Jan 15, 2009

June 12 may be the new Feb. 17

It's been a week of uncertainty and lots of talk regarding the Feb. 17 DTV date, but now comes action. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), incoming Commerce chair, on Jan. 15 introduced a bill that would move the conversion date to June 12. "I firmly believe that our nation is not yet ready to make this transition,” Rockefeller said in a statement. A House version is expected soon.

Al Jazeera partners with Worldfocus

The Al Jazeera Network, which broadcasts news in Arabic and English, has signed on to provide daily content to WLIW's Worldfocus. All Al Jazeera content will run with its logo on the screen.

Writers Guild backs pubcasting stimulus funds

Layoffs and budget woes in the pubcasting system have "negatively impacted the quality of news and public discourse in the country," the Writers Guild of America, East, told President-elect Obama's transition team in a meeting last week. Its members write and produce for such shows as Frontline, Nova, Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, American Experience, Sesame Street and The Electric Company.

Stimulus package: $650 million DTV, $6 billion broadband

A summary from the House Appropriations Committee of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009, a.k.a. the stimulus package, proposes $650 million in additional funds for the DTV converter box program and $6 billion in broadband and wireless grants to reach underserved areas. Broadcasting & Cable has the details.

What you're NOT missing at NETA

Hundreds of pubcasters at the NETA conference plus two elevator outages equals close quarters. With half of the four hotel lifts temporarily shut on Jan. 15, many attendees are finding themselves, well, getting to know each other very well. As one pubcaster quipped in a stuffed 'vator, "This is the typical office layout of a public television station." Judging from the hearty guffaws, fellow riders were in agreeance.

CPB reaches SoundExchange pact

SoundExchange and CPB finally have an agreement on Internet performance royalties to be paid to artists and copyright holders. The agreement sets royalties to be paid by CPB for the noncomm pubradio system for streaming music on their websites from Jan. 1, 2005, through Dec. 31, 2010. The pact covers some 450 pubradio webcasters, including CPB-supported stations, NPR, NPR members, NFCBroadcasters members, APM, Public Radio Exchange and PRI. Details on the Broadcast Law Blog.

FCC OKs analog nightlight

The FCC on Jan. 15 approved the analog nightlight program, which allows stations time after the DTV transition to keep analog signals for DTV educational and community emergency messages. The rule applies to 310 of the 1,749 stations making the DTV transition; they must prove the nightlight won't cause more than 0.1 percent of interference to digital stations. Stations can still apply to be included.

Pubcasting awards

Forget station budget woes and towers falling over and that pesky, moving-target DTV transition. Let's talk awards. On Jan. 15 at the NETA conference, 23 pubcasters received 39 trophies for 2008 program production, promotion, outreach, and instructional media. Special recognition -- "The Best of the Best" -- went to two stations, OETA in Oklahoma City for its Gallery: The People’s Art (program production) and WETA in Arlington, Va., for The War (outreach).

Your NETA, CPB, PBS, APTS update

Leaders of CPB, PBS and APTS related both pubcasting challenges and victories Jan. 15 to a crowded ballroom at the NETA conference, ongoing in Tampa. First, the good news: PBS head Paula Kerger said some 44 percent of pubTV website traffic now consists of visitors 35 or younger. After years of talking about how to lure the younger audience, "we've got them. Now we need to figure out how to draw them in, get them even more involved," she said. In Capitol Hill news, APTS will be visiting lawmakers in the next week or two to lobby for pubcasting's economic stimulus requests. DC insiders are also hearing rumors there may be one or two commissioners departing the FCC in the next weeks or months. An upcoming nationwide challenge: Analog trash. What will stations do with all that old equipment after the DTV conversion (whenever that comes)? How will it be removed and recycled? The recycling aspect is key, as Don Lockett of CPB said. "We don't want to see the headline, 'Old CPB Equipment Being Used by the Taliban.'" NETA's annual conference ends tomorrow.