May 20, 2010

Veterans for Peace says Wisconsin PTV outreach "militaristic"

A veterans' group is complaining that Wisconsin Public Television's LZ Lambeau outreach event this weekend "has become a pro-war exhibition aimed at getting kids into the military," writes the Green Bay Press Gazette. Veterans for Peace will conduct its own workshops and discussions on recruiting, combat stress and ongoing international conflicts as the massive event takes place in Lambeau Field (Current, July 6, 2009). WPT envisions the weekend as a tribute to Vietnam-era veterans who never received a proper welcome home. But the Veterans for Peace website calls the happening "a militaristic fair." LZ Lambeau Project Manager Don Jones told the Press Gazette he welcomes Veterans for Peace participation, and there will be space at Lambeau Field for all veterans' groups to distribute literature.

Idaho PTV wilderness filming banned for being "commercial"

A forest supervisor's decision to stop Idaho Public Television from filming in a wilderness area has sparked a U.S. Forest Service investigation, reports the Associated Press. Even Gov. Butch Otter called the ban an "ill-advised decision." IPTV has been filming in the 2.3-million acre Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area for more than 30 years but this year was told the shoot is considered commercial, and therefore prohibited. "If Ansel Adams were alive today and wanted to bring his camera into the Frank Church wilderness, would the Forest Service let him?" said IPTV g.m. Peter Morrill. The station wanted to send one cameraman to film students doing conservation work for its Outdoor Idaho.

UPDATE: Good news for IPTV. On May 21, the Forest Service issued this statement: "After careful review, the U.S. Forest Service has moved to allow filming by an Idaho Public Television crew in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. Nationally, we want to improve access, and increase public understanding of the importance of national forests, grasslands and wilderness areas. One of the ways we can do this is through the media. An assessment of current policy will be completed soon that will address the need for media related activities on National Forest System land."

NewsHour's Crystal retiring in August

Lester Crystal, the president of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, is retiring on Aug. 31, the production company of PBS NewsHour said in a statement. He will continue as a senior advisor through the end of the year. Crystal was hired in 1983 to transition the show from the half-hour MacNeil/Lehrer Report to the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. He became president of the production company in 2005. In a statement to staff, founders Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer said that NewsHour "would never have been launched and sustained as successfully as it has been, and become the institution in the nation’s journalism that it has, without Les.” Crystal oversees corporate and foundation funding for the show, and development of documentary programs and projects. Under his leadership since 2005, foundation support for the show has tripled to more than $7 million annually. Before his work at NewsHour, Crystal produced convention and election night coverage for eight national elections, from 1976 to 2004, for NBC and PBS. He also accompanied President Richard Nixon on his 1972 visit to China (above, NewsHour image) as chief producer of European news for NBC. In the statement, Crystal told staff: "I am very proud of my contributions to the launch of the Newshour as the country’s first hourlong daily television news broadcast and its continued success as a mainstay of serious journalism."

World project to kick off July 1

CPB President Pat Harrison announced a July 1 launch of the multiplatform World content project (Current, Sept. 8, 2009), and told station execs May 20 in Austin that CPB would cover their fees for the first year of carriage. The long-awaited project will use emerging media to draw in producers and news consumers of more widely varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds, as well as a younger crowd. The work is being developed by partners including WGBH, ITVS, the Bay Area Video Coalition, NPR and members of the Minority Consortia. One of the first projects is "The Skin You're In," incorporating content from stations, viewers and users about everything from genetics to tattoos, to explore the the idea of identity. Al Letson, host of pubradio's State of the Re:Union, will also be a video blogger for World. He finds the project valuable because it reaches out to people "who have been on the sidelines, and this brings them to the forefront. It lets a community station interact with the rest of the world through this online portal."

Tony Cox signs off as consortium's midday talker ends production

Tony Cox, host of the talk show produced by the African-American Public Radio Consortium, says farewell to listeners in a post announcing an official end to the short-lived program. "I had big hopes for this show. And everything I could possibly have asked for came true. . . except the money." Upfront with Tony Cox began airing repeats earlier this year while producers tried to raise money; with no funders on board they called it quits as of May 14. It was the second of two midday programs that AAPRC put into production last year. Michael Eric Dyson, host of the first show, received a $505,000 CPB grant to relaunch his program as a production of WEAA in Baltimore. Dyson's new broadcast now airs on WEAA weekdays at 9 a.m. It's slated for national launch "soon."

"Cove-like" pubaffairs site coming soon to stations from PBS

Starting this fall, Frontline will be more aggressive with viewer engagement on the Web, Executive Producer David Fanning said during yesterday's panel on PBS's news and public affairs initiative, moderated by NewsHour's Hari Sreenivasan. "A narrative bright line runs through the mists of material," Fanning said. "The idea is to say, here it is, but you don't have to stay up three nights to figure it out." Documents will be posted and Frontline journalists will point site visitors to the most important facts. "The Cigarette Papers" in 1998 provides a good example: "Five thousand pages of a drama in three acts starting in 1952," Fanning said. "That is the kind of work public media can do, and now no one else does. It's a great space we can occupy while the rest of the world reduces news to small bits." Frontline is also putting up video before stories air. The audience Tweeted questions to the panel (first up, "Where did Hari get his shirt?") and in lieu of spoken introductions each member's Twitter page was displayed on the screen—except for Fanning, who does not Tweet. Also on stage was Christine Montgomery, managing editor of PBS Interactive, who said that the news initiative will provide a website, apps and other tools for stations. "It's very Cove-like," she said, referring to the PBS video player. "You can create a place for local and national content to live together, all around news."

Lasar analyzes prospects for Free Press crusade to fund public media

Free Press's proposals to expand federal subsidies for public media may be one of many "long shot crusades" launched by the progressive media reform group, writes Matthew Lasar in Ars Technica, but one thing is certain--commercial broadcasters and electronics manufacturers "will protest these ideas early, often, and very loudly if any of them actually surface in a Congressional bill." Lasar believes that Free Press raises important questions about how to fund the journalism that is vital to democracy, and media reformers are better advocates for a new funding mechanism than public broadcasters themselves. "Public television in particular has sunk into a comfortable malaise of genteel poverty and compromise with the very commercial practices it was originally designed to transcend."