Thursday roundup: USDA backs digital projects; PBS hires Fox exec for digital

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• Public TV stations in four states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands will receive a total of $2.5 million in federal grants for upgrading transmitters, translators and production equipment. The grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, announced Wednesday, are part of the 2014 Farm Bill reauthorized by Congress. We’ll have to expense a trip to the islands to report back on their new equipment.

Ken Burns's The Roosevelts ranks among his top-rated PBS showings. (Photo: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library)

Ken Burns’s The Roosevelts ranks among his top-rated PBS showings. (Photo: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library)

• PBS has hired Don Wilcox, a former executive with Fox Broadcasting Corp., as v.p. of digital marketing and services. At Fox, Wilcox was v.p. and g.m. of branded entertainment, overseeing websites including Fox.com, American Idol‘s and TheXFactorUSA.com, which now just redirects to a YouTube page, so maybe he left Fox with that one on his thumb drive. He’s also worked for Sony Pictures Interactive, ABC, NBC and Microsoft.

• In other PBS news, The Roosevelts now ranks as Ken Burns’s third–most-watched documentary, after The Civil War and Lewis and Clark. According to Nielsen data, more than 33.3 million viewers tuned in for the Sept. 14-20 airing. More people watched the first episode than turned on the Miss America pageant that Sunday night, which maybe slightly redeems us as a populace. And the week was PBS’s most-watched week in 20 years, since a 1994 airing of episodes 2-6 of Burns’s Baseball.

• Podcasting has been getting a lot of buzz lately. At Radio Survivor, Paul Riismandel rounds up some recent coverage and considers the state of the expanding medium. Noncommercial radio stations could also benefit from podcasting, he says, but too many suffer from “entrenched ways of thinking and operating” and are overlooking “a potentially rejuvenating chance for growth.”