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."
Public Radio International announced today that it will end distribution of one of its biggest titles, This American Life. The Minneapolis-based PRI has offered TAL to stations since 1997. "During our most recent negotiation, it became clear that our organizations’ expectations regarding our futures were different," and PRI will stop distribution July 1, said Julia Yager, PRI's head of sales, marketing and distribution, in an announcement. Yager told Current that negotiations concluded today and that PRI does not comment publicly on confidential contract discussions. In a statement posted on the TAL website, host Ira Glass said that "looking at where PRI is now pushing its business and where we're growing — especially on the digital side of things, which we’ve always done without PRI — both we and our colleagues at PRI came to the same conclusion: to go our separate ways."