Apr 27, 2011

Jesse Thorn, waiting impatiently

What do young, up-and-coming public broadcasters dream about? The retirement of older public broadcasters. That's one of the many topics that Jesse Thorn, host of The Sound of Young America, discussed during an interview today (April 27) on the Nieman Journalism Lab site. As Thorn says: "I have these conversations with public radio people, and they say, 'Well, you know, Terry Gross is going to retire, and Diane Rehm is going to retire, and Garrison Keillor is going to retire, and they’re need a show with a proven track record to fill in.' And I’m like, Terry Gross is only like 50! She’s not 73. And it’s not as though she works at the sawmill where she has to retire because of her aches and pains." Truth be told, Gross is 60 and Thorn is a huge fan. After Mississippi Public Broadcasting canceled Fresh Air last July, Thorn banned himself from the station — which never ran his show anyway.

Proposed: a minute's quiet for the campus stations silenced

A campus broadcaster group has called for its constituency to observe a national "Minute of Silence" Thursday at noon, Central time, on Thursday (April 27) to raise awareness of college station closings.

"College broadcasters need to do a better job of explaining their value and purpose to the schools and communities they serve,” said Candace Walton, board president of College Broadcasters Inc. In many cases, she said, local programming is replaced by shows piped in from out of town.

Houston: Thursday is the day that Rice University student station KTRU-FM in Houston is to be transferred to pubradio station KUHF at the University of Houston. The students’ programs will continue to go out through the website and on KPFT’s HD Radio channel 2.

Nashville: At Vanderbilt University, it’s not the administration but Vanderbilt Student Communications that owns and proposes to sell student-run WRVU-FM, 10,000 watts at 90.1 MHz, hoping to get $3.5 million to $5 million to invest in an endowment to pay for student media. WRVU would continue to operate online. The nonprofit owner of WRVU, the student newspaper and other campus media, is run by a nine-member board with students holding six of the seats. The group’s FAQ notes that shrinking numbers of students listen to broadcast radio and anticipates that the student paper will lose ad revenue.

Also in Nashville: On Feb. 18, Trevecca Nazarene University’s contemporary Christian music station WNAZ, 89.1 MHz, gave way to WECV, a Christian talk station operated by the buyer, Community Radio Inc., the nonprofit branch of Bott Radio Network of Kansas City. WNRZ-FM, 91.5 MHz in Dickson, Tenn., and two translators were also parts of the $2 million sale.

Mobile, Ala.: On March 21, the University of Alabama approved purchase of WHIL-FM in Mobile, expanding the reach of the university’s Alabama Public Radio network based in Tuscaloosa. Spring Hill College sold the station for $1.1 million after operating it for 30 years. Alabama Public Radio will provide a classical-music/news schedule similar to WHIL’s.

San Francisco: Student station KUSF-FM went online-only in January when the University of San Francisco sold its frequency, 90.3 MHz, to the city’s classical radio station KDFC in a complex multistation deal. Los Angeles pubradio powerhouse KUSC bought two Bay Area frequencies when it acquired KDFC from Entercom Communications. Entercom exited the classical format, making off with KDFC’s former channel.

Viewers get to query Space Shuttle astronauts via NewsHour

Want to ask questions of the Space Shuttle Endeavour crew? PBS NewsHour, Google and YouTube are teaming up to give viewers that opportunity. The astronauts will respond to questions submitted by the public in a live interview to be moderated by NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien at 2 p.m. Eastern May 2 (subject to change, of course, as weather or technical problems could delay the launch or interview).

Participants may submit video or text questions by following a link at the show's website, clicking “submit a question” on its YouTube Channel, or sending a Tweet using the hashtag #utalk2nasa. The public will vote for the best questions for the astronauts; retweets count for one vote.

This is the second time PBS NewsHour has collaborated with Google and You Tube to offer the public direct access to newsmakers. In July 2010, during the Gulf oil spill crisis, the show took viewers inside BP’s Houston headquarters to ask Bob Dudley, the BP executive in charge of the clean up, their questions about the spill, in an exclusive hourlong interview moderated by NewsHour senior correspondent Ray Suarez.

Remember the DTV transition? Here comes another one

The Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) board, meeting in Washington in two weeks, will probably decide to go ahead with plans to develop a new standard for TV broadcasting in the next five to 10 years, reports TVNewsCheck's Harry Jessell. That will enable stations to broadcast more programming, more reliably to more places. But for viewers, it probably will also mean another messy transition similar to the June 2009 switch from analog to digital.

Jim Kutzner, PBS's chief engeineer and the ATSC’s next-gen planning committee, says it’s time. “If you don’t start now, many years down the road you’ll be in the same place.” He points out this move is a hedge against the FCC’s proposal to take big swatches of spectrum from broadcasters and make it available to wireless broadband providers. “If the broadcasters are consolidated down into a smaller amount of spectrum," he says, "then we will have far less spectrum to transition from where we are today to where we want to be in the future."