Jan 17, 2011

More on PBS member stations and Tucson memorial coverage

David Brauer, local media reporter for MinnPost, complains in a column today (Jan. 17) that Twin Cities Public Television viewers weren't given the opportunity to see the Jan. 12 memorial service for the recent Tucson shootings.TPT spokesperson Lorena Duarte said the station was told that commercial networks would cover the entire service – which they didn't, opting instead to only run President Obama's remarks. "We also received word from PBS that they would not be providing coverage of the memorial event," Duarte said. "This changed late in the afternoon, which would have made it very difficult for us to put it on [main channel] TPT 2 (and at that point we still thought the networks would be carrying it)." PBS told Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, that "member stations had the option of carrying the Tucson memorial ... in its entirety."

WAMU-FM to drop Capitol News Connection for its own Hill coverage

WAMU-FM will not renew its contract with Capitol News Connection when it expires April 30, the Washington Post is reporting today (Jan. 17). The Post had written last fall (Current, Sept. 9, 2010) that CNC is owned by the wife of one of the station's top managers, which presented a potential conflict of interest at the pubradio station. CNC's Power Breakfast and This Week in Congress have aired on WAMU since late 2007, and the production company also provides spot news coverage of Capitol Hill activities.

In a Jan. 14 e-mail to staff, station News Director Jim Asendio said WAMU's newsroom is now sufficiently staffed to provide that coverage in-house. He did not cite the controversy. But CNC founder and owner Melinda Wittstock, wife of WAMU programmer Mark McDonald, told the newspaper that its contract discussions with WAMU are continuing, so comment would be inappropriate. "We hope to find a way forward," she added.

KCET's board chairman says break from PBS is a suspension; it's willing to return to membership

In an interview in today's (Jan. 17) Broadcasting & Cable, KCET Board Chairman Gordon Bava insists the station has not "terminated" its relationship with PBS, but "we have suspended it indefinitely. We aren’t sure PBS is willing to accept that distinction, but that is our express intention. So that when the dust settles and we see maybe in a couple of years what the future of PBS holds and its role will be, we certainly would be open to returning on a reasonable and sustainable basis."

He also calls the system of PBS member stations "vulnerable" since it has been losing money for years. Also, if government funding dried up, "I think that the system would be reduced by at least half. I think a lot of those stations would probably go out of business."

Broadcasting authority approves $3.4 million, three-month budget for NJN

The newly convened New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority last Friday (Jan. 14) okayed a three-month budget of $3.4 million to preserve New Jersey Network, according to the Star-Ledger. That figure includes $2.1 million in new state aid and $1.3 million in lottery revenue and current leases. Authority Chairman and State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said he expects the state to have a partner secured by April 1 to run the network, which the governor is attempting to wean from state support (Current, July 6, 2010). The Treasurer's office has hired Public Radio Capital to help draft a request for proposals for the operation of the network’s television and radio stations. No decisions have been made about whether to separate the radio and television operations, or give the entire network to a partner.