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.