Feb 26, 2010

BBC to announce several cutbacks, Times of London reports

An upcoming BBC strategic proposal signals "an end to the era of expansion" for the British broadcaster, reports the Times of London. The review, scheduled for public release next month, will announce closures of two radio stations, the shuttering of half its website and a 25 percent cut in funding for American program imports. The Times story said that Mark Thompson, the Beeb's director general, will reveal in the report that the moves are due in part to the corporation becoming too large.

LA Public Media mission: to create new multicultural audiences for public radio

Oscar Garza, senior assignment editor for the Los Angeles Public Media Service, is "one of those people who's been around for a while and his perspective is key to helping understand Los Angeles," writes , in this Q&A about the new CPB-backed start-up. Garza is a 20-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times and former editor in chief of the glossy magazine Tu Ciudad. Los Angeles Public Media's mission is "to create new audiences for public radio," he tells Guzman-Lopez. "Public radio has a couple of problems. One is that their audience is older and getting older, their average audience. And they're not very diverse. It's an overwhelmingly Anglo audience." The new service will target listeners aged 25-40, and the ethnic mix will reflect the multicultural life of the L.A.: "[B]ecause of the diversity of the city . . . generations . . . are accustomed to living in this multicultural, diverse environment . . . , they're not just living in this Latino bubble. We all have Asian friends, African American friends." Los Angeles Public Media, a project of Radio Biling├╝e, plans to launch a daily one-hour radio show and online news service later this year.

Feb 25, 2010

Founder of current WPSU-TV dies in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University journalism professor Marlowe Froke, who founded WPSX-TV (now WPSU-TV) in 1964 at the university, died Feb. 23 in State College, Pa. He was 82. Penn State Live, the university's news site, said he "took the lead in the early days of cable and public TV to establish networks of connections among Pennsylvania stations and cable operations that preceded today's Public Broadcasting System." He joined the Penn State faculty in 1959 as an associate professor of journalism and developed the school's first broadcast journalism curriculum. In 1964 he was named Penn State's director of broadcasting and established WPSX.

FCC chair says he wants to release 500 MHz of spectrum over 10 years

FCC Chair Julius Genachowski has revealed a specific number for the amount of spectrum the agency wants to see freed up: 500 Mhz. Also, he confirmed what many experts have expected, that there will indeed be a spectrum auction for that bandwidth. In a speech today (PDF) to the New America Foundation, a D.C. progressive think tank, Genachowski said the National Broadband Plan to be presented to Congress next month "will work closely" with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration over the next decade to release the spectrum. The plan proposes a “Mobile Future Auction” permitting existing licensees, "such as television broadcasters in spectrum-starved markets," to relinquish spectrum in exchange for a share of auction proceeds. "Now, I’ve mentioned broadcast spectrum – so let me be clear: the recommendation is for a voluntary program," he noted. Public broadcasters are watching the spectrum debate with interest, as stations stand to monetarily gain from an auction but would give up valuable bandwidth to do so (Current, Feb. 8, 2010).

Feb 24, 2010

South Dakota tribe contacts FCC regarding towers on sacred butte

A Native Tribe in Reliance, S.D., has asked the FCC to examine the location of a commercial broadcasting tower on Medicine Butte — where South Dakota Public Broadcasting also has an tower, reports the Daily Republic in Mitchell. Michael Jandreau, chairman of the Lower Brule Sioux, said he sent a letter to the FCC after a storm brought down the tower last month, requesting an opportunity to discuss the the situation because his tribe regards Medicine Butte as a sacred site. Fritz Miller at SDPB said the station does not anticipate moving its tower. He told Current that laws on tribal boundaries were changed last year, giving tribes the opportunity to buy back land. According to SeVern Ashes, SDPB director of engineering, "The butte is part of the tribe's creation history and is still used today for vision quest and prayers." The station checked its land deed and guy wire easements a few years back and is satisfied it is legally covered if the Lower Brule Sioux decide to buy back the butte.

FTC news workshop includes "On the Media's" Bob Garfield

The second round of two-day workshops convened by the Federal Trade Commission on the future of journalism are scheduled for March 9 and 10, the agency said in an announcement today. Speakers at "How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?" include FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz; and Bob Garfield, co-host of NPR's On the Media, addressing "The State of Advertising." Agenda is here (PDF).

New KCRW g.m. discusses future of station

In case you missed it yesterday: You can now download or stream the interview with Jennifer Ferro, new g.m. of KCRW-FM in Los Angeles, from the station's own The Politics of Culture program. Ferro's promotion from assistant g.m. to lead the station was announced Saturday.

North Carolina city ventures into spectrum white spaces

Wilmington, N.C., was the first community in America to discontinue analog broadcasting. Now it's the first to test a municipal WiFi network using white spaces between DTV channels, reports Broadcasting & Cable. So far the city has been using white-space wireless cameras for traffic and surveillance in a park and highway; soon cameras will also check water levels. And there'll be public WiFi in a park and school. The city is being assisted by Spectrum Bridge, a real-time online marketplace for radio spectrum. That firm is supplying a spectrum database to prevent interference with local TV stations.

This American Life tops list of best journalism in 2009

Writer Conor Friedersdorf of True/Slant compiled a list of the best journalism he encountered in 2009. This American Life, the only public radio program to appear in on it, turns up 10 times. TAL's reportage is cited in several categories--exceptional storytelling, investigative journalism, and media criticism, among others, and more often than any other publication. Friedersdorf acknowledges that there's a lot of great work that he misses every year. "[T]his isn’t an infallible account of journalism’s best, but I aim to make it the best roundup that any one person can offer, one of these years I intend to do better than the committees who pick the Pulitzer Prizes and National Magazine Awards. . . and if nothing else my effort encompasses writing that is well worth your time." Friedersdorf produces a twitter stream of exceptional reporting as JournoCurator.

Feb 23, 2010

PBS, your source for baseball talent

Now that baseball spring training is under way, eager fans are counting the hours until opening day. While spectators will be eating hot dogs in the bleachers, some PBSers will take to the field in their National Adult Baseball Association (NABA) league. KCET/Los Angeles President and CEO Al Jerome (at left in photo) formed the California Blue Jays team in 2002 and recruited athletic talent from around the system, including the strong double-play combination of shortstop Lloyd Wright (president and CEO of WFYI/Indianapolis, Ind., right in photo) and second baseman Andy Russell (senior v.p., PBS Ventures, center in photo). Former team members have included Mel Rogers of KOCE/Huntington Beach, Calif., and Jeff Clarke of KQED/San Francisco. The far-flung players practice on their own using local batting cages and, no doubt, family members drafted into playing catch. The California Blue Jays come together for one week each year to compete; Wright reports that last fall they won the 1A Division of NABA National Tournament in Las Vegas. Jerome, whom Wright calls "a crafty southpaw," was starting pitcher; Russell and Wright were the team's top two hitters in the tourney. Quips Wright: "You might say these executives are 'out standing in their field.'"

Youth Radio: media training without that "school-like feel"

"Peer teaching is at the heart of Youth Radio," Jacinda Abcarian, executive director of the Oakland-based media program, tells San Francisco Chronicle. "You don't get that school-like feel; there are no adults talking down to you." In a feature noting the organization's 10th anniversary, music journalist Ben Fong-Torres reports on Youth Radio's growth from a tiny storefront operation in Berkeley to a media training ground that has served "some 10,000 urban kids," produced news reports for NPR and other major news outlets, and established radio streams for musical expression and health concerns.

New three-part "Upstairs, Downstairs" coming next year

New episodes of the 1970s PBS hit Upstairs, Downstairs are coming to Masterpiece in 2011 as part of a co-production deal with BBC World Sales and Distribution, Americas, the partners announced in a press release today. There'll also be a 21st-century version of Sherlock Holmes, and three Aurelio Zen mysteries about a fictional Italian detective. The original Upstairs, Downstairs won seven Emmys including a best actress for Jean Marsh; she'll recreate her role of Rose the parlor maid. The three-part series will be set in the same house. The new episodes take place in 1936, advancing the storyline that left off in 1930. Read more in the UK's Guardian.

Feb 22, 2010

Three Writers Guild Awards for PBS shows

PBS won three Writers Guild of America Awards on Saturday night, which honored outstanding achievement in television, radio, news, promotional writing and graphic animation during the 2009 season. Frontline's “The Madoff Affair” took the Documentary–Current Events honor; American Experience won for "The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer" for Documentary–Other Than Current Events; and Bill Moyers Journal scored in the News–Analysis, Feature of Commentary, for its segment “A Private War: Expose: America's Investigative Reports.” Announcements were made in simultaneous ceremonies in Los Angeles (Writers Guild, West) and New York City (Writers Guild, East). A list of winners is available at the Writers Guild website.

Ferro moves up to lead KCRW

Jennifer Ferro is the new g.m. of Los Angeles’ KCRW-FM, following her formal approval by the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees Saturday. “Jennifer epitomizes the perfect mix of traditional public radio experience and the strategic and creative new media thinking that will be critical to KCRW’s continued success in the years ahead,” said Chui L. Tsang, president of the college, in a press release. KCRW is licensed to the school. Ferro joined KCRW in 1991 as a volunteer arts reporter and since 1997 worked as assistant g.m. to outgoing station chief Ruth Seymour, who announced her retirement in November. “Jennifer is an ideal choice to lead the station forward,” Seymour said. “She’s innovative, courageous and independent. … She will make a terrific manager and I look forward to a KCRW under her leadership.” Ferro told the Santa Monica Daily Press that she does not plan any major changes to the station’s signature lineup of news, public affairs and cutting-edge music. She does plan to increase major gifts and support for independent producers, the Los Angeles Times reported. Look for more coverage in Current’s March 1 issue. UPDATE: Seymour appeared on KPCC's Air Talk last week to discuss her legacy: "I’m very much about the present, responding to the moment. And I think that’s the art of radio — that it isn’t about the past and it isn’t about the future, but it’s about now, and capturing 'now.'" Also, Ferro will appear on KCRW's The Politics of Culture at 2:30 p.m. Pacific time tomorrow (Feb. 23) to talk about the station. Stream available at KCRW's website.

Proposed Minnesota funding cuts would hit pubTV and radio

PubTV and radio in Minnesota are in for less funding if Gov. Tim Pawlenty's proposed budget is adopted, according to the Duluth News Tribune. The plan puts forth some $1.4 million reductions for TV, and for radio, $287,000 in service grants, $100,000 in equipment grants and $250,000 of equipment grants for Minnesota Public Radio; indie KUMD 103.3 FM in Duluth would also be subject to those cuts. WDSE-TV station manager Al Harmon told the paper that would mean staff cuts at the station and the end of some local programming. Harmon said state grants make up about 10 percent of WDSE’s operating budget, and 20 percent of the salaries for the station’s 30 employees. Similar reductions are happening in state budgets across the country (Current, Jan. 25, 2010).

Coach's famous glasses net $9,000 for Penn State Broadcasting

Thanks to a pair of Joe Paterno's trademark black glasses, Penn State Broadcasting is $9,000 richer. The much-loved Penn State University's football coach donated the glasses for the station's Connoisseur's Dinner and Auction. WPSU seems to be working its way around the much-loved coach's body, already having auctioned autographed khaki pants, white socks, sneakers and neckties from several bowl games.

Feb 19, 2010

25 seats open in Producers Academy at WGBH

Next summer's annual weeklong CPB/PBS Producers Academy, led by top TV production specialists, will accept applications through Tuesday, March 23, 5 p.m. Experienced indie and station-based producer/writer/directors are eligible for scholarships that cover the cost of the workshops, room and board in Boston, June 19-25. Details and app form are online at
Questions go to PBS and CPB, not WGBH: Kathryn Lo of PBS and Angie Palmer of CPB.

NPR gets high rating for construction bonds

Preparing for a bond issue this spring to finance construction of its new headquarters, NPR got a vote of confidence from two of the big-three bond rating agencies, the network said in a news release yesterday. Standard & Poor’s gave NPR an AA- rating and Moody’s gave it a comparable Aa3. Both are high-grade ratings, the fourth of 20 or more grades. Last March, NPR bought the site seven blocks east of its present home and is planning a new seven-story, 330,000-square-foot structure incorporating about two-thirds of an old historic-landmarked warehouse. NPR plans to break ground next fall and occupy the building by mid-2013.

FCC kicks off inquiry into future of news

The FCC officially launched its inquiry into future news and information needs of communities at its meeting in Washington yesterday, Broadcasting & Cable reports. Steve Waldman (right), special adviser to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, has been working for several months to assemble a cross-agency team and begin gathering information. The first formal group workshop will be March 4. Waldman said that discussion would be TV and radio stations, adding that there had been a "newspaper centrism" to past media discussions.

Florida bill would allow state money to non-CPB funded stations

A bill in the Florida Legislature would amend a statute that limits state money for public broadcasting only to stations under the purview of CPB. It adds “nondenominational television stations licensed by the FCC as full-power educational broadcast stations”as eligible for funding via the State Board of Education. “What this bill would do is open it up to a larger group of licensees,” said Sandra Ceseretti, g.m. of WSRE at Pensacola Junior College. “It could be community or perhaps religious licensees that are nondenominational. It would take the current infrastructure and grow it, perhaps to another 200 new licensees." As the college's newspaper, the Corsair, reports, that could dilute funding to existing stations, causing problems WSRE. The station has already had cutbacks and layoffs as a result of a deficit last year.

Feb 18, 2010

G4 receives more time to gather digital media comments for FCC

The FCC has granted an extension to APTS, CPB, NPR and PBS for comments on the report, "The Future of Media and Information Needs of Communities in A Digital Age." The deadline, originally March 8, is now May 7. The G4 told the FCC the delay was necessary because of the "wide-ranging nature" of the topics involved. Also, the organizations are planning regional town meetings to solicit viewpoints of community leaders and broadcast station execs. FCC order here (PDF).

FCC presents preview of National Broadband Plan

At a public meeting in Washington today, the FCC previewed part of its upcoming report to Congress on a National Broadband Plan. The focus was the "national purposes" portion of the plan, "designed to support America’s competitive advantages in key sectors of the economy and society," according to an FCC press release (PDF) with details of the presentation (a more specific report, also in PDF, here). The agency discussed potential solutions for challenges in areas including health care technology, education, energy, jobs, public safety and civic engagement. A final report is due to Congress in mid-March.

Bole plans pubmedia get-togethers at SXSW

Rob Bole, CPB's veep of digital media strategy, is working to bring together public media folks at the upcoming SXSW event. "I see an opportunity to help get out of parochial grooves, network, make connections and generally be more collaborative," he told Current in an email. He's gathering a list of interested pubmedia types that he'll redistribute. There'll be a call for "SXSW newbies" with Kevin Dando, director of digital and education communications at PBS. Bole is also planning a Sunday evening social event, a #pubsxsw Twitter hashtag for back-channel communications, and a post-SXSX briefing via WebEx conferencing. Interested? Email Bole at rbole(at), ping him through #pubmedia, direct message to @rbole or sign up online.

Indiana's WNIT lays off eight, outsources several jobs

WNIT Public Television in South Bend, Ind., is letting go eight staffers and restructuring in the wake of a 50 percent drop in state funding, according to the Elkhart Truth newspaper. The station had been studying a restructuring plan but the $200,000 loss moved it more quickly ahead, president and g.m. Mary Pruess told the newspaper. Employees were cut from several departments and levels of seniority. And bookkeeping, accounting, program scheduling and marketing will be outsourced. The state is just one facing a fiscal meltdown that endangers pubcasters (Current, Jan. 25, 2010).

Feb 17, 2010

NPR unveils its plans for SXSW music extravaganza

NPR will produce two live music showcases from the South by Southwest Music and Media conference: the previously announced March 17 festival opener to be headlined by Spoon, and a March 18 daytime concert featuring the Sleigh Bells. (Details on both line-ups here.) Both shows will be offered for broadcast by NPR stations, as well as live webcasts for online listeners on NPR Music. Five station partners--Austin's KUT, New York's WFUV, Philadelphia's WXPN, Minnesota Public Radio's The Current, and Seattle's KEXP--will collaborate on the SXSW coverage by producing artist interviews and reporting on other performances throughout the festival. NPR's own All Songs Considered will post updates to Twitter (@allsongs) and produce a daily podcast in which Bob Boilen, Robin Hilton, Stephen Thompson and Carrie Brownstein geek-out about their best music discoveries of the day. To prepare for the music extravaganza, bookmark, where all this coverage will reside (and where you'll find archives from previous years' coverage) and check out the Local Natives, one of the bands to be featured at NPR's SXSW day party. More than 1800 bands are scheduled to perform during SXSW. WXPN's Bruce Warren recommends that you keep your ears to the ground for Austin's own Strange Boys.

KPBS considered format switch, station purchase, document reveals

A blogger for the San Diego Reader is reporting on a project last year from local pubcaster KPBS to buy an additional local FM station and switch its existing news frequency to a "lucrative classical music format." That plan was not executed, says Matt Potter, staff writer and editor at the publication. He obtained the report -- labeled Privileged and Confidential -- titled, “Funding Our News Future: A Case for Purchasing a New Radio Frequency,” through California's public records act. That study says that KPBS management was looking to purchase KPRI, a 30,000-watt FM station, for $8 million. Potter quotes the document: “A properly run classical music station can generate significant revenue. In fact, this scenario, with a purchase price of $8m and conservative listener sensitive revenue projections, shows positive cash flow after debt service in year #2. We could potentially reach $1.5m cash flow by year #5. These revenues will go toward funding the KPBS News service, which rarely operates with positive cash flow.” Nancy Worlie, spokeswoman for KPBS, told Current: "We're no longer interested. After careful consideration we never made an offer. We decided to keep our focus on our current media outlets and toward expanding our local news service."

How viable is WLIU's bid for independence?

The campaign to establish Long Island's WLIU as an independent public radio outlet is faltering, according to this report by the Hamptons Independent. With a looming deadline to relocate from WLIU's longtime home on the Southhampton campus of Stonybrook University, station leaders are also trying to raise money through a new nonprofit, Peconic Public Broadcasting, to acquire WLIU's license. The Independent reports that actor Alec Baldwin, one of several celebrities who backed the campaign, is not fulfilling his pledge. Meanwhile, critics of G.M. Wally Smith say he hasn't done enough to reduce operating expenses. "We do have a plan," Smith said. "Our goal is to not live hand to mouth."

Pubmedia online outreach projects need metrics to measure success: Jessica Clark

Jessica Clark, director of the Center for Social Media's Future of Public Media project, takes on a big question on the MediaShift blog: How well are stations measuring success in multiplatform public media projects created to inform and engage the public? "Very few stations define success with concrete metrics," Clark writes. "Most examples are anecdotal. ('I just have a sense.') What they consider to be 'successful' is very subjective. Those that do have an idea of what success means to them include metrics such as page views, unique users, and calls into station when online offerings fail to work." She cites "Embracing Digital: A Review of Public Media Efforts Across the United States," a June 2009 CPB-funded report by Gupta Consulting, which revealed that "few station executives can quote quantitative measures of either goals or achievements related to their digital offerings." Some stations were not even able to provide a rationale for creating particular digital offerings. "Clearly, accurately measuring impact is difficult -- if not impossible -- if producers are not able to identify their own motivations," Clark points out. Read the entire CPB report here (PDF).

Florida Channel nixes use of its video on candidate's website

WFSU at Florida State University has demanded that its video of an Air Force commander discussing offshore drilling be removed from a state House candidate's website. Democrat David Pleat thought the video explained the reasons he opposes oil drilling near the Gulf Coast, so he put a copy from on his campaign Web site, according to the Northwest Florida Daily News. The video “can be posted for educational purposes," said Florida Channel Executive Director Beth Switzer. “We can’t, and are not allowed to, grant use in political advertisements or on websites.” Pleat's site now carries a red X over the spot where the video once played. On a page linked to that spot, the website says the campaign feels WFSU's request "is censorship of important information regarding oil drilling in the Gulf." Pleat told the paper: "We simply put forward information that was taped in a public hearing with public dollars.”

Feb 16, 2010

Boston Mag portrays rifts within WGBH over radio expansion

In a lengthy feature on WGBH's ambitions to compete against WBUR for NPR News audiences, Boston Magazine goes behind the scenes to describe rifts between WGBH management and rank and file. By its account, WGBH staff were demoralized by months of budget cuts and downsizing when station leaders opted to spend $14 million on all-classical WCRB. Author Paul Kix portrays the scene during a staff meeting at which WGBH veep Marita Rivero announced the decision: "one woman sobbed and, according to numerous accounts, screamed something at Rivero to the effect of 'Jesus, you've got a lot of nerve! I can't believe this has happened.'"

"This wasn't just fury over the company's financial state. It was also the creeping clash between the old culture of WGBH and the new, between the way things had been and the way things would need to be."

"Part of the problem with 'GBH is there's a culture of mollycoddling where everyone's treated the same, and everybody's patted on the back," Emily Rooney, WGBH's top news talent, tells Kix. Rooney, a veteran of commercial TV news, adds that, had the "sobbing, shouting woman" been her employee, she would have been fired.

FCC chair previews broadband recommendations for Congress

Today in Washington, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski (right) provided insights into what will be contained in the agency's National Broadband Plan report to Congress next month. In a speech to the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (PDF), he cited several important issues, including spectrum use. He said that the commission will make the recommendation to "free up a significant amount of spectrum in the years ahead for ample licensed and unlicensed use." Experts have been predicting a coming spectrum auction, which might leave pubcasters with a tricky decision ("At what cost spectrum? Stations may face choice: Cash soon or opportunities later," Current, Feb. 10, 2010). Several other recommendations Genachowski mentioned included "lowering the cost of broadband build-out -- wired and wireless -- through the smart use of government rights of way and conduits," and developing "public/private partnerships to increase Internet adoption, and ensure that all children can use the Internet proficiently and safely." He also said the plan will set goals for the United State to have the world’s largest market of very high-speed broadband users, which he dubbed a “100 Squared” initiative: 100 million households at 100 megabits per second.

America only mediocre in broadband efforts compared with other countries, study says

An international broadband study out today (see previous item for national numbers) shows the United States is a "middle of the pack" performer on broadband efforts, but has higher prices for high-speed and next generation Internet. The research was commissioned by the FCC and conducted by examination of existing literature from 30 countries by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Another finding: America has 30 wifi free and pay hotspots per 100,000 residents; that compares with Sweden, which has 80. The 333-page report in PDF form is here.

WVIA in Pennsylvania back on the air after transmitter site fire

WVIA, a dual licensee in Pittston, Pa., is slowly returning to the air after a devastating electrical fire on Friday. Newswatch 16, in nearby Moosic, Pa., has loaned out an unused transmitter. The FCC okayed the shift in order to restore the signal, according to the Scranton Times-Tribune. Over-the-air viewers can rescan their TVs to find the new PBS signal, Newswatch 16 reports. Radio is at reduced power but operating. WVIA will rebuild the transmitter site but WVIA President Bill Kelley said the building is a complete loss. "That building is toast. Every transmitter, every wire, every tube. It's melted, it's gone," he told Newswatch 16. Construction estimates are between $1 and $2 million.

NPR's investigative unit reports on Christmas Day bomb suspect

"Going Radical," an NPR investigative series that begins airing tomorrow, is the first to be produced by the new reporting unit headed by Suzanne Reber. The three-part series examines the radicalization of the Christmas Day bomb suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Three reporters--Peter Kenyon, Dina Temple-Raston and Ofeibea Quist-Arcton--collaborated on the investigation, according to Poynter Online. Within NPR headquarters, the investigative team working under Reber includes correspondents Daniel Zwerdling and Joseph Shapiro, librarian Barbara Van Woerkom and computer-assisted reporter Robert Benincasa. NPR plans to hire a producer/off-air reporter to complete the team, but journalists will "cycle through" the unit on assignments, NPR News chief Ellen Weiss says.

NTIA broadband report shows disparities continue; 30 percent do not use Internet

A new report on broadband Internet usage that surveyed 50,000 households reveals all demographic groups are using more broadband but disparities among particular groups continue to exist, according to the Commerce Department's National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Among the findings: 64 percent of households have broadband access compared with 51 percent in October 2007. Lagging behind in broadband use are low-income households, seniors, minorities, the less-educated and the unemployed. And 30 percent of all Americans surveyed do not use the Internet in any location. The research was commissioned by the NTIA and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in October 2009. Access the full report here (PDF).

Apple competitors create alliances for compatible mobile apps (good luck!)

Mobile app developers will get “a simple route to market” that lets them develop a single app for wireless devices’ various incompatible operating systems, according to the Wholesale Applications Community announced in Barcelona yesterday by more than two dozen cell phone carriers and device makers. The “distribution ecosystem” based on “openness and transparency” is backed by carriers weary of being outflanked and bullied by Apple’s iBandwagon, including such open and transparent corporate citizens as Verizon, Sprint, major foreign carriers and even AT&T, Apple’s U.S. iPhone carrier. Samsung, LG and Sony Ericsson also joined. Information Week ‘s blogger expects this new League of Nations to get bogged down, fall behind and fall apart.

Demonstrating that even alliance-hungry Apple competitors can’t agree on the same strategy, two more such companies, Nokia and Intel, said they will combine their Linux-based open-source mobile/netbook OS efforts, under the Linux Foundation, Ars Technica reported. The joint effort is MeeGo.

Feb 14, 2010

Idaho PTV cuts CPB spots after state legislator's comments

Idaho Public Television has removed spots touting the importance of public television that featured state legislators, reports the Twin Falls, Idaho, Times-News website. In a recent hearing before the state joint finance-appropriations committee on funding for the station, a senator asked IPTV g.m. Peter Morrill if the appearances gave the politicians a political advantage. Morrill looked into the spots, then replied to the committee in a subsequent letter. The legislators "did not advocate for any funding proposal, only for the general public service that we provide,” Morrill wrote. “To avoid any further confusion, I have instructed my staff to take these spots off the air during the legislative session.” The promotion project is funded by CPB.

PBS ombudsman emerges from snowdrift with latest column

Plenty of interesting comments in this week's Mailbag (well, Snowbag) from the PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler. Topics include "The Bombing of Germany" from American Experience, and Frontline's "Flying Cheap."

Feb 13, 2010

Illinois Public Media cuts staff, changes format due to budget crunch

Illinois Public Media in Urbana-Champaign will realign its AM, FM and TV staffing to survive its budget woes. The operation at the University of Illinois will eliminate nine staff positions, phase out the weather department, add news to its FM classical format, shift its AM news staff to more local coverage and outreach, and add three staff positions in "areas with potential for revenue growth." General Manager Mark Leonard announced the overhaul in a statement on its website. Illinois Public Media has been operating with a deficit during the current fiscal year as a result of $110,000 in budget cuts from the Illinois Arts Council that were announced in October, Leonard said. “We cannot continue to do things the way we’ve done them in the past,” he said. “If we do, we’re spreading ourselves too thin across too many projects. And we’ll miss the opportunities that technology offers to provide public media in new ways.” The station provided an FAQ to address listener and viewer concerns. The station is one of several in Illinois working with CPB consultants to explore a cost-saving merger.

Feb 12, 2010

CNN hires Tom Bettag, former news and pubaffairs advisor to PBS

Tom Bettag, who authored a recent advisory report for PBS on its news and public affairs initiative, has joined CNN Worldwide as senior e.p. for State of the Union with Candy Crowley and Reliable Sources, effective immediately, according to a CNN statement. PBS had asked Bettag last year to consider how public TV could reinvent its news offerings, and Bettag spent time meeting with executives in both pubTV and radio news units (Current, May 11 and 26, 2009.)

Feb 11, 2010

John Boland new president of Northern California Public Broadcasting

John Boland, former PBS chief content officer, was today named president and CEO of Northern California Public Broadcasting. Boland succeeds Jeff Clarke, retiring after nearly 45 years in pubmedia and broadcasting. Boland was the system's first chief content officer (CCO) at KQED in 2002. He became PBS's first CCO in 2006. Clarke’s last day is March 19 and Boland will take the helm on March 22.

Nova calling

Want a PBS-style ringtone? That catchy theme for Nova is now available. Download it here. It's free.

Sesame Street actress hit by car

Actress Loretta Long, 71, who has starred at Sesame Street's Susan Robinson since its debut, suffered head wounds after being struck by a car, according to the Times of Trenton. She was crossing a county road about 6:45 p.m. Tuesday in East Windsor Township, N.J., when the accident occurred. A vehicle making a left turn struck Long, who was thrown onto the hood of the car. It traveled about 70 feet before she fell and struck her head. She's in fair condition in a local hospital.

Candidates sue KERA in Dallas over gubernatorial debates

KERA/North Texas Public Broadcasting in Dallas is being sued by four Democratic candidates for Texas governor for not being included in a televised debate, reports the news site. The candidates, Star Locke, Alma Aguando, Felix Alvarado and Clement Glenn, filed the lawsuit Tuesday asking for $400 million. They allege racial discrimination for being Native American, Hispanic or African-American. KERA released a statement Wednesday: "We are disappointed that these candidates have chosen to ignore years of judicial precedents upholding our right to use viewpoint neutral criteria in selecting candidates to participate in the Texas Debates. We are confident in our debate policy, and we will seek the speedy dismissal of this complaint as we have successfully with others in the past."

Town hall webinar tomorrow to focus on broadband funding is offering a free webcast, "Broadband Stimulus National Town Hall Meeting," starting at 11 a.m. Eastern tomorrow. It's sponsored by the National League of Cities TV. Peter Pratt, for 30 years a telecom industry analyst and public policy specialist who runs Stimulating Broadband, said two main questions will be addressed: Is there a “secret sauce” seen in the Round I winning applications announced to date? And, what are the lead strategic considerations for Round II applications? Pubcasters nationwide are applying for the grants (Current, Sept. 21, 2009). Interested? Click here to register.

Feb 10, 2010

KCET show partners with Annenberg School journalists

KCET's SoCal Connected today announced a partnership with the News21 team at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. Tomorrow they launch a web-based, multimedia project, "Dream Interrupted: California in Crisis." Reports will focus on the economy, education, transportation, housing and government in five areas of the state. News21 is part of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education.

Meet him in St. Louis, Louis: Proffitt to depart Alaska

Pubcaster and blogger John Proffitt is leaving his home of nine years, Anchorage, Alaska, and venturing back to the Lower 48 and KETC in St. Louis. He's taking a new position at the station, director of digital engagement. In a post at his blog Gravity Medium, Proffitt said that over the past few years, KETC has "embarked on a remarkable transformation, developing closer relationships with their community and using media to solve problems." He cited its collaboration with the nonprof news site the St. Louis Beacon, now housed in the station (Current, March 30, 2009), and its multi-media and outreach work on the mortage and economic crisis (Current, July 14, 2008). Proffitt takes his new position in early March.

Longtime pubcaster Fred Flaxman writes memoirs

Longtime producer and station exec Fred Flaxman has written a "tongue-in-cheek" memoir of his life in broadcasting, Sixty Slices of Life ... on Wry: The Private Life of a Public Broadcaster (Story Book Publishing). Flaxman is currently producer and presenter of classical music program Compact Discoveries, distributed by PRX. He worked as v.p. for national programming at WTTW in Chicago and spent time in management at KUAT-TV in Tucson, Southern Oregon Public Television, and WXEL in West Palm Beach, Fla. So no doubt he has plenty to talk about in his book.

Feb 9, 2010

Currently, Current is closed

Current's office in suburban Washington, D.C., remains shuttered as another severe winter storm is battering the region. This week's issue also is delayed. Need to reach an editor? Email probably is the best way. Above, cars buried after the first round of snow, as captured by Currentron Dru Sefton in her District of Columbia neighborhood.

Civil rights concert moves to tonight, will run Thursday on PBS

Due to the impending arrival of yet another massive winter storm, the White House has moved a concert of civil rights music up one night, reports the Washington Post. "In Performance at the White House: A Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement" will now take place tonight in the East Room tonight instead of tomorrow evening. Performers scheduled to appear include Joan Baez, Natalie Cole, Bob Dylan, Jennifer Hudson, John Legend, John Mellencamp and Smokey Robinson. PBS will carry the program Thursday night, or viewers can watch live streaming video here. The federal government, schools and businesses remained closed today after the first storm hit last weekend with up to 30 inches of snow. A second snowstorm is coming into the District of Columbia tonight; that may bring an additional 16 or more inches.

Feb 8, 2010

FCC should preserve accountability journalism, advisor says

Steven Waldman, senior advisor to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, says saving journalim "is not our job." However, "we are looking at it in terms of preserving certain functions, in which I do include accountability journalism." Waldman is exploring possibilities for a report to the commission on the future of news in an uncertain time, and sat down for a Q&A with Broadcasting & Cable's John Eggerton.

"I holler every day, 'I’m a worm, hip hip hurray!' "

Sesame Street gets a new neighbor soon: Carrie Underworm, who looks and sounds very much like country superstar Carrie Underwood. She'll debut Thursday. Get a sneak peek here.

Feb 6, 2010

APTS Capitol Hill day postponed

APTS Capitol Hill Day has been canceled for now. Spokesperson Stacey Karp said that due to the blizzard, there's a good chance that local businesses as well as Congress will be "severely disrupted for several days." Station reps were scheduled to meet tomorrow and Monday, and visit members of Congress on Tuesday. APTS is considering rescheduling or using alternatives such as webinars or video conferences.

Feb 5, 2010

Tampa pubcasting president gets nod for International Broadcasting Bureau post

The White House yesterday nominated Dick Lobo, president and chief executive of Tampa PBS station WEDU-Ch. 3, to head the International Broadcasting Bureau. The federal bureau runs Voice of America and two other broadcasts aimed at Cuba, Radio and TV Marti. Lobo, 73, still must be confirmed by the Senate. Lobo recently retired after seven years heading the Tampa station and 23 in commercial TV. He had worked in overseas broadcasting earlier; President Clinton appointed him head of USIA's Office of Cuba Broadcasting in 1994. Lobo's wife, Caren, supervised Florida fundraising for Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential election.

Text-giving for pubcasters: learn from those who've tried it

Text donations for disaster relief in Haiti topped $35 million earlier this week, and donors' sudden willingness to use mobile phones for charitable contributions makes text-giving look like a promising way for pubcasting stations to raise money.

But it's not as easy as it sounds. WXPN in Philadelphia and KQED in San Francisco began experimenting with text-giving programs last year and had modest results.

'XPN asked for text donations during its XPoNential Music Festival last July. "We didn't make a lot of money, but we learned a ton about how to make it work," said Melanie Coulson, a Development Exchange Inc. fundraising consultant who managed the project for WXPN. "I think events are a great way to do it."

KQED tried two different approaches: on-air requests for text gifts during Earth Day programming and promotions over the month of April; and, more targeted, urgent appeals during its year-end fundraising campaign in December. "The results were dramatically improved, with almost four times as much money raised," said Yoon Lee, KQED director of new media marketing, of the latter campaign.

Both Coulson and Lee will report on the projects on Monday, Feb. 8, during a webinar produced by DEI.

Feb 4, 2010

Native tribes get priorities for radio licenses, FCC rules

The FCC announced today it is giving Native American tribes a priority (PDF) for broadcast radio licenses in their communities. The FCC statement notes that while more than a million Native Americans and Alaska Natives live on some 55 million acres of tribal lands nationwide, only 41 radio stations are currently licensed to native tribes. The new Tribal Priority gives license precedence to federally recognized Native American Tribes and Alaska Native Villages, or companies controlled by tribes on their land. Here's the order (PDF). In a related statement (PDF), Commissioner Michael Copps explained that the current allocation priorities, intended to provide fair distribution of radio service across America, have not worked for tribal lands.

Feb 3, 2010

"Way We Get By" film wins honor from AARP Magazine

The Way We Get By, an indie doc produced in association with WGBH Lab, has won best documentary in AARP Magazine’s annual Movies for Grownups Awards. The honors recognize outstanding productions for the 50-plus audience. The film was made through the Independent Television Service's LINCS (Linking Independents and Co-Producing Stations) initiative.

NCME, CPB and APTS offering broadband stimulus webinar

Does your station want to get in on broadband stimulus funding? The National Center for Media Engagement is hosting a webinar, the first in a series, at 2 p.m. Thursday. Joanne Hovis, president of Columbia Telecommunications Corp. and an authority on community broadband, will provide technical and strategic advice to pubcasting stations. This is the first in a series of webinars from NCME, CPB and the APTS Grant Center. Sign up at the NCME website. The next one is 2 p.m. Feb. 11.

Feb 2, 2010

An iPhone app tailor-made for This American Life

The latest public radio offering in Apple's iTunes App store is from This American Life. For $2.99, iPhone users gain access to the 15-year archive of This American Life radio programs; episodes of the Showtime television series can be downloaded for an additional fee. Public Radio Exchange developed the app in collaboration with producers of TAL and Chicago Public Radio. "There is no doubt: it is a high-end app," says Jake Shapiro, PRX executive director. "A lot of ingenuity went into it, and back-and-forth about what it needs to be. It needed a lot of development time to make sure it was high-performing." Among the app's nifty features: customizable searches allowing users to find their favorite episode or contributors, sharing tools, and a countdown clock encouraging users to live stream the first broadcast of each weekly episode, Friday evenings on Chicago Public Radio. “Note, ours is the only app providing a hand-held Geiger counter for the live show that drives interactive media inexorably backwards to 1968,” says WBEZ President Torey Malatia, in a PRX release. PRX recently received CPB funding to upgrade and relaunch its Public Radio Player, the free iPhone app providing access to the web streams of public radio stations, and to create a new local station app in collaboration with WBUR.

Administration budget seeks to link NTIA and FCC on spectrum project

President Barack Obama's new budget proposal includes extending the FCC's authority to auction spectrum "indefinitely," according to Broadcasting & Cable. That move would free up space for wireless broadband carriers. The budget is looking for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the FCC to collaborate over 10 years "to make available significant spectrum suitable for both mobile and fixed wireless broadband use." Many broadcasters say spectrum is not available, because it's already being used for HDTV and muliticasting and mobile DTV. The FCC is undertaking a spectrum inventory this year, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps told the CPB Board of Directors at a meeting last week.

POV docs receive two Academy Award nominations

Two documentaries airing on POV this year are among Academy Award nominees announced this morning. “Food, Inc.,” scheduled for April 21, and the ITVS co-production of “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers," also running in 2010, were both nominated for the Best Documentary Feature award. The Oscars for outstanding film achievements of 2009 will be presented at 8 p.m. Eastern on March 7 from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. There's a full list of nominees on the Academy's website.

Pubcasters' requests among those rejected for broadband stimulus money

At least three public broadcasting requests for broadband stimulus funding have been turned down. The site, which tracks news about the effort, reports that the federal agency overseeing the grants, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), is mailing out around 1,400 rejection letters and updating its online database to reflect the nonfunded applications. Included in the rejections: Mississippi Public Broadcasting, which wanted $2.2 million for a public computer center for children and childcare providers; Florida Public Broadcasting Service, which requested $22.8 million for a HELPS (Health, Education, Local, Public Safety) Network; and PBS, asking for $8.7 million for an eight-station local and national partnership (California, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia) to combine content and outreach programs to stimulate demand for educational broadband content. For background, see Current's Sept. 21, 2009, story.

Feb 1, 2010

Obama proposes $460 million for CPB in FY13, up $15 million over FY12, but no funding for PTFP

President Barack Obama's budget for next year recommends $496 million for CPB, including a $460 million two-year advance appropriation for FY13, according to APTS. That's an increase of $40 million from this year and $15 million from FY12. Also included is $36 million for pubTV and radio digital conversion, content and services. "The proposed increase in the advance appropriation reflects a recognition of the enormous return on investment public broadcasting generates regarding education, job training and disease prevention," said APTS President Larry Sidman. But persuasive work remains, Sidman noted: The budget omits funding for the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, which helps pay for public stations' equipment upgrades, and the Agriculture Department's Rural Utility Service Digital Transition Grant Program. Also, the Obama budget proposes to consolidate Ready to Learn (Current, June 23, 2008) and Ready to Teach into larger education programs, without specific funding for either. Station reps will hear all about this and more as they swarm on Capitol Hill during APTS' annual Capitol Hill Day lobbyfest Feb. 7-9.

Prairie Home Companion goes live in 500 theaters on Thursday

This week, a special Thursday edition of A Prairie Home Companion will be "cinecast" live in HD to some 500 theaters across North America. The two-hour show starts at 8 p.m., with an encore Feb. 9. It's the first time the eclectic program has tried this.

Former reporter appearing on NewsHour now editor of Washington Times

A former Time correspondent whose reports ran on the PBS NewsHour is the new editor of the Washington Times, the paper announced today. The show carried Sam Dealey's segments from Africa. The paper's top management staff was recently terminated from the Times, which is owned by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church.

PETA files FCC complaint over Sesame link to American Egg Board

In a story headlined, "PETA Smacks Big Bird in D.C.," Broadcasting & Cable writes that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has filed a complaint with the FCC against pubTV stations that air Sesame Street. Two problems, PETA says: The show is presenting a spot showing a sanitary poultry processing plant with children eating eggs and talking about their nutritive value. PETA has long contended that chickens raised for slaughter or egg production live in filthy, inhumane conditions. Also, PETA says the American Egg Board's work is embedded in Sesame Street segments; the board is the industry promotional group created by Congress for egg producers. PETA wants fines and/or sanctions for stations carrying the show. According to the Sesame Workshop's website, the show's "Good Egg Project," sponsored by the American Egg Board, "aims to educate families about how eggs get from the farm to their breakfast tables, along with the many health benefits of eating eggs." PETA is also undertaking an email campaign targeted at the Workshop's Gary Knell, president, and Patti Miller, veep of public policy. In a copy of the complaint provided to Current by PETA, its litigation counsel, Martina Bernstein, wrote that stations "breached their obligation to protect children from excessive and inappropriate commercial messages, in violation of the limits of the amount of commercial matter in children's programming as well as the commission's policy against host-selling." PETA wants "a forfeiture penalty or other sanctions" against the stations. A spokesperson for the Workshop told Current its only statement is at the end of the Broadcasting & Cable article: “Sesame Workshop as a practice does not comment on pending legal matters.”

KAET moves to new digital media center at Arizona State

PBS President Paula Kerger was on hand Saturday for the grand opening of KAET/Channel 8's new digital media center at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, reports the State Press student paper. Arizona PBS General Manager Kelly McCullough said the move has been planned for two years. Under three hours after staffers signed off at the former station, they were on the air from the new facility. “The transition was surprisingly smooth,” McCullough said. “There was so much that really could have gone wrong. We have had some glitches and I’m sure we’ll have a few more but the important fact is, we’re on the air on three channels in high quality in nearly all of Arizona.” The station and university have been affiliated for 49 years.