Jun 20, 2011

Congressman Dingell wants answers on spectrum auctions

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) has sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (PDF) requesting clarification on several points of upcoming spectrum auctions. A few of the specifics he'd like to know: How many stations will share a channel or go off the air? How many stations will need to move to a new channel or be repacked? How many viewers will lose or gain service? Dingell is requesting answers by June 27.

Al Jazeera English gaining viewers on KCET in Los Angeles

Indie pubcaster KCET-TV in Los Angeles is having success with Al Jazeera English on its main channel, according to the New York Times. The news programming runs four times each weekday. In its main 4 p.m. slot, ratings jumped 135 percent from February through May, as the "Arab spring" uprisings continued. KCET says the newscasts are drawing more than 285,000 viewers per week. KCET Chief Content Officer Bret Marcus said he had been braced for viewer criticism about Qatar-based Al Jazeera English’s point of view, but “most people think it’s been very even-handed.”

WGBH drops Lyme disease documentary over "internal editorial concerns"

Dan Rodricks, a Baltimore Sun columnist who also hosts the Midday talk show on NPR's WYPR-FM, is weighing in on controversy surrounding a documentary set to air on several pubTV stations, including Maryland Public Television. At least one, WGBH, has dropped the program over content concerns.

Under Our Skin: A Healthcare Nightmare, is distributed by NETA from producer Andy Abrahams Wilson. Rodricks calls it a "polemical film about Lyme disease that is built on fear-provoking speculations and assertions while advancing a central message that has been discredited by experts in infectious diseases." The program suggests that tick-borne Lyme disease is an epidemic; the Infectious Diseases Society of America, its main target, disagrees, saying that long-term antibiotic treatment is unproven and unwarranted.

WGBH in Boston dropped the program from its schedule this month. "The decision was based on our own internal editorial concerns that surfaced on closer review of the film," Jeanne Hopkins, WGBH spokesperson, told Rodricks.

"We generally hear audience response to a program after it airs, but we have received calls from viewers about this title already," Joe Krushinsky, MPT spokesperson, told Rodricks. "Some are pleased; others are not. So far, the larger numbers of comments have been on the positive side of that split." Krushinsky added that "no single program claims to be, or can be, a comprehensive look at all perspectives."

NETA told Current that 105 markets have broadcast or have scheduled Under Our Skin.

Dutch fiscal austerity plan targets Radio Netherlands Worldwide

The Dutch government announced plans to scale back the activities of Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the pubcaster that produces and distributes programs for international audiences. Under a proposal announced last week, the world news service would no longer concern itself with providing information for Dutch people living abroad, or portraying a "realistic image of the Netherlands" through its broadcasts in other countries, according to report published on RNW's website. It is to become an arm of the Foreign Ministry and focus its service on countries where free speech is suppressed or threatened. The cuts, proposed as part of an austerity plan to reduce government spending, would take effect in January. RNW launched an online petition campaign to challenge the proposal, which is to be taken up by the Dutch Parliament on June 27.

Stakeholders gather to discuss future of New Zealand pubcasting as government cuts funds

The survival of public television in New Zealand will be debated Wednesday (June 22) at a Victoria University forum for stakeholders from industry, parliament, the state sector and academia, reports news site Participants will identify policy options to sustain public television, discuss funding and structural alternatives, look at sustaining local content, and examine regulatory arrangements.The forum originated with an open letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Broadcasting in April, signed by 61 media academics from around New Zealand, who urged the government to reconsider the series of steps it has taken “to dismantle the little that is left of public broadcasting in our country” by ending government funding.

PBS tops Creative Arts Emmys with 10

PBS leads all networks with 10 Daytime Entertainment Creative Arts Emmy Awards. All were presented during nontelevised ceremonies June 17 instead of during the on-air awards show Sunday (June 19). Sesame Street won several, including preschool children's series, performer (Kevin Clash as Elmo) and directing. Electric Company won three and was named top children's series. American Public Television won three: Avec Eric for culinary program, Travelscope for single-camera photography; and New Orleans: Getting Back to Normal. A full list of winners announced June 17, including PBS, is here.

NewsWorks in Philly: A "potential template" for pubcasting?, the ambitious online community news site from WHYY in Philadelphia that launched in November, "just might be the most clearly articulated potential template for public media’s Web future," notes NetNewsCheck in a story today (June 20). William J. Marrazzo, WHYY president, plans on pumping $1.1 million a year into the site, which has been in development for nearly a decade; NewsWorks generated about 45 percent of WHYY’s $100,000 online revenue during the company’s 2011 fiscal year. So far it receives about 210,000 visitors monthly, with a growth rate of about 20 percent per month. Marrazzo said the station wants to "cut our teeth on hyperlocal markets," as well as broaden the multimedia skills of its journalists and reach a younger audience with the site.

Newark's WBGO unveils new performance series

WBGO in Newark, N.J., launches a new broadcast performance series this week, The Checkout: Live from 92YTribeca, hosted and curated by Josh Jackson as an extension of his weekly music magazine. Featuring modern jazz, the monthly series debuts on Wednesday, June 22 with a performance by New York-based pianist and composer Dan Tepfer, "one of the most formidable jazz musicians on the international stage," and special guest saxophonist Noah Perminger. Performances will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. eastern on WBGO 88.3 FM, streamed on, and offered as a video webcast on NPR Music. The series is part of a larger service expansion that WGBO is rolling out this summer: it's launching an HD Radio channel focusing on emerging jazz artists and strengthening its signal in Manhattan, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Journal featured the WBGO and New York's WQXR in a story on terrestrial broadcasters repositioning themselves as "thriving multi-platform hubs." Earlier in Current: Josh Jackson's The Checkout as a showcase for music discovery.