Jun 10, 2010

Sylvia Strobel, attorney and former pubcaster, heads association of access centers, ACM

Sylvia Strobel, president of the Pennsylvania Public Television Network until it was dismembered in state budget cuts recently, has been named executive director of the Alliance for Community Media, the national association of cable access centers, starting Aug. 1. Strobel is chair of the American Women in Radio and Television and recently served as its acting president. She held executive roles with Twin Cities Public Television and CPB and has been a senior partner in the entertainment law firm Lehmann Strobel PLC, now based in Lancaster, Pa.

Foundations withdraw their option on WDUQ

The Pittsburgh foundations that bought a 60-day option on the sale of WDUQ last month have withdrawn their nascent bid for the public radio station. The group sought to recast the NPR News and jazz station as a public media news service for the Pittsburgh region, but recently decided that there wasn't enough time to complete its analysis and solicit community feedback before the July 2 deadline. The Heinz Endowments, one of four community foundations involved in the planning, announced the decision yesterday.

Duquesne University wants at least $10 million for WDUQ, the city's most-listened-to public radio outlet. It's unclear whether any bidders are willing to pay that amount. Public Radio Capital, which is representing the community-based group that wants to preserve WDUQ's existing service, has said the university's asking price is way too high.

On a blog soliciting community feedback on the future of WDUQ and elsewhere, supporters of WDUQ's music programming have been questioning whether the foundations "get" the significance of jazz in the city's cultural life and heritage. "Public radio should be about preserving the regional character of the markets it serves," writes Peter King, a Pittsburgh musician and music writer, in a letter to Current. "The rush to copy successful formats in other cities is depressingly reminiscent of the herd mentality that has made commercial radio so homogenous."

Foundation leaders may still play a role in determining WDUQ's future, judging by their statements: "[W]hile the option has been withdrawn, the foundation has not backed away from its interest in saving WDUQ as a vital public radio resource serving the broad Pittsburgh community," wrote Grant Oliphant, president of the Pittsburgh Foundation, on the foundation's website. "Our view has not changed that WDUQ is a critical part of Pittsburgh’s media landscape."

"We're pulling out of the option, but we're not giving up our interest and support for a quality public radio station that delivers the NPR programming and what we would hope would be enhanced news and information that the community could really respond to," Doug Root, spokesman for the Heinz Endowments, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Bridget Fare, spokeswoman for Duquesne, said the university will return half of the $50,000 the foundations paid for the option. "We still do not plan on acting on any proposal before July 2," she told the Post-Gazette.

PBS Kids Go! writing contest judges includes hit kids' book authors

R.L. Stine, author of the hit children's book series Goosebumps, is among the judges for the PBS Kids Go! Writers Contest -- which has already generated 25,000 entries from 87 stations nationwide, according to PBS. The contest, co-sponsored by WNED-TV Buffalo/Toronto, encourages children from kindergarten through third grade to create illustrated stories. Also on the 14-judge panel is six-time Emmy winner Marc Brown, creator of the character Arthur of book and PBS program fame; Ann M. Martin, author of the mega-hit series The Baby-sitters Club; and Jorge Cauz, president of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Winners will be announced in July.

ABC News veteran signs on as NewsHour political editor

Longtime ABC News Political Director David Chalian joins the PBS NewsHour on July 6, the show announced today. As its political editor, Chalian will direct the NewsHour’s political coverage across all platforms and manage the editorial content from the NewsHour’s congressional, White House, and Supreme Court beats. He will also serve as an on-camera political analyst and will appear in regular political webcasts on the Online NewsHour, as well as develop original digital political content.

West Virginia pubcasting audit reveals issues with its relationship with nonprofs

An audit of the Educational Broadcasting Authority in West Virginia (PDF) released to state legislators Wednesday (June 9) concludes that by operating two supporting nonprofits with separate bank accounts it may not be following state requirements, reports the Charleston Gazette. Among the findings: That EBA employees do not have the authority to fundraise and provide administrative support for Friends of West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Public Broadcasting Foundation (both those groups have no employees). And while the EBA may receive donations, its employees cannot solicit donations on state time. Auditors put forth a series of recommendations, including that the two nonprofits "operate as complete and separate entities" with different missions and finances "to protect the financial rights of the state and persons affected by the agency's activities." In its response, EBA said seeking an opinion from the West Virginia Ethics Commission on the issue of its employees supporting the two entities, and that its board passed a resolution earlier this month turning over control of underwriting funds to the state.