Apr 9, 2010

New contract for NPR's broadcast techs

An NPR bargaining unit of 64 broadcast technicians ratified a new five-year contract negotiated by the National Association of Broadcast Engineers and Technicians/Communications Workers of America. The new contract gives NPR more flexibility on jurisdictional rules over uses of new technology in the newsroom. A no lay-off clause specifies that no jobs will be terminated "for reasons other than budget or programming changes," but up to 17 NABET workers may be offered voluntary buy-outs, according to an NPR statement. "Both NPR and NABET recognized the need to address staff reductions carefully, and committed to fair and generous treatment of those who will be affected in coming years," the statement said.

CPB IG issues reports on WHYY, and KDNA-FM in Washington State

Two CPB Inspector General reports are out. There's an examination of KDNA-FM in Granger, Wash., triggered by complaints it was shirking requirements for public meetings and financial record keeping, and an audit of CPB grants to WHYY in Philadelphia for fiscal years 2007 and '08.

KDNA broadcasts to a rural area of Washington State about 225 miles southeast of Seattle; it programs mainly for migrant workers. It has this official station website, which says it's the only full-time educational Spanish-language pubradio station in the nation. There's also a competing site detailing what it calls "the troubles" at that station for nearly two years -- including a monthlong strike last year that triggered a longtime board member to resign. The 34-page IG report found that its licensee, Northwest Communities' Education Center, did not "materially comply" with CPB requirements on restricted grant funds, did not accurately report non-federal financial support (NFFS), and did not meet open meetings and open records requirements. In her response, Mirta Laura Contreras, KDNA's interim executive director since mid-March, cited the station's "significant challenges" of the past months that led to the complaints. The station "generally agreed" with most of the IG's findings.

The report on WHYY is a routine funding oversight audit. Among findings: That WHYY improperly claimed some $403,000 of other transactions and payments as direct revenues and NFFS, which resulted in CPB making excess grant payments of around $30,000 in fiscal '09 and about $7,500 in FY10. Also, it said that around $235,000 was not "expended timely within the grant period" due to project delays. WHYY CFO A. William Dana penned the station's response, which agreed on several points including the NFFS reporting issue.

Pubcasting + pubaccess = pubmedia?

Public access channels and public broadcasting need to collaborate, and soon. So writes Colin Rhinesmith, community media and tech manager for Cambridge Community Television in Massachusetts. He admits there's a huge cultural gap: Most pubcasters, he says, are dismissive of the so-called PEG (public educational governmental) channels; pubaccess advocates think pubTV doesn't represent the public. However, PEGs "are trusted institutions in many local communities. They are uniquely positioned to serve youth, seniors, poor people, immigrant communities, communities of color, and other historically disenfranchised groups with access to media and digital literacy training. They should receive public support to do so ..." He says many of those centers are launching citizen journalism projects, which mesh nicely with pubcasting's news push. He charted out the possible partnerships, which also include commercial news orgs.

Ombudsman points to another diversity challenge for NPR

NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard applied a different lens to recent complaints about the lack of diversity of NPR's programming--the presence of women as commentators and news sources--and was discouraged by what she found. Males dominated the roster of regular commentators across all NPR newsmagazines across a 15-month period and comprised 74 percent of the news sources quoted on the air, according to a content analysis conducted by her staff from April 13, 2009 to Jan. 9, 2010. Morning Edition cohost Steve Inskeep challenges the study's methodology in Shepard's column about her findings. Shepard's objective wasn't to produce a scientifically rigorous analysis, she writes: "My goal is to get NPR journalists to think more seriously about integrating female sources into stories and work harder at getting them on shows. The same is true for the voices of blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities." NPR is taking steps to identify and audition new, diverse voices for its programming, Shepard reports. Carol Klinger, a veteran booker for All Things Considered, has been assigned to find and recruit these new sources, focusing specifically on the topics of politics, arts and national security. When NPR came under fire last year for failing to recruit, train and retain journalists of color, it hired Keith Woods, a veteran journalist with expertise on newsroom diversity, as v.p. of diversity in news and operations.

"Surround Vision" from MIT may have pubcasting participation

WGBH isn't publicly confirming anything, but the TG Daily news site is hinting the station may be a part of the MIT Media Lab's latest project. Surround Vision allows hand-held device users to actually see the action happening off the edge of the screen -- say, point the cellphone to the left and see what's happening over there, beyond the original frame of view. WGBH has "a long history" with the Media Lab in the past, the site points out, and could be assisting with user studies on this project. "We always learn from working with [research scientist Michael Bove] and his group," Annie Valva, WGBH’s director of technology and interactive multimedia, told the site. She elaborated on the MIT news site that such a technology "helps us leverage more value over things that we shoot and create but don’t happen to get to air.” Here's a video of Surround Vision from the Electronista blog.

PBS viewers have many religious views for ombudsman

The latest Mailbag of PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler is full of letters about programs or segments on Buddhism, Mormon theology and Catholicism.

PubTV safe from spectrum grab, FCC chairman says at House hearing

Public television stations will be protected from involuntary reallocation of broadcast spectrum during the possible upcoming auction, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski reassured a House broadband plan oversight hearing yesterday. Broadcasting & Cable reports that the statement was in response to Democratic California Rep. Anna Eshoo (above), who voiced concern over what she termed "a treasure" that needs protection. The FCC's National Broadband Plan calls for 120 MHz of television spectrum to be reallocated to make way for the increasing needs of mobile devices (Current, Feb. 8). It also proposes a public media trust fund fed by proceeds to pubcasters for their spectrum.