Sep 22, 2010

Television tower free-climb video generates talk among broadcast engineers

A seven-minute video of a free-climbing tower technician "has the broadcast engineering community abuzz," says the TV Broadcast website. Free climbing "meaning no safety lines are used,” the narrator says. “It’s easier, faster, and most tower workers climb this way. . . . Free climbing is dangerous, of course, but OSHA rules do allow for it." But a source in the story says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration does not consider free climbing an acceptable technique. In the video, an engineer takes an elevator to 1,600 feet, then free climbs the rest of the way to the top of the 1,768-foot TV tower. It was shot from a camera attached to his helmut. The engineer is not identified. Pubcasting engineers may recall Leo Deters, an industry veteran who worked for Iowa Public Television, whose 2006 death in a fall from a station tower is mentioned in the story.

Heat continues on university official who canceled TPT airing of agriculture doc

University of Minnesota Vice President Karen Himle, who pulled the plug on a documentary that was to run on Twin Cities Public Television in October, is being asked to resign by a sustainable agriculture advocacy organization, according to the local Star-Tribune. Himle canceled the broadcast of "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story," which was produced by the university. The paper reported that Himle is married to John Himle, c.e.o. of Himle Horner Inc., a PR firm that represents the Minnesota Agri-Growth Council, an agribusiness advocacy association; he denied any role in the cancellation. The Land Stewardship Project is calling for her to step down. Himle has not spoken to the press but said through a university spokesperson that she made the decision after hearing concerns from faculty members about the science behind the film, which deals in part with agricultural pollution. University President Robert Bruininks issued a statement supporting Himle.

KET head bows out of Birthright fundraiser

Shae Hopkins, executive director of Kentucky Educational Television, has dropped out of a fundraiser for Birthright of Lexington, which provides assistance to women with unplanned pregnancies, reports the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Unfortunately, a normal vetting process of this event was not taken," KET spokesperson Tim Bischoff told the newspaper in a statement. "Although Birthright International has a philosophy of avoiding direct involvement in political advocacy, after further consideration and out of concern that her participation could lead to the perception that she and/or KET are endorsing a particular cause, Ms. Hopkins has decided not to participate." Hopkins was scheduled to be a celebrity auctioneer for the nonprofit's Bid & Buy 2010 event on Nov. 6.

What are the odds?

It's a good thing Ken Burns brought his glove to the Orioles-Red Sox game in Boston on Tuesday (Sept. 21). Yup, he snagged a foul ball. Burns is on one of his amazingly energetic promotional tours (Current, Oct. 13, 2009) for his latest PBS doc, Tenth Inning, which airs Sept. 28 and 29.

Local flavors to new pubradio shows on KPCC, Public Radio Delmarva

"I want this show to always have one piece in it where someone listens to it and says, 'You know what I heard on the radio today?' and talks about it at the dinner table," Madeleine Brand says in a Los Angeles Times feature on the Sept. 20 debut of her new morning show for KPCC in Pasadena. "Intellectually stimulated and delighted at the same time," she says. "My goal is for it not to be reheated broccoli." The Madeleine Brand Show airs weekday mornings at 9 a.m. -- the same timeslot as Day to Day, the NPR newsmagazine that Brand cohosted until its cancellation last year. "The point of view is now unapologetically a Southern California point of view," KPCC Program Director Craig Curtis tells the Times.

Meanwhile, a pubradio outlet on the opposite coast just launched two new weekly programs. Public Radio Delmarva, which is competing against two distant pubradio stations that recently added stations on Maryland's Eastern shore, today debuted a show helmed by Marc Steiner, founder and former host of Baltimore's WYPR, On Delmarva. Last weekend the saucy Saturday broadcast 2 Boomer Babes, which pubradio "program doctor" Jim Russell had a hand in developing, began its run. 2 Boomer Babes previously aired on a commercial station.

KCET and WETA present awards on Cap Hill to child-care providers

Seventeen child-care providers were honored on Capitol Hill yesterday (Sept. 21) in ceremonies sponsored by KCET and WETA. It's the third such outreach event for KCET's A Place of Our Own and Los Ninos en Su Casa. Members of Congress helped present the awards, and PBS President Paula Kerger spoke. The child-care providers previously were selected as "Caregivers of the Week" by their local pubcasting stations.

New social media outlet for NPR

NPR's social media team launched the NPR Tumblr, a short-form blog that will feature photos and quotes that play to the strengths of the blogging platform. Tumblr launched in 2007 and has more than 8 million users; it's distinguished by its visual appeal and the ease with which users can post and share photos, text, links, music and video. In today's first post, featuring an arresting image of a monarch butterfly, NPR's Andy Carvin cites Fresh Air's Tumblr as the inspiration for the network's foray onto tumblelogging. In July, NPR hit a major social media milestone when its Facebook page surpassed one million fans.

Two major pubTV stations among 11 broadcasters protesting content use by ivi

WNET, WGBH and nine other broadcasters are signatories to several cease and desist letters to the Seattle startup ivi, which is selling Internet access to their live TV signals. And ivi has responded by filing a Complaint for Declaratory Judgment of Copyright Noninfringement (PDF) in U.S. District Court in Seattle on Monday (Sept. 20), in what it calls "a preemptive move to discourage needless litigation from big media." All that then prompted the National Association of Broadcasters to issue a strongly worded statement Tuesday (Sept. 21). "It is blatantly illegal to steal broadcasters' copyrighted works and signals," said NAB Executive Vice President Dennis Wharton. "We strongly support broadcasters and their program suppliers in their efforts to combat copyright abuse and signal piracy."

The controversial company captures and encodes live television signals then routes the encrypted signals through an app to be viewed by consumers via a Windows, Macintosh or Linux computer. Mobile devices, tablets, and set-top-box integration are coming soon, according to ivi's website -- which includes the promo line, "Watch the Berenstain Bears on PBS!"

In addition to WNET and WGBH, broadcasters that sent letters of protest to ivi and are named as defendants in ivi's suit are: NBC-Universal, CBS, Disney, ABC, The CW Television Stations, Inc., Fox Television, Major League Baseball, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, and Fisher Communications.

A spokesman for ivi declined to tell Current if it has yet paid WGBH and WNET for content, and if so how much and when and how the payments were made. "Payments will be made in accordance with law," Hal Bringman said. He also declined to say how many users ivi currently has. The service launched Sept. 13.

UPDATE: WGBH has provided Current with this statement: "WGBH’s position is that unauthorized commercial exploitation of our copyrighted material, and the creative and financial resources that went into their production, is illegal. WGBH is working closely with WNET on this issue to protect public television programming assets."