Nov 30, 2011

Pubmedia films score Sundance Film Fest spots

Six films funded by the Independent Television Service (ITVS) have been selected to screen at the  Sundance Film Festival, Jan. 19-29, 2012, in Park City, Utah. ITVS domestic co-productions claimed four of the 16 spots in the U.S. Documentary competition and two of the 12 spots in the World Documentary competition. The films are: DETROPIA by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, The House I Live In by Eugene Jarecki, The Invisible War by Kirby Dick, Love Free or Die: How the Bishop of New Hampshire is Changing the World by Macky Alston, 5 Broken Cameras by Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, and Putin's Kiss by Lise Birk Pedersen.

UPDATE: Another pubmedia film of note that has been accepted at Sundance is Slavery by Another Name, produced and directed by Sam Pollard in partnership with tpt National Productions, which received funding through the CPB/PBS Diversity and Innovation Fund.

Penn State station hosting Town Hall on abuse allegations tonight

Penn State Public Broadcasting is producing and broadcasting a live Town Hall Forum at 6 p.m. Eastern tonight (Nov. 30) for students and university administration to discuss the ramifications of the sexual abuse allegations surrounding former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.  The Town Hall will air on WPSU's World multichannel with additional feeds provided by WPSU to the Pennsylvania Cable Network and the Campus Cable Network as well as online.

Kerger suggests "subscription model" for online access to some PBS content

PBS President Paula Kerger spent an hour on KQED's Forum program Wednesday (Nov. 30), taking listener questions on public broadcasting and its future. She revealed that to raise revenues, PBS is considering a "subscription model" that would enable paying subscribers to have access to "a larger library" of archived material, reports Adam Powell of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy. Kerger said some new PBS programs might be available "for a fee," which she compared to PBS selling DVDs of shows. Listen to the audio here.

NPR's Dick Meyer departing for new post at BBC News, America

Dick Meyer, executive news editor at NPR, has accepted a new position as executive producer for BBC News, America. His last day at NPR is Dec. 9. A memo from Kinsey Wilson, NPR's senior v.p. and g.m. of digital media. and Margaret Low Smith, its acting senior v.p. for news, said Meyer was "instrumental in establishing as a serious force in digital journalism." Meyer joined NPR in March 2008 from He also produced political and investigative reports for the CBS Evening News, and is author of the book Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium

Pilot stations selected for Mobile Emergency Alert System project

Four public broadcasting stations will participate in a Mobile Emergency Alert System (M-EAS) pilot project funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and LG Electronics to assess the potential of sharing crisis information via Mobile Digital TV services. WGBH in Boston, Vegas PBS and two Alabama Public Television stations (WBIQ in Birmingham and WAIQ in Montgomery) will serve as test markets. "By using terrestrial over-the-air TV broadcasting, rather than cellular network connectivity, M-EAS is expected to meet critical needs for emergency alerts," a PBS announcement said. The goal is to prove the viability of M-EAS using existing standards, and to create a template for use by all broadcasters, public or commercial.

“With the Mobile EAS service," said John McCoskey, PBS's chief technology officer, "we’ll be able to send everything from AMBER alert photos to detailed maps with escape routes, live video, and extensive information that viewers will find invaluable in a disaster. This goes way beyond just a text message on a congested cell phone network. It’s harnessing the power of ‘one-to-many’ transmissions from a TV broadcaster to the viewing audience.”

Have a question for Gary Knell? Tweet it Thursday

Gary Knell, former head of Sesame Workshop and incoming NPR c.e.o., will be chatting live on Twitter from 3 to 3:30 p.m. Eastern Thursday (Dec. 1), his first day of work. Hashtag: #nprceo

Vogelzang to lead Maine Public Broadcasting

Veteran pubcasting exec Mark Vogelzang has been appointed president and c.e.o. of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, operator of statewide public television and radio networks with a budget of about $10 million. He succeeds Jim Dowe, MPBN president since 2006, who is retiring next month.

The appointment, announced Nov. 29, comes as Vogelzang completes an interim appointment as g.m. of WBFO-FM, the university-owned NPR News station in Buffalo that's being sold to WNED, a community-licensed pubcasting operation that serves radio and TV audiences in Buffalo and Canada. The proposed $4 million sale has gained approval from New York state policy makers — including Attorney General Eric Schneiderman — and is now pending before the FCC.

When Vogelzang took over management of WBFO two years ago, his assignment was to lead the station and its university licensee through strategic planning. Merger talks with WNED later produced the sales agreement that was announced this summer.

MPBN Board Chair Henry "Hank" Schmelzer pointed to Vogelzang's experience an earlier job — as president of Vermont Public Radio — in describing his qualifications as MPBN president. "Mark's long tenure as the leader of a statewide public media network in northern New England with a roughly equal number of stations, individual donors and corporate supporters, combined with his deep knowledge of non-profit fundraising, makes him the ideal candidate to lead MPBN into the future."

As president of VPR from 1993 to 2006, Vogelzang led the public radio network through a $10 million endowment campaign and a signal expansion project that split NPR News and classical music programming on two separate radio networks. Vogelzang served on the NPR Board of Directors for seven years and was interim executive director of the NPR Foundation in 2009.

Wife of new judge in Penn State abuse case had links to school thru pubcasting board

WPSU-FM and WPSU-TV at Penn State University have been tangentially drawn into the ongoing child sex abuse case against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. Last week, Pennsylvania court administrators who assigned Senior Judge John M. Cleland to handle the charges announced that Cleland had no known connections to the university — but his wife served for 15 years on the Penn State Public Broadcasting Board of Representatives, a volunteer panel advising the university on the operation of the stations, reports The Citizens' Voice newspaper in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Julie Cleland was on the board from 1995 through 2009, including as chairman and vice-chairman. The newspaper said Judge Cleland was unaware of the wording of the Nov. 22 announcement and disclosed his wife's involvement to state officials the next day. Thomas B. Darr, deputy court administrator for Pennsylvania, called Julie Cleland's link to the school via the stations "minimal and distant."

Penn State Public Broadcasting General Manager Ted Krichels agreed. "She's not on the board anymore and doesn't have any connection that I'm aware of with Penn State other than what she had through our board," Krichels said. "There is nothing, I think, that warrants further investigation."

Judge Cleland said he will alert prosecutors and Sandusky's attorney of his wife's Penn State connection "as his first order of business" Wednesday morning (Nov. 30) at a pre-trial conference, the paper said. If any attorneys object, Cleland told Darr he would consider removing himself from the case.

Nov 29, 2011

"Mama Jazz," longtime host of WMUB, dies

Phyllis Campbell, known to public radio listeners in southwestern Ohio as "Mama Jazz," has died at the age of 89, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. She hosted jazz programming on WMUB in Miami from 1979 to 2006 and became one of the station's most popular and distinctive personalities during 27 years on the air. "She was feisty as all get-out, passionately devoted to jazz, and unabashedly loyal to her legions of fans," Cleve Callison, former WMUB g.m., told the Enquirer.

Ready TV will be Arizona version of Create multicast channel

Arizona Public Media is launching a local version of the Create multicast lifestyle channel, to be called Ready TV, starting Dec. 1, reports the Green Valley News & Sun. "Ready TV is very similar to Create but it is programmed locally to accommodate the local Southern Arizona time zone," said Sue DeBenedette, marketing manager for AZPM. "With Create, it was programmed and scheduled on the East Coast, so that primetime shows did not air in primetime here in Southern Arizona. Scheduling it locally gives AZPM the freedom to program those shows that resonate strongly here in this market rather than being dictated to by a national feed." The 24-hour channel will include Julia Child shows, Austin City Limits, This Old House and Woodwright's Shop with Roy Underhill.

APM acquires Spot.Us, will merge it with Public Insight Network

American Public Media has acquired community news funding website Spot.Us, and will incorporate it into the Public Insight Network (PIN), APM announced today (Nov. 29). Spot.Us and PIN each "believe in the power of the independent voice in journalism," said Joaquin Alvarado, senior vice president of digital innovation at APM. Spot.Us, founded in 2008 with a seed grant from the Knight Foundation's Knight News Challenge, lets the public fund journalism that is then distributed by newsrooms nationwide; PIN provides journalists with more than 130,000 self-identified news sources through its unique database.

House GOP offers spectrum bill

House Republicans today (Nov. 29) released their spectrum incentive auction bill, reports Broadcasting & Cable. It was introduced by Communications Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and is set to be marked up and voted on in the committee Thursday. It would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to reclaim spectrum from broadcasters for auction and compensate them from the proceeds. It also would compensate broadcasters not giving up spectrum for the costs of moving to another channel or sharing channels with another broadcaster, as well as the cost to cable operators of carrying the new signals. A Senate version of a spectrum auction bill has already passed out of the Commerce Committee.

Nov 28, 2011

DiRienzo steps down as head of V-me

Carmen DiRienzo, founding president and c.e.o. of the Spanish-language public TV channel V-me, has resigned her posts, effective Dec. 31, the network announced today (Nov. 28). She will continue to serve on its Board of Directors. Alvaro Garnica will assume the new position of general manager, with overall responsibility for daily operations. He is g.m. of Plural Entertainment, which V-me describes as its "sister company and primary production partner." Garnica also spent nine years in programming at Grupo Prisa, a Spanish-language media conglomerate that purchased a significant stake in V-me Media Inc. in October 2009.

In today's announcement, DiRienzo said: “I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to lead a creative, dedicated team of professionals in such a worthwhile venture. V-me’s role in the Hispanic community is an important one and I am happy to continue to nurture it through my role on the Board of Directors.”

V-me launched in March 2007 as an initiative of WNET, where DiRienzo had been v.p. and managing director of corporate affairs. The 24-hour Spanish network is currently available in more than 10 million Hispanic homes via public TV stations' multicast DTV channels and carriage by cable systems and satellite TV providers.

Next Avenue hires staff nationwide for "virtual organization"

Next Avenue, which has been called “the biggest public media initiative being undertaken anywhere in public broadcasting," has hired a staff of eight and so far raised $6 million in foundation money for the web-based project designed to "hyper-serve" America's aging population. Staffers will be located in New York, St. Paul, Denver and Washington, D.C., creating "an interesting new model for a public television station — a virtual organization — as well as journalism hubs across the country," the initiative, based at Twin Cities Public Television, announced on Monday (Nov. 28).

The hires: Donna Sapolin will be Next Avenue's vice president, editorial director and general manager; she's former editor-in-chief of This Old House magazine and vice president/editorial director of Woman’s Day Special Interest Publications. Larry Carlat will be managing editor, he's a veteran editorial director and media exec who led creative web operations for several publications including Rolling Stone. Richard Eisenberg will be senior web editor for the Money & Security and Work & Purpose sections of the site; he spent 19 years at Money magazine as a writer and editor and created the Best Places to Live in America feature there, and most recently was front page finance programmer for Suzanne Gerber will be senior web editor for Living & Learning; she has worked as a senior editor at InStyle and Redbook magazines, as well as editor-in-chief of Vegetarian Times. Marilynn Larkin will be senior web editor, Health & Well-Being and Caregiving, she was a contributing editor to The Lancet and is author of five consumer health books. Judith Graham will be editor at large; she has worked as an investigative reporter at the Chicago Tribune and shared a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 2001, as well as authored a monthly column on aging and a blog on consumer health. Carla Baranauckas will be copy editor, she has spent 21 years as an editor at the New York Times in sports, metro, national, regional arts and continuous news. Liza Hogan will be content partnership manager; she was a new media consultant in Chicago, where she taught online journalism and legal reporting at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism and produced online features for

Two dozen public television stations have signed on as Next Avenue affiliates. The site is expected to launch in April 2012.

Nov 27, 2011

Former Sen. Specter says he's hosting show for Maryland Public Television, the news website of the conservative Media Research Center, is reporting that former Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) is developing a Sunday morning talk show for Maryland Public Television. The first episode of The Whole Truth is scheduled to be produced Nov. 29 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., according to, and will air in January. “This is a pilot, and we hope to put on many, many additional programs — depends on how well we do and how well it is received,” Specter told the news site. His first guests include former Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and the topic will be the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. the Federal Election Commission, which held that political spending is a form of protected speech.

Specter said in a letter to a potential guest, obtained by, that the program will be an “interrogation of principal guests, speaking for both sides of the issues, and a diverse and distinguished live audience of scholars, public officials, journalists and students.”

UPDATE: Steven J. Schupak, MPT's s.v.p., content enterprises, confirmed to Current that The Whole Truth pilot has been green-lit and plans are for 13 half-hour episodes. It will premiere on MPT at 8 p.m. Eastern on Jan. 13, 2012. No distributor has yet been set.

To Lubinsky, even castanets matter

T.J. Lubinsky, whose musical pledge specials have brought in some $300 million for the pubcasting system, "is not a trained musician," reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the paper in his adopted hometown. "He doesn't play an instrument and can't sing very well, but he has a keen, almost supernatural ear for music."

One example is a 3 a.m. recording session of Phil Spector's "Be My Baby" and "Da Doo Ron Ron." To Lubinsky, the castanets just did not sound authentic. And he was correct, because the castanets Spector used were made from ebony and used by flamenco dancers. "We found an instructor at Carnegie Mellon who had the real ones for teaching flamenco," recalled producer Paul Brownstein. "To make the sound more authentic, T.J. then paid for another session with the musicians to record the song again with the right castanets. So, it's making it the best he can, as opposed to 'that's about it, we're moving on.' "

Lubinsky's latest special, My Music: '60s Pop Rock and Soul premieres tonight (Nov. 27) on PBS.

Nov 26, 2011

WGBH's voice of Boston Symphony Orchestra writes memoir

Ron Della Chiesa, longtime broadcaster and host of Boston Symphony Orchestra performances on WGBH, has a new memoir out, Radio My Way. Among the memories he shared with the Boston Globe was what he considers to be the "worst interview" he ever did, with singer Eartha Kitt during his MusicAmerica show that ran from 1978 to '96, also on WGBH. "I was playing this rare recording of 'Lilac Wine,' and she said: 'It was stupid of you to play that. It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever done.' I couldn’t go to black; it was live. She had a reputation for being tough."

Interesting aside: A 1996 story in Current about MusicAmerica's cancellation, due to a schedule overhaul, said "the change has met a surprising level of resistance. About 2,000 Della Chiesa fans have called or written in complaints, and a group has organized into "Save MusicAmerica." Fans got Tony Bennett to speak on behalf of the program at a recent Boston concert, have set up a phone hotline, and are asking people to request a return of their pledges."

WGVU Meijer Public Broadcasting Center's namesake dies at 91

Frederik G.H. Meijer, a billionaire grocery magnate and philanthropist whose famous generosity benefited Michigan and whose name resides on the Meijer Public Broadcast Center at Grand Valley State University's Grand Rapids campus, died Friday (Nov. 25). He was 91.

"Fred's support for PBS and NPR has enriched the lives of everyone who watches television and listens to radio in West Michigan," Michael Walenta, general manager at WGVU, said in a statement. "We will be forever in his debt."

Meijer was No. 60 on this year's Forbes 400 Richest Americans, with an estimated net worth of $5 billion.

Here's his obituary in the Grand Rapids Press, which notes, "he delighted in seeing what his money could do for the area’s hospitals, colleges and cultural institutions."

APM reviewing congresswoman's request to drop Allianz sponsorship of APHC

A Florida congresswoman wants American Public Media and other media outlets to stop airing underwriting spots and advertising by Allianz AG, a German insurer that did business with the Nazis, reports the Miami Herald. Allianz is one of two corporate underwriters of A Prairie Home Companion.

GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who heads the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, is backing a bill that would allow Holocaust survivors to sue the insurer and has launched a letter-writing campaign aimed at blocking it from advertising in America until it pays off all Holocaust survivors’ life insurance claims. During World War II, the Herald says, Allianz insured concentration camp facilities as well as sent money to the Nazis instead of rightful Jewish beneficiaries.

APM execs told the newspaper that they are reviewing the congresswoman's request but have not made a decision on Allianz’s underwriting. the congresswoman also contacted NPR; a spokesperson there declined to comment, saying only that stations are independent entities.

The Associated Press also reported on Nov. 15 that Holocaust survivors have been raising questions about Allianz's sponsorship of broadcast programs, including A Prairie Home Companion. The Associated Press said American Public Media told survivors in an email to contact Allianz directly to discuss their concerns.

Allianz has a website, "Allianz During the Nazi Era," explaining the corporation's history during World War II.

KCET to air exclusive on-set footage of "Doc Martin" production

Starting Dec. 8, KCET will feature eight-minute, behind-the-scenes clips of the popular British dramedy Doc Martin following each episode, the Los Angeles indie pubcaster announced Saturday (Nov. 26). Bohdan Zachary, v.p. of broadcasting and program development, spent time on the series set earlier this year, interviewing the actors and hanging out in Port Isaac, North Cornwall, U.K., where the show takes place.

Nov 25, 2011

Country music gets its due at White House celebration and on PBS

President and Mrs. Obama hosted an In Performance at the White House this week, paying tribute to country music. Check out the production photos — including performances by Kris Kristofferson, Lyle Lovett and Alison Krauss — on PBS Press Room's flickr stream.

Jacksonville's WJCT in partnership negotiations with University of North Florida

WJCT in Jacksonville, Fla., is in partnership talks with University of North Florida. Dual-licensee WJCT "would remain a community-based public broadcasting station but would work with UNF in a number of ways," reports News 4 in Jacksonville.

"It has yet to be determined how that relationship is going to be formulated," said Michael Boylan, president of WJCT. "There are some financial benefits to having this kind of relationship."

In September WJCT-FM dropped A Prairie Home Companion and two others shows, citing a $500,000 drop in state funding.

Nov 23, 2011

TuneIn announces successful launch of donation app at KQED

TuneIn, a free streaming audio aggregation app that lets listeners hear music, sports and news from around the world, has launched TuneIn Donate, which enables listeners to contribute to pubradio stations. KQED in San Francisco is piloting the new app, available for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android smartphones. TuneIn said in a statement that since using TuneIn Donate, KQED "has seen a meaningful increase in traffic" to its website donation page, although it provided no details. "KQED donors are some of the earliest adopters of new technologies," said Tim Olson, station v.p. of digital media and education. "We are excited to be part of this groundbreaking initiative and are encouraged with the initial results.” TuneIn plans to offer TuneIn Donate to listener-supported stations worldwide by the end of the year, it said, adding that 100 percent of donations go to stations.

Human skull, bones, discovered in KCAW building in Sitka, Alaska

Contractors working in the basement of KCAW/Raven Radio in Sitka, Alaska, uncovered human remains that may predate the 103-year-old building, the Associated Press is reporting in the Anchorage Daily News. When workers found the skull and skeleton between two slabs of bedrock, work immediately stopped. "And the first thing we had to do was figure out what to do," said KCAW General Manager Ken Fate. Police and an archeologist determined the bones were not part of a crime scene. Then, "erring on the side of caution," Fate said, "we determined that we better treat them as if they might be culturally significant." Fate contacted the Sitka Tribe of Alaska, and tribal elders said the site was not a previous village or ceremonies, but conducted a blessing ceremony nevertheless. The contractors have cordoned off the area containing the bones and the work continues.

Thank you, public broadcasting

Here's a nice Thanksgiving tribute to public media from the staff of the National Center for Media Engagement, talking about what they're most thankful for. From Charles Meyer, NCME executive director: "I’m grateful for the times I’ve giggled uncontrollably while listening to This American Life podcasts. I’m thankful for being moved deeply every time I watch Ken Burns’s documentary about Lewis and Clark. And I’ve never been more proud and grateful to be part of public media as I was when my family and I watched the recent NewsHour segment about American Graduate and the Nine Network Teacher Town Hall. I could tell that my son understood the importance of school in a way he never had before, and I could see in my family’s eyes that they realized the enormous value and potential of what public media can do in communities. Thank you."

Brian Eckstein of Indiana Public Radio dies at 40

Brian Eckstein, production manager at Indiana Public Radio and a volunteer at the station since high school, died unexpectedly Monday (Nov. 21) at his home in Muncie, Ind. He was 40.

"Chances are, if you live around here, your life has been touched somehow, in some way, by Brian Eckstein," wrote the Star Press in Muncie.

"His small shoes leave an enormous space to fill at the radio station, and in our hearts," Angie Rapp, marketing manager of WIPB and IPR, told the paper. Eckstein was recognized as an Outstanding Alumnus by the Disabled Student Development Office of Ball State University.

Eckstein had long battled health problems: Two kidney transplants, cancer (twice), leg braces and near-blindness. "But he never complained," the paper said. "He never played the sympathy card."

He received a kidney in 2004 from friend Lee Ann Mengelt. "I felt blessed being able to share something I had with a man who truly touched absolutely every person that he met," she said. "One thing Brian always carried with him was his dignity and compassion. I'll now carry that with me, forever."

His funeral Mass will be 3 p.m. Friday at St. Francis of Assisi (1200 West Riverside Ave., Muncie, Ind., 47303-3692). Gant Funeral Home, Yorktown Chapel, is handling arrangements.

California governor taps pubcaster for prison media relations post

California Gov. Jerry Brown has named Jeffrey Callison of Capital Public Radio in Sacramento, as press secretary of media relations in the state's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Callison, with his distinctive Scottish brogue, is host of the daily pubaffairs show Insight. "I'm happy what I'm doing," Callison told the Sacramento Bee. "It's not that I don't like what I'm doing or that I'm not happy at Cap Radio. I just felt it was time for a new challenge." Salary for the position is $102,015.

CPB ombudsman gets complaint over station's Occupy Wall Street button premiums

CPB Ombudsman Joel Kaplan looks into a complaint that during a recent fundraising campaign at WAMC Northeast Public Radio in Albany, N.Y., the station sold buttons that read "I support WAMC & Occupy Wall Street — 99%" for an additional 99-cent contribution. Also, the listener writes to Kaplan, during that campaign, station President Alan Chartock "constantly referred to the Republicans in the House as 'radical' intent on silencing public radio because it is an answer to Rush Limbaugh. This speaks directly to how Dr. Chartock views himself. If he is the answer to Rush Limbaugh, he should raise the money from sponsors and not the taxpayers."

Chartock told Kaplan: "I am the president of the radio station but we have a First Amendment in this country and I can say anything I want. I won't be silenced by those who don't like what I say." And the Occupy Wall Street buttons?  Selma Kaplan, vice president of WAMC, said the station received more than 1,000 calls asking for the premium.

"I think the premium offer, despite its success, was a mistake," the CPB ombudsman writes, adding, "WAMC is a remarkably successful public radio station. But its board of directors might want to rethink whether it is the best policy for WAMC's president and c.e.o. to use that radio station as a forum to voice his personal opinions."

Two political parties protest Dutch pubcasting plan to cut channels from 21 to eight

Two Dutch political parties are opposing a plan to cut the number of public broadcasting organizations in the Netherlands from the 21 to eight, because they think two channels will end up with an unfair advantage over the others, according to Radio Netherlands Worldwide. The VVD and Freedom Party are lobbying media minister Marja van Bijsterveldt to ban the merger, supported by the Dutch Public Broadcaster authority (NPO), which would give 10 million euros extra to two of the broadcasters.

"The Dutch government is shaving up to €127 million off the national TV/radio budgets, demanding that broadcasters merge rather than co-operate," explains Dutch media consultant Jonathan Marks on his Critical Distance blog, which explains the proposal in depth.

Nov 22, 2011

Screeners complete pre-selection for INPUT pubcasting entries

Pre-selection for U.S. entries for next year's INPUT (INternational PUblic Television) screening conference took place Nov. 16-20 in Charleston, S.C., where South Carolina ETV is INPUT secretariat. American finalists will be announced in mid-December for INPUT, which takes place May 7-12, 2012, in Sydney, Australia. The panel, from left to right: Gayle Loeber, NETA; Erica Deiparine-Sugars, ITVS; Donald Thoms, PBS; Ron Hull, Nebraska ETV; Amy Shumaker, SCETV; Jennifer Lawson, CPB; Betsy Newman, SCETV; Sandie Pedlow, Latino Public Broadcasting; and Bill Gilcher, Goethe Institute. (Image: Kent Steele, WNET)

Former "Sesame Street" composer charged in child porn case

Fernando Rivas, a former award-winning composer for Sesame Street, entered a not guilty plea in federal court Monday (Nov. 21), in Charleston, S.C., on charges of production, transportation and possession of child pornography, according to the local Post and Courier.  Local officers and FBI agents had executed a search warrant at Rivas's Charleston home on April 19, during which Rivas reportedly admitted to restraining a 4-year-old girl in handcuffs and photographing her, the paper says.

According to his website, Rivas began to write for the Children's Television Workshop, now Sesame Workshop, in 1990 and composed "a number of songs for the show Sesame Street," featuring singers Celia Cruz, Gloria Estefan and Cindy Lauper. The Juilliard School alum shared Emmy Awards in 1995 and '96 for his work on the show. The New York Daily News reports he worked on Elmopalooza, which won the 1999 Grammy for Best Children's Album.

Rivas posted 10 percent of $300,000 bail. U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant ordered Rivas to  remain at home with electronic monitoring, no Internet access and no interaction with children without an adult present who is aware of the charges against him.

Bachmann's book reveals soft spot for Keillor — who doesn't return the feeling

Michele Bachmann has lots of nice things to say about her fellow Anoka (Minn.) High School alum Garrison Keillor in her new book Core of Conviction, which hit bookstores Monday (Nov. 21), reports Politico. Of the Prairie Home Companion host, she writes, "His politics are very different from mine, but I love his gentle, knowing humor. Keillor understands Minnesota, from Lutherans to lutefisk, and his ability to squeeze laughs out of serious-minded midwesterners makes him a legend.” She also compliments his writing skills.

But Keillor doesn't feel the same about her. In a 2010 letter of support for her Bachmann's Democratic opponent in Minnesota’s 6th District, Keillor wrote: “It’s embarrassing to me and a great many Minnesotans that Michele Bachmann, a politician who is so busy grandstanding and giving interviews on Fox News that she doesn’t have time to serve the people who elected her, represents the 6th District in Washington.”

Politico contacted Keillor to get his reaction to Bachmann's book. "As an old Democrat, I wish that Michelle's presidential campaign were doing better than it is," he said.

Nov 21, 2011

With Super Committee failing to agree, CPB may lose $35 million

Pat Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, expressed disappointment over the announcement today (Nov. 21) that the congressional deficit-reduction Super Committee could not reach agreement to avoid automatic budget cuts. All domestic discretionary spending, which includes the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, could now be subject to an 8 percent across-the-board cut effective Jan. 1, 2013, Butler said. For CPB, that equals about $35 million of its $445 million appropriation.

"The Super Committee’s assignment was never going to be easy — that’s why there was a Super Committee — but I know from direct conversations with some of the committee members that serious, good-faith efforts were made to reach the $1.2 trillion deficit reduction goal and more," Butler said in an email to Current. "The outcome is disappointing, and the work Congress has to do before adjourning this year is challenging, but we remain hopeful that good decisions and good policy will be made in the weeks ahead — including a commitment to continue federal support for the good work public broadcasters are doing in education, public safety, job training and other essential services."

Burrows, who helped guarantee pubradio funding via CPB, dies at 94

Ed Burrows, a former public radio station manager who was instrumental in turning the Corporation for Public Television into the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, died Nov. 20 in Edmonds, Wash. He was 94.

According to the National Public Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland Libraries, where Burrows's papers reside, his public radio career began in 1948 as program director at WUOM, Ann Arbor, Mich. He helped create WGVR in Grand Rapids in 1961, and in 1966 he was made manager of WUOM and WGVR. While at WUOM, Burrows helped charter the radio division of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB), National Educational Radio (NER).

In 1967 the Carnegie Commission Report recommended that a Corporation for Public Television be created to receive and give out federal funding. But the word "radio" did not appear in the report, which "was a product of educational television advocates through and through," wrote Jack Mitchell in his 2005 book, Listener Supported: The Culture and History of Public Radio. "Few cared that radio was left out." However, Mitchell notes, "a very few crusty old radio guys did care," including Burrows, who managed to persuade his board to hire an advocate at the NAEB office in Washington, Jerrold Sandler. The two then worked with Dean Coston, a former WUOM chief engineer who went on to become a deputy undersecretary of Health, Education and Welfare responsible for shepherding through Congress legislation relating to education — including educational TV. Coston was able to literally insert "and radio" after each mention of "television" in the legislation. (Click here for an excerpt from Mitchell's book that describes the sneaky yet effective strategy.)

Burrows was also an active producer. From 1968 to '70, and again from 1975 to '80, as part of a cultural arts program titled The Eleventh Hour, Burrows interviewed some 500 artists including Alvin Ailey, Robert Bly, Peter DeVries, Joyce Carol Oates and Kurt Vonnegut.

He served as director of the National Center for Audio Experimentation at the University of Wisconsin in Madison from 1970 to '73, when he returned to WUOM/WGVR as executive producer, a position he held until his retirement in 1982.

Burrows was born in Dallas in 1917. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in literature from Yale. There, he was a class poet and member of the editorial board of the Yale Literary Magazine. He received his master's degree in literature from the University of Michigan, where he was won a Hopwood Award for creative writing. Burrows continued to write poetry throughout his lifetime; his first book, The Arctic Tern and Other Poems (1957) was a finalist for a National Book Award.

He served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve, working as a deck and combat information officer for carriers in the Pacific theater from 1943 to '46.

Burrows is survived by his wife of 39 years, Beth Elpern Burrows; by three sons from a previous marriage, David, Daniel and Edwin; and by five grandchildren.

"Ed asked that there be no ceremonies in connection with his death," his family said in a statement through Michigan Radio. "If people wished to remember him, he suggested that they support their local poets."

StoryCorps' Day of Listening: "Let us give thanks for teachers who changed our lives"

StoryCorps chose a special theme for this year's National Day of Listening, the four-year-old public radio tradition of encouraging Americans to take time out over the Thanksgiving holiday to recognize their loved ones through the simple art of intimate conversation.

Instead of family members, participants are being asked to set aside some time on Friday, Nov. 25, to recognize favorite teachers. "National Day of Listening 2011 will send a powerful and necessary message to teachers across the nation: that they matter, and that we as a nation are grateful for the impact they have on our lives," said David Isay, StoryCorps founder and radio documentarian.

As in previous years, National Day of Listening coincides with the day after Thanksgiving, one of the biggest shopping days of the year. "A lot of people think of it as Black Friday and a shopping day," Isay said during a Nov. 21 appearance on KUNC in Greeley, Colo. "This is a way to do something a little more meaningful."

Audie Cornish of NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday got the ball started on Nov. 20 by interviewing her high school history teacher Lynn Harding. Retired since 1999, Harding recalled that some students shortened her last name to "Hard," reflecting what her classes were like for them.

"You pushed me a lot," Cornish says to Harding.

"Yes, that's what I remember," Harding replies. "But it didn't harm you in any way we can see."

In addition to recording face-to-face interviews, participants can share a memory or express thanks to teachers on Facebook, Twitter (@storycorps #thankateacher) and YouTube, where the animated short of a feared but revered Sunday school teacher, "Miss Devine," is being featured to promote National Day of Listening.

News of NPR's Infinite Player, dripping with sarcasm

On the Nov. 20 edition of his KCRW broadcast le Show, host Harry Shearer delivers a sardonic reading of a Nov. 17 blog post, "NPR test-drives personalized Infinite Player." Shearer, who has many notable film and TV credits but is perhaps most famous for his voice work on The Simpsons, has been a frequent critic of NPR since 2010. That's when the network declined to give airtime — even as paid underwriting spots — to his documentary about the failures of the federal levee system surrounding New Orleans, The Big Uneasy. Readings from trade periodicals are a regular feature of le Show.

Nov 19, 2011

Studio fire at PBS Hawaii causes $250,000 damage

PBS Hawaii was temporarily off the air after a studio fire Friday (Nov. 18) caused more than $250,000 damage, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reports. The fire department initially extinguished the blaze, caused by a burst lightbulb, but later returned when the blaze reignited. Power was restored early Saturday afternoon, the station said, and regular programming resumed on cable by 2 p.m. and over-the-air by 3 p.m. Some programming Monday could still be affected.

UPDATE, Nov. 21: The station is back on the air, but parts of the studio set will have to be replaced or re-built, according to KHON2 in Honolulu. Production of local programming remains on hold.

CPB thanks Oregon congressman, bestowing Lowell medal

CPB gave its top honor for individual service, the Ralph Lowell Award, to Rep. Earl Blumenauer, the bowtie-wearing, bike-riding Oregon Democrat who chaired and helped create the Public Broadcasting Caucus in Congress.

“Rep. Blumenauer is dedicated in his support of public media,” said CPB President Patricia Harrison in the announcement Nov. 18, timed for an evening ceremony in Washington, D.C. “He understands the value delivered to every American citizen through public service media, on air, online and in the community, and the important role that each public television and radio station – locally owned and operated – plays in strengthening our civil society.”

 “Not only do our public broadcasting stations provide us with valuable information, but they also directly support 21,000 jobs in hundreds of communities across America," the representative said, making a point seldom heard in recent years. "I am honored to receive this award and will continue to fight for the future of this treasured institution in American media.”

The Portland resident served in the state legislature 1972-78, was elected to terms in local government 1978-96, and served in Congress since then. He is now a member of the House committees overseeing taxes and the federal budget.

"Bad news piling up" for KCET, Los Angeles Times says

Despite its recent announcement of a five-show, $50 million production deal, KCET in Los Angeles continues to struggle as the nation's largest indie pubTV station, reports the Los Angeles Times. Viewership is down, and the station now averages just 20,000 tune-ins a night during primetime, it said. Also, "no question, going independent has affected viewer support," said Gordon Bava, KCET board member, referring to the station's departure from PBS in January (Current, Oct. 18, 2010). "Corporate support is down, but to some extent, that is a function of the lack of local programming." The newspaper said a KCET spokesperson confirmed that individual membership is down but gifts from major donors are up. KCET received $44.6 million in total support and revenue for fiscal year 2010, down 26 percent from FY09, according to audited financial statements. During that time the station had $53.8 million in expenses including programming and administrative costs.

Nov 17, 2011

Attention RSSers: Interview with new c.e.o. of "Nightly Business Report"

Don't miss Current's story on Rick Ray, who has taken over at Nightly Business Report. Mykalai Kontilai, the educational video salesman who purchased the show in August 2010, will no longer "be involved as an owner," Ray said. Atalaya Capital Management, a New York investment firm that backed Kontilai’s purchase, now owns the program, it announced Nov. 16.

Nine Network unveils $25 million campaign

The Nine Network of Public Media in St. Louis today (Nov. 17) launched the public portion of $25 million funding campaign, "Igniting the Spirit of Possibility." Gifts and commitments already total more than $13 million, including $1.5 million from Emerson, a global manufacturing and technology company headquartered in the city. The campaign has five components: The Annual Fund, Future Fund, Venture Fund, a Capital Improvement and Technical Capacity Fund and a Public Media Commons Fund. Jack Galmiche, president of Nine Network, said that the campaign has already received commitments from all members of the Nine Network Board of Directors, as well as members of the organization’s Legacy Nine planned giving society and from the network staff.

APT picks up distribution of "Nightly Business Report"

American Public Television just announced that it will now distribute Nightly Business Report once again. PBS had distributed the show for the past five years; it was in the NPS from March 2005 through June 2011 and on PBS Plus since this July. "NBR Worldwide Inc. has determined that for various business reasons, APT is a better fit for the distribution of their series," PBS told stations in a memo. On Wednesday (Nov. 16), longtime commercial broadcaster Rick Ray took over as c.e.o. of NBR Worldwide, the show's parent organization, a position formerly held by Mykalai Kontilai.

NPR test-drives personalized Infinite Player

NPR Digital Services is experimenting with a new personalized streaming interface for public radio listening, the Infinite Player.

"It's dead simple: you press a button and it plays," writes Michael Yoch, director of product development. "First you hear the latest NPR newscast. That's followed by stories we think you'll like from NPR's three main focus areas, news, arts and life, and music. The only controls are skip, pause and 30-second rewind."

"We're calling it the Infinite Player because it will continue playing stories until you turn it off, just like the radio." Listeners can use the "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" buttons to indicate whether they like a story, and the player will adapt to their preferences.

"The player should deliver the type of serendipitous experience you expect from NPR, with recommendations based on your input, NPR editors' judgment and story popularity," Yoch writes.

For the test launch, NPR also developed localized players for three stations -- San Francisco's KQED, Michigan Radio and KPLU in Seattle. The product team is working with stations to create a player that mixes national and local content together.

The player is a product of NPR Digital Service's "culture of rapid iteration," writes Andrew Phelps in a review for the Nieman Journalism Lab. NPR Digital chief Kinsey Wilson tells him it's not a traditional product launch. “It’s not nearly as baked as something we would launch even as a beta project," Wilson says. "But it’s a way to do some rapid innovation and see if we’re even close to the mark and how people react to it."

Infinite Player works on recent versions of Google Chrome and Safari browsers.

Nov 16, 2011

Penn State station confronts scandal with live program on child sexual abuse

In response to the recent scandal in its university athletic department, in which a former assistant coach has been accused of sexually abusing multiple boys over 15 years, Penn State Public Broadcasting is producing a special live one-hour interactive program, Confronting Child Sexual Abuse, at 9 p.m. Eastern Thursday (Nov. 17) on WPSU-TV and WPSU-FM as well as WHYY. It will also be simulcast on the Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) and streamed online.  Host Patty Satalia will moderate a panel including Lucy Johnston-Walsh, supervising attorney for the Children’s Advocacy Clinic of the Penn State Dickinson School of Law; David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire; Pamela G. McCloskey, a licensed psychologist; and Matt Bodenschatz, a survivor of child sexual abuse. Volunteers from the local Centre County Women’s Resource Center also will be available "to talk one-on-one if parents or others have more immediate concerns about child sexual abuse," the station said in a press release.

"Wait Wait" fans get a holiday present: A TV special, on BBC America

NPR's Wait Wait . . . Don't Tell Me! will make its television debut on BBC America on Dec. 23 with a "2011 Year in Review" special at 8 p.m. Eastern. The show also will run on NPR stations that weekend, on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The hourlong special, complete with host Peter Sagal, scorekeeper Carl Kassell and a panel of cutups, will tape live at the Chase Bank Auditorium in Chicago on Dec. 2.

"As a long-time listener of Wait Wait Don’t… Tell Me!, I think its television debut is long overdue," said Perry Simon, g.m., channels, BBC Worldwide America, "and I can’t wait to see what Peter, Carl and the team look like.”

Doug Berman, the show's creator, added, "It’s going to be pretty much what we do every week, except NPR has to add a budget line for pants.”

Atalaya Capital takes over Nightly Business Report

Nightly Business Report, purchased in August 2010 by educational video salesman Mykalai Kontilai (Current, Aug. 23, 2010), has now been acquired by private equity firm Atalaya Capital Management, NBR Worldwide announced today (Nov. 16). Atalaya backed Kontilai's deal to buy the show.

Under the new ownership, NBR Worldwide will be led by Rick Ray, founder of Raycom Media. The press release did not specify if Kontilai would continue to be involved with NBR Worldwide, and the deal price was not provided. A press representative told Current that Kontilai and Atalaya would have no additional comments.

The program has had a challenging year. In November 2010, it laid off eight of its 44 staffers. This March, NBR Worldwide hired Paramount Media Advisors to explore options from partnerships to selling the program. In July, the show lost two top managers.

The program also hired correspondents in Houston, Phoenix, Denver and Silicon Valley; inked a broadcast partnership with SiriusXM radio; and secured new studio space at the NYSE.

“When we purchased NBR," Kontilai said in a statement, "we pledged to expand the program through new growth initiatives, while at the same time preserving the tradition of balanced reporting and analysis that has made it the highest rated business television program for the last 30-plus years, and we feel great about sticking with our pledge."

Public Broadcasting Atlanta gets EAS feedback from persons with disabilities

During the nationwide test of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on Nov. 9, Public Broadcasting Atlanta hosted focus groups involving members of the community with vision or hearing disabilities. Participants listened to WABE-FM/90.1 or watched PBA30TV to provide feedback, which is being forwarded to the Federal Communications Commission. Research was conducted with the local Wireless Rehabilition Engineering Research Center (RERC), which promotes access to wireless technologies for persons with disabilities and encourages Universal Design to allow for wider use of future technologies. Above, an interpreter translates for hearing-impaired participants during an EAS focus group. (Image: PBA)

Public Insight Network signs on first international newsroom partner

American Public Media’s Public Insight Network (PIN), a database of more than 130,000 sources worldwide, has its first international newsroom partner, the Mail & Guardian newspaper in Johannesburg, South Africa. “Media plays an essential role in addressing and exposing the top issues confronting communities, and the Mail & Guardian has long proven this with their groundbreaking news coverage,” said Joaquin Alvarado, senior vice president of digital innovation at APM. The newspaper was a leading opponent of apartheid in the 1980s and 1990s; more recently, its Centre for Investigative Journalism launched in April 2010. "In a country and continent where the voices of people on the ground are too often marginalized, PIN represents an exciting opportunity for the Mail & Guardian,” said Verashni Pillay, the paper's deputy online editor. The announcement comes two months after PIN got a boost of $4.1 million from CPB to expand.

Police action against Occupy protestors renews conflict over journalists' access

Julie Walker, a freelance reporter for NPR, was among the journalists arrested yesterday when the New York City Police Department evicted Occupy Wall Street protestors from Zuccotti Park. Walker told Associated Press she was arrested for disorderly conduct after she requested the name and badge number of a police officer who had grabbed her arm twice. "I told them I'm a reporter," she told AP. "I had my recorder on before he ripped it out of my hand."

At least seven journalists were arrested in New York during the police action, and several reported being rough-handled, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The Society of Professional Journalists called on New York officials to drop all charges against reporters who were arrested while covering the Nov. 15 protests, and for police to take greater care to avoid arresting reporters who are "simply and clearly" doing their jobs.

“We know that as protests escalate it may be difficult for police to distinguish bystanders from participants, but it is clear now that many journalists have been erroneously arrested without cause,” said SPJ President John Ensslin. “These errors must be rectified immediately.”

In September, a Web editor with WNET's new MetroFocus local news and culture site was arrested in while reporting on citizen journalism at the Wall Street protests. He spent nine hours in custody.

Nov 15, 2011

USDA's Rural Utilities Service announces $4.75 million in grants to pubTV stations

Public television stations serving rural areas are receiving $4.75 million in grants to complete the digital transition, according to Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager. Fifteen licensees will get between $25,540 and $750,000 for projects under the Public Television Digital Transition Grant Program. Money may be used to acquire, lease, and/or install facilities and software necessary to finish the digital transition, the USDA's Rural Utilities Service said in a statement. The funding is especially valuable in the wake of the end of the 49-year-old Public Telecommunications Facilities Program (Current, April 18).

Swartz departs "Nova" for Discovery Channel post

Howard Swartz, executive producer of Nova, is joining Discovery Channel, effective immediately. He'll be vice president of development and production at Discovery, a new position. Swartz will be based at the channel's Los Angeles office to develop and supervise production of Curiosity. Swartz had joined Nova in January 2010. Swartz also worked at National Geographic Channel on programs including Explorer, Five Years on Mars and Inside the Living Body.

Attention RSSers: Bill Moyers speech transcript now online

A speech by longtime public broadcasting newsman Bill Moyers is an inspirational experience for listeners (and readers), and his remarks at the American Public Television Fall Marketplace in Memphis last week are no exception. He calls for a reimagining of the system, from the stations up. Here's the transcript.

Men who carried out NPR fundraising sting say O'Keefe hijacked their investigation

Two men who played key roles in the NPR fundraising sting in February have split with media trickster James O'Keefe. Simon Templar and Shaughn Adeleye, who posed as Muslim philanthropists and secretly recorded their conversations with NPR development execs, fault O'Keefe for selling them a "false bill of goods," according to the Daily Beast. The pair say they designed a far-reaching, well-researched operation that was to extend far beyond NPR, but O'Keefe was only interested in a "hit job."

"All he cared about was that he had people saying embarrassing stuff on video," Templar tells media critic Howard Kurtz. "I came to learn how desperate he was in terms of money and needing to rehabilitate his reputation."

Nov 14, 2011

Pubcasting wayfarer Rick Steves wins Journalist of the Year from travel writers

Rick Steves, whose travel commentaries run on both public television and radio, is the Journalist of the Year in the 2011 Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition, sponsored by the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation. Steves also won gold awards for his travel blog and Travel With Rick Steves broadcasts on public radio, and a bronze award for Rick Steves’ Europe: Season Six distributed by American Public Television. "Rick Steves connects with a wide audience today," the society said in a statement, "sharing his travel adventures and insight in all forms of media from print, radio and television to blogs and tweets."

Another APT show also scored an honor: Best travel video winner is Richard Bangs’ Adventures with Purpose/Hong Kong.

The awards, widely seen as the most prestigious in travel journalism, were announced at the annual conference of the Society of American Travel Writers, Nov. 7-12 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Here's a full list of winners, culled from 1,209 entries.

Free Press adds it up: state funding cuts to pubcasting since 2008 total $85 million

A report released today by media reform advocates at Free Press chronicles the impact of four years of budget battles in state capitals and finds that the public TV system is at a precarious tipping point.

Since the onset of the recession in 2008, public broadcasting stations in 24 states have lost $85 million in financial support from what has historically been one of their most reliable funding sources -- state governments.

Public TV networks in at least four states -- North Carolina, Oklahoma, Maine and Idaho -- are considering shutting down transmitters serving sparsely populated regions, and New Hampshire Public Television is among those drastically scaling back on local production. To adjust to the loss of its entire $2.7 million state subsidy, New Hampshire Public Television has cut two-thirds of its local programming, including its public affairs show N.H. Outlook.

Co-authors of the report, "On the Chopping Block: State Budget Battles and the Future of Public Media," contend that partisan lawmakers have unfairly targeted public broadcasting by enacting disproportionately deep cuts on stations as they sought to reduce state spending.

"In general, the cuts to public media are extreme when compared to budget cuts generally, meaning that public broadcasters are being forced to shoulder more than equal weight in these tough economic times," write Josh Stearns and Mike Soha. "The result is that local public media risks becoming less local in their content and services to communities."

Looking cumulatively over the cuts imposed in the past four years, they estimate that public media has lost $202 million in annual support. Among those hardest hit have been stations in Florida, New Hampshire, New Jersey and Pennsylvania -- where policy makers completely zeroed-out pubcasting appropriations. In Alabama, Indiana, Kansas and South Carolina, state aid declined by 50 percent since 2008.

Stearns and Soha see bright spots for public media to recover and potentially reverse the funding losses. They point to states in which lawmakers worked on a bipartisan basis to preserve aid to pubcasting -- and call for reforms at the state level to strengthen firewall protections.

"[R]ecent events illustrate that while our public media system still enjoys support across affiliations at the local level, it needs new structures and policies to protect it from extremists' political meddling."

PBS Kids announces first "augmented reality" educational app

Children now have their own "augmented reality" educational mobile app from PBS Kids. The Fetch! Lunch Rush App was created by WGBH in Boston and is based on its PBS Kids Go! series, Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman.

“Augmented reality is becoming a popular marketing tool and a compelling feature for gamers, but no one has fully explored what this could mean for educating children,” said Jason Seiken, PBS's s.v.p., interactive, product development and innovation, in a statement.

Augmented reality blends a physical, real-world view with computer-generated sensory input including sounds, video or electronic graphics.

In the app, star Ruff Ruffman takes the lunch order for his studio crew. The challenge for players is to keep track of how many pieces of sushi everyone wants. The app uses 3-D imagery "to reinforce the early algebraic concepts, helping kids to make the connection between real objects and corresponding numeric symbols," PBS said in a statement.

The FETCH! Lunch Rush App is available for free from the App Store on iPhone or iPod touch. It was developed with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and a Ready To Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

Jim Leonard, longtime host on Texas Public Radio, dies at 61

Texas Public Radio's KSTX/89.1 FM reports that Jim Leonard, an on-air host for 17 years, died Nov. 10 of complications from a heart transplant he received in September. Leonard was 61, and had battled heart disease for decades, the station said in a statement on its website.

“First and foremost, Jim Leonard was one of our best voices on KSTX,” said Texas Public Radio’s Nathan Cone, director of classical programming, who worked with Leonard for more than a decade. “He was sharp at writing copy for air, and adept at handling the pressure of hosting our local broadcasts of All Things Considered and Morning Edition. Even when breaking news or technical problems may have caused chaos inside the studio, to the listeners, it sounded effortless. Few people can handle that the way Jim did.”

Leonard retired in 2010. He had joined the station in 1993.

A memorial service took place Nov. 12 at American Legion 579 in San Antonio; Leonard had served on the combat front lines in Vietnam as an Army medic. His body will be interred in his home state of Georgia, the station said.

"To the Point" to return to topic of Friday's "completely unacceptable" broadcast

To the Point host Warren Olney is under fire for his Nov. 11 talk show linking the child sex abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University to barriers that prevent same-sex couples from becoming adoptive or foster parents. "This entire broadcast was utterly worthless, embarrassing, and completely unacceptable," wrote Gawker's Seth Abramovitch in a scathing critique posted on Friday. After the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to objected to the program, Olney apologized for the misunderstanding and promised further discussion of the topic today. GLAAD has also requested that producing station KCRW and distributor Public Radio International remove the Nov. 11 edition of To The Point from the show's website.

UPDATE, Nov. 15 -- Olney closed his Nov. 14 broadcast with an apology acknowledging his failure to explicitly say that pedophilia and homosexuality are not connected. But Gawker's Abramovitch described the broadcaster's statement as "insufficient" and an example of the shortcomings of To the Point and public radio journalism in general.

"Olney's approach is irresponsible and lazy, because it assumes the journalist's work is done once the two sides of the debate are chosen and given the microphone; then it's up to the viewer to discern which side 'sounds more right.' It's a convenient way to fill an hour, yes, but responsible journalism? No."

Nov 11, 2011

TV organizations issue declaration from Shanghai on future of OTA broadcasting

PBS is a signatory to an international joint declaration, announced at 11 a.m. local time today (11/11) at the Future of Broadcast Television summit in Shanghai, calling for worldwide cooperation among over-the-air (OTA) television broadcasters to define requirements, unify standards and promote technology sharing, in order to benefit both developed and underdeveloped countries and conserve resources.

According to Advanced Television, a European media news site, the declaration stated in part, "We need to explore new ways of cooperation, seek the progressive unification of standards, and realize technology sharing so that the efficiency and convenience enabled by digitization will be realized — not reduced by system fragmentation. The 21st century is an era of integration of broadcasting, Internet, and communications, all of which have evolved in parallel. Consumers are calling for more convenient and user-friendly services. The development of digital technology opens the possibility of cooperation among all the different networks and transmission systems.”

PBS also is a founding organization of the summit, with others including the National Association of Broadcasters, Japan's NHK and the European Broadcast Union.

APM's Alvarado joins board of Center for Investigative Journalism

Joaquin Alvarado, senior vice president for digital innovation at American Public Media, is one of two new members on the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Board of Directors, the nation’s oldest independent nonprofit investigative reporting organization announced Thursday (Nov. 10) on its California Watch website. Alvarado and Gabriel Stricker, director of global communications and public affairs at Google, join the board "at a critical time," the organization said. Over the past three years CIR has grown from a staff of seven and budget of $1.7 million to a staff of 32 and budget of nearly $5 million. Its editorial output during that time has included more than 40 major investigations (most developed for multiple formats and published or broadcast in more than 300 outlets) and more than 1,400 blog entries and Daily Reports.

Charlie Rose to co-host CBS Early Show starting in January, New York Times says

The New York Times is reporting that longtime public broadcasting talk-show host Charlie Rose will co-host a new version of CBS's The Early Show. The new two-hour show, expected to be announced next Tuesday, "will defy the gauzy conventions of morning television," the newspaper predicted, emphasizing a hard-news and conversational approach like Morning Joe on MSNBC and The View on ABC. Rose will join another new co-host, Gayle King, who hosts a talk show on Oprah Winfrey's OWN network, and current hosts Erica Hill and Jeff Glor. CBS declined to comment on the record about the changes. Rose declined to comment for the latest story but previously said he would “not under any circumstances” end his PBS show because of added Early Show duties. Charlie Rose airs on more than 200 PBS member stations weeknights. The program premiered in September 1991 and has been nationally syndicated since January 1993.

BET veteran will lead Washington's WHUT

In Washington, D.C., Jennifer Lawson’s successor as g.m. of Howard University’s WHUT-TV is Jefferi K. Lee, a 30-year TV veteran with 17 years at the D.C.-based cable network Black Entertainment Television. Lawson, who was the top program exec at CPB and PBS in the 1980s and ’90s, returned to CPB as program chief early this year.

Lee served as BET’s executive v.p. of network operations and programming and in other roles while the cable network expanded to 24 hours, added new channels, built a corporate campus in D.C., and went public on the stock market.

Since leaving BET more than a dozen years ago, Lee headed his communications consulting firm, Lee Productions, and, during the homeland security rush, served as chief exec of Bio-Defense Research Group Inc., in Columbia, Md., a maker of anti-pathogen ventilation systems.

Lee started working on local productions at Washington’s Gannett-owned CBS affiliate WDVM in 1979, moved to PM Magazine and became its associate producer in 1981. He joined BET in 1982 as network operations manager, added programming duties, was promoted to executive v.p. of network operations in 1992 and became executive v.p. of operations and technology in 1998. Lee was instrumental in launching the new channels BET On Jazz, BET International and BET Gospel, the company said.

Nov 10, 2011

PBS International, China Educational Television strike multi-year deal

PBS International announced today it has signed a multi-year broadcast and distribution agreement with China Educational Television (CETV) in Beijing, part of the country's ministry of education that operates five TV channels and 11 IPTV channels. It will provide a weekday primetime slot for PBS-branded programming on CETV-3, a series titled Clear View produced and presented by Chinese anchor and producer Jim Fang that will premiere in January 2012.

"This is, by far, the largest deal we have done in China," Tom Koch, PBS International's vice president, said in a statement. CETV's distribution arm, Beijing Zhongxian Media, will be PBS International's sales agent in China for its library of more than 500 hours of documentary, children's and lifestyle programming.

Moyers: Stations must lead "makeover" of pubcasting system

Bill Moyers, speaking at the American Public Television Fall Marketplace going on this week (Nov. 9-12) in Memphis, today called for a "makeover" of the public broadcasting system, "a rebirth, yes, of vision, imagination, and creativity, but above all a structure and scheme for the 2lst century," beginning with a weeklong brainstorming convention of station managers, programmers, producers, viewers and other interested parties. "We could even stream it live on every public station website in the country," he said.

Currently, public broadcasting in America is "just hanging on, leaking away, fraying at the margins; scrambling year by year to survive, hoping all the while for what in an era of trillion-dollar deficits and austerity will never be — more and more funding from Congress," Moyers told the crowd.

"Everyone involved in the system has a vested interest in the status quo," he said, "no matter how fragile and perilous. In truth, we all know that the better solutions demand a major overhaul of the national system."

The next incarnation of public broadcasting must come from the stations, Moyers said. "I think you are the ones who are going to have to lead this process with the vision, the in-depth research, thoughtful analysis and multiple scenario planning it will require."

"The core problem," Moyers said, "is that we still don’t have an expansive national vision of what we’re about, where we want to go and what we want to become. Until we are able to say clearly and comprehensively what it is we really want to do, how much it will cost, and how we intend to get there, we can’t blame Congress, the White House or even the foundations for not supporting us more fully. In our candid moments, usually while bending elbows at the bar, we admit to each other that we’re mired in a sclerotic system that binds us to a politically cautious set of national entities that are both underfunded and themselves incapable of leading anyone towards a more vigorous notion of our future."

And what might result from a serious reconsideration of the pubcasting system? "Nobody knows," he said. "But at least we’d be alive again — to each other, to ideas, to new possibilities, and to the American people — the public, I say again, in public broadcasting."

Moyers' latest show, Moyers & Company, debuts in January, distributed by APT (Current, Aug. 29).

Kaufman to receive Lifetime Achievement Award at International Wildlife Film Fest

The next International Wildlife Film Festival, May 2012 in Missoula, Mont., will honor Nature executive producer Fred Kaufman with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Media. Janet Rose, IWFF festival and executive director, told the Realscreen doc news website, “I cannot think of a more worthy recipient. Nature, the television series, and Fred Kaufman as its driving force and guide, have helped to expose millions of people worldwide to the brilliance and inspiration of nature."

Nov 9, 2011

NJTV, successor to NJN, airs first live newscast and election coverage

For the first time, NJTV, the new incarnation of the New Jersey Network, presented a live newscast on Monday (Nov. 7) and also aired live election coverage Tuesday, reports The Associated Press. NJTV general Manager John Servidio said the station has "done the best we can with what we have" and broke into programming to run live several times in the past month, including coverage of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's endorsement of 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and during the October snowstorm. "I think if you look at the first show we aired on July 1 until now, you'll see a pretty big curve of growth," Servidio said. Election night coverage included live feeds from Democratic and GOP headquarters in Atlantic City and Bergen counties, along with other field reports and panels of pundits in the studio. "I think we'll be able to compete with any local station out there in terms of our coverage," Servidio said.

KCET, Eyetronics unveil first five original series on Southern California

KCET in Los Angeles, the largest independent pubTV station in the country, has revealed the initial lineup of its new original series produced with a $50 million investment from Eyetronics Media & Studios in Encino, Calif. (Current, Aug. 16). All five shows, highlighting life in Southern California, are available for distribution both domestically and internationally.

The programs are Ocean Alive with host Jean-Michel Cousteau, in a program that "combines the beauty of Southern California and the glamour of Hollywood with the powerful message of conservation"; Department of State, a public affairs show with a rotating group of global media correspondents; California Game Changers, profiling innovative industries, inventors and their products; Classic Cool Theatre, which draws on Eyetronics' large library of vintage Hollywood films, beginning with the 1945 film noir classic Detour; and
Retrostory, using Eyetronics' library of historic newsreels for a bi-weekly documentary on social phenomena, influential political and entertainment figures and revolutionary technical advancements of the 1900s.

Nov 8, 2011

Four tribal radio stations signing on in northern Minnesota

Four new American Indian radio stations are on the air across northern Minnesota, reports Minnesota Public Radio. The stations, in Callaway, Nett Lake, Cloquet and Cass Lake, all benefited from a new Federal Communications Commission policy that gives tribal entities priority for radio frequencies that cover tribal lands, MPR notes. Loris Ann Taylor, president of Native Public Media, said 90 percent of tribal members nationwide don't have access to broadband Internet, and about one-third don't even have basic phone service. The stations "come from different angles," Taylor says. "There's not one single template. All the stations will have different needs; it all depends on what's happening locally and on the ground."

Nov 7, 2011

CPB, PBS announce Expanded Learning Through Transmedia Content test stations

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and PBS today (Nov. 7) announced the 11 public television stations that will serve as demonstration sites to test math and literacy content developed through Ready To Learn's Expanded Learning Through Transmedia Content initiative. The project features video, online games, mobile apps and off-line activities using PBS Kids characters. The stations: Detroit Public Television; Iowa Public Television; Eight, Arizona PBS;  KBTC in Tacoma, Wash.; Maryland Public Television; Montana PBS; Vegas PBS; WFSU, Tallahassee, Fla.; WGBY, Springfield, Mass.; WNET/Thirteen, New York City; and Cleveland's WVIZ/PBS ideastream.

The stations will introduce the new Ready To Learn content, funded by the U.S. Department of Education, for use in homes, schools, after-school programs, summer programs, and libraries; train caregivers and educators on its use; and create community awareness campaigns.

The project is designed to improve math and literacy skills in children ages 2-8, particularly those from low income families. So far, more than 45 new interactive games have launched. Bilingual resources are coming soon.

NewsWorks going strong after one year

Here's a look back over the first year of NewsWorks, WHYY's ambitious hyperlocal news site for northwest Philly. It was the station’s first attempt at online news, and is powered by around $1.1 million from CPB and $100,000 from the Knight Foundation, in addition to several other foundations. Chris Satullo, the station’s executive director for news and civic dialogue, told the Nieman Journalism Lab that traffic to the site peaked in August, with 301,000 unique visitors and 1.9 million pageviews. And in May, WHYY created a NewsWorks radio show based on the web-based reporting — “maybe a first for public broadcasting,” Satullo said — called NewsWorks Tonight.

About 30 citizen journalists contribute to the site regularly. Contributors are trained and paid, between $50 and $150, sometimes more for enterprise or multimedia stories. Daylong workshops for prospective contributors, Correspondents U, have yielded several steady writers.

Satullo says he is consulting “big brains” for questions about the future of the site, including how other pubradio stations can replicate the initiative.

Roger Ebert says show needs a funding "angel," or will end soon

"Unless we find an angel, our television program will go off the air at the end of its current season," writes Roger Ebert on his Sun-Times blog. " There. I've said it. Usually in television, people use evasive language. Not me. We'll be gone. I want to be honest about why this is. We can't afford to finance it any longer." He says that since going on the air in January 2011, Ebert Presents At The Movies has been almost entirely funded by he and his his wife, Chaz, plus $25,000 from the Kanbar Charitable Trust. "We can't afford to support the show any longer. That's what it comes down to," Ebert says. The program has a coverage of more than 90 percent of the country, all of the top 50 markets, and is distributed by American Public Television.

Challenging times for PBS NewsHour

PBS NewsHour is navigating troubled waters, the New York Times reports. The show’s main corporate underwriter, Chevron, is departing at the end of the year, taking $2 million from NewsHour's $27 million annual budget; the Knight Foundation, which helped finance the overhaul of the show’s Web site in late 2009, has declined to provide more support. Its political editor, David Chalian, and managing editor for digital news, Maureen Hoch, are both leaving for other positions. MacNeil/Lehrer Productions president and the head of fund-raising and marketing also left for new opportunities. Longtime anchor Jim Lehrer, who stepped away from the weeknight anchor chair in June for a reduced role, may leave permanently in December. And Lehrer told the Times that he has heard complaints from some PBS member stations that the program’s new format, featuring a different pair of senior correspondents as anchors each night, was confusing to viewers. The show drew 10.7 million total viewers in September, down 11 percent from 12 million a year ago.

Nov 4, 2011

Romney cites CPB as target for "deep reductions in subsidies"

In a column in USA Today, GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney vows to "enact deep reductions in the subsidies" for entities including the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, along with other cuts. "What I propose will not be easy," he writes. "Washington is full of sacred cows that supposedly can't be slaughtered and electrified third rails that allegedly can't be touched. But if we do not act now, the irresistible mathematics of debt will soon lead to unimaginable peril."

Nov 3, 2011

Harmon retiring at Public Radio Capital; Ikeda will succeed her

Susan Harmon, a career-long public radio leader and one of Public Radio Capital's two managing directors, will retire from the position Dec. 31. Ken Ikeda, a relatively new hire and former head of San Francisco's Bay Area Video Coalition, will succeed her.

Marc Hand, who has shared authority with Harmon since founding of the Denver-based nonprofit in 2001, will continue as the other managing director. Harmon's role has largely involved the organization's strategic planning, philanthropic support, and investor relations for the Public Radio Fund, a lending source for expansion of public radio.

Founded to help public radio expand services by acquiring frequencies, PRC has helped arrange transactions and financing worth more than $270 million in its 10-year life. It has often assisted licensees competing for frequencies with religious broadcasting chains.

“It is a rare privilege in life to be able to know and work with Susan, and to see the significant impact she’s had on people personally and professionally,” Hand said in a release.

Harmon will remain a board member of PRC and two related organizations — Public Media Company, headed by Ikeda, and Essential Public Media, licensee of Pittsburgh's new news station, the former jazz broadcaster WDUQ.

Earlier in Harmon's pubradio career she managed WAMU-FM in Washington, D.C., for 11 years and KERA-FM in Dallas/Ft. Worth for 14 years. During that time, in 1984, she helped start public radio's Station Resource Group, virtual parent of both Public Radio Capital and the Public Radio Exchange, among other projects. Before co-founding PRC she directed SRG's Major Gifts Initiative and Leaders Partnership for three years. She chaired the NPR Board in 1975 and 1976 and the SRG Board between 1986 and 1991 and also served on Public Radio International's board.

Ikeda, who had been executive director of Bay Area Video Coalition until joining PRC this year, led BAVC through a period of expansion into new services, including advocacy for a proposed National Public Lightpath high-speed data network to serve public media and producers and new production relationships with pubTV station KQED. He joined BAVC in 2006 when it merged with Youth Sounds, a community media advocacy project. During his time with BAVC, the MacArthur Foundation recognized it with the equivalent of a "genius award" for organizations. He serves as a board member of the Center for Asian American Media, The Working Group and Youth Speaks.

Austin City Limits to stream live on PBS Facebook

Austin City Limits will present a live stream of its Friday night (Nov. 4) show on PBS Facebook — a first for both ACL and PBS. Performing at the new Moody Theater will be electro-pop singer Lykke Li. Fans can tune in online at 9 p.m. Eastern; the program is scheduled for broadcast Jan. 28, 2012.

New Connecticut pubTV channel is all sports, all the time

Connecticut Public Television this month kicks off a 24/7 sports channel running high school, college and other sporting events throughout the state. CPTV Sports will debut on Comcast and Cox cable systems, and expand to over-the-air and additional cable outlets early in 2012, the station said in an announcement (PDF). Coverage will include more than 40 schools and organizations, with mainstream sports (baseball, basketball, hockey, soccer) as well as auto racing, cheerleading championships, and Special Olympics. Future programming brings rugby, softball, cricket and roller derby, along with sports-related shows on topics such as sports medicine. Bob Yalen, formerly with ESPN and ABC Sports, is channel director.

Nov 2, 2011

NewsHour's David Chalian will head Yahoo News D.C. bureau

Yahoo News is reporting that it has hired PBS NewsHour's political editor, David Chalian, as its Washington bureau chief. Chalian came to NewsHour in July 2010 from ABC News, where he won an Emmy for his role in coverage of President Barack Obama's inauguration. At NewsHour, he directed political coverage across  broadcast and digital platforms, as well as managing editorial content from the program's congressional, White House, and Supreme Court beats. He also appeared in political webcasts on the Online NewsHour and developed additional digital political content. Chalian will start at Yahoo News on Nov. 14 and report to Will Tacy, executive editor.

Pubcasters sign on with new Future of TV Coalition

Several pubcasting groups are part of the new Future of TV Coalition, just announced by the National Association of Broadcasters, which "unites organizations that have expressed concern that legislative and regulatory initiatives currently under discussion in Washington could jeopardize the future of over-the-air broadcasting." Pubmedia members include the Center for Asian American Media, MHz Networks, Native American Public Telecommunications, Pacific Islanders in Communications and Vme Media.

Vme's founder and president, Carmen DiRienzo, spoke at the luncheon Tuesday (Nov. 1) announcing the initiative. "Digital television is a huge, free and important part of the digital future," she said. "Its absence would diminish the amount, quality and diversity of voices, thought and experience that Vme and other networks like it provide." She said that if free, over-the-air TV were not protected, it would "disenfranchise millions of Americans and most especially the very hard-working, inspiring Latinos that Vme and public television are so proud to serve."

Audie Cornish to host ATC for upcoming election year

NPR announced today (Nov. 2) that Audie Cornish will spend one year as co-host of All Things Considered, as Michele Norris steps down while her husband works for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Cornish will move from her Weekend Edition Sunday hosting gig to ATC in early January — a spot she recently took over from Liane Hansen, who retired in May. NPR is conducting an internal search for a one-year host for Weekend Edition Sunday. In a note to staff Nov. 1, acting Senior Vice President of News Margaret Low Smith said: “While it was a tough decision to move Audie (albeit temporarily) from a program she has quickly made her own, her skills and experience make her the ideal person to step in. . . . And, in an election year, her experience covering Capitol Hill and the 2008 presidential election will be a huge plus.”

It's bluegrass, in a 333-foot-deep cave, on PBS

Bluegrass Underground, the unique public TV show recorded live 333 feet below ground at Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tenn., has caught the attention of  The Associated Press (via Huffington Post). Radio broadcasts from the venue have aired since 2008 on Nashville’s country music stalwart WSM-AM. Now PBS is distributing concerts in HD video and Surround Sound, produced by a partnership of the production company Loblolly Ventures, PBS member station WCTE in Cookeville, Tenn., and Emmy-winning producer Todd Jarrell.

The series is recorded in the Volcano Room, a 500-seat venue carved by water over the past 3.5 million years. The series strays somewhat from purist bluegrass, with Season 1 acts including Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Darrell Scott, 18 South, Mike Farris and the McCrary Sisters, Cherryholmes, Justin Townes Earle, Mountain Heart, Will Hoge, John Cowan, Monte Montgomery and the Farewell Drifters.

Underwriters include the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, Nissan and the City of McMinnville.

Back to the drawing board for WBEZ's "Eight Forty-Eight"?

As Chicago’s WBEZ works on plans to double its output of original local news programming, proposed scenarios for scaling up production have fueled speculation over the future of its local flagships Eight Forty-Eight and Worldview.

Crain’s Chicago Business cited unnamed sources in reporting that Eight Forty-Eight will go on extended production hiatus as its format is reviewed, but WBEZ chief Torey Malatia says those decisions are weeks – and possibly months – down the road.

“The idea here is to add hours — not to take away hours,” Malatia tells veteran Chicago media critic Robert Feder. “Over a period of time, we want to add hours and do more live, original talk during the day. It’s not in our interest to go backwards. It’s in our interest to add.”

Over the next few years, Malatia wants to potentially double production of WBEZ-original programs airing during mid-days. The proposal, first unveiled in August, responds to the emergence of two news-talk competitors on Chicago's FM channels.

“What we’re trying to do is to find a modified way of doing discussion programming that incorporates more product that has been pre-produced from the reporters and the city room, as well as what the bloggers are doing, and use some of that material for broadcast,” Malatia told Feder, a former blogger for Chicago Public Media's Vocalo service. Feder now covers media for Chicago Time Out.