The expanding portfolio of Public Radio Exchange, the Internet-based distribution platform, has prompted some public radio insiders to question whether NPR’s Public Radio Satellite System can adapt to stiffer competition for business from content producers. The latest program to move to PRX is the widely carried This American Life, whose producers announced May 28 that they would take over distribution of the show and rely on PRX to deliver weekly editions to stations. TAL will split from distributor Public Radio International July 1, ending a 17-year relationship. That announcement came on the heels of a May 7 decision by Chicago’s WFMT to move its 200 weekly hours of music and spoken-word programming to PRX. Other producers have told Steve Robinson, WFMT executive v.p., that they may be interested in following suit.
The producers of public radio's This American Life will take over distribution of their show starting July 1, using Public Radio Exchange to deliver the program to stations. TAL and Public Radio International, its distributor of 17 years, announced in March that they would part ways effective July 1. Under the agreement announced Wednesday, Chicago Public Media and Ira Glass will handle distribution and underwriting, while Marge Ostroushko will be responsible for marketing and station relations. Ostroushko handled those duties before PRI picked up the show in 1997. “We’re excited and proud to be partners now with PRX,” Glass said in a statement.
After This American Life parts with longtime distributor Public Radio International July 1, it could become public radio's most widely carried show without a major distributor representing it. That's if the show pursues that option. Program host and creator Ira Glass has hinted in interviews with the New York Times and Chicago media reporter Robert Feder that he's considering self-distribution. But there may be good reasons that few shows have gone that route. Self-distribution poses challenges that few resource-strapped program creators are willing to take on, including handling their own billing, marketing and station relations.
• PBS has promoted two of its programming execs. Michael Kelley, formerly v.p. of strategy and business affairs, ascends to s.v.p., programming and business affairs. In addition, Bill Gardner, formerly director of general audience programming, is now v.p. of programming and development, overseeing science, history, natural history, cultural and current events programming. Both joined PBS in 2012. “Mike’s strong business skills and strategic leadership coupled with Bill’s acute editorial judgment and significant development chops have been instrumental to the success of PBS, our producers and member stations nationwide," Beth Hoppe, PBS chief programming executive, said in a statement.
• The Pacifica Foundation announced the appointment of a new interim executive director, even as the one the foundation attempted to fire, Summer Reese, reportedly continues to camp out at the foundation's headquarters. Bernard Duncan, previously station manager at Pacifica's Los Angeles outlet KPFK, is the new interim head of the network, according to a statement on Pacifica's website. "What Pacifica needs right now is a skilled manager who can hit the ground running, and I'm very pleased Bernard's taken us on," board chair Margy Wilkinson said in the release. Duncan resigned from KPFK in January. • PBS's POV will host a Twitter chat with veteran documentary filmmakers April 8 from 1-2 p.m. Eastern time. Directors Gary Hustwit, Doug Block and Bernardo Ruiz will discuss how they made their first films. Interested participants can send their thoughts with the hashtag #docchat.
• This American Life has yet to decide on a new distributor, contrary to Chicago media writer Bob Feder's report over the weekend that the show would go to Public Radio Exchange. Feder posted a correction today with a statement from TAL host Ira Glass. TAL hasn't even started negotiations, Glass said. "We’re about to begin a round of talking to possible distributors," Glass told Feder. "There’s also the option of self-distribution, which is attractive."