May 12, 2009

Outrage over NPR's unwillingness to name names

NPR is being accused of hypocrisy in its coverage of Outrage, a documentary about closeted politicians who support anti-gay legislation. Film critic Nathan Lee, who reviewed the film on Friday, objected when NPR scrubbed his references to two Republican pols profiled in the movie. Lee asked that his name be taken off of the review, IndieWire reported yesterday. NPR's Dick Meyer explained the decision by citing a "long-held policy" of respecting the privacy of public figures and "not airing or publishing rumors, allegations and reports about their private lives unless there is a compelling reason to do so.” But bloggers at Movieline took some delight in pointing to recent NPR stories as evidence that the rule only applies to politicians. Their examples: last month's Monkey See blog posting by Linda Holmes, who poked fun at the mainstream media's speculation over the sexuality of American Idol frontrunner Adam Lambert; and, a November 2008 Tell Me More segment discussing whether Queen Latifah would come out as a lesbian. In addition, Fresh Air's Terry Gross "nearly had an on-air coronary" when Kirby Dick, director of Outrage, began naming names during a May 6 interview.

Ford invests $1 million in EDCAR service for classrooms

PBS has received a $1 million Ford Foundation grant to support the development of EDCAR, public TV's planned online repository of short instructional videos and other "learning objects" for classroom use, net execs said in the kickoff of its Showcase conference in Baltimore today. In an EDCAR pilot, stations have begun loading instructional resources into the online system, which shares a back-end infrastructure with the PBS Video Portal launched in April. More on this in this week's Current and in coming days on this blog. Earlier EDCAR story.

More cable channel change woes

Time Warner cable customers in York, Maine, are peeved that two Boston television stations, including WGBH, have been dropped from their familiar spots on the cable channel lineup. Town Manager Rob Yandow said he's been receiving calls and emails from upset residents, and has been given a petition with 15 names asking that the lineup be restored. Yandow said he contacted Time Warner to no avail. "I’ve had a number of conversations with Time Warner, it’s a business decision," he said. "It’s somewhat firm, it’s a business decision they made." The other station is CBS affiliate WBZ. Maine is one of a growing number of states affected by a 2005 agreement between APTS and the cable industry that allows such changes.

NPR Members meeting goes electronic

NPR hopes to boost participation in its annual Members Meeting by providing a forum for online participation via WebEx, the Web conferencing provider. The June 9 meeting, which convenes at 1 pm in the board room at NPR headquarters, will accommodate up to 300 registered participants. The conferencing system provides telephone connectivity, video streaming of presentations, document sharing, determination of a quorum, and interactivity such as real-time voting and comment-sharing. NPR added the option for electronic participation because so many stations and public radio organizations have had to cut their travel budgets, according to Joyce Macdonald, v.p. of member and program services. The remote conferencing capabilities give NPR a shot at convening a quorum of authorized representatives for the first time since 2003, she said. Previously, authorized representatives who couldn't attend meetings could only listen in over the satellite.

More news on upcoming PBS NewsHour

Here's a transcript of NewsHour e.p. Linda Winslow's remarks at PBS Showcase detailing the many changes coming to the show in the fall. One nugget: "Today we are announcing that we are creating a new correspondent position, which we are calling our 'Face of the Internet.' We're looking for an experienced journalist with solid broadcast credentials who is comfortable with both new media and the more traditional kind. The assignment will be to link our nightly broadcast with our online news operation."

Kerger addresses membership criteria

PBS chief Paula Kerger, in her State of the System address to pubcasters at the PBS Showcase yesterday, touched on the ongoing controversy surrounding changes in critieria for PBS membership. "The Station Services Committee is still reviewing criteria for PBS membership and will issue its recommendations in this area soon," she told the crowd in Baltimore. "As I stated during our GM Planning Meeting earlier today, I recognize that some of these changes will be painful for some of your stations. But I believe they will help our system to achieve greater equity and ensure our membership policies better reflect the realities of the digital era in which we live." Membership discussion continues over "the three nons," and PDP stations are lamenting new rules for fundraising programming. The Showcase continues through Thursday.