May 8, 2012

Independent Public Media makes offer on WMFE-TV in Orlando

Independent Public Media has made a bid for WMFE-TV in Orlando, the former PBS member station that has been on the market for more than a year.

Ken Devine, IPM’s chief operating officer and former v.p. of media operations of WNET in New York, confirmed to Current that an offer has been made but declined to provide the figure or other details. WMFE-TV President Jose Fajardo could not be reached for comment.

In March, WMFE withdrew from an initial $3 million sale agreement with Daystar Television after the FCC questioned whether the religious broadcaster met noncommercial criteria for localism and educational programming.

Devine said that as soon as IPM heard of the deal’s collapse, “from that point on, we have been trying to acquire the station.” He said IPM has “developed very strong ties” within the Orlando community for a local governing board. “There’s a lot of interest in keeping the station as a community licensee,” Devine said.

IPM is headed by John Schwartz, a pubmedia activist and co-founder of WYBE in Philadelphia, KBDI in Denver and WYEP-FM in Pittsburgh. The group hopes to buy struggling pubTV stations to preserve their spectrum for noncom use. Funding comes through EBS Companies, five nonprofits Schwartz founded in 1983 that hold licenses for 11 educational microwave systems using Educational Broadband Service channels (formerly called Instructional Television Fixed Service or ITFS). An August 2006 wireless broadband lease deal for $40 million between EBS and telecom company Clearwire is providing IPM with funding for station acquisitions.

IPM is also one of two finalists, along with Boulder, Colo.-based Public Media Company (affiliated with Public Radio Capital), for the purchase of KCSM-TV in San Mateo, Calif.

UPDATE: Fajardo responded to Current in an email on Wednesday (May 9): "As always, we appreciate the public's interest and support for WMFE. However, it is not our practice to discuss current or potential negotiations that occur as a normal part of our business operations."

Willie Nelson, Norah Jones, Joe Jackson, Paul Weller, Sinead O’Connor, John Mayer and other music stars will appear . . .

. . . for public radio’s corps of Triple A music programmers May 17-19 at the 12th annual NON-COMMvention at WXPN and World CafĂ© Live in Philadelphia. Music “blogger/instigator” Bob Lefsetz, as WXPN’s organizers describe him, will be interviewed the first day. Conference details are online. . . .

INPUT kicks off down under

INPUT, the annual international conference for public television networks and producers, is under way this week in Sydney, Australia. Attending — and blogging — are South Carolina ETV's Amy Shumaker, the U.S. INPUT national coordinator, and Betsy Newman, SCETV producer and assistant manager of U.S. INPUT. So far they've run into pubcasters including Moss Bresnahan, president of KCTS in Seattle; Ron Hull, special adviser to NET in Nebraska ("who has a new book about his life in public television coming out soon," they note); and Judy Tam, e.v.p. and c.f.o.of ITVS, INPUT president. Here's a look at the U.S. programming entries.

Diverse journalism collaborations need more coordination, editor says

While multiple collaborative news efforts such as American Public Media's Public Insight Network (PIN) are beginning to find success, more coordination among them is needed to increase their impact, notes Andrew Haeg, product manager for PIN, in a column on MediaShift. "A cacophony of instruments is tuning and testing separately," he writes, "waiting for a conductor to tap the podium, and begin."

"The technology, networks and willingness to collaborate are in place to make this kind of coordinated journalistic project real," he notes. "And if we're really focused on public service, the only way to understand the dangers of an increasingly complex and interconnected world, is to become more complex and interconnected ourselves."

"So what's stopping us? My hypothesis is that it's a lack of coordination, which is another way of saying, we need leaders," Haeg writes. "After all, collaboration doesn't just happen organically. There has to be both a shared self-interest and a force that brings the pieces into alignment. That force could be a consortium of news organizations (like the group behind the Public Media Platform), or a single newsroom with enough clout and vision to get the orchestra's full attention."