Jan 8, 2011

It's TCA Winter Press Tour time once again ...

PBS President Paula Kerger today (Jan. 8) told the Television Critics Association crowd that she doesn't anticipate stations to start pulling out of PBS now that KCET has done so. "I don't see any other stations poised to go down the same path as KCET," she said at the annual Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. "These are difficult times for all our stations. We're particularly focused to really looking at opportunities to help our stations (financially)."

More press tour pubcasting news:

— PBS reunited former Laugh-In cast members Lily Tomlin, Jo Anne Worley, Ruth Buzzi (on stage, right, PBS photo) and announcer Gary Owens, along with producer George Schlatter, for its announcement that it'll carry the legendary comedy show for spring pledge. It's picking up a 1993 NBC special created for the 25th anniversary of the wildly popular (and far-out, man) comedy series.

— Although Tavis Smiley's show is still being produced at KCET studios, it may not be for much longer. "We have been in conversations with AEG Live about possibly moving, a year from now, our studios downtown into some brand new facilities that they have," Smiley said. AEG Live is a subsidiary of Anschutz Etertainment Group, which owns, manages or books dozens of major arenas worldwide.

The Hollywood Reporter got in a dig at PBS in its blog post on Kerger's appearance: "Though PBS hasn't changed its tone — 'they recognize what we do is different,' [Kerger] said of viewers — at least this time it didn't come off as righteous, as it has in the past (which always galls, since it's wrong ... there's much to tout at PBS, but saying nobody else delivers the same quality is absurd in the expanded cable environment)." Ouch.

— Actor Jeff Bridges, subject of the American Masters presentation "Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides," talked about the odd international fallout following his role as the Dude in "The Big Lebowski": Lebowski Fests. "They have them all over the world now," Bridges said. "They're two-day affairs ... a lot of bowling, a lot of drinking of white Russians, a lot of bowling pins walking around. And hundreds of dudes all dressed up like the Dude." ("The Dude Abides" airs Jan. 12.)

— The network announced that it has expanded its iPad app to the iPhone and iPad Touch. And new to iTunes, an Antiques Roadshow app that allows users to appraise and collect "virtual antiques." That one costs $2.99.

Outcry over Weiss resignation continues

Radio pubcasters are reacting "with shock and anger" at the departure from NPR of news chief Ellen Weiss, reports the Washington Post today (Jan. 8). "We have allowed Fox News to define the debate," wrote Peter Block, a member of the board of Cincinnati Public Radio, on an e-mail group for public radio managers. "I do not think this kind of capitulation [by NPR] assures the future of an independent press. ... Democracy is on the line and NPR is one of the last bastions of its possibility."

The Post also reported on Schiller's compensation last year, including a one-time $112,500 bonus that was negotiated as part of her hiring package. The amount, which supplemented a $450,000 salary, was to have been awarded in January 2010 on Schiller's one-year anniversary as chief exec, according to Dana Davis Rehm, spokeswoman. Schiller asked the board to defer payment until NPR’s financial situation improved, but the board opted to pay it last spring.

It’s not clear how much of a performance bonus Schiller would have been paid for 2010: the disciplinary action on the Williams dismissal preempted any board discussion of additional compensation, according to Rehm.