May 10, 2010

Summit takes up proposals for pubcasting reform

A white paper on the future of public media will help shape the discussion at the Free Press Summit, which kicks off at 10 a.m. on May 11 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The paper analyzes several options for financing a trust fund that would increase the field's funding six-fold and eventually end its reliance on congressional appropriations. It also calls for changes in the system for appointing the board of directors of Corporation for Public Broadcasting and proposes new standards of community service at CPB-funded stations. For a live webcast of the first four hours of the summit, tune your browser here.


In case you missed it, Saturday Night Live managed to parody both PBS and NPR programming within the first 30 minutes of last weekend's show, which was hosted by actress Betty White, still hilarious at 88 years old. Opening the show was a Lawrence Welk sketch (complete with PBS logo in the bottom corner of the screen) and later came a new "Delicious Dish" segment, a cooking show a la those smooth-talking NPR hosts.

Three icon series post double-digit increases in Nielsen ratings

The first-quarter Nielsen numbers that arrived recently at WGBH were surprising -- in a very positive way. Antiques Roadshow, Masterpiece and Nova each posted double-digit increases in audience numbers over this same time last year, according to the Sponsoring Group for Public Television, sales org for the shows. In a statement the group noted that the three shows "were up in desirable demos, significantly outperforming key competitive cable networks." Roadshow had total audience growth of 18 percent, including increases of 17 percent in adults 35 to 64 and 7 percent in adults 25 to 54. For Masterpiece, total audience grew 31 percent, increased 25 percent among adults 35 to 64 and 20 percent in adults 25 to 54. And for Nova, total audience swelled 17 percent as well as 9 percent among adults 35 to 64. The shows also lured in more viewers compared with leading cable networks. For adults 25 to 54, Roadshow and Nova beat those numbers for A&E, History, Discovery Channel and FOX News. Masterpiece bested primetime cable averages for Discovery Channel, Fox News, Lifetime and Bravo. "Too soon to know if it’s a trend, but we certainly hope so!," WGBH Marketing Director Roberta Haber told Current. Why the bump? "It's hard to say," Haber said. "We’d like to think it’s because viewers are returning to quality programming."

Need to Know creates need to vent for these pubcasting viewers

Lots of correspondence to the PBS ombudsman on the Need to Know debut, and "almost all" of it about the weekly pubaffairs show were "pretty grim," reports Michael Getler. Among viewer comments: "I had to write someone because I am so upset that I am shaking." "The new program Need to Know should be retitled: Got to Go. It is pablum." "Watching Need to Know was like having someone snatch your NY Times and give you back USA Today. Getler cautioned viewers, "This is the first program and lots of series get off to rocky starts in the eyes of some people. So let's give it a chance to evolve."

Kerger conquers chilly, windy triathlon

How about spending a Sunday swimming 750 meters (half a mile), biking 18 miles and running 5K (3 miles)? That's just was PBS President Paula Kerger did yesterday in the 751-participant Kinetic Sprint triathlon in Spotsylvania, Va. She set the land speed record for PBS presidents with a time of 2:14:38. PBS spokeswoman Stephanie Aaronson told Current that Kerger has been in training since last September, learning a lot from friends who compete in such events and running two charity races to ramp up. Finding time to train was a challenge: get to office before 7 a.m., catch up on e-mails from night before, head to the gym and then back to the office. Race day was chilly (low-mid 50s) and windy (gusts t0 30 mph). That made the water portion of the race particularly challenging, with each leg against the current. Spotting her in the crowd was tough for husband Joe so Kerger wore a pink PBS hat. Crossing the finish line brought Kerger an "enormous sense of accomplishment," Aaronson said, and Kerger is now eyeing the D.C. Triathlon on June 20.

New Salt Lake City g.m. has grizzly reputation

When Mike Dunn takes the helm today at University of Utah's KUED, he'll probably be the first pubcasting g.m. ever to have survived an attack by a 400-pound grizzly bear. Dunn still has small scars on the corner of his mouth and near his wrist from the 1994 attack at Grand Teton National Park; the big scars "are on my back where you can see the claw marks," he told the Salt Lake City Tribune. The head of the search committee had asked Dunn if he was "tough enough" for the job, to which he replied, "Well, you know, I did survive a bear attack." Dunn has never run a station but has been active at the Salt Lake City PBS affiliate for 28 years, hosting pledge drives and serving on its board of directors. He also produced documentaries for KUED through his Dunn Communications advertising firm. He was inspired to go into advertising decades ago by watching adman Darrin Stevens on the 1964-72 sitcom Bewitched. "Isn't it funny how TV molds you?" Dunn mused.