Jun 2, 2010

Fellow grantmakers salute Wallace Foundation for funding "The Principal" on P.O.V.

Next Sunday the funder of The Principal Story, a doc that aired in September on P.O.V., will receive the first Woodward A. Wickham Award for Excellence in Media Philanthropy, bestowed by Grantmakers in Film + Electronic Media. The grantmakers’ group said the award was named after the late MacArthur Foundation Vice President Woody Wickham to honor funders who demonstrate Wickham’s "creative, often courageous" grantmaking (Wickham obituary, February 2009). The Wallace Foundation, which backs initiatives to improve school leadership, stepped forward as full funder of the doc by Tod Lending and David Mrazek (Current, Sept. 8, 2009; program website). Jessica Schwartz, senior communication officer for Wallace, said the funder hadn't commissioned a film before but found it would be the most effective way to reach its target audiences. For more information on the grantmakers’ group, visit its website.

Vivian Schiller at D8: We're NPR, not National Public Radio

NPR President Vivian Schiller said some very provocative things this morning at D8, the Wall Street Journal's All Things Digital conference, according to a live blog of her appearance. Early in her Q&A session, Schiller tells the Journal's Kara Swisher: "First of all, note we don’t call ourselves National Public Radio anymore. We’re NPR." The change reflects NPR's job to provide universal access to news and information, she explains, "that used to mean radio, but we don’t think we should be limited to that anymore....We just wanted to reach more people, on more platforms. We want to make it as widely available as possible." Schiller predicts that radio towers will be gone in 10 years and Internet radio will take its place. "This is a huge change and we should embrace it. Mobile will play a big part." Schiller also hints at changes in NPR's business model: "We ask our listeners to contribute, and about 10 percent of them do, pretty consistently. That said, on a B2B level, this could change. Our stations don’t pay for our Web programming right now, but that could change. They get it free with the radio license fees they already pay." What role do stations have in this new paradigm? To produce local and state coverage that NPR itself can't provide, Schiller says. "We are commited to providing that coverage via local affiliates." Note: the live blog is not an official transcript.

Caution: Tweeting while eating ahead

The PBS Annual Meeting in Austin earlier this month may be over, but it continues to generate vital news: KQED is announcing winners of its Seussical Twitter rhyming contest that took place at the breakfast launch for The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That (KQED image above, dig those striped parfaits!). The grand prize, a complete, 40-plus volume set of Dr. Seuss books, went to Mary Ann Dillon, Ready to Learn coordinator at PBS Eight/KAET in Phoenix. Her Tweet:

A person's a person
No matter how small
And PBS kids
Are the smartest of all

Runners-up, who received books from "The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library," didn't quite hit the anapestic tetrameter rhythm exactly but managed to have fun. Here's a ditty from an obviously annoyed Holly Emig, program schedule manager of the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority:

PBS Kids and the Cat
Came to play
But I didn't win the Cat at my table
And someone must pay

But our favorite may just be this one from David Lowe, g.m. at KVIE in Sacramento, who diverted from writing about the new PBS show to focus on more pressing matters:

The Austin Hilton didn't hold
My board chair's reservation.

Thankfully it wasn't my fault
Or I'd have no job preservation.

Yovel Schwartz, Cat in the Hat project supervisor at KQED, told Current that the contest actually was announced in advance via several Twitter feeds and internal PBS sites and newsletters. The competition ran for nearly three weeks but most participation was at the breakfast, which was attended by around 800 persons. "Three of our winners were just regular moms that were following the PBS Parents Twitter feed when the contest was announced and decided to participate," Schwartz noted.

Ready to Compete Act would add to Ready to Learn program

Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky has introduced H.R. 5477, the Ready To Compete Act, that would fund pubTV's Ready to Learn and Ready to Teach (which encompasses PBS's popular TeacherLine). It also adds two new programs: Ready to Achieve, a national, on-demand digital media service that would allow pubTV stations to share content in a central location; and Ready to Earn, to support educational digital content and services for adults, including GED preparation and workforce training. In a statement, Lonna Thompson, interim president and CEO of the Association for Public Television Stations, said, "Education has been, and continues to be, at the core of the mission of public television. Local public television stations, which are some of the last locally owned and operated media outlets in this country, will now have an opportunity to expand upon this mission."

iPhone users push back on TAL's push for donations

In its latest experiment with soliciting text donations, This American Life used the push notification system on its iPhone app to ask listeners to support the show. The response from tech savvy readers of Ars Technica was not positive. "The pushed message for donations felt a bit off-putting," the online technology journal reported last week. "Getting a donation pitch during or after a show is expected. A random notification pushed to your phone isn't." Sixty readers commented on the article, including Seth Lind, TAL production manager, who apologized for the annoying iPhone message. "We're all learning how to use this stuff!"

The push notification was a way around Apple's prohibition on using software applications to solicit charitable donations, but it wasn't an effective way to ask for text gifts, Lind told Current. "The push notification looks like a text message, but when you unlock the iPhone, the message is lost. It's not very effective at all." The notification was created for TAL's biannual fundraising campaign, now in its third week. Most of the donations are coming in through the TAL website, but 21 percent are text gifts of $10, Lind said. TAL's first campaign for mobile gifts of $5 raised nearly $143,000.

Smiley terrorism comments prompt letters to PBS ombudsman

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler takes on comments on Tavis Smiley's show that have created a bit of a buzz in the conservative blogosphere. In his May 25 program Smiley interviewed Avaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch parliament. Ali said that radicalized Islamist terrorists "got into their minds that to kill other people is a great thing to do and that they would be rewarded in the hereafter." Smiley replied, "But Christians do that every single day in this country." Ali: "Do they blow people up?" Smiley: "Yes. Oh, Christians, every day, people walk into post offices, they walk into schools, that's what Columbine is — I could do this all day long." But as Getler points out, the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado had nothing to do with Christianity. Smiley issued a statement saying in part that he and Ali "agreed that people have always found ways to use religion to justify heinous acts. Where we disagreed was that followers of any one religion are predisposed to violence. Unfortunately, history has shown us that believers of all stripes have been misguided. As a follower of that first-century Palestinian Jew named Jesus, I abhor violence in the name of religion. It is intolerable under any circumstances."

FTC paper advises increase in pubcasting funds as part of "reinvention of journalism"

A draft copy of a Federal Trade Commission paper on bolstering journalism includes recommendations to spend more money on CPB, and establish a commercial broadcast spectrum auction tax going toward pubmedia. The paper, "Potential Policy Recommendations to Support the Reinvention of Journalism" (PDF), is not an official document, rather a draft for discussion at the third and final FTC workshop on news coverage on June 15. It advises boosting funding for CPB, noting that its 2009 federal budget allotment was $409 million, while per capita spending on pubcasting in Finland and Denmark is 75 times that figure. It offers up an idea for a spectrum auction tax on commercial stations, with proceeds going to a pubmedia fund. Or how about allowing taxpayers to direct part of their taxes, maybe up to $200, to a specific media institution? The L.A. Times' political blog Top of the Ticket weighs in here.

Public radio people on the move

Liane Hansen, host of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday since 1989, plans to leave the program next May. She'll be visiting public radio stations over the next year while other NPR journalists take turns behind the mic. "It's not you, it's me," she said in a letter to listeners broadcast on Sunday. "I've made the personal decision to move to where I have always wanted to live — by the ocean." Hansen will continue working for NPR as a freelancer once her contract as WESUN host expires. In other people news, former NPR correspondent Kim Masters will join the Hollywood Reporter as editor-at-large. She'll continue to host The Business, KCRW's weekly show about show business. And, NPR has tapped Brian Mann of North Country Public Radio to join its team covering the Gulf Coast oil spill. Mann began his career covering the Alaskan oil industry and the Exxon Valdez spill. His NPR assignment begins June 6.

Bowling Green's WKYU first pubstation to go green with LED lighting

WKYU in Bowling Green, Ky., said in a statement today that it is the first PBS affiliate in the country to use a revolutionary light emitting diode (LED) lighting system, which will reduce energy consumption by 97 percent. The equipment is so new -- manufacturing began in 2009 -- that one commercial station is the only other TV facility using it. WKYU's old lights were around 40 years old and "regularly malfunctioned," according to the station. Those were incandescent tungsten, manufactured in the 1960s and '70s, with specialized bulbs expensive to replace. "The control panel looked like a huge old telephone switchboard, with knobs on retractable cords that plugged into a patch panel above," the station noted. The total rebuild included a new lighting grid, all new electrical cabling, and computerized lighting control system for $150,000, funded by licensee Western Kentucky University. Above, all 60 of the new LED lights use less power than two of the incandescent lights at the center. (Image: Clinton Lewis, WKYU)