Jan 14, 2011

Get your station SAFER via NCME webinar

The National Center for Media Engagement is sponsoring a webinar at 1 p.m. Eastern Wednesday (Jan. 19) on the CPB-funded SAFER (Station Action for Emergency Readiness) initiative. It aims to help pubcasters in TV and radio become reliable sources of public information during an emergency. Also participating will be folks from KPBS in San Diego, Calif., and Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Register here.

PBS ombudsman ponders lack of weekend breaking news on the network

In the wake of the Tucson shootings on Jan. 8, PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler is wondering why PBS doesn't have some way to bring breaking news to its viewers on weekends. "There are no doubt impressive-sounding reasons, financial or otherwise, why there is no PBS NewsHour, or something similar, on Saturday and Sunday evenings," he writes in his latest Mailbag. "But it has always seemed to me like an abdication of duty that also has the side effect of sending regular PBS viewers to other networks." Also in the mailbag this week: Why didn't PBS carry the Tucson memorial service? (Stations had that option, PBS responds). Also, complaints about two men kissing on Masterpiece's "Downton Abbey" (more on the history of that kiss here).

WYEP, Public Radio Capital forge joint venture to purchase Pittsburgh's WDUQ

Pittsburgh's NPR News and jazz music station WDUQ is to be sold for $6 million to a joint partnership of WYEP and Public Media Company, a new local ownership and operating entity established by Public Radio Capital.

The sales contract is half the price that the license-holder Duquesne University sought to earn when it put WDUQ on the market last year. "It’s a market issue," said Dr. Charles Dougherty, president, during a Jan. 14 news conference. The university started with the "highest possible asking price," as any seller would do.

The final deal, approved by an executive committee of the Duquesne University board, strikes a balance between providing cash to invest in the university's academic programs and preserving the station and its 60-year history as a community service, Dougherty said. [News release]

The aspiring licensee is Essential Public Media, a partnership between WYEP and PRC's new nonprofit, Public Media Company. It intends to expand the news offerings of WDUQ, which now splits its broadcast day between news and music.

The deal provides some accommodation for jazz music lovers, but officials at the news conference said programming decisions are yet to be made. "The framework is set, but specific format details haven’t been resolved," said Marco Cardomone, chair of the WYEP Board. His station will retain and even "beef up" its Triple A music format, he said.

The contract establishes an employment and internship program for Duquesne students at the new station, but WDUQ managers and staff will lose their jobs when the sale closes. "We’ve informed them of this decision and are counting on their history of professionalism to see us through the transition," Dougherty said, referring to the station's staff.

Public Radio Capital, a Colorado-based consultancy and broker for public media stations, describes Public Media Company as "a natural outgrowth" of its work to help local stations acquire new outlets and strengthen their services. The nonprofit will be led by managing director Ken Ikeda, who is stepping down as head of the Bay Area Video Coalition to take the job.

Editor's note: This blog post has been corrected to describe the relationship between Essential Public Media, the licensee bidding for WDUQ, and the Public Media Company established by PRC.

Local underwriting time available Feb. 1 on MHz Worldview

Lots of stuff going on at international programmer MHz Networks. Spokesperson Stephanie Misar was on hand at NETA in Nashville Thursday (Jan. 13) to announce that starting Feb. 1, spot time will be available for local promos or underwriting on its MHz Worldview channel.

Also, its 31 affiliates soon may feed their local programs back to MHz for worldwide distribution as the MHz America channel, which is nearing launch. International broadcasters are hungry for quality local content from America, Misar said, and so far eight affiliates are involved.

And MHz is in early talks with commercial broadcasters to carry its content.

And it's ramping up its kids and world affairs content.

And it's working with the Open Mobile Video Coalition to put Worldview on mobile DTV devices.

And the newly independent KCET became MHz's latest affiliate on Jan. 1. MHz now reaches some 36 million households with its channels, which are free to pubcasters. Most shows are produced overseas in English; others are subtitled.

"There's a need for international programming out there," Misar said. "The demographics are changing, and what viewers want is changing. We're building on the tradition of public TV. Stations can take their brand to a different level by providing something that's never before been seen in the market."

Laura Hunter from Utah Educational Network introduced Misar and spoke about viewer reaction in that state, which has been quite positive. Folks quite often call the station during broadcast of Aussie rules football  to ask for more information about the sport. "We send them to its Wikipedia page," Hunter quipped.

Misar added that international mysteries on Sundays and Tuesdays also have a "cult following," with affiliates hosting viewing parties for the fanatical fans.

Pubcasting exellence honored at NETA; KET gets innovation award

Twenty-three pubcasters took home 31 trophies from the annual NETA awards Thursday (Jan. 13) in Nashville. The luncheon presentations kicked off with the special NETA Education Board's Enterprise and Innovation Award, which went to KET’s Executive Director Shae Hopkins and the KET education division for their "exemplary success in delivering education services to generations of students, teachers, parents, and care providers throughout the state of Kentucky," even in the midst of a tight budget. KET also scored a win for its instructional media. In addition to that category, honors are presented for content production, promotion and community engagement. There's a list of all the honorees on the NETA confab blog. Also, if you couldn't attend or were there but missed a session, the blog offers a good, detailed rundown of all the action.

Who loses if Congress defunds NPR or CPB?

Two takes on the congressional push to end federal aid to public broadcasting:

Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam explores to what extent hometown stations WBUR-FM and WGBH-TV/FM depend on their CPB grants. Not so much, he discovers, except for TV production grants that WGBH relies on to create shows such as Between the Lions: it's the little stations serving rural communities whose futures hang in the balance. "Public broadcasters — and especially prosperous stations like Boston’s WGBH and WBUR — might be better off without the government’s money."

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) tells the Washington Examiner that he's waited a long time for his legislation to defund NPR and CPB to gain political traction. "Before the Juan Williams issue came up, it really wasn't on a lot of people's radar screens," he says. A "well-connected House GOP aide" says that Lamborn's bill is "not a top priority, like repealing Obamacare," but its prospects for House passage are "pretty good."

In a statement issued this week, NPR blasted Lamborn's bills as "an intrusion into the programming decision-making of America’s public radio stations."