Dec 6, 2010

Reality TV isn't, proclaims Ken Burns

PBS documentarian Ken Burns has some strong opinions about reality television — and all are negative. In an interview for a Kansas City Star series on the subject, he tells TV critic Aaron Barnhart: "The nomenclature is what’s infuriating to me. This is not reality. Nobody proposes or dates or checks people out in front of millions of people. The notion that this is reality is beyond the pale. What it does is just become a vehicle for the same shallow consumerist mentality that is driving our country into the dirt."

Burns continues: "There is an aspect of voyeurism that is interesting, but what we’ve done — and it’s the definition of decadence — each generation of reality shows has to up the ante. So now we’re watching the Kardashians get bikini waxes with the appropriately fuzzed-out areas. What does this say to our children when we’re falling behind in math and science?"

Barnhart identifies Burns as "filmmaking legend and reality hater."

The Economist and PBS NewsHour soon to join for doc project

PBS NewsHour is partnering with The Economist to run docs on subjects that the magazine covers, including politics, health, technology, religion and government. Starting in January, "The Economist Film Project" will accept films for review. Segments will air on NewsHour and the project's website through 2012.

CPB soon will assist station mobile DTV efforts

Broadcasting & Cable is reporting that CPB is close to announcing an initiative to help stations fund the cost of deploying mobile DTV. CPB issued an RFP for a Mobile/Handheld Digital Television Program in July. Jay Adrick, broadcast technology v.p. at Harris Corp., a major broadcast equipment manufacturer, told the mag that stations can launch basic MDTV services for around $130,000 to $160,000 a year.

Former APTS president's wedding gets write-up in New York Times

The recent nuptials of Larry Sidman, former president of the Association of Public Television Stations, and his bride Jana Singer were featured in Friday's (Dec. 3) New York Times. She is a law professor at University of Maryland. Their first date, after meeting at a dinner party in March 2009: “I asked her to go for a walk around the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms,” Sidman said. Less than a year later, he proposed while the two were vacationing in California.

Whither college radio? Not without a fight

Add Vanderbilt University's WRVU to the list of student-operated radio stations that may be offered for sale to the highest bidder. Vanderbilt Student Communications, license holder of the 10,000-watt underground music station broadcasting on 91.1 FM, is exploring whether to sell WRVU and use the proceeds to establish an endowment supporting "innovative student media experiences . . . in perpetuity."

Unlike the pending license transfer of Houston's KTRU, the Rice University station that's to be converted into classical music pubradio outlet by aspiring owner KUHF, the proposal for WRVU is a trial balloon, according to the New York Times. The Times reports that as financially strained universities increasingly question the viability and value of their campus radio stations, advocates for student-operated outlets such as KTRU and WRVU have organized and mounted vigorous protests.

Friends of KTRU, for example, retained the Paul Hastings law firm and petitioned the FCC to reject the sale of their 50,000-watt station. “Rice University and [KUHF licensee] the University of Houston System used underhanded techniques in this attempt to sell KTRU’s FM license, which was student-created and has been maintained by four decades of hard-working student volunteers,” said Joey Yang, KTRU station manager, in a Dec. 3 news release. “With this Petition to Deny, we hope to stop them and return KTRU-FM to its rightful owners: the students.”

KVCR-TV might not survive immediate CPB funding cut, station president says

"Halt to federal funding could doom KVCR-TV" reads a headline in today's (Dec. 6) Sun newspaper in San Bernadino, Calif. With Republicans ramping up the fight to annihilate CPB funding, the local station is concerned: More than 13 percent of its $6 million operating budget comes from the corporation.

“We’d end up having to cut the budget significantly,” Larry Ciecalone, president of KVCR, told the paper. “I’m not really sure we could sustain an instant cut. If we were to wean us from that over a period of four to five years, it’s doable. It’s just not doable immediately.” But that immediate cut is what some Republican lawmakers, including California Rep. Jerry Lewis, want. He is in the running for chair of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. (Ironically, Lewis was instrumental in securing a critical earmark for KVCR's digital transition: Current, Feb. 11, 2002.)

“We’ve always had battles with Congress over this stuff,” Ciecalone said. “But it’s probably a more serious threat than it’s ever been in that Republicans do have the votes to make it happen.”

The station recently announced a partnership with the San Manuel Band of Serrano Mission Indians, which pledged $6 million over three years to help KVCR develop the first national TV channel about Native Americans (Current, July 10). It's expected to launch in spring 2011.

Interim president appointed new head of KMBH in Harlingen, Texas

John Ross is the new president of television and radio operations at KMBH in Harlingen, Texas, which has been mired in controversy for several years (Current, March 16, 2009). Ross has been general manager since April 12 when its former president, Monsignor Pedro BriseƱo, was reassigned to full-time parish work by the station's owner, the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville. Ross has been with the station 16 years.

Dear Apple: Please stop being such a Scrooge

Public Radio Exchange, a leading developer of iPhone applications for public radio stations and programs, is promoting an online petition that asks Apple to change its policy barring charitable giving on the iPhone. "Apple is a leader when it comes to producing life-changing innovations, but at the moment, the company is also making it harder to do good in the world," the petition, addressed to Apple CEO Steve Jobs, states. As of this morning, the petition has garnered more than 1,150 signatures. PRX Project Director Rekha Murthy compiled a round-up of blog links on Apple's ban on nonprofit gifting.