Mar 1, 2011

Sen. Udall praises free, over-the-air programming

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) spoke about the value of free, over-the-air programming, as well as public broadcasting, at the National Association of Broadcasters State Leadership Conference today (March 1) in Washington, D.C. Broadcasting & Cable reports that Udall drew "repeated applause" as he talked of the necessity of free TV and radio for those who cannot afford it, and those who need emergency information. He said while Americans pay "top dollar" for TV, "many cannot afford cable or satellite TV," and "not everyone has access to the Internet at home." He also called for an emergency communications network, which he said will be a priority of his on the Commerce Committee, as will getting broadband to rural areas.

UPDATE: More coverage, from The Hill. Udall said he will "fight for this critical funding as the budget process continues." The cuts could also hurt broadcasters who don't take federal dollars, Udall said. "We won’t just lose All Things Considered or Sesame Street. We would also lose a consistent source of innovation for the broadcast industry."

NPR Music to mount three SXSW showcases

NPR Music announced line-ups for three South by Southwest Music showcases, each of which will be webcast and broadcast live from Austin, Texas, March 16 - 19. The first, originating from Stubb's on the evening of March 16, will headlined by soul singer Raphael Saadiq. A March 17 afternoon showcase features a "first listen live" performance of the indie rock trio The Antlers as they unveil their forthcoming, as yet untitled, record. The final showcase, scheduled for Saturday, March 19, is headlined by Bright Eyes, the indie/folk band fronted by Conor Oberst.

Each showcase includes at least three additional musical acts, and one spotlights NPR Music veteran Carrie Brownstein in a new way. Instead of co-hosting NPR's live shows from SXSW, Brownstein will perform in the March 17 showcase with her new punk band, Wild Flag. Succeeding Brownstein as NPR Music's resident rock chick is Ann Powers, the Los Angeles Times music critic who joins NPR's Bob Boilen and David Brown of Austin's KUT in co-hosting each concert. NPR's SXSW website has full details on each showcase and "The Austin 100," a music stream previewing emerging artists who will be performing at this year's festival.

INPUT selects pubcasting projects for international showcase

Eight American public broadcasting projects have been selected for inclusion in INPUT (International Public Television), an annual weeklong public media showcase. It’s the only international conference strictly for media produced by noncommercial broadcasters.

Projects scheduled to be presented at the event, May 9-12 in Seoul, South Korea, are Story Corps, American Documentary/POV; “Food, Inc.,” Robert Kenner Films/POV;, season one, ITVS Interactive; “Nora – AfroPop: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange,” Movement Revolution Productions; “Reel Injun: On the Trail of the Hollywood Indian,” ITVS/Canadian Broadcasting Corp.; “Telling Amy’s Story,” Penn State Public Broadcasting; “The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” American Documentary/POV/ITVS; and “The Parking Lot Movie,” Independent Lens/Redhouse Productions.

Amy Shumaker, executive producer at Carolina ETV and the U.S. Input national coordinator, said this is the most pubTV entries since 2005, when the conference was in San Francisco.

For more about INPUT, visit

Washington Post editorial calls pubcasting a "nice-to-have," but not a priority

In case you missed it, the Washington Post, a paper traditionally seen as being in public broadcasting's corner, now views the system as a "nice-to-have" as opposed to a vital service. In an unsigned editorial in Saturday's (Feb. 26) edition, titled "What government is for," it said in part: "Public radio and television provide levels of serious news and cultural coverage and of civility that are otherwise not prevalent in today's media. . . . It's true that if Washington got the bigger, harder things right — controlling health-care costs and aiming entitlement programs at those who really need the help — there'd be enough left over for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. . . . But as a matter of politics and fairness, some of the nice-to-haves are going to have to take a hit: There are worthy things that government is no longer going to be able to do."

FCC adviser says nonprofits need to "rise up" to meet news coverage challenges

Steve Waldman, a Federal Communications Commission senior adviser, gave a preview of his upcoming report, “The Future of Media and the Information Needs of Communities in a Digital Age” Monday (Feb. 28) for around 300 community foundation leaders at the Knight Foundation's annual Media Learning Seminar in Miami. First, public media should not count on any federal support. "Government is not going to step in to fund this," he said. "The nonprofit sector is going to have to rise up" to fill news coverage voids, he said. He broadly defines nonprofit news as including not only public broadcasters but also media centers, public access channels, low-power FM radio stations and schools running local news operations. The good news: Waldman thinks there's potential to do more than "avert disaster." Foundations can pitch in support to create something better than what has been lost in massive waves of news-industry layoffs. "It has the potential to be something fantastic," he said, telling the foundation execs, "You’re at the center of a very important, exciting task."

Vermont Public Television finishes digital studio improvements

Vermont Public Television has completed upgrades to its Colchester, Vt., broadcast studios with four new digital HDTV cameras. Joseph Tymecki, chief technical officer, said in a statement that because the four older analog cameras had lasted nearly 20 years, "we wanted to be sure we were ordering studio cameras that would serve us well into the future." The Hitachi SK-HD1000 cameras are outfitted with Hitachi TU-HD1000 camera control units, VF-HP840 8-inch color LCD viewfinders, RU-1200JY remote control units and Fujinon ZA-22x7.6BERM HD telephoto zoom lenses with 2X extenders. VPT also bought a Ross Vision multi-format production switcher, Chyron LEX3 live HD graphics system, Omneon server and Miranda router. The purchases were the final step of a four-phase upgrade that also included four DTV transmitters, a master control room, and a shift to nonlinear editing workflow.

Smiley says his PBS show is "doing the Lord's work" by challenging assumptions

PBS host Tavis Smiley has posted a transcript on his Facebook page of his chat with Memphis broadcaster Myron Mays. "PBS is a network that is watched by movers and shakers and by people who run the country, power players and other influencers," Smiley told Mays. "It’s a great platform for us to try to empower them and try to enlighten them and quite frankly try to expand their inventory of ideas. It’s a great platform to try to get them to reexamine the assumptions they hold. I think we’re doing the Lord’s work."

PBS releases research showing public opposition to pubcasting cuts

PBS-commissioned research shows "overwhelming public opposition" to proposals to eliminate public broadcasting government funding, the network said in a statement today (March 1). Two firms on opposite ends of the political spectrum did the polling: Hart Research Associates, which has worked for several major Democratic organizations, and American Viewpoint, whose clients have included the Bush-Cheney campaign and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

In the telephone polling of 804 registered voters, a total of 79 percent think PBS should get “the same amount of government funding” or “more government funding” than it currently does. Fifty-six percent said they would be concerned "a great deal" if PBS was forced to significantly cut back on children's educational shows.

Along political lines, 83 percent of Democratic respondents, 69 percent of independents and 56 percent of Republicans opposed cuts to pubcasting.

Calls were made Feb. 11-13, with an error margin of +/- 3.5 percent.