Jun 21, 2012

WMFE-TV sells for $3.3 million to University of Central Florida

WMFE-TV in Orlando has been sold for $3.3 million to University of Central Florida, also in Orlando. "WMFE had entertained a number of offers, but believed selling Channel 24 to a local organization already invested in PBS better served the community’s best interests," the two organizations said in a joint statement. The boards for UCF and WMFE must approve the purchase agreement before it is submitted to the FCC.

UCF is also home to the new PBS primary station in the market, WUCF TV, a collaboration with Brevard Community College in Cocoa, which took over primary status after WMFE annouced its sale. Once the FCC approves the license sale, UCF will drop its partnership with BCC, Christine Dellert of WUCF TV told the Orlando Sentinel. “The new venture has our full support, and we are committed to assisting UCF to ensure a smooth transition,” John Glisch, BCC spokesman, told the paper.

The Orlando dual-licensee decided to sell off its television operation to concentrate on its NPR station more than a year ago (Current, April 18, 2011). A potential $3 million deal with Daystar never solidified, with the FCC, after months of delay, questioning whether the religious broadcaster met its noncom criteria for localism and educational programming (Current, March 26). And just last month WMFE-TV turned down an offer from Independent Public Media, a group aiming to preserve noncom spectrum by buying struggling pubTV stations (Current, May 14).

Report proposes, once again, a spectrum fee to support public media

In a spectrum policy research paper released today (June 21), the New America Foundation proposes replacing upcoming one-time spectrum auctions with annual fees to sustain public media. However, it defines "public media" as specifically reaching beyond public broadcasting stations.

Advances in communications technology "require us to expand our notions of public media to include media produced by the public for civic purposes across multiple platforms and not just its historic format of mission-oriented noncommercial media produced for the public," the report says. "Public Media can no longer be equated with just public broadcasting, but can be produced by a variety of individuals and entities working within established goals and standards."

The paper suggests the government collect a "modest spectrum use fee" of 5 percent of revenues from commercial broadcasters to feed a federal trust to support "an expanded public media" including CPB and new journalism outlets.

Similar ideas has been floated before, the report notes, such as from Carnegie II in 1978, and former FCC Chair Newton Minow and former PBS President Lawrence Grossman's “Digital Opportunity Investment Trust" (Current, April 9, 2001).

The entire New America Foundation report is here.

Help KPBS "prepare for the next zombie invasion"

KPBS in San Diego is offering a handy pledge premium. "This hand-cranked radio will keep your family connected to KPBS when the dead rise from the earth once more," an announcer says.

Yes, it's a Zombie Pledge Drive.

No, really.

"Reading Rainbow" app updates popular pubcasting show

Reading Rainbow, a pubTV fave until its demise nearly three years ago (Current, Aug. 6, 2009), has returned with its own app. “What were [kids] doing in the 80s? Sitting in front of the television,” host Levar Burton told Mashable. “So we went where they were to steer them back in the direction of where we wanted them to go.” The iPad app incorporates segments from the show, 16 new video “field trips” starring Burton and 150 narrated interactive books. For $9.99 a month, users may purchase unlimited access to the content, which will be updated regularly.

Burton announced in September 2011 that he was partnering with WNED in Buffalo, N.Y., Reading Rainbow's original presenting station, on the app.