Aug 29, 2011

Hurricane Irene disables two WUNC radio transmitters in N.C.

WUNC radio in Chapel Hill, N.C., is coping with signal loss at two transmitter sites due to Hurricane Irene: WBUX in Buxton, N.C., is located on the Outer Banks, just off Cape Hatteras; and WURI is at Manteo, N.C., on Roanoke Island, between the mainland and barrier islands. "We cannot even call the transmitters because the phones are out" as of Monday (Aug. 29) morning, Nandini Sen, WUNC director of technologies and engineering, told Current. "We're just waiting. In the meantime we're in touch with emergency personnel to figure out when can come in." Highway 12 south of Rodanthe, where Buxton is located, "looks like it's part of the ocean" due to flooding, Sen said. "We don't even have a visual of the site. It's completely cut off. We'd have to go in by boat. Right now they're only allowing emergency personnel in." The station's main transmitter in Columbia is fine; it covers Manteo and nearly all of Buxton. Also, WRQM in Rocky Mount lost electricity early Saturday, Sen said, and is still running on a generator.

UPDATE: As of 2:45 p.m. Monday, the station is broadcasting intermittently from WBUX.

UNC-TV, also in Chapel Hill, "never lost a signal, although we had to use emergency generators for power at four transmitter sites and two translator sites," reports spokesman Steve Volstad. UNC runs 12 transmitters and 23 translators. "We carry a pool feed for all North Carolina broadcasters of the official briefings from the governor's emergency operations center, so that made it especially important for us to keep operating — which we did," he added.

Vermont also was hit hard by flooding. Everyone at Vermont Public Radio in Colchester "is safe and sound," spokesman Brendan McKinney said, "although a few employees are home today dealing with flooding to their home and/or community." One of the station's classical frequencies in the southern part of the state is down due to a power issue but otherwise, signals are normal. "We are quite lucky, since the damage was so widespread and we have so many broadcast sites across the state," he said.

A few blocks away, Ann Curran at Vermont Public Television also said it was "very fortunate" to escape damage, and didn't lose signal or power.

WQED Multimedia's unique iQZoo rolls out nationally in September

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium are the first to use WQED Multimedia's iQZoo, a QR (quick response) code project that provides visitors with audio clips, PBS videos and information about animals via a free smartphone app. It becomes available to all pubcasting stations in September, reports the Pittsburgh Business Times. WQED Multimedia developed iQZoo in-house, funded by a grant from PBS Interactive, said Jennifer Stancil, who heads up educational partnerships at the station. "We wanted to create something that could be relevant to kids in the moment when they’re asking questions and studying elephants and orangutans and polar bears, and provide the answers through PBS videos in a way never done before,” Stancil said. Carlow University in Pittsburgh is studying how families incorporate the technology during zoo visits.

“We’re equipping other PBS stations and zoos around the nation to do this for free,” Stancil said. “All 360 stations know about the opportunity — they’ll have different capabilities and relationships. We’re talking about building other programming. This could extend to other types of public learning, and there are various uses of the QR code we haven’t yet explored.”

Marketplace expands with new "after the bell" program

David Brancaccio will helm Marketplace Index, a new weekday report that will "psychoanalyze" economic trends based on what happens in the financial markets each day. The series, piloted as a four-minute segment, combines reporting, critical analysis and interviews with financial experts and newsmakers. It launches today on Minnesota Public Radio news stations and KPCC in Pasadena, American Public Media's California affiliate, and is being syndicated to public radio stations nationwide. It will also be distributed as a podcast, available every weekday at 4:45 p.m., from this new website.

"No one is in a better position than Marketplace to address rising anxiety about the economy," said JJ Yore, v.p. and general manager. "Marketplace Index is another way we are delivering what people want -- news that explains what's happening on Wall Street in ways that Americans on Main Street can understand."

Need to Know anchor Stewart to step down in September

Host Alison Stewart is departing WNET's Need to Know, reports the New York Times Media Decoder blog, when it switches to a 30-minute format on Sept. 16. The shortened show will focus more on the 2012 election, and Stewart said she decided to bow out. “For a show about politics you have to have someone available and present 110 percent of the time,” and able to travel extensively, she said. Between a book she is completing and her 3-year-old, she said, “I didn’t feel like I was the right person and that it was the right time to continue with the show.” Her last appearance is expected to be Sept. 9.

Stephen Segaller, WNET programming v.p., said NTK was being condensed for both financial and time-slot reasons. He said PBS has not only reduced the show’s funding but also has scheduled a festival of arts programs on Friday nights this fall. He declined to comment on Stewart's successor but expects to have an announcement around Labor Day.

Stewart has been solo anchoring the hourlong show since Jon Meacham became a contributing editor of the program in April.

FCC reviewing comments on CAP vs. EAS emergency broadcasts

Here's a good update from Radio World of news so far on the Federal Communication Commission's move toward broadcast emergency message delivery via a Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) instead of the legacy Emergency Alert System (EAS). In general, opponents object to the timing of the switch, and say that many stations have had to order new gear even before CAP-EAS system requirements have been finalized. Supporters say CAP it is an improvement over EAS, allowing for better delivery, higher-fidelity audio, text-to-speech, matching audio and text, and other benefits. Included in Radio World's post are excerpts of comments to the FCC from groups such as the National Association of Broadcasters, Prometheus Radio Project and the Broadcast Warning Working Group.