PBS responds to critical essay in latest Harper’s Magazine

A 12-page essay titled “PBS Self-Destructs: And What It Means for Viewers Like You” in the October issue of Harper’s Magazine has prompted PBS to reply to the magazine and provide stations with talking points in anticipation of viewers’ responses. In the piece, writer Eugenia Williamson traces the history of the network with special attention to conservative interests that have buffeted PBS over the years. “[I]t doesn’t matter that the Republicans couldn’t defund PBS — they really didn’t need to. Twenty years on, the liberal bias they bemoaned has evaporated, if it ever existed to begin with,” Williamson writes. “Today, the only special-interest group the network clearly favors is the aging upper class: their tastes, their pet agendas, their centrist politics. Continue Reading

Stations’ joint effort brings streaming BBC shows to websites

A joint effort among PBS and five member stations has created a more efficient way for stations to offer online streams of British imports such as Doctor Who and Death in Paradise while honoring BBC restrictions that limit web streaming. The BBC’s agreement for streaming programs besides Masterpiece limits access to viewers within a station’s market. But COVE, PBS’s online video platform, does not allow for filtering by location, which hampered stations’ ability to offer BBC content. Those restrictions made for an “unmanageable” situation, said John Decker, director of programming at KPBS in San Diego. But stations are now using a new web page created by PBS that allows for location-based filtering, and five stations have agreed to handle uploading of BBC content to ensure quality and prevent duplicative uploading. Continue Reading

Popularity of Downton creates embarrassment of riches in Masterpiece slot

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The success of Downton Abbey, whose fifth season has been set for Jan. 4, has created a novel problem for PBS: too many programs to fit into the Sunday-night slot occupied by Masterpiece. It’s possible that PBS might schedule some of the excess series at another hour or on another day. But there are no plans to do so for now, according to Masterpiece Executive Producer Rebecca Eaton. Continue Reading

PBS press tour highlights Downton, Nas on Finding Your Roots

The stars of Downton Abbey aren’t the only luminaries whom journalists will chat with during PBS’s portion of the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour today and Wednesday. Other big names at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif., include rapper and songwriter Nas, director Spike Lee, Oscar winner Geena Davis, actor Nathan Lane and television legend Dick Cavett. The twice-yearly tour is a chance for broadcasters to woo more than 200 reporters with news of their upcoming schedules, deploying sizzle reels, high-profile appearances, question-and-answer sessions and, of course, food and drinks. PBS President Paula Kerger will greet journalists during her executive session at 10 a.m. Pacific time. Later today, the press conference for Season 5 of Downton Abbey, PBS’s blockbuster series on Masterpiece, will feature Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and Tom Branson (Allen Leech), as well as Executive Producer Gareth Neame and Masterpiece’s Rebecca Eaton. Continue Reading

New digital offerings from NPR, PBS promise closer look at how users consume content

New digital offerings from NPR and PBS aim to give public media additional platforms for building online audiences while gaining insights into how listeners and viewers interact with digital content. These digital initiatives — PBS’s Membership Video on Demand service and NPR’s long-awaited NPR One app — were demonstrated and discussed during the Public Media Development & Marketing Conference in Denver July 9-12. The frequent name-changes for NPR’s mobile app during its development — it has been variously referred to as “Project Carbon,” “Infinite Player” and “MPX” — prompted laughter among PMDMC attendees when recounted by Zach Brand, NPR’s v.p. of digital media. But the roulette wheel has stopped, and the name NPR One is now locked in. The app, which will be released in a soft launch later this month, uses an algorithm and user feedback to create an audio stream fusing NPR content with newscasts and segments provided by stations. Continue Reading