Dec 14, 2011

Attention, RSS readers

Don't miss Current's inside look at the demise of Capitol News Connection, which reveals pitfalls for entrepreneurial nonprofit news operations, especially on the frontier where for-profit investment and technical innovation might bring a big upside but carry no guarantees. Like numerous small nonprofits these days, CNC's end was marked by debt, disputes over broken financial commitments, and a gaping hole in news coverage for stations that supported the D.C.-based news service until the end.

Susan Soto dies; longtime KAET-TV employee in Phoenix

Susan Soto, a former staffer of KAET-TV in Phoenix for nearly 21 years, died Dec. 11. She first worked as an advertising specialist, according to the station, now called Eight, Arizona PBS. Her role grew to include public relations and special events. "One memorable “Are You Being Served?” event required her to 'mind' the notorious [actor] John Inman, find a tiara and wrangle a Mrs. Slocombe look-alike contest," the station said in a statement.

Soto also "was one of the first people at Eight to recognize the potential of the Internet," the station said. On her own time, she learned the early technology and went on to earn a master’s degree in educational technology. She oversaw development and management of the station’s Emmy award-winning website and launched Eight early into social media via Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

"As the station grew and the media environment changed, so did Susan," the station said. "She was a significant contributor to the station’s success and held firm to her belief in the importance of public television."

Donations in her memory may be made to Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix; cards may be sent to her brother, Ralph Soto, 1915 Corliss Court, McLean, Va., 22101-5504.

Knight provides second $1.5 million grant to NPR for digital news training

The Knight Foundation has awarded NPR with a $1.5 million grant to expand its digital training in pubradio newsrooms, it announced today (Dec. 14). A statement said the support will provide for development of a training program for more than 70 local pubradio stations.

The $1.5 million investment bolsters a Knight grant in 2007, which trained hundreds of NPR journalists in the use of digital platforms and reporting techniques. Knight cited an independent review that found that the $1.5 million grant in 2007 resulted in “a positive shift in individual and institutional attitudes toward digital news.”

The Knight Foundation has invested $5.4 million in NPR since 1992.

BBC World channel coming to Comcast

BBC World, the British broadcaster's 24-hour international news channel, will be available via Comcast by the end of the year in several major American markets. In preparation for its foray into the marketplace, the New York Times notes, the BBC added about a dozen staff members to its Washington bureau — including former NPR News head Dick Meyer to oversee news coverage in the Americas.

BBC Director of Global News Peter Horrocks called the agreement an "important breakthrough."

The channel will be available to Comcast Xfinity subscribers in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Portland, Michigan, western New England and Northern California, with other markets coming next year.

The network's BBC World News 30-minute program airs in most of the top 30 pubcasting markets.

Former WGBH needlepoint personality Erica Wilson dies at 83

Erica Wilson, who helped popularize needlepoint arts in the 1970s through her show on PBS, died Tuesday (Dec. 13) at age 83, reports the New York Times.  According to producing station WGBH's archives, Erica ran 1971-73. "Erica Wilson, noted American authority on needlework, invites the viewer to explore the exciting possibilities of indulging his creative and artistic talents," the description notes. "In this series of color videotaped 15-minute programs she illustrates the wide vocabulary of stitches used in many types of embroidery including traditional crewel, needlepoint, bargello, and crewel point. As well as demonstrating these stitches, Erica gives professional hints on creating useful and decorative objects. She encourages personalizing an original or derived design through the selection of motif, materials, stitch, color, texture, and size." The show was later recognized as one of the first "how-to personality" programs from the Boston station.

House spectrum bill passes; FCC's Genachowski has concerns

The GOP version of spectrum auction legislation passed the House on Tuesday (Dec. 13) as part of the payroll tax extension package, but that looks destined for a presidential veto. Meanwhile, reports Broadcasting & Cable, Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski said he is concerned with parts of the bill that could "tie the agency's hands in ways that could be counterproductive." He didn't reveal which sections, but the proposed legislation would limit the FCC's ability to decide who gets to bid on spectrum.

Media Ratings Council chair says Nielsen "still trying to figure out diary markets"

In part one of a three-part look at audience measurement ratings, TVNewsCheck interviews the chair of the Media Rating Council, Billy McDowell, who says of Nielsen diaries: "They’re still trying to figure out the diary markets. They’re working on a lot of improvements, some that we have suggested, some they’re doing entirely on their own. I know that sample size is an issue there as well. They have been public about their set-top box initiatives and we will see where it all goes."

Part two examines Rentrak's growing influence in the ratings game, and part three focuses on a two-year-old dispute over local broadcasters wanting credit for viewing of programs recorded on DVRs.