Sep 30, 2011

Pubcaster elected chairman of Radio Television Digital News Association

Michigan Radio News Director Vincent Duffy is the new chairman of the board of the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), the first public media news director elected to the position. Members chose Duffy during the 2011 Excellence in Journalism Conference this week in New Orleans. Here's a roundup of other news from the meeting.

Alvarado, Jackson, Taylor named to FCC Diversity Committee

Three public broadcasters have been named to the Federal Communication Commission's Diversity Committee (PDF). Joaquin Alvarado, senior vice president for digital innovation for American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio; Maxie Jackson, president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters; and Loris Ann Taylor, president of Native Public Media, will serve on the committee, which advises the commission on policies and practices to enhance diversity in telecommunications. It is chaired by former FCC Commissioner Henry Rivera. The committee's first meeting will be Dec. 6.

Labor HHS proposal would block NPR funds, asks CPB to wean radio money by 2014

The draft for the House Appropriations Committee's fiscal 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services bill, introduced Thursday (Sept. 29) by the subcommittee chairman Denny Rehburg (R-Mont.), would prohibit the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from funding NPR, and requests a report from CPB on how to remove NPR from federal funding by 2014. CPB receives the expected $445 million in funding over the upcoming year. In all, the bill proposes a 2.5 percent reduction in total discretionary funding over 2011, and 15.2 percent less than President Barack Obama's budget request. Details from the committee here.

A spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee told Current that specifics on the report requested from CPB regarding NPR will be made public when the bill moves to the full committee for mark up. 

UPDATE: The Association of Public Television Stations issued this statement regarding the Labor-HHS proposal. "The House Appropriations Committee's draft of the Labor-HHS bill contains some welcome provisions for public broadcasting as well as some very troubling ones. It is important to note that this is the subcommittee chairman's draft and not a bill formally reported by the full committee. We look forward to working with the House, the Senate and the Administration on a final bill that assures federal funding for public broadcasting that reflects and supports our essential services to the public."

NPR also told Current in a statement: "The ongoing debate over federal funding for public broadcasting is about local stations and the communities they serve. These local stations are invaluable community resources that rely on federal funds to inform their audiences. Eliminating or limiting federal funds will have far-reaching, negative impacts on local stations and, ultimately, on the listeners and communities that rely upon them. This impact will be most pronounced in rural and underserved communities, where local media choices are already limited and declining, but also across the public broadcasting system where local public broadcasting stations have become prominent, essential public service entities."

Sep 28, 2011

Cops nab WNET MetroFocus journalist at Wall Street protests

A Web editor with WNET's new MetroFocus local news and culture site was arrested while reporting on citizen journalism at this week's protests on Wall Street. John Farley wrote that he was "thrown against a wall and handcuffed with hard plastic zip-tie restraints. I sat on the sidewalk with about 50 others. I yelled over and over, 'I’m press! I’m with WNET MetroFocus! Please do not arrest me.'" Farley said he didn't have press credentials because MetroFocus is less than three months old, so it doesn't yet meet NYPD’s criteria for news organizations. He was in custody for nine hours, eight of which were in a jail cell at the 1st Precinct, and released around 10:30 p.m.

DeAnne Hamilton to lead WESA in Pittsburgh

DeAnne Hamilton becomes president of WESA-90.5 FM in Pittsburgh on Oct. 17, Essential Public Radio announced today (Sept. 28). She previously was general manager of WKAR at Michigan State University, and was a vice president and station manager of KQED Public Television in San Francisco. Hamilton also is a member of the PBS Board of Directors. Essential Public Media finalized its $6 million deal this month to buy the former WDUQ from Duquesne University.

New PBS primary in Orlando raises $60,000 in first pledge drive

WUCF-TV, the new PBS primary station in Orlando, Fla., has raised $60,000 in its first pledge drive, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Grant Heston, assistant vice president of news and information at licensee University of Central Florida, said he was "very pleased," and looking forward to larger numbers for its next fundraiser in December. The station took a "low-key approach" to the drive, the paper noted, with no announced goal. WUCF-TV, a partnership between the university and Brevard Community College, signed on as the primary on July 1, in the wake of the sale announcement of WMFE-TV (Current, April 18, 2011).

Documents reveal financial struggles for Michigan State's WKAR

In recent years, Michigan State University has provided an average annual subsidy of $3.5 million for WKAR-TV and radio — about one-third of its budget, according to financial statements obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the the State Journal in Lansing, Mich. Neither Gary Reid, director of broadcasting, nor Pamela Whitten, college dean, could say what future MSU funding levels will be for WKAR, the paper said. Last month WKAR laid off 10 employees. The pubTV and radio station had combined operating shortfalls of $411,158 in fiscal year 2008, $929,237 in 2009 and $634,991 in 2010, according to financial documents.

Sep 27, 2011

Rep. Yarmuth introduces bill to reauthorize Ready To Learn

Congressman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) has introduced the Ready To Compete Act, H.R. 3036, which would reauthorize public television’s longtime education program, Ready To Learn.“We are extremely grateful to Congressman Yarmuth for his unwavering support of public broadcasting’s educational mission and recognizing the important role local stations play in educating communities across the country,” said Patrick Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, in a statement. RTL uses public television’s on-air and online educational content to build the math, science and reading skills of children ages 2 to 8, especially targeting those from low-income families and underserved communities. In addition, Yarmuth's bill, introduced Sept. 22, would expand RTL by including the creation of content and resources for children age 9 to 13, if adequate funding is available. And Ready To Compete would provide assistance to help adults get ready for work through its Ready To Earn program, supporting educational digital content and services focused on GED (high-school diploma equivalency) preparation, adult literacy and workforce training skills.

Two pubcasters honored as Powerful and Influential Latinos

Sandie Pedlow, executive director of Latino Public Broadcasting, and Joseph Tovares, CPB's senior v.p. for diversity and innovation, are on this year's list of Most Powerful and Influential Latinos from the Imagen Foundation. The nonprofit advocates for positive portrayals of Latinos in all forms of entertainment media. Honorees will be recognized at a gala at the Beverly Hills Hilton Tuesday night (Sept. 27).

At long last, public radio has its very own style maven

Jesse Thorn, host and creator of The Sound of Young America, has his hands in many creative projects but recently he's taken up . . . men's style blogging?

If it seems unlikely, think again, because Thorn is a man who knows how to dress well and how to do so on a budget.

In a magazine feature published today, Thorn takes readers of GQ shopping in underground L.A., stopping for pastrami in his favorite deli before visiting a Korean tailor, a Mexican shoemaker and three thrift stores. "What Thorn offers is a measure of practicality and instruction, and allows the average man, without stylist or sponsor, to develop a responsibility for his appearance," writes GQ's Shona Sanzgiri. "He doesn't consider himself an authority—more like an advocate."

After discovering a Brooks Brothers sweater in a Goodwill store, Thorn advises: "The secret is to find clothes that are tens, and not sevens. Keep your wardrobe edited so that it really works. Wearing two things that kind of work doesn't turn into something that really works."

The men's style web series Put This On is separate from Thorn's audio productions through Maximum Fun, which include Public Radio International's TSOYA, PRX's WTF, and the podcast Judge John Hodgman. To name just a few. There's so much more to discover.

"Teaching Channel Presents" to highlight innovative classroom methods

Teaching Channel Presents, a one-hour weekly magazine showcasing teachers and their methods nationwide, premieres Oct. 2 on public TV stations. It's produced by the Teaching Channel (Tch), a multiplatform showcase of innovative teaching techniques that launched in June, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The premiere includes a visit to a multilingual classroom in Los Angeles, sixth-graders on a microscopic safari, a group of active third graders grappling with the concept of graphing, a new teacher working to improve his practice with an instructional coach, and a middle-school math teacher who writes hip-hop tunes to boost retention for his students.

WNET is distributing Teaching Channel Presents through the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA).

Six News and Documentary Emmys go to shows on PBS

PBS won six News and Documentary Emmy Awards at ceremonies Monday (Sept. 26) in New York City. P.O.V. claimed four statuettes, and Independent Lens and Frontline each won one. A full list of winners is here (PDF). For those keeping score, these awards join 14 Primetime Emmys and 12 Daytime Emmys awarded to programs on PBS, for a total of 32 Emmys this year.

Sep 26, 2011

WAMU's Fred Fiske, 91, to retire this week

Fred Fiske, senior commentator at WAMU 88.5 in Washington, D.C., is retiring at age 91 on Tuesday (Sept. 27), which marks his 64th anniversary on the local airwaves. "It's been a wonderful ride," he said in his final commentary on Monday. Fiske started on radio as a child actor in the 1930s. His career includes serving as a presidential announcer and veteran affairs commentator for Mutual Broadcasting, providing live coverage of the inaugurations of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. During the 1950s, Fiske hosted a midday pop music program at Mutual's WWDC, and soon became Washington’s highest-rated music host. He arrived at WAMU in 1977. He'll be honored at WAMU 88.5’s 50th anniversary gala on Oct. 29.

CoastAlaska creates Radio to Go for stations affected by disasters

In response to several recent disasters worldwide, CoastAlaska has developed two small portable FM radio stations for use by pubcasters in the state, called Radio to Go. The nonprofit, a service partnership among seven stations, developed the portable radio setup in case a transmitter or studio building is put out of service. The FCC-compliant portable stations can be set up and broadcasting on the air in a matter of minutes, CoastAlaska says.

The two units will be located in separate communities in shipping cases that can be loaded onto a Coast Guard helicopter, commercial flight or marine transportation. Cost per unit is about $10,000, including shipping cases, a 150 watt FM radio transmitter, CD players, digital audio recorder, radio tuner, mixer and microphones, cables and transmitting antenna and mast.

PubTV's "Catholicism" series is "game-changing reality TV," columnist writes

The upcoming public TV series Catholicism gets an early and enthusiastic review from Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online. "It is openly a work of evangelization (complete with available study guides and a prayer card), and is done in a way that is welcoming to a wide potential audience," she writes. "Catholicism is classic, revolutionary, and plausibly — like the Gospels themselves — game-changing reality TV." Chicago's WTTW is sponsoring station, premiering four of the program's 10 parts; it's distributed by Executive Program Services. Catholicism was filmed in more than 50 locations in 15 countries over two years. The host is Father Robert Barron, a professor at University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein (Ill.) Seminary and a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago; executive producer is filmmaker Mike Leonard, also a veteran correspondent for NBC’s Today show and producer of the pubTV series Ride of Our Lives.

Sep 24, 2011

Ohio's WYSO to boost signal power

WYSO-FM in Yellow Springs, Ohio, will move its studios and increase its signal strength from 37,000 watts to 50,000 watts before the end of the year, reports the Dayton Daily News. The improvement is made possible by a $1 million grant approved Friday (Sept. 23) by Antioch University’s board of governors to provide the public radio station with a new broadcast facility. The power upgrade will extend the station’s reach to more listeners in southwest Ohio and provide the existing audience with a higher quality radio signal with less interference. The Federal Communication Commission has already approved the changes, university officials said.

Sep 23, 2011

Lynn Novick, a filmmaker in her own right

Lynn Novick has shared directing or producing credits on several of documentarian Ken Burns' major films, including Frank Lloyd Wright in 1998, The War in 2007 and last year's Baseball: The Tenth Inning. And yet she remains in his shadow. Here's a New York Times profile of Novick, who began her career as a production assistant at WNET and spent time working as an associate producer on A World of Ideas with Bill Moyers.

Pittsburgh's WQED announces all-pledge multicast channel

WQED in Pittsburgh is launching what looks to be the first pubTV multicast channel in the nation dedicated to all pledge programming, all the time.

WQED Showcase "will include local pledge programming that has previously aired on the main channel, as well as national pledge programming that we were not able to schedule on the main channel due to space limitations," George Hazimanolis, spokesperson for the Pittsburgh station, told Current.

And, yes, "viewers will be asked to make a contribution to WQED just like on any other pledge program," Hazimanolis said.

The new channel "will be another way for WQED to maximize revenue so that we can continue to fulfill our core educational mission to this community," said Deborah Acklin, station president, in a statement.

In addition, WQED Showcase will be a testing ground for national pledge shows from American Public Television, Acklin said. 

Local content will include popular shows such as QED Cooks with Chris Fennimore and Rick Seback's documentaries. The channel goes on the air later this fall.

Cancellation of English-Spanish show in Gary, Ind., causes dispute

Que Pasa!, a talk show in English and Spanish on WGVE, a pubradio station owned and operated by the Gary (Indiana) Community School Corporation, has been pulled from the air, reports WBEZ in Chicago. The host is crying censorship; management says it's a dispute over scheduling.

Lisette Guillen-Gardnerhas co-hosts the show with her mother, Maria Guillen. It runs from 8 to 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, serving northwest Indiana’s Latino population.

“Last Thursday (Sept. 15) was our last show. We were surprised to learn that would be our last show,” Guillen-Gardner told WBEZ.

Guillen-Gardner said Gary schools Superintendent Myrtle Campbell and schools spokesperson Sarita Stevens, who is also WGVE’s station manager, spoke to her before a show in late August featuring Tony Bennett, Indiana's superintendent of schools. She said both told her not to talk about a controversial pending school takeover plan with Bennett. Guillen-Gardner refused. “I told them if Dr. Bennett allowed me to talk about that and allows me to do so, I’m going to ask him about that," she said. But the topic never surfaced on the air.

Guillen-Gardner believes her refusal prompted the show's cancellation. But Stevens said Guillen-Gardner refused to move to a new time slot. “It’s very unfortunate that [the co-hosts] have no sensibility in terms of where they want to be placed," Stevens said. "They don’t want to be placed in any other time bracket except for 8 o’clock. This is radio. This is media. Sometimes there have to make compromises. In media, sometimes your program is moved.”

A pubcasting pint: Broadcaster Brown Ale

In celebration of World Cafe's 20th anniversary on pubradio, Philadelphia Brewing Co. has created Broadcaster Brown Ale. " Just like World Cafe," it says, "Broadcaster Brown Ale is both satisfying, and contemplative; with a silky malt sweetness, the complex flavors of kilned German malts, and the dry finish of our American hops." The brewer worked with the WXPN show's creator David Dye to get the "medium-bodied, deep red-brown hued ale" just right. It'll be available on tap around Philly in October. Dye "will be out and about at various bars to share a pint with you," the station says, and is putting together special music mixes to play in those venues.

"Two and a Half Men" director to produce WQED talk show

Jamie Widdoes, a director of CBS’ hit sitcom Two and a Half Men, is returning to his hometown of Pittsburgh to produce an as-yet untitled WQED talk show about female empowerment and girls’ self-esteem beginning in December 2011, the station announced Thursday (Sept. 22). It's the first program of the new Pittsburgh Innovative Media Incubator, a co-venture between WQED and the Steeltown Entertainment Project, a local nonprofit advocating to make the region an entertainment production center. The incubator is funded by a grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

The show will also be offered in syndication to broadcasters such as the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The program can trace its roots to the 2003 Steeltown Entertainment Project summit at WQED and the Andy Warhol Museum, where local creative and civic leaders discussed strategies to attract major film and television productions to the area. Pittsburgh expats participating in the summit included Widdoes, director Rob Marshall (Chicago), manager Eric Gold (Jim Carrey, Ellen DeGeneres),  producer Bernie Goldmann (300), and television series creator Terri Minsky (Lizzie McGuire).

“It’s been a dream of mine for many years to come home and produce in Pittsburgh,” Widdoes said in a statement. “I can’t think of a better place for a project like this. From the moment I was on the [WQED]  set of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, I've wanted to do something in that studio." 

Sep 22, 2011

KCUR's Cahill announces plans to retire

Patricia Cahill, who was just elected vice-chairman of the CPB Board, is announcing her retirement from KCUR-FM in Kansas City. She'll step down next summer. Cahill has run the station since 1987.

North Country Public Radio among Knight Challenge Grant winners

The latest Knight Community Information Challenge Grant winners include a pubcasting station and public access channel. North Country Public Radio, based in Canton, N.Y., gets $302,000 to expand its broadcast and digital operations and encourage residents to contribute content. And the Long Beach (Calif.) Community Foundation receives $327,000 to bring public access TV back to the community, and create hyper-local, multilingual programming on multiple platforms. The Challenge is part of the foundation’s Media Innovation Initiative, a $100 million-plus effort to help meet America’s increasing information needs. Knight Foundation begins accepting applications for the next round of the Challenge on Jan. 18, 2012. Also, Knight's annual Media Learning Seminar to discuss ways in which foundations can support news and information needs and opportunities will take place Feb. 20 and 21 in Miami; more information here.

Sep 21, 2011

Core listeners keeping the faith in public radio, survey finds

The political turmoil that beset public radio within the past year doesn’t appear to have shaken the esteem that core listeners and contributors hold for NPR or public radio as a whole, according to research results presented Sept. 20 during the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Baltimore.

In an online survey of more than 27,000 pubradio members and listeners conducted this summer, 80 percent of respondents disagreed with a survey statement that public radio has been treated fairly by Congress during this year’s budget debates. More than 70 percent also disagreed with one of the criticisms that political foes lobbed at NPR and its stations — that public radio is for “elites.”

Perhaps the most reassuring finding to those worried about how public radio’s most recognized brand has weathered the political firestorm was this finding: 86 percent of respondents disagreed with the statement “I have lost respect for NPR over the past year.”

“NPR’s reputation looks strong and intact,” said researcher Fred Jacobs (above), whose radio consultancy Jacobs Media teamed up with PRPD to conduct the survey in June. More than half of the survey participants who objected to the statement about losing respect for NPR said they strongly disagreed with it, he said.

There is a big caveat to the survey’s conclusions, however: respondents were among the most devoted listeners and supporters of public radio. Researchers drew from the membership databases of 44 NPR stations to create the survey sample. More than 86 percent of those who participated in the survey were active contributors to their local stations.

"This is a slice of the audience — the 20 percent that is the core," said Jacobs.

PRPD and Jacobs Media also collected data about program preferences and learned, among other findings, that listeners in many markets believe the talk shows produced by their local stations have improved.

Stations have done a “tremendous amount of work” to improve their local news offerings and their listeners have noticed, said Arthur Cohen, PRPD president. (Image: Mark Vogelzang)

Connecticut pubcasters ink deal with local schools for unique media academy

Connecticut Public Television and WNPR have signed an agreement with the Hartford, Conn., school system to establish an educational center at the network's headquarters to provide a "hands-on" immersion lab for the city's Journalism and Media Academy, reports the Hartford Courant. Starting with the 2013-14 school year, the academy's 100 seniors will take all of their classes in the new Learning Lab in the CPBN building. In addition to core subjects, students will learn how to produce TV, radio and online media. Hartford faculty will teach the classes, said Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, although the network's broadcasting and media professionals will "co-teach" for media instruction. "No public broadcaster in the country has even suggested such a thing," said Jerry Franklin, network president. The network's initial investment will be $3.5 million to retrofit 20,000 square feet of space into classrooms and production studios. The network has raised about $1.6 million so far from corporate donors and foundations.

New Orlando PBS primary WUCF-TV wants to hear from 10,000 viewers

WUCF-TV, the new PBS primary station in the Orlando market, doesn't have a monetary goal for its first fundraising drive, which began Sept. 15 and ends Sept. 25. "We’re asking 10,000 viewers to contact us via email or letter,” spokesman Grant Heston told the Orlando Sentinel. “If part of that is a donation, that’s great. Being brand new, we want to get to know how this works.” WUCF, a collaboration between the University of Central Florida in Orlando and Brevard Community College in Cocoa, went on the air July 1 after former primary WMFE-TV announced it would be sold to religious broadcaster Daystar (Current, April 18).

In the first five days of the pledge drive, WUCF raised about $25,000. “Over 10 days, we’re only doing 16 pledge blocks, about an hour and a half, two hours each,” Heston said. “It’s a lot less than what has been before. But the need is still there. The need is greater than ever.”

Kevin Klose says he'll return to teaching in July 2012

Kevin Klose, a former NPR president, is stepping down from his position as dean at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism, a spot he has held since February 2009. In a memo to colleagues also posted on Jim Romenesko's Poynter Institute blog, Klose said he's returning to the classroom as of July 1, 2012, "where the work of educating the next generation of journalists challenges us all." Klose served as president of NPR from 1998 to 2008. He's also a past president of the NPR Foundation and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, as well as an ex-Washington Post reporter.

Public media newsroom Center for Public Integrity hires NPR veteran Ellen Weiss, PBS exec Christine Montgomery

Ellen Weiss, the NPR News chief who took the network's blame for the Juan Williams affair, will join the Center for Public Integrity as its executive editor as of Oct. 3, the watchdog newsroom announced today. The center is headed by one of her predecessors at NPR, Bill Buzenberg. “Ellen Weiss is one of the best and most creative news executives in the business,” he said in a news release.

CPI hired three other top editors including Christine Montgomery, the center's new chief digital officer, who was managing editor of for two years while it expanded and then sharply reduced its online news plans. Montgomery is also president of the Online News Association, which holds its annual meeting this week in Boston.

Weiss worked at NPR News for most of its first 29 years, including 12 as e.p. of All Things Considered and head of the National Desk and the past five as senior v.p. for news, managing more than 400 staffers, a $75 million budget and 36 news bureaus.

The center, based in Washington, D.C., also hired former Washington Post reporter R. Jeffrey Smith as managing editor of its National Security Desk; Australian journalist Gerard Ryle as director of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists; and investigative journalist John Dunbar as managing editor of its Financial Desk.

Since 1990 the nonprofit, nonpartisan center has released more than 475 investigative reports and 17 books on aspects of accountability for government and other major institutions.

At least the Senate Democrats aren't cutting CPB's future funding

Though CPB and many other relatively small federal outlays could get whacked or seriously trimmed in the forthcoming scrum of Supercommittee deficit maneuvering, a Democrat-controlled Senate Appropriations subcommittee yesterday approved an increase in the advance appropriation for 2014. If CPB survives 'til then, it would receive $445 million, the same as appropriated for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 but $6 million below President Obama's request, according to CPB. (This year's sum is $430 million.)

The action was taken in subcommittee markup of the Labor/HHS/Education appropriations bill for next year. In addition, CPB would receive $6 million for digital projects, and the Department of Education would receive $27.2 million for Ready to Learn. The full Senate Appropriations Committee will mark up the bill tomorrow. House Appropriations Committee has indefinitely delayed action on its comparable bill.

The Senate committee explained in its news release why the FY2014 funds are being discussed when Congress is just beginning to consider FY2012 funding: "The committee maintains two-year advance funding, which has been in place since 1975 to ensure the independence of public broadcasting programming."

Quants may enjoy a gander at CPB's appropriations box score over the years.

Sep 20, 2011

Vermont net raises funds for Hurricane Irene relief

A one-day Vermont Public Radio fundraiser for Hurricane Irene relief Sept. 13 raised more than $628,000 for the Vermont Disaster Relief Fund. More than 4,600 listeners called to pledge support or donated online during the 16-hour campaign.

“We know that our listeners are community-minded, but this outpouring of support went beyond anything we imagined,” said VPR President Robin Turnau. The hurricane rampaged through Vermont Aug. 28.

VPR received a special one-day waiver from the FCC to allow it to raise funds for an organization other than itself.

The network's news staff is still posting followup stories on its special hurricane blog.

Ramer, Cahill now heading CPB Board

Bruce Ramer was re-elected chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's Board of Directors at its meeting today (Sept. 20) at headquarters in Washington, D.C. The new vice-chair is Patricia Cahill, general manager of KCUR-FM in Kansas City, who joined the board in August 2009.

WPBT2 show wins National Academies honor

“Sentinels of the Seas,” an episode of WPBT2’s Changing Seas, has won a 2011 Communications Award in the Film/Radio/TV category, from the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine. The episode explained what Florida's bottlenose dolphins reveal about the health of coastal waters and human exposure to chemical contaminants. The awards recognize excellence in reporting and communicating science, engineering and medicine.

Other public media finalists included Richard Harris and Alison Richards for "Gulf Spill May Far Exceed Official Estimates" on NPR; Richards, Christopher Joyce, Jon Hamilton and Joe Palca for "The Human Edge: Finding Our Inner Fish" also on NPR; and Gary Hochman, Steve Reich and Paula Apsell for "Secrets Beneath the Ice" on Nova.

Pictured is the production team for Changing Seas: Sentinels of the Seas, from left:  Ray Ratliff, graphic designer; Jeremy Nicholson, editor/videographer; Kandra Velez, producer; Veronique Koch, associate producer; Alexa Elliott, series producer; Allan Farrell, videographer; and Sean Hickey, editor/videographer. (Image: WBPT2)

Big MacArthur kudo to Jad Jad Jad Abumrad rad rad

The MacArthur Foundation today publicly confirmed what fans already know: Jad Abumrad, auteur/producer and co-host of WNYC's Radiolab, is some kinda genius. He is one of 22 scientists and other creative types who received $500,000 MacArthur fellowships in recognition of their achievements and potential. “This show is the central creative mission of my life right now, and the money might give me the space to bring new things into it,” Abumrad said in a New York Times article reporting the awards.

Abumrad probably will have more to say Wednesday morning when he keynotes the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Baltimore.

MacArthur Fellows are U.S. residents who have shown "exceptional creativity, promise for important future advances based on a track record of significant accomplishment, and potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work."

In a video interview for MacArthur, Abumrad shows a bit of his process for orchestrating words, sentences and sounds into informational music:

On the radio production showcase, Ira Glass expresses his admiration and jealousy ("I feel jealous") about the heights of effective radio that Abumrad and his co-host Robert Krulwich achieve on Radiolab, partly through carefully conceived and sometimes re-recorded "spontaneous sounding" banter. Glass  commends to listeners the Radiolab episodes about coincidence and randomness, parasites, a beloved mayor who has had a big operation, and being in a coma.

Glass also contrasts the show's real-people tone, and a different real-people tone of talk-radio personalities, with the standard style of pubradio news: "One way the opinion guys kick our ass and appeal to an audience is that they talk like normal people, not like news robots speaking their stentorian news-speak," Glass writes.

Link TV announces new c.e.o., former ABC News exec Paul Mason

Nonprofit satellite channel Link TV today (Sept. 20) announced a new c.e.o., former ABC News executive Paul Mason. After 30 years in commercial television, Mason told Current, he “wanted to go someplace optimistic, where there’s tremendous passion about mission.”

“That’s happening in not-for-profit media,” he said.

He takes over as Link launches several initiatives, including LinkAsia, a half-hour online news show hosted by Yul Kwon, a former FCC deputy chief and host of the upcoming four-part PBS series America Revealed; and, an online media hub funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, that  “highlights progress in reducing hunger, poverty and disease in developing nations,” as Link describes it, with stories of the people helped by global development organizations such as Save the Children, Oxfam, UNICEF, CONCERN and Bread for the World. The site deploys new technology to analyze the context and meaning of the videos and generate links to the latest related content available.

The channel began 11 years ago after the FCC set aside part of the satellite TV spectrum for public-service purposes, and satellite broadcaster DirecTV gave a channel to Link’s WorldLink service (Current, Dec. 13, 1999). Like one of its cofounders, the Independent Television Service, Link brings viewers an assortment of diverse voices. It partners with independent producers worldwide as well as major broadcasters such as Al Jazeera and France 24. In addition to carriage on DirecTV, Link is now on the other satellite TV service, Dish Network, and some 200 cable affiliates, claiming a total reach of around 57 million households.

As a former senior v.p. of ABC News, Mason oversaw the network’s morning and weekend shows and Nightline, documentaries and investigations, and produced for its magazine shows. He also was a former v.p. of the Overseas Press Club Foundation.

Link’s 40 employees are spread among offices in San Francisco, New York and Washington. It receives most of its support from a variety of organizations including the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation. (Disclosure: Another funder, the Wyncote Foundation of Philadelphia, is also supporting Current’s transition to American University.) Mason said viewers contribute about $2.5 million of its approximately $8 million annual operating budget.

Former c.e.o. Karen Stevenson assisted in the search for Mason before her departure Sept. 2. “Karen did a fantastic job setting new policies in place, streamlining operations and building the board,” said Wendy Hanamura, Link’s g.m. and v.p. of strategy. “She told us that she felt that she had accomplished what she does best and it was time to step aside for a visionary who could lead us to a new Link, a Link 2.0.”

Here's a video of Mason discussing his vision for the network. (Image: Link TV)

Hearst TV exec to head World channel

Elizabeth Cheng, a Hearst Television executive, is the new general manager for the World channel, WGBH announced today (Sept. 20). Cheng will oversee all business, technical and creative aspects of production, distribution and marketing for the digital multicast service, which was developed by WGBH and WNET in 2004 and relaunched on multiple platforms last year (Current, June 7, 2010) with funding from CPB.

At Hearst, Cheng was a vice president, as well as director of programming and communications for WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston and director of programming for WMUR-TV Channel 9 Manchester, N.H., both ABC affiliates. In addition to executive producing specials and series programming, she was in charge of Chronicle, WCVB’s nightly news magazine covering the New England region.

"As a long-time fan of public media — in fact, my first job in TV was at a PBS station — I’m thrilled to be part of a team delivering unique news and informational content to a national audience,” Cheng said. She worked as a producer at WSBE-TV in Providence after graduating from Brown University. (Image: WCVB)

Sep 19, 2011

CPB to ask for $451 million for fiscal 2015

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting soon will request $451 million in advance funding for 2015, Tim Isgitt, CPB's government affairs s.v.p., told board members in Washington, D.C. today (Sept. 19). That's up slightly from the $445 million for the system in President Obama's fiscal 2012 budget, which forward-funds FY14. CPB is also asking for $20 million in digital funding for 2013, Isgitt said, for collaborative station infrastructure projects, educational media support for teachers and public safety initiatives.

And Patrick Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations advocacy organization, told the board that he's "feeling a little bit better" about those funding prospects on Capitol Hill, compared with the brutal budget battles earlier this year. "We've found more of our public adversaries are starting to come around when they better understand what we do," he told the board. "It's not the rabid opposition we were facing in the early months of the year." Butler, a longtime D.C. insider who began work with APTS in January, said he recently had a chance encounter at the National Archives with Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), a pubcasting foe who has sponsored bills to defund NPR and CPB this year. "I complimented him on being such a gentleman in his substance-based in approach to issues," Butler said, and Lamborn told Butler that he'd like to hear more about public broadcasting's work. "Other historic adversaries are also beginning to acknowledge there's more to our story than they thought," Butler added. The CPB Board meeting continues Tuesday, with leadership elections on the agenda.

Blogosphere lashing for NPR report that went straight down the middle

As Jay Rosen sees it, "he said, she said" reporting is a "lame formula" for fact-based news reporting, a method of presenting opposing points of view that is out-dated and gutless. When Rosen, an NYU j-school professor who blogs at Press Think, found an example of "he said, she said" reporting in NPR's Sept. 8 story on regulations on abortion clinics in Kansas, he called down the network in a series of posts that accused NPR of being cowardly:

"NPR has, in this case, allowed its desire to escape criticism to overwhelm its journalistic imagination," Rosen wrote. "'He said, she said' does not serve listeners. It tries to shield NPR from another round of bias attacks. That’s putting your needs—for political refuge—ahead of mine as a listener. . . . And one more thing, a little lesson in realism. They’re going to attack you anyway, and crow in triumph when your CEO is forced out by those attacks. Ultimately there is no refuge, so you might as well do good journalism."

Rosen's critique, which he also posted on Tumblr, drew responses from current NPR Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos, former Ombud Jeffrey Dvorkin and former NPR News chief Bruce Drake.

All three agreed at least in part with Rosen's critique, but Drake took it one step further: "Speaking in general, if he-said-she-said reporting is one of the lowest forms of journalism in existence, then the resort to the 'We get attacked by both sides' is the lowest form of justification or defense when a piece of reporting is question," he wrote. "It’s stating the obvious to say such a response doesn’t cut it simply because it doesn’t deal with the substance of the criticism of a story’s reporting."

Schumacker-Matos, who signed on as NPR ombudsman in June, had invoked the "hit from both sides" response in his defense of NPR and reporter Kathy Lohr.

This post has been corrected: An earlier version mistakenly confused Bruce Drake, NPR News chief from September 2000 to 2005, with KPCC President Bill Davis, a former NPR programming v.p. who is a member of the NPR Board.

PBS steals big wins from HBO at Primetime Emmys

At the Primetime Emmy Awards Sunday night (Sept. 18), premium cable channel HBO "was beaten up in prestige categories by an unlikely foe — public broadcasting, which gets its funding from the government and viewer contributions," reports the Los Angeles Times. PBS won 14 statuettes (including the earlier Creative Emmy presentations) compared with HBO's 19, but Masterpiece's "Downton Abbey" walked away with some of the night's top honors, generally reserved for big-money HBO productions. The Brit import about an aristocratic family in pre-World War I England won for TV miniseries or movie; Julian Fellowes, series creator, also won the writing award in that category; and director Brian Percival and supporting actress Maggie Smith took those honors. A full list of winners here.

Sep 17, 2011

Digital Promise finally realized in White House launch

Lawrence Grossman, former PBS president, and Shae Hopkins, executive director of Kentucky Educational Television, are two board members of Digital Promise, the White House's educational initiative that was announced Friday (Sept. 16) in Washington, D.C. The project, backed by the Department of Education, Carnegie Corporation of New York and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, will work to identify breakthrough educational technologies, partner with researchers and entrepreneurs to determine what works best, and drive private-sector investment in innovation. The initiative also includes a League of Innovative Schools to help test projects, $15 million in new awards from the National Science Foundation to support research on next-generation learning environments, a national alliance of more 35 of America’s top education-policy researchers, and more. Digital Promise was "founded after more than a decade of effort," it says; its roots can be traced to Grossman and former FCC Chairman Newton Minow's 2001 proposal for an $18 billion Digital Opportunity Investment Trust for educational materials (Current, April 9, 2001).

Sep 16, 2011

FCC extends Common Alerting Protocol deadline into 2012

The Federal Communication Commission released an order today (Sept. 16) that extends the deadline for Emergency Alert System (EAS) participating stations to implement the new Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) standard. The order moves the deadline from Sept. 30 to June 30, 2012. The extension may allow the first-ever National EAS Test scheduled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the FCC, set for Nov. 9, to run more smoothly, notes the CommLaw Center blog of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

Media including NPR, the Association of Public Television Stations and PBS joined the National Association of Broadcasters in requesting the extension, reports TV Technology.

National Book Award finalists to be revealed live on pubradio

Finalists for this year's National Book Awards will be revealed live on Oregon Public Broadcasting's Think Out Loud, from the new Literary Arts space in Portland. It's a public-radio first, said Sarah Jane Rothenfluch, the show's executive producer. Beginning at 9 a.m. local time on Oct. 12, host Dave Miller will interview past winners, finalists and judges, who will announce the finalists.

WDUQ sale finalized

Essential Public Media has completed its purchase of Pittsburgh's WDUQ/90.5 FM, reports the local Post-Gazette. The call letters will change to WESA-FM. Under the terms of the agreement, seller Duquesne University will receive $4,004,500 in cash. Essential Public Media also will provide $1 million in underwriting to the university over the next 10 years, along with $500,000 worth of internships to Duquesne students. The deal was announced in January (Current, Jan. 24).

WNET going into international distribution business

WNET will distribute its own content internationally beginning at next month's MIPCOM program marketplace, according to entertainment news site C21. Previously, overseas distribution was handled by PBSd, a partnership between PBS and WGBH in Boston. "We thought we could do better," said Harvey Seslowsky, managing director of sales and global content distribution for WNET in New York City. "What we're trying to do is find ways to kick up our sources of revenue," and perhaps funnel those funds into new programming or expanded seasons of existing shows, he said. PBS will continue to handle domestic distribution of the station's content, while WNET will take over international sales. Seslowsky's team is still working on clearances to WNET's library but he hopes the station will have "a couple of hundred hours" to sell, such as the doc series American Masters, Nature and Great Performances.

Tom Koch, vice president of PBSd, told Current that PBSd did not handle WNET’s entire portfolio internationally. "The number of their programs represents a very tiny fraction of the PBSd international catalog," Koch said.

Sep 15, 2011

Current TV selects Shelley Lewis as e.v.p. programming

Shelley Lewis, the executive producer who just left WNET's Need to Know, has landed as executive vice president of programming at Current TV, it announced today (Sept. 15). Current President David Bohrman called Lewis, right, "a great idea person" with the "perfect combination of relationships, experience and entrepreneurial drive to help us establish Current as a new kind of multi-screen news experience for a new kind of news viewer.” Prior to her time at NTK, Lewis was a co-creator of Air America Radio and also worked at CNN and ABC News. She starts Sept. 19 at Current. (Image: WNET)

AIR unveils Localore, its initiative backing new media experiments at stations

Association of Independents in Radio launched the beta website for its new CPB-backed initiative, Localore. Inspired by Maker's Quest 2.0, AIR's 2009 project for indie-led cross-platform media experiments, Localore will pair radio and TV indies with pubcasting stations on projects that blend digital with broadcast media.

The site that launched today features the Station Runway, a series of digital video presentations by six "incubator" stations that hope to recruit producers to work with them. AIR and CPB will announce more grant details and identify as many as 20 participating stations on Sept. 22 during the Public Radio Program Directors conference in Baltimore.

Look for an extended Q&A with AIR Executive Director Sue Schardt in the Sept. 19 edition of Current.

Reading Rainbow host Burton to offer RRKidz reading app

Actor and former Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton has raised $3 million for his RRKidz reading app for iPad and Android users, reports Venture Beat. He's partnering with PBS affiliate WNED in Buffalo, which was Reading Rainbow's presenting station, on the project. (The show ended its 26-year run in August 2009.) "With RRKidz, Burton is introducing a reading, discovery and exploration platform (enhanced eBooks) that could have more than 300 interactive books by the time it launches," according to Venture Beat.

“We are slipping on the world’s stage in education, very precipitously,” Burton said. “To remain a world leader, we have to do a better job educating our children. Our approach is a partnership of public and private efforts. I’ve never stopped thinking about how to prepare our children to occupy their place in the world. Reading Rainbow was a powerful reading experience for me.”

“The original Reading Rainbow television series was a huge success," said WNED President Donald K. Boswell in a statement, “and this new initiative will continue to educate our youth through today’s cutting edge technology.”

A spokesperson for the station said terms of the licensing arrangement are confidential, and the status of any return of Reading Rainbow is yet to be determined.

CPB gives $4.1 million for Public Insight Network expansion

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is awarding $4.1 million to help American Public Media expand its digital Public Insight Network, it announced today (Sept. 15). PIN gathers more than 120,000 citizen sources who share their knowledge with reporters in 45 newsrooms, including 15 of the top 20 media markets (background, Current, Jan. 24, 2011). CPB said its investment will add more than 100,000 new sources and  bring PIN to 50 additional newsrooms.

Anchor and e.p. named for NJTV's nightly news NJ Today

Mike Schneider, a familiar anchor and reporter who has worked with the four major commercial nets and major station newsrooms in the Northeast in the past 30-plus years, was announced Wednesday (Sept. 14) as anchor and managing editor of NJTV’s nightly state news program, NJ Today. He and his physician wife raised their children in Bergen County, N.J., and he ran for Congress there as a Democrat in 1998.

He’ll work with new Executive Producer Bob Males, a New Jersey native and resident who previously worked as e.p. of New Jersey and Long Island news for Verizon’s Fios service, and Michael Aron, longtime senior political correspondent at New Jersey Network, NJTV’s predecessor, who joined NJTV as political correspondent in August. The state-owned NJN network lost operating funds in the state’s fiscal crisis earlier this year and was replaced by NJTV, a new service set up by New York-based WNET under a new nonprofit, NJ Public Media.

Aron gave a testimonial for NJTV in last week’s news release about Schneider’s hiring. "I look forward to working with Mike and have already had good interactions with the new executive producer Bob Males," he said. "I believe the future of NJ Today is in good hands, and I look forward to being a part of it."

Starting from scratch July 1 — and leaving behind most of NJN’s much larger news staff — NJTV’s news program has had a rushed and rough startup. It was widely criticized for late and limited coverage of flooding and damage from Hurricane Irene in August.  NJ Today is “still considered by producers as a work-in-progress,” NJTV said. Among the strongest critics was Democratic Assemblyman Patrick J. Diegnan Jr., who said NJTV’s news coverage was a joke and “a tragedy.” Diegnan’s bill to head off the NJTV contract passed the Assembly in June but died in the state Senate.

Sep 14, 2011

New Hampshire Public Television discussing collaboration with WGBH

New Hampshire Public Television is in collaboration talks with WGBH, as well as stations in Vermont and Maine, according to Foster's Daily Democrat, which covers New Hampshire and Maine. Grace Lessner, spokesperson for NHPTV, confirmed the discussions but said no further details are available. Jeanne Hopkins, vice president of Communications at WGBH, told the paper: "We're in conversation to see if there's ways to collaborate. We're looking at if there are things that would make sense."

In June, NHPTV laid off 20 full-time employees in an effort to offset a loss of about $2.7 million in state funding. That's about a 30 percent reduction for the station's $8.8 million operating budget.

Lessner told Current in a Sept. 15 email: "NHPTV and WGBH are exploring a new model for operating that involves both content and infrastructure, and builds capacity in a way to better serve our local audiences. In addition, for the past two years NHPTV has been discussing ways to collaborate with other New England PTV stations in different ways. For example, we partnered with MPBN and VPT on a year-long series called “Making $ense New England.” We are looking to build on that success. Our loss of state funding as of July 1 this year has accelerated our discussions. CPB is providing encouragement in this process, and both CPB and PBS are aware of these conversations. At this point, we have no details to share, and it will be several months before specifics are available." Mark Erstling, CPB's senior vice president for system development, told Current that CPB is providing support for financial analysis but did not provide a figure.

KCRW unveils new mode of music discovery

KCRW, the Los Angeles station whose taste-making sensibilities for new music extend from its airwaves to digital platforms, is releasing its first iPad app today.

Music Mine, offered for free in the iPad app store, displays up to 100 artists that have been recommended by the station's deejays. Users can listen to a deejay's full show, learn more about the featured artists or -- for those who want a "lean-back" music experience -- tap into KCRW's all-music stream Eclectic 24.

The app was designed as a "new mode of music discovery" -- one that departs from long-form audio content of KCRW radio broadcasts yet still provides "a human-curated experience that is knowledgeable, passionate, unpredictable and even quirky," said Anil Dewan, KCRW director of new media.

To develop Music Mine, KCRW tapped Public Radio Exchange, a leading producer of software applications for public media companies, and the digital design firm Roundarch. The app is built on the Echo Nest music platform that provides music applications for a variety of media companies.

"Sloppiness" led to NewsHour transcript misunderstanding, PBS ombudsman finds

There is no evidence that PBS altered a transcript of President Obama's recent speech to Congress to cover a "major gaffe by the president," PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler writes. However, he adds that leaving the prepared remarks on the NewsHour website "from Thursday night until bloggers, and the ombudsman, shook their tree Saturday morning — long after the White House and the [New York] Times had published actual transcripts — was a serious lapse." During the speech, Obama mistakenly said that Abraham Lincoln was the "founder" of the Republican party, but that statement was not in the original transcript supplied by the White House and posted by NewsHour.

"I think any fair-minded person, and I hope I'm one of them, would accept this as an unfortunate sequence of events, compounded by some carelessness and sloppiness by the NewsHour and PBS," Getler says.

Sep 13, 2011

WBGO enters homestretch for signal upgrade project

WBGO launched the public phase of a $3 million capital campaign fundraising for a major signal improvement project. The jazz and NPR News station plans to put a new antenna on the spire atop 4 Times Square, one of the tallest structures in New York City, which is home of Condé Nast magazines and a huge NASDAQ display above street level. The upgrade will improve signal quality for listeners throughout metropolitan New York and New Jersey and expand the station's potential audience by 1 million listeners.

Several funders, including the defunct Public Telecommunications Facilities Program, brought WBGO to the half-way mark in its capital campaign. The station now is appealing for listener contributions so that engineers can flip the switch on the new transmitter by year's end.

Stations' D.C. bureau, Capitol News Connection, to close this month

After covering Congress for dozens of public radio stations for more than eight years, the nonprofit operator of Capitol News Connection will wind down operations by the end of the month. The news service faltered late last year, lost subscribing stations and finally lost further support from CPB, which itself suffered a $30 million cut from its digital project funding. "[A]fter a careful review of our finances and cash flow, we have concluded that it would be impossible to replace those funds in time to ensure the continuation of the service," CNC announced today.

The service held down its fees to stations, which rarely exceeded 32 percent of its annual revenue, but that made it dependent on aid from CPB and foundations, said Melinda Wittstock, founder and chief exec — who also served as one of CNC's handful of Capitol Hill reporters.

She said CNC, since 2003, has produced 32,594 spots customized for particular local stations and 7,094 feature and investigative reports for as many as 51 subscribing station licensees.

"We are endeavoring to make good on as many of the outstanding spots and features owed to stations in the next few weeks," Wittstock said.

More in Current, Sept. 19.

Rhode Island Public Radio seals deal for FM channel

Rhode Island Public Radio will move its NPR News service to WELH 88.1 FM in Providence in October.

The signal transition, which was negotiated this summer, provides for Latino Public Radio to expand into a full-time broadcast service on 1290 AM, the channel that served as a beachhead in establishing an independent public radio service in Rhode Island under the call letters WRNI. By moving off the AM dial onto the reserved FM band, RIPR strengthens its channel position in the most populated region of the state.

The Wheeler School, a private prep school in Providence, agreed to provide 88.1 FM to RIPR through a programming partnership, not a sale. Its student-programmed radio service will migrate to an online streaming site.

Sep 12, 2011

WJCT in Florida dropping three shows, including APHC, due to budget cuts

WJCT/89.9 FM in Jacksonville, Fla., is dropping A Prairie Home Companion along with two other shows due to the loss of state funding, according to the St. Augustine Record. It's the station's most expensive weekly show, at $26,682 for 2011, station President Michael Boylan told the paper. As of Oct. 1, the show will be replaced with Bob Edwards Weekend at a cost of $1,871 a year.

Also on Oct. 1, the BBC's World Have Your Say will sub for Tell Me More and locally produced music shows will run instead of World of Opera.

Boylan said that the dual licensee is facing a $500,000 shortfall on its planned $5.7 million budget, after Gov. Rick Scott cut off state funding to all stations in May.

Boylan said those three shows don't draw large audiences: APHC averaged 2,300 listeners live at 6 p.m. Saturdays, and 4,000 during its repeat at 2 p.m. Sundays. Also, Tell Me More's cost to the station is rising from about $8,000 a year to $16,500.

WHYY's Nessa Forman dies at 68

Former WHYY executive Nessa Forman died Saturday night (Sept. 10) of complications from pancreatic cancer at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse in Philadelphia. She was 68.

She retired in 2007 from the station as vice president of corporate communications and public affairs. She had worked at WHYY since 1983.

"Nessa has managed her illness the way that she managed her life," Bill Marrazzo, president of WHYY, said in an interview on Sept. 9 with the Philadelphia Inquirer, "always with considerable grace, good humor and fully engaged in a broad palette of current events."

Marrazzo said that at WHYY, "she set the highest standards for professionalism, loyalty to the principles of public media ... and being the best WHYY shopper for clever gifts ever."

Jonathan Storm, The Inquirer's television critic, said, "It's not exaggerating to say she was friends with everybody she dealt with, whether it was a TV critic who regularly assailed WHYY or one of the social [set] who supported it. She was a wonderfully caring and kindhearted person."

Services will be 10 a.m. Tuesday (Sept. 13), at WHYY, followed at 1 p.m. by burial in Rodef Sholom Cemetery in Egg Harbor Township. Donations may be sent to the Nessa Forman, David Forman, Eleanor and Solomon Forman Family Fund at the Philadelphia Foundation, Suite 1800, 1234 Market St., Philadelphia 19107.

Temporary hosts rotate into Need to Know anchor chair

WNET's Need to Know will have several temporary hosts, including an NPR veteran, reports the New York Times, in the wake of Alison Stewart's departure. Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition Saturday, will fill the chair this week. Coming soon will be Maria Hinojosa of Now on PBS, Ray Suarez of PBS NewsHour and Jeff Greenfield, a network news vet who also hosted WTTW's national production CEO Exchange on PBS. WNET programmer Stephen Segaller called it an "interim arrangement" to provide the program “some breathing room” as the station ponders its future.

Also, NTK Executive Producer Shelley Lewis is being replaced by Marc Rosenwasser, whose background includes work on ABC and NBC newsmagazines as well as executive producing WNET's Worldfocus, which was canceled just before NTK premiered last year.

Sep 11, 2011

Antenna mast section from World Trade Center heading to museum to honor engineers

A portion of the main antenna mast recovered from the rubble of the North Tower of the World Trade Center will go on display next year in the National September 11 Memorial & Museum to honor broadcast engineers killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. WNET was on the tower, and the station lost engineer Gerard "Rod" Copolla on that day.

After the 9/11 attacks, the charitable arm of the Society of Broadcast Engineers created the Broadcast Engineer Relief Fund to help the families of the six engineers who died. “With donations from many members of SBE, and vendors and industry foundations, we were pleased to send checks of $42,500 each to every family… without any strings attached,” SBE President Vinny Lopez told Radio World. “Every penny [raised] went directly to the families.”

PBS programming wins 10 Creative Arts Emmys

PBS won 10 statuettes at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards Saturday night (Sept. 10) in Los Angeles, including Outstanding Nonfiction Series for American Masters. The American Experience presentation of "Freedom Riders" won three. The Creative Arts Emmys honor technical disciplines and behind-the-scenes crafts essential to television production — art direction, cinematography, hairstyling, makeup, music, picture editing, sound editing and mixing, special visual effects, stunts and more. Here's a full list of winners (PDF).

Sep 9, 2011

WOSU in Columbus completes sale of AM channel

Ohio State University trustees on Friday (Sept. 9) approved the $2 million sale of WOSU Public Media's AM frequency and transmitting equipment to a Roman Catholic station, Gabriel Radio Inc., according to Columbus Business First. The deal completes WOSU's transition to all-FM broadcasts, which began last year. The station had paid Fun With Radio LLC $5.7 million for the 101.1 FM signal and tower to create Classical 101. WOSU converted its 89.7 FM frequency to an all news-talk format, and has been dual broadcasting on 820 AM since then.

“We invest a lot in our local news,” Tom Rieland, g.m. of WOSU told Current in August 2010. “It’s been a struggle for us, getting people to the AM dial to listen to us in this community.” The station hopes the move back to FM will bring a much bigger audience to WOSU’s local news programs.

NPR weighs in on FCC proposal to clear spectrum for LPFMs

Regulatory wrangling over the FCC's proposed rule-making for low-power FM stations is heating up.

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers on Sept. 7 urged the commission to license as many LPFMs as possible as it implements the Local Community Radio Act, according to The Hill. Meanwhile, formal comments from competing broadcasting interest groups are rolling into the FCC.

NPR is among the broadcasters objecting to the commission's proposal for opening FM frequencies in urban areas. Rather than dismissing some 1,800 pending translator applications from full-power broadcasters to make way for new LPFMs, as the FCC has proposed, NPR urges the commission to wade through its massive backlog of applications from 2003 and approve those that would not obstruct new LPFM service.

WCLK-FM, an African-American public station that broadcasts NPR News and jazz in Atlanta, is among the translator applicants that would benefit from the approach proposed by NPR's policy team.

In its comments to the FCC, filed Sept. 6, NPR also urges the commission to adopt rules prohibiting spectrum trafficking by translator applicants and barring AM broadcasters from retransmitting their signals on FM translators.

Doc Martin may get American version, KCET programmer learns

Bohdan Zachary, broadcasting and program development v.p. at KCET in Los Angeles, recently got the chance to visit the set of Doc Martin, the station's highest-rated show, in the picturesque fishing village of Port Isaac, North Cornwall, U.K. "One of the great joys of my visit was the chance to interview each one of the series' actors," Zachary reports. "As busy as they were with filming, they were eager to talk about how many American tourists are suddenly popping up in Port Isaac — a sign of the series' success on public television."

Star Martin Clunes told Zachary that several Hollywood producers are negotiating for an American version of the show, similar to the new version of the Helen Mirren-led BBC classic Prime Suspect premiering on NBC this fall. Doc Martin already plays in Germany and Spain with native casts.

YouTube eyeing original journalism; in talks with Center for Investigative Reporting

YouTube is in discussions with the Center for Investigative Reporting to form a video-based reporting service, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. YouTube wants the center to curate material for what it plans to call YouTube Investigative. "There's a revolution around information and technology," said center Executive Director Robert Rosenthal, with social media platforms eager to get involved in a type of journalism once dominated by traditional press outlets. The Berkeley, Calif.-based center also is in discussions with Apple and Google about collaborations.

Sep 8, 2011

WGZS, latest pubradio station, hits the airwaves on Minnesota reservation

After nine years of work, a new 50,000-watt public radio station debuted Wednesday (Sept. 7) on the Fond du Lac Reservation in Minnesota, reports The Pine Journal in Carlton County, along the central-eastern edge of the state. Giizis, the Ojibwe word for moon, inspired call letters WGZS at 89.1 FM. Dan Huculak, operations manager for the station and a member of the tribe, told the newspaper that the station will broadcast music, local news and events, public service announcements, and Ojibwe language and cultural programming. The initial broadcast day will run 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays, with weekend hours coming soon.

Riverwalk Jazz archives going to Stanford University

The archives of Riverwalk Jazz, the critically acclaimed PRI show hosted by musician Jim Cullum, are heading to Stanford University. Included are 400 radio programs and a 700-page website for the show, which debuted in 1989. And in January 2013, Stanford's Archive of Recorded Sound will offer a continuous web stream of all Riverwalk programs, including documentaries on the history of jazz from its earliest roots. "Nothing like this is available anywhere else," said Margaret Moos Pick, the program's executive producer.

Montana PBS adds transmitter in state's far northwest

The FCC bestowed a rare gift upon the northwestern Montana town of Kalispell today — a construction permit for a new public TV station, licensed to Montana State University.

As with many other full-power pubTV stations serving rural areas, the commission permitted the licensee to share programs from out of town — in this case, the Montana PBS programming originated at the university’s KUSM in Bozeman, which also airs on KUFM in Missoula and other repeaters in the state.

The signal from Kalispell, 120 miles north of Missoula near Glacier National Park, will cover a population of just 98,700 spread across 7,500 square miles.

The new station will broadcast on Channel 46 with maximum effective radiated power of 23,400 watts.

A church group, Flathead Adventist Radio Inc., filed a competing application for the channel, but it reached a settlement with the university two years ago, according to FCC documents.

Sep 7, 2011

KPBS announces weeknight news show, further investigative collaboration

KPBS in San Diego is launching a new weeknight local news and analysis show, KPBS Evening Edition, beginning Sept. 26. “We’ve spent a lot of time preparing and planning for this program,” Tom Karlo, KPBS g.m., said in a statement. “We saw a tremendous opportunity on television to provide our community with intelligent, objective, and accurate news on global and local issues.” The program will feature local headlines as well as analysis, newsmaker interviews and video reports from the field. Topics will differ by night: Monday, business and technology; Tuesdays, health; Wednesdays, reports from the Fronteras local journalism center; Thursdays, community news; and Fridays, culture. Audience feedback via email, phone or social media will run in a Feedback/Followup segment at the end of each program.

The station also is is announcing an "enhanced partnership" with Investigative Newsource, an independent nonprofit also known as the Watchdog Institute that has been based at San Diego State University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies for two years. Beginning Oct. 1, the Investigative Newsource reporting staff will share space in the new Joan and Irwin Jacobs KPBS News Center. The two entities partnered in the past on a four-month investigation of the whooping cough epidemic.

“Working with Investigative Newsource allows us to deepen our commitment to investigative journalism,” said Suzanne Marmion, director of news and editorial strategy for KPBS. “As other media outlets cut back, this type of reporting that shines a light into the darkness is critical for our community."

Sep 6, 2011

Simon Marks to depart from NewsHour

MacNeil/Lehrer Productions President Simon Marks is leaving his post at the end of this month, he told Current in an email today (Sept. 6). "I've realized over the past year that I greatly miss my daily dose of newsroom adrenalin," he said. Marks is returning to his own company, Feature Story News, in both on-air and production roles. He has spent several weeks devising a management structure for the transition, and his predecessor Les Crystal will expand his ongoing advisory and consultative work during that time.

Marks was associate executive producer for PBS NewsHour before his promotion last July. He was instrumental in the program's shift to a platform-neutral, cohesive newsroom blending both on-air and online newsgathering operations (Current, Jan. 11, 2010). (Image: PBS/Jake Landis)

Cornish describes a new vibe for NPR's 'Weekend Edition Sunday'

NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday was originally conceived as the Sunday newspaper, but new host Audie Cornish wants it to be more like Sunday brunch, she tells Ad Week. "The kind of brunch I go to usually involves some alcohol, usually involves people telling stories and talking about what happened the week before, and what’s going to happen, and did you see this movie? I want that kind of energy." Cornish also describes her approach for combating NPR's stereotype for wide-eyed earnestness: "One of the things to think about is, if you find yourself saying 'This is something our audience would like,' you should just back away from the table, because you’re doing something that you think NPR sounds like." After being appointed to succeed longtime host Liane Hansen in May, Cornish's first broadcast at the helm aired Sept. 4.

Sep 2, 2011

Daystar buying former PBS affiliate in Waco, Texas, for $250,000

The Daystar religious network is purchasing KDYW, the former PBS affiliate KWBU in Waco, Texas, according to a filing with the Federal Communications Commission seeking approval for the deal. Licensee Baylor University is getting $250,000 for the station. Facing a $400,000 budget shortfall, KWBU went dark at the end of May 2010. The local nonprofit entity that will own the station is Community Television Educators of Waco, headed by Daystar's Marcus and Joni Lamb. Its call letters were changed in May.

Public broadcasting 9/11 content runs from arts to investigations

CPB is compiling an online list of 9/11-related pubcasting programming airing during the next several weeks. Spokesperson Nicole Mezlo told Current that the list is being updated as information comes in from stations and organizations around the country. Content includes two live presentations: A City Reimagined: Voices of 9/11 in Poetry and Performance, an evening of spoken-word performances of first-hand accounts of the day the terrorists struck the World Trade Center, and On Being's panel discussion, a collaboration with the Trinity Wall Street Church St. Paul's Chapel at Ground Zero. The list also highlights local activities at stations.

Fighting budget cuts with TALENT WAR$

WVPT in Harrisonburg, Va., is hoping an online talent contest helps them raise money to restore state cuts to their budget, reports the Augusta Free Press in Waynesboro, Va. Viewers can post videos showcasing their unique abilities at TALENT WAR$ @wvpt. Visitors view the films, select their favorite and “vote” for it by making a donation to WVPT on the site. Every dollar donated equals one vote for the video. The three participants with the most $1 votes by Jan. 3, 2012, win a first place award of $3,000; second place, $2,000; and third place, $1,000.

As of July 1, cuts in state funding for pubcasting resulted in a loss of more than $200,000 for the station, said David Mullins, president and g.m. “By raising support from our communities, we’re helping ensure that we can continue to deliver the valued programs and services that we’ve provided for the last 43 years,” he said. “We hope that as people become aware of the contest and communicate about it through Facebook, Twitter and other social media, it will become a popular contest for participants.”

Sep 1, 2011

Free download of Edwards memoir offered as a gift to pubradio fans

A new memoir by Bob Edwards, the NPR personality whose 2004 ouster as Morning Edition anchor roiled public radio, is being offered as a free e-book download through Sept. 9, a week before the print edition's release.

"A Voice in the Box," published by the University Press of Kentucky, recounts Edwards's radio career, including his collaborations with NPR colleagues and sportscaster Red Barber, whose weekly appearances on Morning Edition were a keystone of Edwards's 25 years as host.

“You can think of this as the ultimate pledge drive premium considering most public radio supporters already have plenty of coffee mugs and tote bags,” says Edwards. He now helms The Bob Edwards Show for Sirius/XM and Public Radio International's Bob Edwards Weekend.

The free downloads are available through Amazon's Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, and the Google ebookstore.

Full news release at Romenesko.