Jun 15, 2011

City Council drops idea for new Chattanooga Channel

The City Council in Chattanooga, Tenn., has voted down a plan to contribute $275,000 to WTCI/Tennessee Valley PBS to launch a Chattanooga Channel, reports the Chattanoogan. Paul Grove, WTCI president, had proposed that all City Council meetings, including committees, would be aired live and streamed on a website. Grove said the channel would bring new "access and transparency" to city government. Councilwoman Pam Ladd said the channel "is a wonderful idea," but not a priority at this time. The council will pay WTCI $60,000 to continue televising its meetings; the county is dropping that spending.

WMFE pubradio safe, "hugely viable," trustee president says

Despite WMFE's dire warnings to the FCC about its financial stability, trustees chairman Bob Showalter said the Orlando, Fla., station will not fail because the radio presence remains strong. "90.7 is hugely viable,” he told the Orlando Sentinel Tuesday (June 14). “Things are not dire at 90.7.” He said trustees plan on putting the $3 million from the pending TV sale in a quasi-endowment, spending the dividends on 90.7 and increasing local news coverage.

BBC working on live reporting app

The BBC is developing an app for its reporters in the field to file video, still photos and audio directly into the BBC system from an iPhone or iPad, according to "Reporters have been using smart phones for a while now but it was never good quality," said Martin Turner, head of operations for newsgathering. "You might do it when there was a really important story. Now it is beginning to be a realistic possibility to use iPhones and other devices for live reporting, and in the end if you've got someone on the scene then you want to be able to use them. That capability is a really important one."

Assessing the value of college radio in Nashville

What is lost when a city's college radio station is sold and converted to a public radio outlet? It's a question that free-form radio fans are asking with increasing frequency as student-operated FMs drop off the left end of the dial.

In Nashville, where Vanderbilt University's WRVU ended its nearly 60-year run as an FM station last week, radio audiences gained a full-time classical music service from the city's NPR News station, WPLN. But WRVU's fans and advocates lamented the sudden loss of a station that essentially operated as a community radio outlet. WRVU was "one of the only venues for Nashville artists of all stripes to get airplay — rappers, punks, headbangers, even blues and bluegrass bands," the Nashville Scene reported. It also provided a "powerful forum for ideas" in ways that weren't heard elsewhere on Nashville's airwaves, according to Freddie O'Connell, a former talk show host who penned a June 11 op-ed for the New York Times.

"There’s a false but widespread image of college radio as a pointless, narcissistic exercise — that it’s nothing more than a crew of campus oddballs who like playing D.J., even though no one is listening," O'Connell wrote. "WRVU demonstrated how wrong that image is. Not only did it command respect and interest on campus, but, thanks to a longstanding and farsighted policy, it allowed and encouraged members of the off-campus community to volunteer as D.J.’s — and so drew on the rich cultural heritage of Music City U.S.A. as well."

But that community-mindedness and free-form aesthetic didn't add up to a viable broadcast service over the long-term, according to the Student Press Center's account of the sale. Vanderbilt Student Communications, the nonprofit that held WRVU's license, conducted audience research before selling the frequency to WPLN. “We found that about 70 percent of listeners were 35 and older, and many were listening online from out of state,” said Chris Carroll, director of student media at VSC. “When people raise outcries that Nashville is losing something that everybody loves, the data just do not support those claims.”

With the $3.3 million purchase of WRVU's 91.1 FM frequency, WPLN will be better able to satisfy its news and classical audiences, General Manager Rob Gordon told the Tennessean. Only a few years ago, his staff programmed both NPR News and classical music on 90.3 FM, its flagship channel.

Comments posted on the Nashville Scene's blog "ranged from ballistic to disheartened to a mix of the two," and offered conflicting assessments of WPLN's role in the transaction: "Part of me is pissed but then I have to wonder... if not WPLN, it might've been another, more commercial crappy station....Either way, the radio alternative is gone and my contributions to NPR went towards the final solution. That is a kick in the nads."

Burns "surprised" to be identified as regular contributor to Olbermann's new show

Lefty TV talker Keith Olbermann announced last month that PBS documentarian Ken Burns would be a "key contributor" and "regular part" of Olbermann's new show on Current TV — which surprised Baltimore Sun TV writer David Zurawik. "Yes, I was surprised, too," Burns told Zurawik in a column today (June 14). "I appeared on Countdown a lot. And he's been a friend for a long time. And when he moved [to Current TV], I said, 'Oh, I'll come and do it [the new show]'. And I think that's what it is." However, Burns said, he refused to accept a salary as a regular contributor. "They offered to pay me, and I said no," Burns told Zurawik. "I refused to be paid. I don't want any money to interrupt an exchange of ideas. And since I live in New Hampshire, I don't know how I become a contributor. You know, when I'm in New York, if there's something germane to something we're doing or to a topic I care about, I'll talk about it. But I would do the same thing at Fox News, know what I mean? We bend over backwards to be right down the middle."