On Jan. 6, Baton Rouge pubradio station WRKF will be the latest to drop daytime music on weekdays to carry more news and info programming, the Baton Rouge Advocate reports.

Chicago Sun-Times critic Phil Rosenthal pans Austin Hoyt’s American Experience three-parter on Chicago, which he says gives the city a “4-1/2-hour thrashing,” with none of the affection of Ric Burns’s and Lisa Ades’s history of New York. [Earlier Current article.]

WHYY aired a talk show on the pitfalls of grant-funded journalism Dec. 17, but the station’s own central role in such a controversy was kept off the air, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. News Director Bill Fantini resigned Dec. 9, the day before the Philadelphia Daily News reported on a widely criticized news-funding partnership he negotiated.

Muslim-American businesses and organizations sponsored the two-hour PBS documentary “Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet,” notes Alessandra Stanley in a New York Times review, and the program has the feel of a “lengthy informercial for Islam.” But the doc is “well worth watching both as the first serious attempt to tell the story of Muhammed on television and also as a testimony to the hypersensitivity of our times.” In the LA Times, Howard Rosenberg described the program as a “candid, thoughtful, flowing, visually stunning film.”

The Seattle Weekly reports that the CPB Inspector General may launch an audit of KCTS.

USA Today looks at audience trends for financial advice programs, and declares that the competing Wall Street Week franchises both “look like losers.”

Meeting the HD demand: PBS matching rollout to buyers’ slow uptake

With its pockets emptier than usual and few viewers demanding high-definition pictures, PBS is moving to HD more cautiously than the commercial networks. Rather than converting its schedule overnight, as the networks seemed to have done, PBS’s HD planners suggest moving to the fine, widescreen picture as fast as viewers buy receivers capable of displaying it. For every 10,000 HD receivers purchased, the network proposes to produce one additional hour of high-def programming. PBS now broadcasts about 48.5 hours of HDTV a year. Nearly half of that—22 hours—comes from the Latino drama American Family and the rest from monthly specials.

Chicago’s WBEZ-FM assumed management of community station WLUW-FM Dec. 4, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

The Washington Post previews I’d Rather Eat Pants, a serial drama airing this week on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Maine Public Broadcasting may have to lay off employees as it deals with a budget shortfall, reports the Portland Press Herald.

Oregon Public Broadcasting is partly responsible for the financial difficulties it faces, according to an Oregonian report. An accompanying article profiles Jack Galmiche, OPB’s chief operating officer.

Lea Sloan, new PBS v.p. of media relations, tells the Washington Post that a big part of her job will be making sure that President Pat Mitchell “gets the recognition she deserves for leading PBS into the 21st century.”

PBS loses biggest underwriter as it considers 30-second credits

ExxonMobil will stop underwriting Masterpiece Theatre after spring
2004, the oil company announced Dec. 13. It has spent more than
$250 million on MT and other PBS programs over 32 years. In recent
years, the company has spent about $10 million a year, providing full
funding for the drama series, says Jeanne Hopkins, v.p. of communications
at WGBH, which packages the series. For years before merging with Exxon, Mobil had also supported another series
of largely British dramas, Mystery!, but Mobil had dropped funding
of the sister series Mystery!

A group of pubcasting stations interested in Internet services will hold an Integrated Media Conference next April for both radio and TV stations. PRISA posted a questionnaire and tentative plans on the Web. The event in Minneapolis will fill a gap left by the suspension of the annual PBS/NPR web Summit.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will review whether Frontline can film jury deliberations. “This is an important enough issue, and it’s good the court is going to hear it with full arguments,” comments an attorney on the case in today’s Houston Chronicle.

The novelty has faded: Public radio’s Rewind is going off the air as host Bill Radke seeks a new gig, reports the Seattle Weekly.

Bill Fantini, radio news director at WHYY in Philadelphia, resigned Dec. 9. Fantini recently developed a state-funded series of positive stories on the environment that some reporters and observers have called unethical. [Read Current’s report on the controversy.]

” . . . Ultimately, it’s a state agency buying good coverage,” comments a broadcast journalism professor on ethical lapses at WHYY-FM, in today’s Philadelphia Daily News. Current reported last month on breaches in journalism ethics and sponsorship disclosure in environmental reporting at WHYY.

The Houston Chronicle reports that prosecutors filed new arguments in the Texas jury taping case.

KCTS is “in the midst of a severe financial crisis that has some concerned about whether it can, in the words of a board member, ‘sustain the operation,'” according to the Seattle Weekly.