Dec 4, 2009

Meanwhile, across the pond ...

European pubcasters will assist struggling pubTV and radio networks in Eastern and Southern Europe, the New York Times reports. “There is a real threat of public service broadcasting disappearing in some of these countries,” Claudio Cappon, vice president of the European Broadcasting Union, told the Times. “Every day we are receiving cries for help.” Pubcasters in Hungary, Cyprus and Malta and the former Yugoslavia are facing budget cuts due to the global recession, as well as waning political support. The Broadcasting Union plans to coordinate programming donations to the needy broadcasting systems. Some 500 hours of drama, documentary and children’s shows, normally sold to broadcasters, would be provided free.

Demise of Now baffles and annoys PBS ombudsman

The cancellation of Now on PBS is bothering PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler as well as some of his readers. Late last month, news leaked out from PBS that Now and Bill Moyers' Journal would end next year. PBS confirmed in a statement that the shows would "conclude their weekly series at the end of April 2010," and details would follow in January. But as Getler writes, "I must say that as a steady viewer of these programs, not just as the ombudsman, I find the one and only PBS public statement thus far about the ending of these programs to be puzzling; unresponsive to dedicated viewers and to the high-profile role for public affairs junkies that these broadcasts have played for years on public television." John Siceloff, e.p. of Now, told Getler that the show was not ended due to financial difficulties. "So, that leaves an interesting question," notes Getler. "If the cancellation of Now was not due to financial difficulties, as Siceloff maintains, what was the reason?" One writer asks another pertinent question: "I watched Now last night and afterwards David Brancaccio was soliciting pledges for Now. I was inspired to pledge $100. Now I find out Now has been canceled. Why is PBS using Now to solicit pledges for a show they've canceled?"

Center for Independent Media shows nonprofit news is a feasible concept

David S. Bennahum's Center for Independent Media is one of the success stories in nonprofit news, reports Allan D. Mutter in his blog, Reflections of a Newsosaur. Since starting the center, which includes an online news network, in 2006, Bennahum has raised more than $11 million from hundreds of individual donors and some four dozen foundations. His advice: Don't become overly dependent on a single funding source. Don't concentrate on raising money from journalism-oriented institutions; rather, target funding to support issue-oriented reporting. He's also focusing on advertising sales, revenue from live events and subscription products aimed at niche readers, perhaps politicians, lobbyists or state contractors. The center's sites include such news portals as the Minnesota Independent, the New Mexico Independent and the Colorado Independent.

Bill Baker heads up new media center at Fordham University

The new Bernard L. Schwartz Center for Media, Public Policy and Education at Fordham University will research and promote the potential role of public broadcasting in news reporting, the Graduate School of Education announced today. Its work will study the nation's newsgathering traditions and investigate "solutions for their survival," a statement said. At the helm is Bill Baker, who was WNET's president for 20 years. The center is funded by the Bernard and Irene Schwartz Foundation, which supports mainly New York-based educational, medical and cultural institutions.

Four decades of Christmastime chemistry

With all the pubcasting 40th anniversaries this year, we couldn't let this one pass unnoticed. Yes, for the 40th year, Wisconsin Public Television will offer "Once Upon a Christmas Cheery in the Lab of Shakhashiri," hosted by University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry professor Bassam Shakhashiri. Tickets to the taping this weekend were gone within a few days; broadcasts on WPT will be Dec. 21, 24 and 28. The special runs on stations nationwide, so don't forget those magic words: Check your local listings.

Weekend listening for music lovers

The Sounds of American Culture, an annual radio series featuring recordings from the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry, brings the story of John Lee Hooker's first hit song to this week's edition of Studio 360. "Boogie Chillen" is the first of five new pieces to air; next week Carmen Miranda's “O Que é que a Bahiana tem” gets the spotlight (more details here). Sounds of American Culture, produced by Ben Manilla and Media Mechanics with support from the Library of Congress, brings attention to the limited number of recordings that are added to the registry each year. Previous installments, several of which won New York Festival Awards, aired on NPR.

Tavis Smiley adds four hourlong specials to PBS lineup

Tavis Smiley will do several primetime specials in addition to his regular weekly PBS show starting in January, his production company announced yesterday (PDF). The programs will be titled Tavis Smiley Reports. The first of the four hourlong programs, on Jan. 27, 2010, will go behind the scenes with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The March 31 episode will dissect one of the Rev. Martin Luther King's pivotal speeches, delivered one year before his assassination. In the third, Smiley joins director Jonathan Demme on a visit to New Orleans and reports on its ongoing challenges after Hurricane Katrina. The fourth will be announced next year. Smiley's late-night PBS talk show, Tavis Smiley, kicks off its seventh season on Jan. 11. He also has a radio talker distributed by Public Radio International.