Nov 12, 2009

PubTV and radio in Chicago lose longtime pubaffairs project

The longest running multimedia public-affairs series in the nation, "Chicago Matters," is ending after 19 years, according to Chicago Tribune media reporter Phil Rosenthal. The series was a partnership among pubTV's WTTW 11, Chicago Public Radio, the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Reporter newspaper to spotlight a major regional issue each year. It's funded by the Chicago Community Trust. The group, citing the recession's toll, said in a statement that it has "redirected $2.7 million towards basic human needs" and will stop funding "Chicago Matters" at the end of 2009. Last week the Trust announced a new program, "Community News Matters," "to spur growth of new sources of quality local news." One of 12 projects funded was the Chicago News Cooperative (Current, Oct. 26, 2009), which received $50,000 of the available $500,000.

Leaked plan in Chicago takes frank look at Vocalo

A new strategic plan worked up at Chicago Public Radio unexpectedly went public earlier this week when it was leaked to the Chicago Reader. The three-year plan (PDF) assesses the broadcaster’s strengths and weaknesses and puts forth general goals such as “Create modular, highly useful, adaptive and relevant content” and “Build a relationship engine” — i.e., help listeners customize which content they get from the station and on what platforms.

Some of the plan’s blunter language addresses the progress, or lack thereof, of Vocalo, the ambitious web/radio hybrid that the station debuted in 2007. “As a website Vocalo must be seen as unsuccessful so far,” the report says. “Great websites exhibit a much steeper growth pattern than we have experienced — something our staff and General Manager are urgently working to address. This must be fixed urgently” (italics are the report’s).

Among reactions: In a commentary on the Reader’s site, media critic Michael Miner says the document “has caused consternation” among unnamed Chicago Public Radio staffers, who see it as weak on its commitment to journalism. And in a brief note on WBEZ’s blog, the station’s v.p. of strategic communications says, “We’re still working on the practical translation of what we’re actually going to do over the next three years.”

DTV converter box program ends

As of Monday the fed's DTV converter box coupon program is over, with nearly half the 64 million coupons unredeemed, reports Broadcasting & Cable. That translates to some $1.2 billion worth of the $40 coupons unused.

PBS is into New TeeVee

Jason Seiken, PBS senior vice president, interactive, is one of a slew of speakers at the New TeeVee Live '09, Television Reinvented confab today in San Francisco. The annual meeting delves into the future of television as it morphs into "gaming consoles, browser-enabled TVs, startup set-top boxes, network DVRs, simple cables — it’s a battle to see who can bring the flexibility and variety of online video delivery to the comfort of your couch." Seiken's presentation is "Transforming a MSM Brand," about PBS's strategy to use online video and social media to revamp and revitalize its brand. Also attending: Kevin Dando, PBS director, education and online communications; and Tim Olson, v.p. of digital media and education at KQED.

It's a wonderful life, full of sounds

Fred Newman, sound effects man extraordinaire on American Public Media's Prairie Home Companion, gave a demonstration of his craft Wednesday afternoon in Enid, Okla., reports the Enid News and Eagle. Newman was in town doing sound effects for The Wonderful Life of George Bailey, an adaptation of the film It's a Wonderful Life as a radio drama at Enid Symphony Hall. Newman's grandfather sparked his passion for sounds at an early age, he said. His grandfather placed a finger on Newman’s lips and told to listen to the sounds. “If the wind was blowing he would tell me to hear the whisper of the sound,” Newman told the crowd. “If the wind blew through a pine tree it would whisper, if it blew through an oak tree it would clatter and if it was a willow tree it swished.”