Mar 12, 2012

Two pioneering WHYY pubcasters die

Two broadcasters who were part of the history of WHYY in Philadelphia have died.

John B. Roberts, one of the founding directors of WHYY in 1957, died March 8 of a spinal infection at his home in the retirement community of Rydal Park in suburban Philadelphia. He was 94.

Roberts also founded the Temple University public radio station, WRTI-FM, now classical and jazz, in 1953, and taught communications at Temple from 1946 to 1988.

Paul Gluck, former WHYY-TV station manager and now on the Temple faculty, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, "For people like me, who worked as practicing journalists and transitioned into the academic world, he is a near-perfect role model."

Bruce Harrison Beale, who spent 20 years at WHYY and 30 years at WHRO in Norfolk, Va., died of an apparent heart attack on March 8 at his home in Norfolk. He was 82.

Beale worked as a director, production manager and program director for WHYY in the 1960s and ’70s, and appeared on the air as host of a weekly program on the University of Delaware Blue Hens. He left in 1979 for WHRO, where he was production manager, retiring around a decade ago.

His son-in-law, Tom Kranz, told the Philadelphia Inquirer that Beale was “artful in preparation and planning of a television product with all of its multilayered elements; perceptive in the choice of assembling talent in front of and behind the camera . . . masterful in delivering a worthy television product in a timely manner.”

ITVS kicks off Living Docs Project to support emerging styles of online documentaries

ITVS is launching the Living Docs Project today (March 12) in partnership with Mozilla, the Tribeca Film Institute, BAVC, and the Center for Social Media. The online project "brings together documentary filmmakers, developers, funders, and the audience to make the case for a new kind of storytelling on the web," ITVS said in the announcement. "The web has given documentary filmmakers a powerful mechanism to distribute their films, but we have only scratched the surface of how it can change storytelling. The Living Docs Project sees the web as a canvas on which new types of documentaries can be told."

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro to receive Edward R. Murrow Award from CPB

Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR foreign correspondent based in Jerusalem, is the latest recipient of the Edward R. Murrow Award from CPB, which recognizes individuals for outstanding contributions to public radio. CPB said in a statement that it selected Garcia-Navarro "for her in-depth coverage of world events, particularly from volatile regions — a hallmark of her reporting — and in honor of all international correspondents and journalists who undertake great risks to report on the people and cultures impacted by conflict."

“Covering foreign news has become more dangerous, expensive and complicated than ever but it has never been more vital," said Garcia-Navarro. "My overseas colleagues often put themselves in harm’s way to report stories that illuminate global events and their impact for our audience. I humbly accept this award on behalf of my fellow foreign correspondents and the local staff who help them.” 

CPB will present the honor later this month in Washington, D.C. Prior recipients include This American Life's Ira Glass, former NPR President Kevin Klose and, last year, Nina Totenberg, legal affairs correspondent for NPR.

PR director for Maine pubcasting departs after Arbitron ratings release

Lou Morin, director of marketing and public relations for Maine Public Broadcasting, has left the network, reports Down East: The Magazine of Maine (second item). His departure came after Morin released to Down East proprietary Arbitron ratings estimates for radio stations in Portland and Bangor, according to the site, and suggested that the figures may not be accurate; Morin retracted that release in a comment here. Arbitron responded in a comment here.

PBS member WTVI may close if takeover by community college fails

Elsie Garner, president of WTVI, tells the Charlotte Observer that there's a "dire possibility" the station may have to close down — perhaps as soon as June — if a planned takeover by Central Piedmont Community College can't go forward. Under that plan, the college would use WTVI as a new base for journalism and videography courses, and to develop a digital media curriculum. But to do that, the college says, it needs $357,000 from Mecklenburg County to cover the merger and around $800,000 over the next four years to replace equipment.

County Manager Harry Jones said in a memo to commissioners last week: "I consider this proposal to be a government-funded bailout of a failed business model, and believe county taxpayers should not pay. As regrettable as it may be that WTVI would cease operation, it is important to remember that WTVI has had multiple years to redesign and reshape its business model to reflect the new normal."

The paper notes that WTVI "has tried to find a niche" between overlap stations UNC-TV and SCETV by offering "alternative — and lower cost — public broadcasting shows and providing local programming."

"It seems to me to be excessively simple to create something like this of such value to the community so we could continue uninterrupted," Garner said. "With CPCC's help, we would have a lot more resources to create local programs."

Barry Diller defends streaming service Aereo at SXSW

Broadcasting giant Barry Diller spoke up in defense of the new subscription streaming TV service Aereo, which his company is backing, during a panel at the SXSW Film Festival Sunday (March 11). He's looking forward to battling several broadcasters including WNET in New York and PBS, who have filed a copyright infringement suit against the service, which says it uses "proprietary remote antenna and DVR" technology to enable subscribers, for $12 a month, to watch over-the-air broadcasts on their smart phones, tablets and computers.

"It's going to be a great fight," Diller said in Austin.

"This is not some evil thing," Diller said of Aereo, which is set to launch in the New York Market on Thursday (March 14). And the lawsuit "is absolutely predictable. Media companies have hegemony over it (broadcast TV) and they want to protect it."

In their suit, the broadcasters say: "No amount of technological gimmickry by Aereo — or claims that it is simply providing a set of sophisticated 'rabbit ears' — changes the fundamental principle of copyright laws that those who wish to retransmit Plaintiffs' broadcasts may do so only with Plaintiffs authority."