NEH awards $2 million to pubmedia projects

Seven public media projects got a boost July 21 with the announcement of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which included almost $2 million for pubcasters. The largest grants, each for $600,000, will support documentaries from WGBH in Boston and Firelight Media in New York. WGBH will use the grant for a two-hour American Experience episode, “Into the Amazon: The Roosevelt-Rondon Scientific Expedition.” The documentary, produced by American Experience Executive Producer Mark Samels, covers a 1913 expedition to an unmapped territory of the Amazon led by Theodore Roosevelt and Brazilian colonel Candido Rondon. Firelight Media, whose documentaries frequently air on PBS, will use the grant to fund Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Firelight founder and filmmaker Stanley Nelson is leading the project to produce the two-hour documentary. Continue Reading

Morning roundup: SCOTUS sets Aereo date, Burns gets GIF’d

• The U.S. Supreme Court has set a date for ABC TV v. Aereo, a challenge to the startup service that allows subscribers to watch TV programs over the Internet via miniature antennae. Oral arguments are scheduled for April 21. Though ABC brought the lawsuit, filed in New York and Boston, PBS and New York's WNET are also among the parties claiming Aereo violates copyright law. • Ken Burns participated in his first Reddit Ask Me Anything session Tuesday as part of the promotion for his new app. He laid out the planned release schedule for his next decade of films: The Roosevelts in September, A History of Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies and Jackie Robinson  in 2015, Vietnam in 2016, Country Music in 2018 and Ernest Hemingway in 2019. Continue Reading

Afternoon roundup: Ombud complaints down, filmmaker knocks WETA

• In his annual review of objectivity and balance in CPB-funded programming, CPB Ombudsman Joel Kaplan noted "far fewer complaints directed at public media," continuing a trend of the past few years. "Whether that is because public media has improved in this area; people have grown tired of complaining about a lack of balance; or there were just not that many controversial stories this year is not clear," he noted. Looking back over 2013's controversies, Kaplan also criticized NPR's reaction to a lengthy report by its own ombudsman that found fault with an award-winning NPR investigation. As Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos reviewed the three-part series about South Dakota's foster-care system for Native American children, he "took the unusual step of re-reporting the story," Kaplan wrote. NPR execs called the ombud's report "deeply flawed"and said little would be gained "from a point-by-point response to his claims." Continue Reading

WETA receives $1 million for culture, history and public affairs programs

Washington, D.C., philanthropist and financier David M. Rubenstein has established a $1 million fund at WETA in suburban Arlington, Va., for producing programs about American culture, history and public affairs. Announcing the donation Tuesday, Rubenstein said he believes in "the power of public media to be a force for education, sharing the vibrant culture and rich history of this country." Rubenstein is co-founder and co-c.e.o. of the Carlyle Group, a global private equity investment firm. He has been a station member since 1988, according to WETA spokesperson Mary Stewart. Sharon Rockefeller, WETA president, called the gift "truly inspiring." Continue Reading

Robin MacNeil, left, and Jim Lehrer have both stepped back from day-to-day management of the PBS NewsHour and now look to ensure the program's longevity with WETA's ownership. (Photo: Matt Mendelsohn)

NewsHour founders to transfer ownership

The decision by retired founders Jim Lehrer and Robin MacNeil, which has the approval of MacNeil/Lehrer Productions (MLP) majority owner Liberty Media, will secure future journalistic independence for the news magazine. Continue Reading