Jan 19, 2011

Did you miss the NETA conference?

Here's the next best thing to being there: NETA has posted videos of many of the sessions.

New Masterpiece Trust donations include portion for stations

Details are out on the new Masterpiece Trust, a funding initiative to mark the 40th anniversary of the PBS icon series. For $25,000, donors receive on-screen recognition on at least three programs, and part of their gift goes to their local PBS station. That part of the donation "would be determined jointly between the station and WGBH," Masterpiece spokesperson Ellen Dockser told Current, "by considering the station’s involvement, the donor’s intent, and the goal of generating additional support for Masterpiece content." More than $200,000 has been raised so far. The program is aiming for 40 donors, one for each year.

Ford Foundation invests $50 million in social-issue filmmakers' projects

The Ford Foundation today (Jan. 19) announced a five-year, $50 million project to help fund social-issue filmmakers. JustFilms will invest $10 million a year over the next five years to back movie makers who often lack funding, the foundation said in a release. Heading up JustFilms will be respected documentarian Orlando Bagwell. Partnering are the CPB-backed ITVS and the Sundance Institute. The institute's Sundance Film Festival kicks off Thursday.

“With JustFilms, the Ford Foundation is mapping out new ways to connect the dots between storytelling, technology, and change," ITVS President Sally Fifer told Current in a statement. "ITVS looks forward to continuing our work with Ford and independent filmmakers to inspire and connect people through television, new media and innovative outreach.”

Triple play for music lovers of Ohio and Kentucky

WNKU, a Triple A public radio station broadcasting into Cincinnati on 89.7 FM, will triple its potential audience with the purchase of two commercial country stations in Ohio, WPFB in Middletown and WPAY, Portsmouth. The $6.75 million deal was signed today, according to Public Radio Capital's Erik Langner, who brokered the deal for WNKU. The sale will be financed through tax-exempt bonds to be issued by WNKU licensee Northern Kentucky University.

"Year after year, the number one complaint we hear is in regards to signal strength and reach," said Chuck Miller, g.m. "WNKU will no longer be Greater Cincinnati's best kept secret." While FCC approval of the license transfer is pending, WNKU will begin programming the stations on Feb. 1 under a local management agreement. [Coverage map of new service area.]

S.F. classical FM goes nonprofit in multistation trade

Classical Public Radio Network, based at KUSC in Los Angeles, has organized a new pubradio nonprofit to operate San Francisco’s 60-year-old classical stalwart, formerly commercial KDFC. In the multistation deal announced yesterday, KDFC maintains its air personalities and relationships with the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera. It moves to two new frequencies, while its former owner, Entercom Communications, redeploys its old 102.1 MHz signal to simulcast its classic rock station, KUFX in San Jose, which will move to S.F.

The Los Angeles station acquired two frequencies for the new nonprofit — 90.3 MHz, formerly college station KUSF at the private University of San Francisco, and 89.9 MHz, formerly Christian music outlet KNDL, from Howell Mountain Broadcasting Co. After FCC approval of the deals, the classical station’s top priority will be to extend the reach of its new signals, which will be weaker, especially in the South Bay, Program Director Bill Lueth told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Volunteers and staffers working at KUSF were surprised to learn of the sale yesterday. Edna Barron, a board operator, told Current the university had not offered student groups an opportunity to buy the channel. California Watch reported that the university locked out the music station’s staff soon after telling them the station would be sold. A news release from the school and Entercom said KUSF will continue to operate online.

Brenda Barnes, KUSC president, said in the release that the Los Angeles station had observed the ongoing move of classical stations to noncommercial operation and asked Entercom “if they were willing to work with us on a managed transition.” Entercom was willing.

Kansas budget cuts will hit pubcasters hard

The "massive cuts" proposed to Kansas public broadcasting will hit Smoky Hills Public TV and High Plains Public Radio the worst, reports the Hays Daily News. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback proposed the reductions when in his 2012 budget last week. The state is facing a $550 million revenue shortfall. He wants to eliminate some $1.6 million in state aid typically budgeted pubcasting. The two stations in western Kansas receive a total of $750,000. High Plains would see its budget cut 20 percent; Smokey Hills, 23 percent.

Nonprofit news heads pleased with Comcast-NBC deal to provide partnerships; PEG channels also spared

It's official: As part of the Comcast-NBC merger approved yesterday (Jan. 18), some NBC stations will enter into cooperative arrangements with locally focused nonprofit news organizations, as Comcast had promised in December. By next January, at least five of the 10 owned-and-operated NBC stations will have inked cooperative arrangements with locally focused nonprofit news orgs, to be known as Online News Partners, that will provide reporting on issues of concern to each station’s market or region . On Jim Romenesko's Poynter blog today, several heads of nonprof journalism ventures say this will validate their efforts, and, they hope, prompt more funding. The FCC said in a release that Comcast has voluntarily agreed to "safeguard the continued accessibility and signal quality of PEG [public, educational and governmental] channels on its cable television systems and introduce new on demand and online platforms for PEG content." That's a big victory for public access channels, which have been struggling to remain operating in recent years as local cable funding contracts expired.

NPR's mistake causes real pain, loss of trust

Tucson-based NPR correspondent Ted Robbins and Scott Simon, host of Weekend Edition Saturday, recall their reactions to erroneous NPR newscasts reporting the death of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Jan. 8. Both NPR journalists heard directly from friends and family members of the Arizona lawmaker, they tell Ombudsman Alicia Shepard, and had to explain on what basis NPR was reporting her death. The newscasts were based on inadequate sourcing; both Robbins and Simon testify to the "real, excruciating pain" caused by the mistake.

When he learned the report was wrong, Simon called the Giffords family member who reached out to him. “But I made no attempt to defend NPR,” he tells Shepard. “Someone believed for a moment that she had died. In fact, more than one person did. The mistake NPR made was reprehensible.