… at the bluest of TV channels, public broadcasting’s WNET, in the bluest of cities, New York, you know this country has entered a new cultural twilight zone,” writes New York Times columnist Frank Rich. WNET’s decision to kill a spot on the feature film, Kinsey, is a harbinger of the battles ahead as “politicians and the media alike pander to that supposed 22 percent of ‘moral values’ voters.”
Zoom, the interactive children’s series from Boston’s WGBH, will shutter production after its 2005 season. Kids, and PBS, are “looking for the next new thing,” says producer Kate Taylor in the Boston Globe.
The Center for Social Media at American University published a study recommending ways to help independent filmmakers negotiate the increasingly difficult process of rights clearances. Additional background materials are available on the Center’s website.
“I believe the price of this very considerable change is the right price to pay to achieve the prize of a strong and independent, creative BBC,” said Director General Michael Thompson when announcing a 10 percent staff reduction, the largest in the corporation’s history. With savings from the massive reorganization, Thompson promised BBC would spend more on high quality drama, comedy, current affairs and children’s programs, according to the Guardian. Reports on the restructuring characterize it as a premptive move to protect BBC financing via television license fees, which comes up for renewal in 2007. In the Financial Times, Thompson said the plan made the case for a renewal of its royal charter more compelling and added: “The BBC has not been badgered or pressured by government to do any of this.” [Additional reporting in the New York Times, and a Q&A from BBC News.]
A consultant’s study (PDF) recommends that stations licensed to three Iowa universities unite under common management, share resources, and develop three separate and coordinated programming schedules. The board’s office has endorsed the findings (PDF). Regents will take up the matter next week.
The FCC got only a few hundred indecency complaints in 2001, but about 14,000 in 2002 and no less than 240,000 in 2003, just before its Janet Jackson crackdown. Today, Todd Shields of MediaWeek revealed an unreleased FCC estimate that 99.8 percent of the 2003 complaints came from one organization, Parents Television Council. The same was true for 99.8 percent of complaints in 2004, through October. Via SPJ PressNotes. PTC, founded by conservative media watchdog Brent Bozell, monitors and compiles reports on sex, innuendo and violence on broadcast and cable networks, according to its website.
“We had agreed on the destination we were to arrive at, but somewhere along the line NPR wavered in the journey,” says Tavis Smiley in Time of his decision to leave NPR. He also says President Bush’s Cabinet is more diverse than his former employer.
Edie McClurg, perhaps best known for the role of the principal’s secretary in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, was “Operations Manager, News Anchor, Documentary and Fine Arts Producer for NPR affiliate KCUR-FM and National Public Radio 1966-1974,” according to the Internet Movie Database.
The Rev. Irene Elizabeth Stroud, a former assistant pastor at First United Methodist Church in Germantown, Pa., was expelled from the clergy after a jury of Methodist ministers convicted her of breaking church law by living openly as a lesbian, the Washington Post reports. Stroud’s “coming out” sermon and legal struggle were captured by The Congregation, a doc by Alan and Susan Raymond scheduled to air on PBS on Dec. 29.
More in the Philadelphia Daily News about Rachel Buchman, the WHYY reporter who resigned after mouthing off to a conservative group. A Daily News columnist broadens the issue: “How many of us want our tax dollars to keep funding NPR’s Rachels? Or any other ideologue?”
A Station Resource Group analysis of recent financial data from public radio stations (PDF) shows increases in listenership, underwriting revenue and listener support. Fiscal year 2003 was also the system’s strongest ever for net fundraising revenue.
Mark Handley, president of New Hampshire Public Radio, will retire next October to sail across the Pacific Ocean with his wife, reports the Concord Monitor. Handley recently finished his second term as chair of the NPR Board.
Rachel Buchman, a reporter at Philadelphia’s WHYY, resigned earlier this week after leaving a seething voice mail at the offices of Laptoplobbyist.com, a Virginia-based conservative website. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the group circulated Buchman’s message, which advised the org’s members that “God hates you and He wants to kill your children… You should all burn in hell,” via e-mail after it learned that she worked at WHYY. “It was a personal matter that was turned into a public issue,” Buchman said. “Rather than call my journalistic integrity into question, I decided to resign for personal reasons.”
The Supreme Court has denied the American Family Association’s request for a review of a lower-court decision that upheld the FCC’s point system. (PDF, p. 4, see “04-539.”) AFA had argued that the point system, which settles competing applications from noncommercial broadcasters for frequencies, unfairly favored pubcasters over religious broadcasters.
The New York Times covers Tavis Smiley’s departure from NPR. “We would argue that there’s more to be done, but his show was evidence that we were accomplishing it,” says David Umansky, NPR’s interim v.p. for communcations.