Feb 3, 2009

DTV delay update

More than 60 percent of TV stations could turn off their analog signal before a June 12 deadline without interfering with other signals, and "most" of the remaining stations "may" also be able to do so, acting FCC Chair Michael Copps said in a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its Internet and Telecom Subcommittee. Looks like the bill to delay the DTV transition date will be debated -- for one hour -- before the House on Feb. 4.

Orlando's WMFE lays off 15 more staffers

WMFE is cutting 15 jobs and canceling The Arts Connection program due to falling revenue. The job losses at the Orlando station are 28 percent of its staff. Station prez Jose Fajardo said departing staffers include a radio reporter, two receptionists, a program scheduler and one person from engineering, membership and finance. The staff also must take two weeks of unpaid leave, and employer-matching retirement funds have been stopped for "the foreseeable future." Other measures include scaling back janitorial services, cell phones and supplies. It's the second time in five months the station has laid off staff; in October 2008, 10 positions were hit.

Nonprofit event planners offer advice

The transcript for Planning Special Events During a Recession, an online chat for nonprofit fundraisers, is now available at The Chronicle of Philanthropy's website. One question: What, if anything, are you changing about your events specifically because of the recession? Part of the answer from Jim Leighton of the Children's Cancer Research Fund in Minneapolis: "We need to be sensitive to the fact that in a down economy lavish events may be seen as inappropriate."

Upside to lost timeslot: no worries about turning off core listeners

In the Loop, a Minnesota Public Radio show that reviews the week's news with seriousness and satire, has lost its Friday evening time slot. The show, hosted by Jeff Horwich, will continue as a digital-only podcast and blog. In a posting to Facebook fans, Horwich described some "upsides" to the decision: freedom from deadlines and from worries about turning off "your typical core 55-year-old public radio listener" and "the traditionalists in our own company." The Twin Cities Daily Planet published Horwich's explanation to Facebook fans in full and compared the show to the Bryant Park Project, NPR's short-lived experiment in targeting a "generally younger, less stodgy audience" with multimedia elements and interactivity. Announcing In the Loop's disappearance from MPR's airwaves, News Director Chris Worthington said the station must continue to cultivate new audiences and create on-demand programming. "To do that, we must commit talent. In the Loop has a track record of attracting new audiences and getting them to interact with MPR."

Public, educational, government channel access prompts complaints

Annoyance is building nationwide over AT&T's treatment of PEG channels (public, educational, and government). Its U-Verse IPTV system lumps all the public access programming -- everything from city council meetings to local middle-school plays -- on Channel 99. Viewers then must click to install an application and find their community in a list. The Chicago Tribune says the channels are "consigned to a digital ghetto." FCC complaints have been filed, and at least one attorney general, in Illinois, is investigating.

NPR Music to host, webcast SXSW showcase featuring the Decemberists

In a twist on its "exclusive first listens" to new releases, NPR Music will present the first live performance of the Decemberists' forthcoming release on the opening night of this year's South by Southwest Music conference and festival, March 18. The Portland-based band will perform all 17 songs from The Hazards of Love, a concept album that tells the story of a woman who is ravaged by a shape-shifting animal. NPR's Bob Boilen will cohost the live webcast, which also is offered for broadcast by NPR stations, with NPR Music blogger Carrie Brownstein and David Brown of Austin's KUT-FM. More details on this week's edition of All Songs Considered and here.

KQED-KTEH shed 30 jobs, cite double-digit losses in underwriting and major gifts

Northern California Public Broadcasting, licensee of KQED-TV/FM and KTEH-TV, will eliminate 30 jobs and cut 13 percent of its budget under a restructuring plan announced on Monday. Station memberships have dropped five percent since October, but underwriting is off 24 percent and major donor contributions are down 15 percent, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Although all TV productions are subject to future funding, KQED will continue to produce new episodes of local programs such as Quest, Check, Please! Bay Area, and This Week in Northern California, and the station will deliver three new hours of Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures to PBS this spring. KQED Radio appears to have been spared from major changes.

NCPB President Jeff Clark confirmed that a total of 44 jobs were eliminated under the restructuring plan. About 30 of these were lay-offs and buy-outs and, as reported by the San Jose Mercury News, 14 were vacant positions that will not be filled. In an interview today, Clark said executive compensation at the Bay Area pubcasting station was reduced by 13 percent and contributions to employee retirement were cut slightly. In addition, employees will take a one-week furlough.