Jul 31, 2011

PBS starting up PBS UK channel in Great Britain

PBS is launching a digital channel in Great Britain, the New York Times is reporting. The channel, which will run on satellite and cable, will feature "older and current PBS programs for which it is able to secure the rights," the newspaper said.

A PBS spokesperson had confirmed the deal to the British media news website Broadcast in April. Also that month the UK search firm Robert Lindsay Associates reported placing Richard Kingsbury, the former head of two channels owned by Britain’s UKTV, as g.m. of the new channel, PBS UK.

PBSd, a joint venture of PBS and WGBH that sells PBS programs to home video, foreign and commercial markets, is heading up the work. PBS officials declined to discuss specifics, saying that plans have not been finalized.

Financial backing for PBS UK is coming from W. David Lyons, chairman and chief executive of the Orca Exploration Group, which operates a Tanzanian natural gas field, according to the newspaper.

Masterpiece welcomes new national sponsor as its Trust hits $850,000

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — After seven years, Masterpiece has a new national corporate sponsor. The 40-year-old anthology drama series on Sunday (July 31) announced the support of Viking River Cruises, a luxury cruise company with international itineraries. “It’s a marriage made in heaven,” Rebecca Eaton, e.p. of the WGBH series, told reporters at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. The arrangement begins later this year; Eaton declined to provide the specific dollar amount. The investment firm Franklin Templeton, longtime supporter of Nightly Business Report, also is underwriting Masterpiece from May through September.

Eaton also told TV critics that the Masterpiece Trust, established in January with a goal of $1 million, is at “$850,000 and counting.” Even a higher power is chipping in, she noted, calling the 43 percent ratings increase over last year “a gift from God.”

Eaton said the three Masterpiece dramas with the highest ratings this year — Downton Abbey, Sherlock and Upstairs, Downstairs — will get more episodes. And Masterpiece soon will co-produce, with Britain's Mammoth Screen, a prequel to the popular Inspector Morse series titled Endeavor, which will follow the inspector as a young man. The series star will be announced Wednesday in the United Kingdom.

In other news Sunday, it was no surprise that notoriously press-shy director Woody Allen didn't show up for the American Masters session on its two-part series showcasing his career. The real surprise was that he actually agreed to participate in the project.

Filmmaker Robert Weide (right) estimated it took him three tries and 25 years for Allen to give his consent. Even then, Weide said, it was no slam dunk. “I pitched it as a possible American Masters program and that appealed to him,” he said. "He said, 'If we can do it for American Masters, OK, but don't be shopping it around.'"

Allen trusted him, Weide said, because he had interviewed the comedian/actor/writer/director for other documentaries, and the two shared a mutual love of the Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields and Mort Sahl.

The program, Seriously Funny: The Comic Art of Woody Allen, scheduled for Nov. 20 and 21, was put together from about a half dozen sit-down interviews, a week on a set of one of Allen’s movies, a trip to the Cannes Film Festival, a visit to Allen’s home and an impromptu tour of the neighborhood in Brooklyn where Allen grew up.

And in the final PBS session of the summer press tour, Prohibition filmmaker Ken Burns was asked if there were lessons to be learned today from that chapter of history. Specifically, would America be better off if drugs in general, and marijuana in particular, was decriminalized and regulated?

"It's not quite a direct correlation," Burns replied. The use of alcohol is far more universal than the use of marijuana, he said. "Alcohol has been around in almost all cultures. Drugs seem to be tribal events."

In the case of Prohibition, the solution to a problem that involved perhaps 10 percent of the population was imposed on the entire population. With decriminalization, the entire population would be given new freedom to use a mood-altering substance that is problematic for some. "There may be a whole passel of unintended consequences," Burns cautioned.

His highly anticipated six-hour series is scheduled for Oct. 2-4. (Images: PBS) — Barry Garron for Current

Jane Lynch turns supervillain for upcoming WordGirl movie

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Jane Lynch, the villainous cheerleader coach on Fox's Glee, will have a guest-star as an animated supervillain on a movie-length episode of WordGirl, PBS’s vocabulary-building kids series. Lesli Rotenberg, PBS s.v.p., children's media and brand management (above), announced Sunday (July 31) that Lynch will supply the voice of a character who uses mean words as secret weapons in an episode to air next year, aimed at helping kids deal with verbal bullying.

Other PBS Kids news during the annual summer Television Critics Association press tour:

Sesame Street, entering its 42nd season this fall, will include parodies of the Iron Chef cooking show and Glee. In addition, Elvis Costello will perform a duet with Elmo, “Ate My Red 2.”

The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, introduced last fall, is tied with longtime fave Curious George as the second-most watched kids show on PBS. Both have a 4.8 Nielsen rating with children between the ages of 2 and 5.

Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who plays Elmo on Sesame Street, said the popular puppet is based on his parents. “It’s my mom’s spunkiness and militancy, and it’s my dad’s creativity and sweetness,” said Clash (right, with his pal) during a session on the documentary “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,” scheduled on Independent Lens this fall.

Starting this summer, the top four PBS kids shows each will be showcased with a quarterly pop-out event. Dinosaur Train will be featured this summer, Curious George in the fall, Cat in the Hat during the winter and Super Why! next spring. (Images: PBS) — Barry Garron for Current

At TCA press tour, 'House' extols jazz; first new series from Fred Rogers Co. coming

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — TV's Dr. Gregory House will reveal a little-known specialty this fall: a talent for singing and playing jazz piano. Hugh Laurie (right), famous for playing the cranky doctor on the hit Fox show House, told journalists Saturday (July 30) at the Television Critics Association summer press tour that he doesn't consider himself the equal of the best jazz musicians in New Orleans, but he wasn't about to pass up the chance to tape an episode and cut an accompanying CD for Great Performances. The show, "Hugh Laurie: Let Them Talk — A Celebration of New Orleans Blues," is scheduled for Sept. 30.

An opportunity like this "is not going to come my way again," Laurie told critics. "I will either say to my grandchildren, 'I could have made a record,' or I can say, 'here it is,' and they'll say, 'this is the worst thing I've ever heard.'" Nonetheless, as Laurie noted, "this is a diem I had to carpe."

Laurie said he sifted through "hundreds or thousands" of songs before deciding on what to perform, each chosen because it was different from the others. Speaking more as a musician than a physician, he said, "the whole project is really close to my heart." — Barry Garron for Current

Also on Saturday:

After six years in development, the new show from Fred Rogers' production company has finally been announced, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The animated Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood will be the Fred Rogers Company's first PBS offering since its iconic Mister Rogers Neighborhood. “This show is meant to target boys and girls who are 3 or 4 and be of interest to children between 2 and 5, so the focus is much more narrow than the Mister Rogers focus,” Kevin Morrison, Fred Rogers Co. c.e.o., told the paper. Meanwhile, Linda Simensky, v.p. of PBS children’s programming, said stations will continue to receive the original Mister Rogers "for the time being. It’s hard for me to say how long. It’s up to them how long they want to keep feeding the show.”

The 1950s are often considered the Golden Age of television but Phil Rosenthal (left), creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, doesn’t agree. “There was never a Golden Age,” he said during a PBS press conference for America in Primetime, a four-part series on the creative process that brings characters to the small screen, which premieres Oct. 30. “There was lots and lots of crap with a few good things.”

Rosenthal used the Q-and-A session to ridicule network interference, scold executive decisions and condemn the large number of reality programs. He recalled receiving a note after eight successful seasons of Raymond suggesting that Debra, the character played by Patricia Heaton, was too shrill. It was duly ignored.

As for reality shows, Rosenthal said, their proliferation could mean “something larger than a trend. It could signal the end of civilization.” — Garron

A Central Park concert by internationally acclaimed tenor Andrea Bocelli will be the finale of the PBS Fall Arts Festival, PBS President Paula Kerger revealed. The September performance, free to the public, will be recorded in high definition to cap the network's first arts celebration later this year (Current, July 11). (Images: PBS)

Jul 30, 2011

Interim g.m. of former PBS station WDSC announces resignation

The interim general manager of Daytona State College's WDSC-TV, which recently dropped PBS membership, is resigning in September. “I believe the television station is a critical component of Daytona State College and its future,” said Bob Williams in a statement, “and I believe it is important for the college to find the best person possible to lead WDSC in this new and important role.” WDSC’s Director of Educational Services Andrew Chalanick will oversee daily station operations until a permanent general manager is hired.

Internal programming break research continuing, Kerger tells press tour

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — More than two months after raising the prospect of primetime promotional breaks within programs, PBS is still studying the idea. PBS President Paula Kerger said Saturday (July 30) at the annual Television Critics Association press tour that viewer testing is ongoing at a Nielsen research facility in Las Vegas. Information from that research will be considered along with feedback from public stations, she said.

Proponents of the idea say the promotional breaks will give viewers more information about upcoming programs and allow the audience to from one program to the next, all without reducing the actual amount of program content. Opponents warn that such a move goes against the decades-old PBS tradition of not interrupting programs except during pledge periods.

PBS will benefit from knowing more about the preferences and expectations of viewers whether or not the new research leads to changes, Kerger said.

Earlier in the press conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Kerger reported that primetime viewership had increased more than 7 percent over the previous year and  viewing by children, ages 2 through 11, was up 23 percent. (Image: PBS) — Barry Garron for Current

Jul 29, 2011

Ombudsman asks: Is PBS overlooking major arts story?

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler has written an interesting column on PBS arts coverage. Namely, why PBS, with its rejuvenated focus on the arts, hasn't run any programming about "one of the biggest stories in the art world," the ongoing controversy over the famous Barnes collection of paintings moving from its original Philadelphia home to a modern facility away from the city's museum district. "Is the broader PBS silence in any way reflective of the fact that two powerful, institutional forces in Philadelphia — the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Annenberg Foundation, who were important advocates, fundraisers and financial backers supporting the move of the collection to Philadelphia — are also important financial contributors to various PBS offerings?"

Nonprofit Seattle PostGlobe, launched with KCTS assistance in 2009, is closing

The Seattle PostGlobe, which launched in 2009 as an early online nonprofit newspaper venture with help from public broadcasting station KCTS 9 in Seattle, is closing, it announced today (July 29). "Donations have fallen off. Ads have generated no meaningful revenue — ever," writes Sally Deneen, co-founder and curator. "We began with no startup money. We obtained no grants. All of which actually provided unusual freedom. But as a volunteer-run site, we’ve run out of helping hands as unemployed journalists have left for jobs. (Which is a good thing!) So this is our final month."

The news site was created after the March 2009 closing of the city's nearly 150-year-old Post-Intelligencer newspaper. KCTS President Moss Bresnahan initially offered workspace in the station to some 20 laid-off journalists (Current, March 30, 2009) and for a time the station was PostGlobe's nonprofit fiscal sponsor, allowing KCTS donors to earmark money for the PostGlobe. The PostGlobe site also ran content KCTS created with InvestigateWest, another newsgathering operation started by former P-I journalists.

As Deneen says, "It’s been an eventful two years – sometimes fun, sometimes a mountain of work, but always worthwhile."

In WJMF takeover, WGBH shows how to make friends in college radio

Among the student-operated college stations to be converted into mainstream public radio FMs this year, the hand-over of Bryant University's WJMF to WGBH's 90.5 All Classical differs in one major way: the complete absence of an organized protest by students, alumni and other station supporters, according to Radio Survivor.

After looking into the deal, reporter Jennifer Watts discovers one reason why the management agreement sparked so few protests: with a 225-watt signal, WJMF's student-programmed broadcast service was oriented to the Bryant campus, and the station never developed a strong following in the larger community of Smithfield, R.I. "An indication of this is the fact that WJMF is currently on 'auto pilot' over the summer while students are on break," she writes. "To me, a lack of live DJs for extended periods of a station’s program schedule indicates that a station isn’t using its FM airwaves to their fullest potential."

In addition, managers from WGBH in Boston went to great lengths to convince student managers that the operating agreement was in their best interests. Benjamin Roe, managing director of WGBH Classical services, tells Watts: "[W]e thought it was very important to actually be able to visit the student body and the students and have a discussion in person so that it wasn’t something that was kind of abstract, but really talking about what kind of relationship [we] could ensure between the school and with WGBH."

Jul 28, 2011

WNED acquires WBFO, two other stations, from University of Buffalo in $4 million deal

WNED is paying the University of Buffalo $4 million to operate WBFO-FM 88.7 and two other New York stations, the parties announced today (July 28). Talks have been ongoing for more than a year (Current, March 1, 2010). The stations, which also include WUBJ-FM 88.1 in Jamestown and WOLN-FM 91.3 in Olean, will retain their call letters and frequencies. Their signals reach large portions of western New York and southern Ontario, serving approximately 90,000 listeners weekly. The university will use the proceeds of the sale to provide student scholarships and support for faculty research, it said.

Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy holds first meeting on future of pubcasting

In the first of an ongoing series of discussions on the future public broadcasting, the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy (CCLP) convened executives, journalists, policymakers and others in Washington, D.C., this week, to focus on funding threats to the system. The wide-ranging conversation at the gathering, presented with participation of Current, touched on topics ranging from new ideas for centralized fundraising, to financial stress on local news coverage, to diversifying audiences. CCLP will organize future meetings "on public broadcasting, its mission, and its financial and public support," it said.

More than 35 participants included Pat Butler, c.e.o. of the Association of Public Television Stations; Vincent Curren, CPB c.o.o.; Caryn Mathes, g.m. of WAMU-FM; Andy Russell, s.v.p. of strategy, research and ventures for PBS; Craig Aaron, president of media reform advocate Free Press; Melinda Wittstock, c.e.o. of Capitol News Connection; George Rivera, exec producer of eHarlem TV; Maxie Jackson, president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters; Mark Lloyd, Federal Communications Commission office of general counsel; Kevin Klose, former NPR president; and Michele Salcedo, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Essential Public Media predicts big ratings boost by fall

Station leaders of the new Essential Public Media believe they can top the former WDUQ's best audience numbers — in fact, by quite a bit, they told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We think the potential is there, if not to double the listenership, then to go over 200,000 to 225,000 listeners per week," Lee Ferraro, general manager of new owner WYEP, said on Wednesday (July 27) during a meeting with newspaper reporters and editors. "It's not going to happen overnight. We hope to be there by fall." WDUQ averaged about 145,000 listeners per week over the past  months; its record was 180,000 listeners per week in 2009.

WYEP partnered with Public Radio Capital on the sale earlier this year (Current, Jan. 24) that generated controversy among the former jazz station's fan base. But much of the criticism over the format change to news has died down, said Marco Cardamone, board chairman of Essential Public Media and WYEP. "We've really turned the corner on a lot of public perception," Cardamone told the paper. "That feels good, given where we were three to four months ago."

Knight-Batten honor goes to NPR's Carvin for his "new form of journalism"

NPR's Tweeter extraordinaire Andy Carvin has won a Knight-Batten Award for having "pioneered a new form of journalism" during the recent Arab Spring uprising. "By using his Twitter account as a newsgathering operation, he has demonstrated how reporting can be done remotely and created a highly engaged community of more than 50,000 Twitter followers," said a release from J-Lab, which administers the honors funded by the Knight Foundation. (J-Lab and Current are both journalism centers at American University's School of Communication.) The Knight-Batten Awards recognize creative uses of technology to engage citizens in public issues and showcase compelling models for future newsgathering.

McCain criticizes Reid's debt-ceiling plan for including spectrum auction payments

A proposed auction of television spectrum has now become tangled up in the onerous ongoing debate over raising the debt ceiling, Broadcasting & Cable reports. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) took to the Senate floor Wednesday (July 27) to criticize the debt-ceiling plan of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for including payments to broadcasters as part of incentive auctions that could run into billions of dollars. "Television broadcasters got the spectrum for free," he said. "Now we're supposed to ask the taxpayers to give them a billion dollars to give back spectrum that they owe?" Although he corrected that word to own, "his original seemed to better capture the tenor of his criticisms," B&C notes.

Jul 26, 2011

Roadshow scores highest-ever appraisal

Public TV ratings fave Antiques Roadshow recorded its highest-value appraisal ever on July 23 in Tulsa, Okla. Asian arts expert Lark Mason estimated that a collection of five late 17th-century/early 18th-century Chinese carved rhinoceros horn cups was worth between $1 million and $1.5 million. The owner (above, facing camera), who wants to remain anonymous, was one of 6,000 ticket holders who brought items to the Tulsa Convention Center. He told Mason he began collecting the cups (below right) in the 1970s and had no idea of their value.

The second highest-value appraisal recorded by Roadshow was also Chinese: A collection of carved jade bowls, estimated to be worth as much as $1.07 million, was discovered at an appraisal event in 2009 in Raleigh, N.C. But the bowls sold at auction the next year for just under $495,000.

Tulsa was the fourth stop on Antiques Roadshow’s six-city 2011 production tour. The three episodes produced from the Tulsa event will air as part of its 16th season, from January to June 2012. (Images: Antiques Roadshow)

Jul 25, 2011

Juan Williams's account of his NPR ouster hits bookstores today

Fox News analyst Juan Williams is back in the news -- promoting his new book Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate, which tells his version of events that led to his abrupt dismissal as an NPR analyst last October.

Former NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard, whose tenure of as the listeners' representative at NPR coincided with a heavy volume of complaints about Williams's dual news analyst roles at Fox News and NPR, has written two pieces reacting to Muzzled, which hit booksellers' stands on July 26.

On, Shepard fact-checks Williams's one-sided account of his increasingly tenuous relationship with NPR brass. In the book, Williams plays the victim card by taking no responsibility for his gradually on-air diminished role, Shepard writes, but she agrees with his assertions that NPR selectively applied its ethics code to him.

In a Washington Post op-ed, Shepard pens an hopeful analysis of how NPR leadership responded to the controversy over Williams, and she recommends that Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation undertake a similarly painful self-examination to recover from the phone-hacking scandal.

But Shepard also takes issue with one of the central premises of Muzzled: that NPR's decision to immediately dismiss him as a news analyst exemplifies how political correctness and censorship are stifling civic discourse.

Williams "is being disingenuous in calling his contract termination a free-speech issue," Shepard asserts. "It was not because, as Williams writes, he 'did not fit their view of how a black person thinks.' It was a case of management snapping after years of warning him to be more careful. It was a fraught relationship that had outlived its usefulness, and NPR should have quietly let his contract expire rather than fire him over the phone."

Politico's July 21 feature on Muzzled gives an overview of Williams's experience at NPR, as well as his insights on the political orientation of Fox News. Reporter Keach Hagey asks the author, a veteran journalist in Washington, why he stayed with NPR so long if he was treated so badly. “I guess I was an abused kid,” Williams answered. “I just kept thinking they just made this mistake today, but it will get better.” NPR's Dana Davis Rehm responded to the piece in a letter to the editor published July 26.

In other advance promotion of Muzzled, Williams appears both on The Diane Rehm Show and O'Reilly Factor. And in an extended Q&A with National Review Online, he describes within NPR's newsroom an intolerance towards viewpoints of politically conservative African Americans. "They see any black conservative as a weirdo," he says.

PBS dishes up new food site

A preview version of the upcoming PBS Food website went online today (July 25), according to the PBS Station Products and Innovation blog. The site is aiming to "unite cooking shows, blogs and recipes from PBS and local stations across the country." First up are its two Fresh Tastes bloggers. Jenna Weber graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in 2008 and has worked as a pastry chef, bread baker and freelance food editor; she also blogs at Marc Matsumoto is a food blogger and photographer at websites and, whose worked has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today. This is the first phase of PBS Food's rollout, which will continue later this summer with the full launch.

Few pubradio licensees considering sales or mergers, survey finds

The vast majority of stations responding to the University Station Alliance's most recent economic survey reported that they're not likely to be sold or make changes in their governance structure this year.

Of 141 stations responding to USA's fourth annual survey, 88.4 percent indicated that station sales or other ownership changes were not under consideration. Only a handful of stations indicated that talks of consolidation (4 percent), local management agreements (4 percent) or frequency sales (5 percent) were in the works, according to the survey. It was conducted among public radio licensees earlier this summer; a few respondents also operate public TV stations.

Almost 40 percent of stations will be receiving less direct support from their educational licensees this year, but most (72 percent) said the funding cuts have not prompted changes in their programming or public service. Fifty-nine percent of station respondents said they expect to earn more revenues from audience support; 46 percent are projecting increased underwriting sales.

USA, an affinity group for stations owned by university licensees, has published summaries of the survey findings as PDF files on its homepage.

Jul 21, 2011

Pre-Baroque deejay Robert Aubry Davis to do show in ladies' housecoats

Robert Aubry Davis is not painfully shy. He does pledge breaks for Washington's WETA-TV, after all. For the winter holidays, local media report, Davis will follow in the large and dainty footsteps of Harvey Fierstein to perform the motherly role of Edna Turnblad in the Tony-Award-winning musical version of John Waters' "Hairspray," opening Nov. 21 at the highly touted Signature Theater, just down the street from WETA's headquarters in Arlington, Va. The late drag spectacle Divine originated the role in Waters' earlier movie. Davis, a longtime WETA-FM personality and now a deejay on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, also hosts and produces Millenium of Music, the program of pre-Baroque works syndicated to many pubradio stations and aired on Sirius XM and Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The production is scheduled to run through Jan. 29.

Jul 20, 2011

At 61, KCRW's Diana Nyad preparing for record-breaking swim

Marathon swimmer and KCRW commentator Diana Nyad, 61 years old, is getting ready to swim for 60 hours over 103 miles across the shark-infested Straits of Florida from Cuba to Key West. Nyad attempted this swim once before, unsuccessfully, in 1978 at the age of 28. “Physically, I am much stronger than I was before, although I was faster in my 20s,” Nyad tells the New York Times. "I feel strong, powerful, and endurance-wise, I’m fit.” Her plans to swim last summer were postponed due to visa difficulties.

Lights. Camera. Help. festival in Austin spotlights cause films

Here's a Q&A from KUT in Austin, Texas, with two of the creators of Lights. Camera. Help., who discuss the only festival for nonprofit and cause-driven films. "It’s just like a great day out watching any film at your local movie theater. Except all our films make you want to get up and kick some butt!," said co-founder David J. Neff. "All of our films have great call-to-actions that cause you to get up and do something about the issue you just watched. We like to call them light switches." Proceeds go to the three winning movies as well as Lights. Camera. Help.'s film classes. The third annual event hits Austin July 28-30.

Daily Show's Jon Stewart: Here's a real news media pile-on

In a retort to media critics who question news competitors' motives in devoting so much coverage to the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show takes a look at how Fox News pundits are downplaying the troubles of their parent corporation as a great big news media pile-on.

"Maybe your competitors are taking an unseemly amount of pleasure but perhaps...they don't have the ability to spot stories of real criminality of, let's say, NPR," Stewart says in introducing a clip reel of Fox News punditry on NPR's dismissal of news analyst Juan Williams.

NPR's Dana Davis Rehm recently responded to questions about NPR's motives in covering the scandal: “We’re making decisions about the coverage of the News Corp. story, as we do with all stories, based on its importance and news value,” Rehm told the Washington Post's Paul Farhi. “This is very big news with global impact, and we’re really proud of our coverage."

V-me Kids now available on former PBS member station WIPR in Puerto Rico

V-me Kids, V-me’s cable channel for Latino preschoolers, is now running on WIPR in Puerto Rico, which just dropped its membership to PBS in part over lack of Spanish-language children's shows (Current, July 12). V-me Kids, which targets children ages 2 to 6, is the exclusive carrier for Spanish versions of shows including Barney, Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina, and Thomas & Friends. "WIPR will add newly created interstitial programming in English to continue to introduce this young audience to learning in both languages; a key element of WIPR’s success," a V-me statement today (July 19) said.

Jul 19, 2011

Anonymous donors provide help to WHYY for NJN deal

At least two anonymous contributions are assisting WHYY in Philadelphia in its takeover of five FM stations from the NJN Network, reports Shore News Today. The expansion deal cost the station $926,000, which was donated by someone who requested anonymity "with good reason," said Bill Marrazzo, WHYY president. He said the station would have been willing to identify the donor during sale negotiations, but that was ultimately not necessary. Another donor, who also wanted to remain nameless, is giving WHYY funds to launch a market study in South Jersey to look at programming, branding and advertising. Marrazzo would only say it's a six-figure contribution. The marketing study is expected to last through the summer and into the fall.

WXEL-TV terminates three employees; potential owners to launch capital campaign

WXEL-TV in Boynton Beach, Fla., has laid off three staffers, station President Bernie Henneberg told the Palm Beach Post Monday (July 18). The station lost around $300,000 in May when Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $4.8 million lawmakers had included in the state's $69.7 billion budget for public television and radio stations. "We laid off three very valuable employees as a direct result of Gov. Scott zeroing out our Community Service Grant," Henneberg said in an email. "We simply have to make cuts in order to survive."

Henneberg's WXEL Public Broadcasting Corp. is hoping to buy the station for $700,000 from Barry University, which has owned it since 1997. University trustees gave the group exclusivity until Dec. 31 to make the deal. Henneberg said it needs to raise $1.5 million and is kicking off a capital campaign Aug. 1.

Public Media Chat leaders Tweet a fond farewell

The hosts of Monday night Public Media Chats, who have been conversing with the system in 140-character bursts since February 2010, signed off for the final time last night (July 18). "After well over a year (or has it been 2?) we feel that we have reached our initial goal — to get the #pubmedia community talking & sharing," they wrote. "All of your hosts love #pubmedia but due to personal, and professional obligations it's no longer feasible for us to host a weekly chat. Please continue to use the #pubmedia hashtag here, and be sure to join the Public Media Facebook group for further conversation. With much respect and adoration, farewell." Your hosts have been: Jonathan Coffman of PBS, Adam Schweigert of WOSU, Amy Wielunski of WSKG, online media strategist Amanda Hirsch and Annie Shreff of the WGBH Lab. Some discussions are archived here.

Jul 18, 2011

Flynn of MacNeil/Lehrer to join FORA

Rob Flynn, communications and marketing v.p. for MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, is departing after 11 years to accept a newly created position as sales and marketing v.p. with, a San Francisco-based digital media company. Flynn will open a Washington, D.C., office for FORA focusing on corporate sponsorships and content partnerships — "generally trying to grow the brand," he said in an email to colleagues. FORA (Latin plural of "forum") curates and distributes a massive video library of live events, lectures, and debates at universities, think tanks and conferences. It currently works with partners including the Aspen Institute, the New Yorker, the New York Times and the Economist. "As I move along, there is much I will miss about the NewsHour and about public television," Flynn said in the note. He'll be at PBS NewsHour for a few weeks more, and begins at FORA in early August. His experience prior to NewsHour includes marketing and communication positions at the Golf Channel, National Cable & Telecommunications Association and GE.

PBS Kids Go! gets $250,000 from Arthur Vining Davis Foundations

The PBS Foundation last week received a $250,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to support PBS Kids Go! interactive content. The grant will fund website expansions, game development, research and PBS station and producer support for, which includes a video player with more than 3,000 video clips from series such as Wild Kratts, Arthur and WordGirl and averages 4.8 million streams per month. Upcoming projects include new short-form episodes of web-originals such as Fizzy's Lunch Lab, customized user features and more content on new media platforms such as mobile devices and interactive white boards.

Half of nonprofit news start-ups produce biased coverage

A survey of the emerging field of nonprofit news organizations found that roughly half produced coverage that was ideological in nature. The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism examined 46 news sites covering national or state-level news. Ideological sites "tended to be funded mostly or entirely by one parent organization," which in some cases may have various contributors, and "they tended to be less transparent about who they are and where their funding comes from," according to the study's authors. Nonprofit news groups that collaborate with pubcasting news units, such as ProPublica, California Watch, and Texas Tribune, received high ratings for non-ideological coverage, transparency and productivity. Public broadcasting's start-up online news sites -- the seven regional Local Journalism Centers and NPR Argo Network blogs -- were not included in the survey.

Mexico undergoing massive pubcasting expansion

Mexico is planning a $45.5 million boost to public broadcasting, to rough triple national coverage from 2010 to 2012, Variety reports. That initial investment for 2011-2012 will mainly fund 19 new repeater substations to help boost signals across the nation. An additional $3 million yearly will go to operations through 2020. The government hopes to improve the coverage of Once (Spanish for 11) TV, the largest educational broadcast network (owned by Instituto Politecnico Nacional, or the National Polytechnic Institute), from 50.7 percent to 76.8 percent of the country, an additional 26.9 million viewers. Its goal is to reach more than 91 million viewers by 2020. Some 79 percent of television sets in Mexico rely solely on over-the-air broadcasting.

Jul 15, 2011

Jim Lewis honored for contributions to pubradio development

DEI honored veteran fundraiser Jim Lewis with its President's Award, presented at the discretion of DEI chief Doug Eichten for outstanding contributions to public radio development. Lewis, who recently retired as a fundraising consultant with Lewis Kennedy Associates, has "dedicated his life and long career in public broadcasting--not only to serving the American public as a reporter, station manager and fundraising executive for public stations--but he also worked to help all of us," Eichten said during a July 15 session at DEI's Public Media Development and Marketing conference in Pittsburgh. "He has played a major role in the professionalization of development of public broadcasting."

In accepting the award, Lewis urged his development colleagues to recruit and mentor a new generation of talent for public radio, paying special attention to "people of color, from different cultures, and from different races....If we do this well we will have solved the problem of remaining relevant."

Lewis is the first professional fundraiser to receive the President's Award. Previous honorees Carl Kasell of NPR and Ira Glass of This American Life were recognized as major public radio talents who "really got" public radio fundraising and actively participated in it, Eichten told Current.

V-me to premiere interactive weekly gaming show

Spanish-language pubTV multicaster V-me premieres an interactive weekly show for gamers, GAME40, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern July 22. V-me said in a July 14 statement that Hispanics, especially bilingual young Hispanic males, over-index in the use of video games of all kinds. GAME40 is "not just a television series," V-me said, but "spans multiple platforms to engage gamers from the novice to the junkie," providing updates on new and upcoming titles, the latest innovations and the week’s best releases. The show is already "a smashing success in Spain," V-me notes.

Jul 14, 2011

Pittsburgh news start-up wins CPB aid

CPB is backing development of Essential Public Media, the nonprofit whose purchase of Pittsburgh's WDUQ is pending before the FCC. CPB President Patricia Harrison announced a $250,000 grant supporting start-up of EPM's digital journalism newsroom during a July 14 luncheon at the Public Media Marketing and Development conference in Pittsburgh. "We are confident this will be a model for public media news operations across the country," she said.

EPM began managing day-to-day operations of WDUQ on July 1, adopting an all-news format and scaling jazz music programming back to a six-hour weekend slot on 90.5 FM, its flagship channel. It's begun exploring collaborative editorial partnerships with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and PublicSource, an investigative news start-up that launched with foundation backing this spring, according to Lee Ferraro, manager of Pittsburgh's WYEP, one of the public media nonprofits that's a partner in EPM.

Harrison also announced CPB's continuing commitment to the seven Local Journalism Centers launched by public stations on two-year start-up grants. LJC stations have begun discussing scenarios for operating the centers when CPB's aid expires. "Make no mistake about it--we are committed to the LJCs over the long term," she said. CPB recently issued a request for proposals from consultants to evaluate the progress of the LJCs.

Jul 13, 2011

PBS eliminating 21 positions, Kerger tells stations

PBS is eliminating 13 current staff positions and eight vacancies, PBS President Paula Kerger said in a letter to the system today (July 13)."This was not an easy decision to make, and we wish our departing staff the best as they pursue other opportunities," Kerger said. Six "new or restructured" positions also will be added, including two new vice presidents of general audience programming to support the ongoing revamp of PBS's primetime lineup. "Change can be difficult, but I remain convinced that by focusing on our larger goals, we will come out on the other end as a stronger organization prepared to support our mission and stations," Kerger said.

FCC approves rules proposal on low-power FM stations

The Federal Communications Commission is getting closer to creating new low-power FM stations and approving rebroadcasting programming from other stations, according to the Blog of the Legal Times. With a 4-0 vote Tuesday (July 12), the FCC "breaks a longstanding logjam on spectrum," said chairman Julius Genachowski. The problems have been ongoing since 2000, when Congress put low-power radio in urban areas on hold after commercial broadcasters complained about interference.

In Tuesday's Third Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (PDF), the FCC approved lifting a freeze on processing translator applications and resuming licensing of translator stations in most smaller and rural markets. In urban markets, applicants must re-file. The commission also proposed moving ahead with applications for new low-power licenses within a year.

The Prometheus Radio Project, which advocates for low-power radio, praised the vote in a statement. “Today the FCC starts to redeem the promise made to thousands of community groups and national organizations that successfully fought to pass the Local Community Radio Act,” said Brandy Doyle, policy director at Prometheus. “The Act requires the FCC to ensure channels for low-power stations, and we believe a market-specific solution could accomplish that.”

Telluride's KOTO could begin accepting underwriting

KOTO, broadcasting to Telluride, Colo., and surrounding environs from its purple house on Pine Street, is really feeling a financial pinch — particularly because it's one of only six pubradio stations in the country that does not accept underwriting. Its news staff was recently pared to just one reporter, and its executive director got a salary cut; other pay and benefit reductions could follow. So the station soon will survey its members to ask if online or on-air underwriting would be acceptable, reports the Telluride Daily Planet. KOTO's support from CPB has dwindled from $170,000 three years ago to less than $92,000 this year. That makes its traditional summer fundraising efforts — "special events such as the potato black bean sauté," the paper says — more important than ever. "We’re constantly working on our events, thinking of new ones and trying to make the old ones work,” said Steve Kennedy, executive director.

Attention RSSers

Don't miss Current's story on the fourth station to drop PBS membership this year, WIPR-TV in Puerto Rico. It's a production powerhouse, creating seven hours of content each day, plus the only public TV station with its own 24/7 news channel. The station spent a year in negotiations with PBS, a WIPR exec said, over its $713,000 dues and lack of access to children's programming in Spanish.

Ramer makes Hollywood Reporter's Power Lawyers list

Bruce Ramer, board chairman for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, has been selected by the Hollywood Reporter as one of its Power Lawyers for 2011. Gang Tyre Ramer & Brown "is one of Hollywood's top talent boutiques," the paper says, and Ramer's longtime clients include Steven Spielberg and Clint Eastwood.

Jul 12, 2011

Mississippi Public Broadcasting selects newspaper editor as new director

Ronnie Agnew, executive editor of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., for nearly a decade, is the new head of Mississippi Public Broadcasting, the newspaper reports. MPB's former executive director, Judith Lewis, resigned last September after her controversial decision to discontinue Fresh Air (Current, July 26, 2010). Agnew was selected as the 50th recipient of the Samuel Talbert Silver Em Award, the University of Mississippi’s highest journalism honor. He serves as a member of the American Society of News Editors’ board of directors and chairs its diversity committee. Agnew has worked at Gannett newspapers in Hattiesburg and Cincinnati as well as Jackson for most of the past 20 years. Leaving the newspaper, as one of the few black editors heading a U.S. daily, is wrenching, Agnew told Richard Prince, author of the Maynard Institute blog on media diversity. "I am assured that I will have more time to spend with my family," Agnew said. "This move is about family. ... This move is about taking Mississippi Public Broadcasting to the next level through knowledge as a journalist gleaned over 27 years."

David Axelrod calls Juan Williams' new book "well worth reading"

Former NPR news analyst Juan Williams' book hits stores next week. Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate chronicles the months after he said on Fox News that he felt uneasy with airline passengers wearing traditional Muslim garb. NPR fired him, which riled conservatives and triggered a firestorm on Cap Hill during important pubcasting funding hearings. The Atlantic notes that David Axelrod, a senior adviser to President Obama, is quoted in a blurb on the book's cover: "For any American who fears the coarsening of our political debate has become an impediment to our progress as a people — and, more importantly, is wondering how to fix it — Juan Williams has written a book well worth reading." Publication date: July 26. The Crown Publishers book is available from Amazon and other booksellers.

PBS SoCal breaks ground for new production headquarters in Costa Mesa

PBS SoCal, the primary network affiliate in Los Angeles since the departure of KCET in January, broke ground July 7 on a digital media production studio headquarters in Costa Mesa, Calif. Station President Mel Rogers did the ceremonial honors, with the help of city officials, board representatives, major donors and PBS star Clifford the Big Red Dog. Rogers also unveiled a $14 million Education and Community through Media initiative that he said will “build a solid platform for PBS SoCal’s future.”

The initiative calls on the private sector to help the station establish education, production, communications and sponsorship sales branch offices in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Palm Springs; create a PBS SoCal “One Community” mobile studio and classroom; form a national digital content creation division to produce programming for local and national audiences; expand PBS SoCal Education’s Ready to Learn and K-12 services; and bolster the content and visibility for PBS SoCal’s OC Channel.

From left, Russ Leatherby of Leatherby Family Offices; Mary Lyons, PBS SoCal Board secretary; Dr. Jo Ellen Chatam, PBS SoCal Board president; Ed Arnold, host of Real Orange; Clifford; Rogers; Costa Mesa Mayor Gary Monahan; Heidi Cortese of R.C.C. Inc. and S. Paul Musco of Gemini Industries. (Image: Wayne Todd/PBS SoCal)

Jul 11, 2011

DEI unveils iPhone app for PMDMC confab

The latest iPhone app release for public media is tailor-made for attendees of this week's Public Media Development and Marketing conference in Pittsburgh. The app is built to run on the iOS4 iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad, and includes details of the full conference schedule, maps of the conference hotel, and links to PMDMC Facebook and Twitter feeds. The Publink icon offers discounts to Pittsburgh restaurants and cultural venues. The app, offered by DEI and co-sponsors JacAPPS and Publink, is a free download from the iTunes store.

Grants bolster Native radio program services

Two foundation grants will back capacity-building for Koahnic Broadcasting Corporation, the public media nonprofit that operates KNBA in Anchorage, Alaska, and produces the nationally distributed broadcasts Native America Calling and National Native News.

The grants, totaling $375,000, support a three-year effort to strengthen KBC's Native radio programming and distribution services. Ford Foundation committed $300,000 to the initiative and the Nathan Cummings Foundation provided the balance.

KBC distributes news, public affairs and cultural programs through Native Voice One, a service that has gained 11 new affiliates this past year and anticipates serving new tribal stations in Louisiana, Idaho and New York State, according to a news release announcing the grants. "This is critical support at this time when the FCC has issued a priority for Tribal organizations to obtain broadcast radio licenses," said KBC President Jaclyn Sallee. "This can lead to unprecedented growth in the Native stations that are using KBC's Native program and distribution services."

Expansion of Native radio is at a critical juncture, as Current reports in today's print edition. Many of the Native groups that won construction permits to build new stations in 2007 are nearing the three-year deadline to get their stations on the air. Native Public Media and the National Congress of American Indians recently passed a resolution [PDF] asking the FCC's Media Bureau to consider extending the deadlines.

NPR, PBS focusing on corporate sponsor opportunities, mag says

Public broadcasting "has proved helpful to a growing list of advertisers across multiple categories," according to a story today (July 11) on NPR and PBS corporate sponsorship in Advertising Age magazine. Fox Searchlight gave NPR the entire broadcast marketing budget for the highly anticipated May release of director Terrence Malick's "Tree of Life." Dan Pittman, senior v.p.-media at Fox Searchlight, told the magazine, "NPR's audience dovetails well with the campaigns for many of our films, which tend to appeal to educated, sophisticated audiences." PBS is also desirable, because being on it "means being associated with someone committed to the arts, quality TV and preserving PBS's desire to infiltrate knowledge and education, not just pure entertainment," said Darcy Bowe of Starcom USA, which assists corporate and brand-level clients on PBS buys.

The magazine says NPR is focusing on underwriting for streaming radio and podcasts. Digital now accounts for 20 percent of NPR's sponsorship revenue and has increased 10 percent this fiscal year. And PBS is looking at shifting breaks deeper into shows (Current, May 31, 2011), away from the cluttered top of the hour, to improve the viewer experience, it says. But the mag notes: "Shifting sponsors' messages into the middle of shows, when viewers are most likely to be paying close attention, will also improve the corporate sponsors' experience — perhaps bringing more of them into the tent as well."

Two managers out at Nightly Business Report

Two longtime top newsroom managers are gone from Nightly Business Report in Miami. Managing Editor Wendie Feinberg and Rodney Ward, executive vice president of special projects, are no longer with the show, according to a July 8 statement. Co-anchor Tom Hudson is assuming Feinberg's responsibilities. Feinberg joined the show in April 1995. Ward has been with NBR since its debut in 1979. In 1991 he was appointed Washington bureau chief. He became managing editor in 1995 and executive editor in 2006. His title shifted to executive vice president special projects in November 2010, after the program was sold to former educational video salesman Mykalai Kontilai's NBR Worldwide (Current, Aug. 23, 2010). Since the acquisition, at least eight of its 44 staffers have been laid off (Current, Nov. 15, 2010) as the program retools.

Jul 8, 2011

Blog chooses CPB's Harrison for weekly honor

CPB President Pat Harrison was recently selected as "People's Hero of the Week" by the Broadband and Social Justice Blog from the Minority Media and Telecom Council. Harrison was praised for leading CPB's strategic focus on the three D's: digital (investments in innovation and technology), dialogue (investments in local community engagement, partnerships and service) and diversity (investments and commitment to diversity of content, talent, and service), and its creation of the Diversity and Innovation Fund for public media.

"New U" entrepreneur fellowship program opens

Applications are now being accepted for the latest round of the New U: News Entrepreneurs Working Through UNITY fellowship, a competitive program funded by the Ford Foundation for journalists of color who want to become entrepreneurs. Participants will attend a “startup camp” in October in Las Vegas, get one-on-one mentoring, and compete to win $10,000 in start-up funding. Fellowship winners will be announced in September.

Arizona PBS teams with Nightly Business Report for Phoenix bureau

Nightly Business Report has opened a Phoenix bureau in partnership with Eight, Arizona PBS. Ted Simons, host of the station's Horizon current-events show, will lead the coverage. NBR now has bureaus in Silicon Valley and Denver, and in May launched a weeknight broadcast on SiriusXM satellite radio. The show was acquired in August 2010 by former educational video salesman Mykalai Kontilai.

Sprout channel plans "Kindness Counts" anti-bullying effort

Sprout, the children's TV partnership of Sesame Workshop, PBS, NBC Universal and HIT Entertainment, is launching a multiplatform initiative in August, "Kindness Counts," to "support the development of empathy in preschoolers," the channel said in a press release Thursday (July 7). The campaign will include public service announcements, digital and social media components, programming tie-ins and local extensions targeting parents and caregivers of preschoolers on the subject of bullying. Sprout said 83 of parents it surveyed are concerned about their preschoolers potentially being bullied or bullying others.

KEET scores grants for unique doc that uses Japanese woodblock animation

KEET-TV in Eureka, Calif., one of the smallest stations in the pubTV system, has received two grants for its documentary, J.A. JIVE: Jazz Music in the Japanese American Internment Camps (w.t.), which uses Japanese woodblock animation. The National Park Service selected it as one of 24 projects to get $2.9 million to "preserve and interpret sites where Japanese Americans were confined during World War II." The hourlong work by local artist Amy Uyeki won $96,465 and was one of three projects cited in a press release from the U.S. Department of the Interior. The documentary also received $22,000 from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program.

KEET-TV producers Claire Reynolds and Sam Green are collaborating with Uyeki to tell the stories of former internees who played music in the camps, through interviews and historical footage combined with a 10-minute animated short based on actual events. Uyeki's parents were both interned with their families at Gila River and Minidoka Internment Camps. The doc will be offered free in late spring 2012 to PBS stations.

Jul 7, 2011

Public TV's DNA may keep it from jumping into local news coverage, Grossman says

Lawrence Grossman, PBS president from 1976 to 1984, tells the Columbia Journalism Review that the educational roots of public TV stations, as extensions of universities and boards of education, may still hold it back from taking on local news coverage responsibilities. “The idea was to avoid issues that would fragment, or raise hackles,” Grossman says in a cover story. “It had a lot to do, I think, with the educational culture that says our job is not to antagonize anybody or to raise tough issues as part of education. Our job is to make everybody happy.”

Only a few public TV stations are experimenting with news, the magazine says. "Others have yet to attract solid funding for their efforts and many of the rest aren’t interested in pursuing more news. The system overall has done little to address a Byzantine structure that can discourage local newsgathering. Nor has it helped forge a way for stations to work together on a coordinated strategy."

The "most tantalizing success" in the system, it notes, may be KPBS in San Diego (Current, May 2), which merged all its news operations in 2009.

Jul 6, 2011

KCET gets funding for online/on-air arts show

KCET-TV just received a $206,300, two-year grant from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors for a new arts series titled ARC, reports the Los Angeles Times. The show will run both on the air and online, where new content will be updated daily. Plans call for 24 episodes a year on TV, fed by four different production units, the paper says, "each assigned to explore a single theme in the arts and produce a five-minute segment for each show." Juan Devis, KCET’s director of production and program development, will select a collaborator to cover each beat — arts and cultural history, portraits of contemporary voices in the arts, the arts and education, and the politics of the arts. KCET will produce a fifth segment in-house that will tie each episode together. “We still need to raise more money to really go for it, but I think sometime in the fall you’ll see ARC coming alive,” Devis says.

Pubcasters continue fight for vital PTFP funding

NPR and the Association of Public Television Stations haven't yet given up on the Public Telecommunication Facilities Program, which was shut down in April after the federal budget battle (Current, April 18). According to a story on the Radio World website, lobbying efforts to restore PTFP funds are already under way.

NPR is asking Congress to approve $20 million for PTFP for fiscal 2012, said Mike Riksen, NPR's vice president of policy and representation."Even though the fund is relatively small, it is heavily relied upon by public radio stations to replace equipment that is worn out or antiquated," he told Radio World. "It has been a big boost to public radio stations and keeping them on the air."

And Patrick Butler, APTS president, told Current in a statement: “APTS and its member stations have been reaching out to key Members of Congress to work with us to restore PTFP funding. This funding is critical to public television and radio infrastructure needs, and there is no other current federal funding source addressing these needs. We’ll continue to press strongly for PTFP funding.”

The project that almost got away

In an excerpt from NPR Media Correspondent David Folkenflik's book Page One: Inside The New York Times and the Future of Journalism, Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen details the lessons learned thus far on the foundation's ongoing Knight News Challenge grants.

"Sometimes we missed a good idea on the first pass," Ibargüen admits. "Toward the end of one year's contest process, I asked Gary Kebbel, then program director at Knight, to review a range of rejected applications to make sure we weren't missing something obvious. He came back with what has become hNews, a project proposed by the inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, to write computer code to address the issue of authenticity of information on the Web. Their team created microformats to identify the source of important elements cited in every news story such as its origin, date and location, and whether it had been corrected. When Gary and I talked about it, I’m not sure whether we were happier to have found a gem of an idea or relieved we hadn't missed something so obvious."

To date, Knight has awarded $23 million to 56 media innovators chosen from more than 10,000 entries.

Folkenflik's book, just published by Participant Media, is a companion to Andrew Rossi's documentary on the newspaper.

WTMD launches social network for exploring Charm City

Baltimore's WTMD 89.7 FM and Urbanite Magazine teamed up to launch The Great Baltimore Check-In, a web-based city-wide networking game that mixes social media check-ins with tried-and-true radio traditions of trivia quizzes, ticket and CD give-aways and grand prize drawings.

The game, linked to participants' foursquare accounts, is a "cross between a scavenger hunt and city guide," writes Steve Yasko, WTMD g.m. It's designed to break-through the social barriers of Baltimore's often self-contained neighborhoods by encouraging participants to explore landmarks, attractions and businesses that are further beyond their doorstep.

The Great Baltimore Check-In is also a source for sponsorship revenues. WTMD and Urbanite are selling underwriting and ad packages to local businesses and planning a series of meet-ups and special events through the end of September, when the contest ends.

"I hope this offers a few thoughts on changing the way we think about web income," Yasko wrote in a July 5 message to public radio colleagues. "The web is not an income source—it's tool to support and expand those activities we already do in the day to day."

The partners aim to enlist between 3,000 and 5,000 participants during the three-month contest. Within 48 hours of the July 4 launch, 350 active players had registered. Attendees of the Public Radio Program Directors conference, convening in Baltimore Sept. 20-23, will be eligible to participate, Yasko said.

Jul 4, 2011

KCET is "past PBS" and "gonna do just fine," station head Al Jerome says

"We're past PBS," KCET President Al Jerome tells the Los Angeles Times in a story posted Monday (July 4). "We're doing our own thing now. All we have to do is stay to our game plan, and we're gonna do just fine."

KCET is developing new programs including L.A. Tonight with Roy Firestone, featuring the sportscaster chatting with local subjects; Global Watch, a weekly half-hour foreign affairs show hosted by author Reza Aslan; Live at the Ford, a performing-arts program from the local Ford Amphitheatre; and The Time to Care for elder caregivers.

KCET departed PBS membership in January, and WMFE in Orlando did so July 1 as it awaits a decision from the Federal Communications Commission on its sale. "Our system is undergoing a transition as we move from a structure that was largely based in the original analog broadcast model to one that meets the needs of a multi-platform digital world," PBS President Paula Kerger told the paper. "Station collaborations, consolidations and mergers are all part of that transition. As shifts have occurred, stations have stepped forward with new partnerships and operation models to meet the needs of viewers."

Jul 1, 2011

Mary Jane Wilson dies; former program director at WKAR-TV

Mary Jane Wilson, 67, former program director at WKAR-TV in East Lansing, Mich., died June 26. She served as director from 1989 until her retirement in 2006.

“Those of us who were lucky enough to have Mary Jane as a friend know that she was the real deal,” said Carrie Corbin, former program manager at WGVU in Kalamazoo, Mich., who called Wilson “a programmer who would do anything for you.”

“Many was the time that Mary Jane dropped off a tape at the bus station on Friday afternoon to meet our 6 p.m. broadcast after we had a machine failure,” Corbin said.

Wilson began her career as a student employee, then staff member, at Instructional Television at Michigan State University. In 1970 she moved to University of Delaware as a media specialist, and then to media work at the Helene Fuld School of Nursing in New Jersey. She returned to Michigan in 1978 and began working for WKAR-TV.

She was born in Windsor, Ontario, the daughter of Peg and Stanley Wilson; the family became U.S. citizens in 1943 when Mary Jane was 3 years old. She graduated from Michigan State with bachelor's and master’s degrees in radio and television and educational media.

Following her retirement from WKAR, Wilson continued to be active at the station, volunteering for auction and taking on ascertainment and Nielsen reporting tasks.

She is survived by several cousins and good friends, a statement from the station said.

A memorial service will take place July 9 at Trinity Episcopal Church in Grand Ledge, Mich. Wilson had requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the church (201 E. Jefferson St., Grand Ledge, Mich., 48837) or the American Cancer Society.

WKAR gets new home at Michigan State; g.m. DeAnne Hamilton to leave station

WKAR, public TV and radio, has switched overseers at Michigan State University in East Lansing, as of Friday (July 1). It's now part of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, the school announced. Effective July 15, Gary Reid, g.m. of student station WDBM and a senior academic specialist with the college, will become WKAR's acting director of broadcasting. Reid also just won the Michigan Association of Broadcasters’ 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award. He will replace DeAnne Hamilton, director of broadcasting services since 2003 and a member of the PBS Board. Hamilton "will lead several special projects, including one with the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities," MSU's statement said. Hamilton was away from the office on Friday and not available for comment.

WKAR previously was part of a separate entity, Michigan State University Broadcasting Services. Kirsten Khire, communications manager for the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, told Current that the pubcasting station has shared a building with the communications school since 1981. "The college has always had a strong commitment to public broadcasting, and always had an academic affiliation," she said. "This just cements the relationship."

Farewell, New Jersey Network

The New Jersey Network signed off for one last time at midnight Friday (July 1), several years after the state announced it would no longer fund the pubcaster.

The Star-Ledger reported its final moments: "The broadcast cut to a small room of empty cubicles. The lights turned off, and a small, blue NJN sign glowed on the back wall. The screen faded to black. 'New Jersey Network. April 5, 1971 – June 30, 2011.' " The paper includes a video link to that last segment, a five-minute overview of NJN's history.

Also as of Friday, 130 staffers are out of work. The station is now NJTV, run by a nonprofit subsidiary of WNET/Thirteen in New York City.

The NJN news team was placed into the sad situation of calmly, professionally covering its own demise. "We thought about reaching out into people’s living rooms and asking, ‘Please help us,’" Michael Aron, 65, a veteran political correspondent and 29-year employee told the paper. "In some subtle ways, we did. We reminded people how long we’ve been on the air, and that we would soon be gone. But that was about as far as we were willing to go."

About a week ago, crews working in the trucks once parked outside the Statehouse turned the magnetic NJN signs upside down. And for the first time in 20 years, the station did not to air the Senate and Assembly budget vote live.

The cameramen could not bear to watch anymore, Aron said.

WDUQ unsure of future of Radio Information Service for listeners who are blind

The future of the 35-year-old Radio Information Service, a volunteer reading program for listeners who are blind or visually impaired, remains uncertain under pending ownership changes at WDUQ-FM, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. About 800 persons subscribed to the service in 2009, when the nonprofit that ran it folded. "This is not our program, but we are willing to help and donate the subcarrier to broadcast the programming," said Lee Ferraro, g.m. of WYEP, one of the partners set to acquire WDUQ. He said RIS will be broadcast at least through July.

"The RIS isn't out there broadcasting people telling jokes for entertainment purposes," said Lillian Wolff, an RIS volunteer for 16 years. "Listening to the news like this makes these people feel like a part of society."