Mar 2, 2011

"NPR letter-writers are the stodgiest, whiniest, most self-importantly insufferable snobs"

Letters time on NPR is not one of the high points of Farad Manjoo's week.

"Oh, I hate them, hate them, hate them," the Slate writer says in a column today (March 2). "Every time one of their narrow-minded, classist letters makes it on the air, I contemplate burning my tote bag in protest. The problem, for me, isn't just that some people don't like some things NPR covers. It's that these reflexively snobby pseudo-intellectuals see NPR as their own — a refuge from the mad world outside, a 'safe,' high-minded palace that should never be sullied by anything more outrĂ© than James Taylor (whom, of course, they love). Not only do these letter-writers perpetuate the worst caricature of public radio, but their views don't track with what you actually hear on the air."

After speaking about all this with folks who work in pubradio, Majoo has decided that "the letter-writers' views don't represent most of us who listen to public radio. Their correspondence is the product of a psychology particular to public radio — since they spend so much time with the radio, and because they even donate to keep it alive, they believe it should reflect their high-brow passions."

Nevada's KNPB back on the air after fire ruined transmitter filter system

KNPB in northern Nevada has restored all its signals after a weekend fire damaged a transmitter filter system, the station said today (March 2). With the assistance of the filter manufacturer, KNPB engineers were able to rebuild the system. KNPB Vice President of Technology Fred Ihlow said the process was “sort of like open heart surgery with very large wrenches.” A dangerous mixture of snow and ice storms contributed to the cause of an equipment fire that ruined the filter on the transmitter on Red Peak. On Sunday (Feb. 27) around 9 p.m., viewers had lost KNPB 5.1 HD, the standard digital channel, KNPB Create on 5.2, and KNPB V-me on 5.3.

Terry Gross plays Terry Gross in Jodie Foster/Mel Gibson flick

Fresh Air pubradio host Terry Gross has a cameo in "The Beaver," a film opening in May directed by Jodie Foster and co-starring Foster and Mel Gibson, reports Dave Davies, senior reporter at WHYY. Gross told Davies that she took the role as a learning experience. "I thought, I've talked to so many actors and directors, it would be so interesting not only to observe, but to be part of the process," she said. Gross had no lines to memorize, but improvised her dialogue in a scene in which Gibson's character appears on Fresh Air.

Government shutdown avoided — for now

As of today (March 2) the Senate and House have each approved a measure to keep the government open through March 18. Still ahead: The continuing battle over the Continuing Resolution, with CPB funding at stake.

Ebert show premieres at 2.7 rating, now leveling off

Ratings for movie critic Roger Ebert's new show, Ebert Presents at the Movies, scored a 2.7 for its debut Jan. 21 and 22 on WTTW in Chicago, but have since tapered, according to Nielsen Media Research figures obtained by Chicago media critic Robert Feder. Weekends subsequent to its premiere garnered at 1.5 and 1.3. "Those are good ratings," Ebert told Feder. Ebert's wife, Chaz, also noted: “Our preliminary feedback is that WTTW and APT [syndicator American Public Television] have been very pleased so far since our beginning ratings exceeded all projections and also seem to expand the demographics picture.” And yes, you're correct, apparently Ebert has dropped his first name from the show's title.

Broadcasters face uphill spectrum battle on Capitol Hill

Hundreds of state broadcasting association officials and other broadcasters are on Capitol Hill today (March 2) in an effort to convince members of Congress to remember them, and the spectrum they use, in the upcoming fight to reclaim bandwidth for wireless use, reports TVNewsCheck. They're up against powerful Washington lobbyists for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, Google, Intel, Cisco Systems and Microsoft, all hungry for spectrum for their mobile devices. The news site pointed out that AT&T's political action committee donations from 1989 to 2010 were more than $46 million; the National Association of Broadcasters, $8.2 million. “This is a very much David versus Goliath," says John Hane, a broadcast attorney who has been following the action on spectrum closely since the FCC released its broadband plan in 2009. "The broadcast industry is very small in comparison to the wireless industry and its vendors.”Also, Congress is hungry for revenue from a voluntary auction to go toward the federal deficit.

PBS "sells product" like nobody else, Philly columnist says

Aging rockers are happy to participate as PBS goes after Baby Boomer bucks with classic rock specials, notes columnist Jonathan Takiff in today's (March 2) Philadelphia Daily News. Why? "Because PBS still sells product — CDs and DVDs — like nothing else on the boob tube except Glee and American Idol," he writes. "Hang in to the closing credits for this month's top PBS concert specials and you'll note that most have been produced by the artists' companies and record labels. No surprise, then, that extended CD and DVD packages of the [Carole King/James Taylor] documentary and [Harry] Connick, '[David] Foster and Friends' and Billy Joel specials are hitting stores this week or next, and that they'll be the primary premium offered during the fundraising breaks."

WGBH management issues final offer to Communications Workers union

After what one union rep termed "contentious" negotiations, WGBH management has presented its final proposal for a new agreement with its largest union, reports the Boston Globe in today's (March 2) edition. Managers of the pubcasting producing powerhouse and officials of the Association of Employees of the Educational Foundation, Communications Workers of America, Local 1300, have been talking since August 2010 on a three-year contract to replace an agreement that expired at the end of October 2010. WGBH employs 850 people, and the Local represents 280 writers, editors, production workers and marketing employees. Management wants concessions including cuts in the company’s match for employee retirement plans and authority to redefine job descriptions, which would allow WGBH to assign employees to work across various media platforms. Union officials agree on the retirement plan cuts, but oppose allowing WGBH to outsource work without negotiations, terminate on-air talent without cause, or assign members to perform work outside their job description. Jordan Weinstein, president of the AEEF/CWA, Local 1300, and local host of All Things Considered, said negotiations have been contentious. “This is not the warm and friendly way to deal with your employees,’’ he said. Station spokesperson Jeanne Hopkins said although the management offer is “our last proposal,’’officials are still willing to talk. Union workers vote March 12 on the offer. If they reject it, both sides will be considered at an impasse and WGBH can implement the terms of its final offer beginning March 15.