Feb 1, 2012

Governor proposes ending state funding to Rhode Island PBS

David Piccerelli, president of Rhode Island PBS, said he was shocked to learn of Gov. Lincoln Chafee’s proposal to eliminate state funding for Channel 36, which provides about a third of its $3 million budget. “If this is a policy plan that the governor wants to put forth," Piccerelli told local CBS affiliate WPRI, "then I think we should probably put together a policy plan rather than just cutting us off at the knees and telling us to go do it.” Chafee’s proposed budget cuts RI PBS’s current state support from $932,562 to $425,286 next fiscal year, and ends it altogether in 2014. The rest of the station’s budget is around $1.25 million in private donations and $750,000 from CPB. Rhode Island PBS is running a $90,000 operating deficit this fiscal year.

“The original intent of public television was to provide educational programming for poor communities that didn’t have access,” Chafee spokeswoman Christine Hunsinger said. “Times and needs have changed and most people, regardless of income, have access to hundreds of channels and different mechanisms. … Everyone still has access to WGBH Channel 2 in Boston.”

NPR launches new page on Facebook

"This is NPR," a new Facebook page, provides a peek behind the scenes at its people, headquarters and stations nationwide. There are links to events, job opportunities, photos of folks who stop in for studio interviews, pictures by NPR White House Correspondent Ari Shapiro on the campaign trail.

The moment is right ... for these ads

Pubradio WTMD at Towson University in Maryland has a unique new ad campaign that came into being after "a crazy night of flashing lights and creativity," and probably will make you giggle. Or blush. Or both. A local photographer and ad agency both donated their services for the work, which shows what happens to ears that become aroused by all that great music on WTMD.

"Financial Fitness" creator leaves WCNY in dispute; two new hosts announced

WCNY-TV in Syracuse today (Feb. 1) announced two new hosts for its longest-running local show, Financial Fitness, while the local Post-Standard is reporting that host J. Daniel Pluff, who started the program in 1992, has left following an ongoing disagreement. Pluff said the station wouldn't let him decide on guest hosts for the investment advice show, which he produced on a volunteer basis. WCNY President Robert Daino told the newspaper that the station has to maintain editorial control over the program, which regularly scores better ratings than national PBS offerings. New hosts are Jim Burns, a columnist for the Post-Standard and president of J.W. Burns and Co., an investment firm, and Vicki Brackens of Brackens Financial Solutions Network and a regular panelist on Financial Fitness.

@readingrainbow goes to one very worthy Tweeter

LeVar Burton, former longtime host of pubTV's popular Reading Rainbow, has claimed @readingrainbow, reports Huffington Post, with a little help from fellow Tweeters. On Tuesday (Jan. 31), Burton had contacted the account holder directly, who hadn't used @readingrainbow in three years. When that didn't work, Burton Tweeted far and wide, asking the Twittersphere for help, and sites like Gizmodo got involved. "Less than two nostalgia-filled hours and hundreds of retweets later," HuffPost says, the Twitter account was turned over to Burton

Despite the show's demise more than two years ago (Current, Aug. 6, 2009), Burton remains its steadfast champion, last year even raising $3 million for his RRKidz reading app in partnership with WNED in Buffalo, Reading Rainbow's presenting station.

Peter and Carl, a la Lego

Just in case you missed it, here is a photo of Lego versions of Carl Kasell and Peter Sagal of Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! Creator Dave Kaleta appeared on the WBEZ/NPR show's Listener Limerick Challenge in September 2011.

UPDATE: And leave it to intrepid media reporter Jim Romenesko to get the story behind all this.

Six Goldsmith finalists include two public media projects

Two public media projects are among six finalists for the prestigious Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting, presented annually by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

NPR's Elizabeth Shogren, Howard Berkes, Sandra Bartlett and Susanne Reber, along with Jim Morris, Ronnie Greene, Chris Hamby and Keith Epstein of the Center for Public Integrity, were nominated for “Poisoned Places: Toxic Air, Neglected Communities,” which for the first time publicly revealed the EPA’s internal “watch list” of the nation’s most troublesome air polluters. "This report triggered immediate enforcement action in two states, a push for openness by the EPA and an avalanche of coverage across the U.S.," the Shorenstein Center noted in its announcement.

Also, Dafna Linzer and Jennifer LaFleur of ProPublica received a nod for their report, "Presidential Pardons: Shades of Mercy," co-published by the Washington Post. The analysis of presidential pardons during the Bush administration revealed that white criminals seeking pardons were far more likely than minorities to succeed, which "prompted the Justice Department to launch a review and ignited a debate about why pardons are underused, how to eliminate bias and how best to reshape the entire system," the center said.

Finalists receive $10,000. The winner of the Goldsmith Prize, along with its $25,000 cash award, will be announced on March 6 at the Kennedy School.

Eben Peck leaves CPB for American Society of Travel Agents

Eben Peck, on the staff of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the past seven years, most recently as senior director of government affairs, is the new vice president of government affairs for ASTA, the American Society of Travel Agents. At CPB, Peck was the organization's primary liaison with the federal government. In his new position, he will be responsible for all of ASTA’s state and federal and state lobbying, as well as its political action committee, ASTAPAC.

Counting down to the "Downton" finale

Egad! The two-hour final episode of Season 2 of the Masterpiece megahit Downton Abbey looms, on Feb. 19. No more Crawley family and staff intrigue — well, at least until Season 3, which also brings a new and famous face to the cast, Shirley MacLaine. But there's no doubt that fans will be feeling a tad sad after the season finale. In Philadelphia, they're gathering to share their angst at a viewing party sponsored by WHYY. Also that day, the station is running a Downton Abbey marathon, all 10 hours of Season 2, beginning at 1 p.m. Is your station doing anything special for the finale? Let Current know!