissing Ken Stern as NPR chief

NPR's David Folkenflik reports that former NPR chief executive Ken Stern was paid more than $1.3 million in fiscal 2008, the year in which he was ousted from NPR's top job. Folkenflik got an early look at NPR's tax documents for 2008 and did some math to figure out the cost to NPR for Stern's hasty exit. "The actual cost of the buyout was not broken out in the documents for the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30, 2008. But in the previous year, Stern earned about $426,000. So the tax records reflect a payment beyond that of an additional $900,000," Folkenflik reports. In a statement, Stern explained that his NPR contract stipulated that he would be given four years to pursue his agenda as c.e.o. "I sought a contract that offered me duration rather than salary — in fact, I said that I would take whatever salary the Board deemed appropriate," Stern said in the statement. "When the Board chose to exercise its right to change CEOs in 2008, despite the fact that NPR was exceeding every financial goal and audience growth target online and on-air, it did so with the knowledge it had the legal obligation to make good immediately on the terms of my contract." The revelation about Stern's compensation prompted NPR to inform its staff that "no taxpayer dollars were involved" in the buy-out package. "In addition, current NPR CEO Vivian Schiller wrote that the company no longer signs long-term contracts with executives, including herself," Folkenflik reports. The IRS Form 990 for fiscal 2008, which was the basis for Folkenflik's story, is to be released by NPR today. Look for it to be posted here.

Aug 12, 2009

Cutting costs means cutting airshifts for KUT DJs

Longtime music hosts Paul Ray and Larry Monroe lost airtime when Austin's KUT revamped its evening schedule, and their fans are mighty upset about it. Cleve Hattersley of the Greezy Wheels, a quintessentially Austin band from the 1970s whose influence lives on, organized a public forum last week for listeners to discuss ways to reverse KUT's programming changes. "At least 100 people attended Hattersley’s town hall meeting, where suggestions for action included cutting off donations to KUT, a position not endorsed by everyone," reports the Austin American-Statesman. Meanwhile, the Facebook group Support Larry Monroe and Paul Ray at KUT, "two of the best DJs ever to spin a record," has 940 members. Ray lost two weeknight airshifts that had been devoted to jazz music; Monroe's "Phil Music Program" on Thursdays was cancelled. Matt Reilly, assistant music director, now hosts those evening airshifts. Ray and Monroe each continue to host specialty programs: Twine Time, Ray's popular Saturday night show, and Blue Monday, Monroe's bluesy evening kick-off to the work-week. KUT changed its schedule as it cut $120,000 from its budget, KUT manager Stewart Vanderwilt writes in a letter to listeners. "These decisions are truly painful for all of us; it feels like losing a good friend. It is that personal connection that makes KUT and public radio so special. We’re very sorry for any dismay these changes may cause," he writes.

Aug 11, 2009

Long Island's WLIU up for sale

Long Island University is looking to sell WLIU, an NPR News and jazz station broadcasting from its campus in Southhampton, N.Y. The station "currently runs at a deficit that the university can no longer afford to subsidize," said Robert Altholz, Long Island University’s vice president for finance and treasurer, in a news release. The Southhampton Press reports that LIU covers roughly 54 percent of the station's $2.4 million budget. Under orders of the university's trustees, all subsidies for the station are to end on October 3. Wally Smith, WLIU manager, learned about the university's plan in April; efforts to find another public institution to take over the license and preserve the service have failed. Smith hopes to establish a new non-profit that can raise enough money to buy the WLIU's broadcast licenses and equipment.

Arbitron analyzes ratings trends by pubradio format

Public Radio Today 2009, Arbitron's analysis of public radio listening patterns and demographics, digs into Fall 2008 diary and Portable People Meter ratings and sifts out details about the performance of the eight different public radio formats. Driven in large part by interest in the 2008 presidential elections, news/talk stations increased their weekly share of all public radio listening to 48 percent, a 10 percent increase from Fall 2006, the period covered in Arbitron's last report on public radio. Led by the emergence of KUSC in Los Angeles and WETA in Washington, D.C., as the only all-classical stations in their markets, the classical music format boosted its average quarter hour share of pubradio listening to 13.7 percent. The weekly cume of 5 million listeners for classical music stations is a 15 percent increase from 2006. The news/music format, which encompasses stations that broadcast a variety of musical genres, and news/jazz also boosted their AQH share of pubradio listening. Quarter-hour listening for all other formats covered by the study--news/classical, jazz, Triple A and variety music--were down, although Arbitron reports some interesting demographic shifts for those stations. The jazz format, for example, gained ground with 18-24 year olds, while Triple A added aging baby boomers. The percentage of 55-64 year-olds listening to public radio's Triple A/contemporary music mix stations climbed from 10 percent in Fall 2006 to nearly 18 percent in Fall 2008.

Aug 10, 2009

Senate okays Patricia Cahill for CPB board

Patricia Cahill was approved by the Senate Friday to serve on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's board. She's g.m. of KCUR-FM in Kansas City, Mo., and will serve through 2014.

PBS posts interviews from press tour

PBS has compiled a nifty list of all 30 or more interviews its rep conducted with TV producers, stars and other bigwigs during the recent Television Critics Association tour in Pasadena, Calif. Videos include Paula S. Apsell, senior executive producer of NOVA; actor Jonny Lee Miller of Masterpice Contemporary's "Endgame" (and Angelina Jolie's ex-husband) and doc legend Ken Burns. Most popular, with nearly 3,000 hits, is David Tennant, the new Masterpiece Contemporary host and former star of BBC's Doctor Who.

Rock Hall honors Austin City Limits with landmark designation

Austin City Limits in October will be designated an historic rock and roll landmark site by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Rock Hall President and CEO Terry Stewart and ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona made the announcement today at the KLRU-TV studio, home of the series. "Austin City Limits represents one of the most unique archives of modern American music,” Stewart said. The Rock Hall will unveil a historic marker Oct. 1 to celebrate the premiere of the 35th season of ACL on PBS. The Rock Hall’s Landmark Series designates historic rock and roll landmarks around the United States that are essential to tell the story of rock and roll music.

Aug 7, 2009

CPB reaches new pact for webcasting royalties

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting will pay nearly $2.9 million in webcasting royalties to SoundExchange under an agreement approved yesterday by the CPB board. The payments will cover the royalties for the digital music streams of some 450 public radio stations from 2011-2015. The new agreement was negotiated under a deadline set by the Small Webcasters Settlement Act and alters the reporting requirements that pubcasting stations must meet under the current contract, according to Jeff Luchsinger, CPB director of radio system investment. Census reporting, which syncs audience data with music titles being webcast, will be required of only those stations with the largest web audiences. The agreement also sets a cap on additional fees that CPB would pay if pubcasting's online audiences grow faster than projected, Luchsinger said. SoundExchange is the royalty agent for recording labels and sound artists. Its current contract with CPB, announced in January, expires in 2010.

Aug 6, 2009

NPR gets flak for what Liasson said on FOX

When NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson compared the government's Cash for Clunkers program to a "mini-Katrina," her poorly chosen words violated NPR's ethics policy, according to NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard. Liasson was wearing her FOX News punditry hat on Aug. 4 when she made the remarks on live television (video here), but e-mails complaining about the inappropriate comparison poured into Shepard's office at NPR. "I said something really stupid, which I regret," a contrite Liasson tells Shepard in her latest column. If Liasson had said something this regrettable on NPR, the network's journalists would have re-recorded the interview and apologized on-air for the misstatement, says Ellen Weiss, senior v.p. of NPR News. In appearing on live media or other events, NPR reporters occasionally misspeak, Weiss adds. "But a single episode of misspeaking can be forgiven, a systemic problem cannot. Mara has acknowledged that what she said was wrong."

Ed Walker strolls into the Radio Hall of Fame

Ed Walker, locally famous deejay and now host of WAMU's Sunday night nostalgic The Big Broadcast, was elected to the National Radio Hall of Fame in online voting. In the national personality category, however, conservative Atlanta broadcast Neal Boortz [his website] appears to have trounced nominee Ira Glass's This American Life. Walker joins former WAMU stars Susan Stamberg and Bob Edwards, earlier inductees in the Hall of Fame. Walker teamed for many years with Willard Scott (later the Today weatherman) as a drivetime comedy duo. See this rare video from their last day as WRC's Joy Boys. The Hall of Fame is operated by Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communication.

Viewers may move to front of the line in PBS funding credits

PBS head Paula Kerger said it's considering shifting that well-known phrase " ... and viewers like you ... " to the front of underwriting acknowledgments, something Pittsburgh's WQED has already done. "The truth is the majority of our support comes from individual philanthropy and I do think we need to do a better job of making sure people recognize that," Kerger told assembled television critics at their tour in Pasadena, Calif., this week. As for WQED, "I know we've been talking to them about the implementation. Obviously, part of the reason we're interested is to help stations signal value in their own communities."

Pete Seeger connects with web visitors via PBS Engage

As promised, PBS Engage forwarded reader questions to folk legend Pete Seeger, and now presents the 90-year-old's answers. Here he explains his famous quote that "it's not always enough to sing": "I’m increasingly doubtful about marching, but of course communicating can be done with all the arts, including cooking and cleaning, carpentry, humor and sports."

WNED in Buffalo restructures top management

Big changes at WNED in Buffalo, N.Y., effective immediately. Dick Daly, former senior v.p. of broadcasting, is now senior consultant reporting to President and CEO Donald Boswell. Michael Sutton, former CFO and senior v.p. of Finance and Administration, moves to executive vice president and COO, overseeing the Finance & Administration, Education & Outreach, Engineering & Technology, Information Technology, Human Resources, and Building Services departments. Former Controller Nancy Hammond is taking over Sutton's former post. Director of Education and Outreach John Craig will head that department due to the departure of Education and Outreach v.p. Pamela Johnson, who is moving to CPB to head up Ready to Learn initiative. Chief Program Officer John Grant is now chief program and production officer; he will continue to lead the Television Production Department and now also oversee WNED/AM 970, Classical 94.5/WNED, and the Television Programming Department. Sylvia Bennett is promoted to senior v.p. of Development, and News Director James Ranney advances to WNED-AM station manager and WNED’s director of public affairs. Boswell said in the statement that there will be no layoffs due to the changes.

Aug 5, 2009

The difference pubcasting makes for a community in crisis

On a personal visit to the village of Yellow Springs, Ohio, CPB Ombudsman Ken Bode sat in on a live call-in show produced by WYSO-FM, an NPR News and contemporary music station located on the campus of Antioch College. The station broadcasts to a west-central region of Ohio that has been designated by the Treasury Department as among those critically affected by the mortgage crisis, Bode reports, and has received special assistance from CPB and NPR to ramp up its reporting on housing foreclosures. "This is our Katrina," Neenah Ellis, a veteran pubradio producer who took over as WYSO manager in February, tells Bode. "The problem is larger in this area than elsewhere and larger than generally perceived, she explained, also difficult for both the public and the people trapped in it to understand." Bode offers a detailed account of WYSO's coverage as a microcosm of the work that's being done at pubcasting stations around the country and concludes: "These are remarkable stories reflecting strong reporting, gripping storytelling and a deep sense of community service." WYSO's reportage for My House: Facing the Mortgage Crisis, posted here, will be packaged into a one-hour special airing later this month.

Today's fascinating pubcasting factoid

Did you know that Jerry Carr, now president and CEO of WXEL in Boynton Beach, Fla., years ago broke his elbow falling out of a coffin he had been nailed into, and reinjured it tumbling from an elephant?

Aug 4, 2009

Letting NPR raise money is a "no brainer"

This American Life raises money directly from its listeners, so why can't NPR? Pubradio marketing and research consultant John Sutton says the field is forgoing millions in listener contributions by prohibiting NPR from asking for direct support, and he makes a case for lifting the ban. NPR can play an effective role in soliciting donations from lapsed donors and in making appeals for additional gifts, he writes:

"NPR can leverage its brand and economies of scale to conduct direct mail and email acquisition campaigns. What seems cost-prohibitive to many local stations is very affordable on a national level. All that’s needed is a model for making sure that all boats rise together."

"And that’s the crux of the matter. Public radio has the wrong discussion when it talks about who should be asking for money. That’s a no-brainer. Everyone who can ask efficiently and effectively should be asking. This American Life is proof of the power in national fundraising."

As Sutton points out, Public Radio International, American Public Media and any number of independent producers (here and here) already solicit direct listener contributions. When Barbara Appleby, NPR director of new revenue strategies, looked into how many public radio entities were raising money online last year, she counted "well over 50," she told Current. The appeals varied from requests for donations from podcast listeners to e-mail blasts to supporters, she said.

In focus groups, some listeners talk about supporting their local station as well as a podcast. "They say, 'I pay for that, too,'" Appleby said. "There's some level of sophistication with listeners in understanding the difference."

A story in the latest edition of Current reports that NPR and six stations are moving forward with one national fundraiser that Appleby first proposed last fall. The three-month test of online fundraising websites is scheduled to begin next month.

Your overseas pubcasting update

The Evangelische Omroep channel of the Dutch public broadcasting system has canceled plans for a comedy show in which "non-religious comedians were asked to poke fun at Jesus," according to the NRC Handelsblad website. Some viewers threatened to cancel their membership. The working title: Loopt een Man Over het Water, or Man Walks Over Water -- a play on the "A man walks into a bar..." jokes. [Initials of Dutch broadcaster corrected.]

WNED shows off its show at press tour

For the first time, Buffalo's WNED has premiered a show at the Television Critics Association tour. Actor Donald Faison (Dr. Turk on Scrubs) is hosting Your Life, Your Money, the station's program aimed at young adults. “No one teaches you how to save your money, ever,” Faison told the Buffalo News. “This show does that — or at least sets you down the right road." It premieres Sept. 9.

Going Mad for Sesame Street

The upcoming Sesame Street parody of the hit show Mad Men, announced on the Television Critics Association press tour, inspired the Flavorwire site to make a few casting suggestions. Prairie Dawn as Peggy Olson? Brilliant.

Aug 3, 2009

The story of an unexpected gift for NPR

There's heartwarming story that's circulating in the blogosphere about a homeless man from Phoenix who passed away and left a $4 million estate. His name, Richard Leroy Walters, can be heard on funding credits that began airing on public radio last month: "Support for NPR comes from the estate of Richard Leroy Walters, whose life was enriched by NPR, and whose bequest seeks to encourage others to discover public radio." All Things Considered host Robert Siegel uncovered the story of Walters' life and the gifts he bequeathed. You can read or listen to it here.

WYCC target of federal lawsuit

A new federal lawsuit alleges that WYCC, a PBS member licensed to City Colleges of Chicago, violated terms of its government grant funding and broke federal tax rules for charities, according to an exclusive story on the Chi-Town Daily News website. Under alleged direction of then-Chancellor Wayne Watson, WYCC paid to produce free videos of powerful politicians and friends of the chancellor, says an internal college e-mail obtained by the investigative site. The political programs, produced between 2002 and 2006, prompted a state ethics investigation. When the station's former manager, Maria Moore, complained about the political projects, she was fired. Although the station produced the shows, the programs never aired.

Aug 2, 2009

Press tour gets preview of PBS plans

PBS announcements from the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena:

-- Curious George is getting his own app. The Curious George Coloring Book App "is designed to encourage color experimentation across a full spectrum of hues," according to PBS. There's a palette with 45 colors, 48 coloring pages and a personal art gallery. Kids can email artwork or post to Facebook pages. It'll cost $2.99.

-- At, Wilson & Ditch: Digging America, produced by the Jim Henson Co., will take kids ages 6 to 10 on a cross-country adventure with two gophers as they explore America. There'll be webisodes, a travel blog, on-location audio podcasts and original comics.

-- David Tennant just gets busier. He's reprising the role of Hamlet for a TV adaptation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2008 stage production for Great Performances in 2010, and makes his debut in October as host of Masterpiece Contemporary. You may know him as Doctor Who on BBC.

-- Three new docs for 2010 will explore faith and religious expression: "God in America," a six-hour series from American Experience and Frontline, spans more than 500 years; "The Buddha" relates the life of the Indian who achieved enlightenment beneath a fig tree more than 2,000 years ago; and "The Calling," a four-hour series that follows eight individuals on their challenging journeys into the clergy from the perspective of Islam, Catholicism, Evangelical Christianity and Judaism.

-- Sesame Street is planning a Muppet parody of -- ready for this? -- the retro smash TV hit Mad Men. Miranda Barry, Sesame Workshop e.v.p., said it won't be the first time the kids' classic has created its own take on a show. "You may have seen our parody called 'Desperate Houseplants.' It was about a houseplant not getting its needs met by the gardener," she told critics. "So it always works on two levels." Also new on the Street: A segmented format and host Murray Muppet. Also, here's a PBS interview on YouTube with Ken Burns at the tour, which ends today.

Aug 1, 2009

Cleveland stations plan layoffs, exec pay reductions

WVIZ-TV and WCPN-FM in Cleveland will lay off nine staffers and make "double-digit percentage" cuts to executive salaries, according to the Plain Dealer newspaper. The station anticipates a 7 percent reduction in its fiscal 2010 budget. Layoffs will occur Oct. 1. Facing pay cuts are COO Kit Jensen, president and CEO Jerry Wareham and CFO Robert Calsin. The stations are under the umbrella corporation of Ideastream.