Jun 21, 2010

Washington State burg to get first locally produced pubradio station

A think tank in tiny Hoquiam, Wash., about 70 miles west of Olympia, has received a license from the FCC to create a pubradio station at 91.5 FM. The Grays Harbor Institute provides lectures, seminars and workshops on various issues including poverty, racism, education and the environment; past speakers have included activist Angela Davis and Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D). Now it is the licensee for KGHI, according to the Daily World in Aberdeen, Wash. The paper says that station supporters hope to program "news sources, speakers and syndicated programming with radio of a purely local flavor, along with a free-form song format weighted toward classical music." But first, they need some infrastructure. A "raise the tower" fundraiser takes place on July 14 — folk singer Woody Guthrie's birthday.

El Paso PBS station gets interim general manager

With the departure of g.m. Craig Brush earlier this month from PBS affiliate KCOS in El Paso, Texas, retired TV exec Dan Krieger has taken the helm, according to the El Paso Inc. website. “How long will I be here? I don’t know,” Krieger said. “I expect four to six months. If I fall in love with it, I’ll stay. But I really like my previous life.” He's a businessman who retired nearly a decade ago as g.m. of local CBS affiliate KDBC. Tanny Berg, KCOS board chairman, said Brush’s departure was amicable. “Mr. Brush has decided to resign to explore different avenues to use the talent he has in a different vein,” Berg said. “He has been a great asset for the time he’d been there, which was about 12 years. General managers usually only last five years.” The station, a community-owned nonprofit, operates on a $1.5-million annual budget with nearly $500,000 to be raised locally.

New program delivery technology now in beta testing, after holdups

PBS's Next Generation Interconnection System-Non-Real-Time Program File Delivery Project (NGIS-NRT) is back on track, after challenges including federal funding snags, a management change and technology issues, reports Broadcasting & Cable. The project is working to deliver programming as compressed digital files. "Catch servers" are now in place at 15 stations. Each server has 12 terabytes of storage for about 10 days of content. Files are encoded using MPEG-2 at high-quality mezzanine compression rates-33 megabits per second (Mbps) for HD video and associated audio, and 13 Mbps for standard-def video and audio. If beta testing is done by the fall, rollout to stations could begin by the end of the year.

This is the second phase of a federally funded, 10-year, $120 million initiative to overhaul the transmission infrastructure that PBS, American Public Television and the National Educational Telecommunications Association use to deliver about 200 hours of content to stations weekly. The first phase of NGIS replaced satellite receivers and shifted linear feeds to a new SES satellite (AMC-21), which was done in 2008.

There've been complications along the way to beta testing. The NRT project was put on hold in 2006, after Congress balked on around $35 million in funding. PBS engineer Ed Caleca also departed that fall (here's his 2005 commentary on the project), and was replaced by current CTO John McCoskey. The process of ratifying AS-03, PBS' implementation of the Material Exchange Format (MXF) networking specification that would be used in the NRT system also took longer than expected.

For background, see the story in Current, Aug. 29, 2005.

KQED producer blogs her Arctic journey

Gretchen Weber, associate producer for Climate Watch on KQED in San Francisco, is spending two weeks at Toolik Field Station, an Arctic climate change research station, as a Logan Polar Science Fellow. Follow her adventures -- including breakfasts of reindeer sausage -- on her KQED blog.

Lack of vision hinders bringing in new pubTV viewers, experts tell paper

Crain's Chicago Business today (June 21) takes a look into both WTTW's current money woes and pubTV's future plans. The Chicago PBS affiliate endured recent staff reductions of 12 percent. Viewership has fallen almost every year since 2005, the paper says. Member, sponsor and government revenues are all down. "The Chicago PBS outlet faces a more fundamental problem, however: attracting viewers in a digital era that's bombarding them with options," the paper notes. Lawrence Grossman, PBS president from 1976 to '84 and now on the Connecticut PBS network board, provided big-picture analysis, saying that pubTV "is not going to survive unless it reevaluates where it's going." Former WTTW producer Frank Liebert commented, "Many of the stations in the system have chief executives who've been there way too long, and often that lack of vision is a significant problem to the PBS station's survival."