Chicago Public Radio plans to make its primary signal all-news and program two additional stations with music, reports the Sun-Times.

The Department of Education published a request for proposals for the Ready to Learn program. The department’s new priorities for the next five-year grant period focus the program on literacy-based programs and outreach targeting low-income children and their families. Applicants who propose rigorous, scientifically-based research on the effectiveness of their programs will receive favorable consideration. [Scroll down to lower right-hand corner of first page.]

Jacques Pepin tells the Hartford Courant his marriage survived because they put his 30-by-22-foot kitchen (and sometime TV studio) in a building in the back yard. His Fast Food My Way series from KQED launched in APT syndication last fall.

CPB President Kathleen Cox hired a top FCC exec, Ken Ferree [his CPB bio], to fill her old job. The former Media Bureau chief will be c.o.o. Also appointed: David Creekmore, new v.p. finance and administration, replacing Betsy Griffith, and Nancy Rohrbach [bio] in the frequently vacant position of senior v.p., corporate and public affairs. Ferree is a lawyer and tall guy (FCC photos) who has pushed and pulled for the DTV transition. A Washington Post feature earlier cited him as an example of federal aides who move on when their bosses do. Chairman Michael Powell, who knew Ferree in law school and hired him, leaves the FCC this week.

From the recent meeting of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers: The writer for OC Weekly has seen too much of PBS star Edward James Olmos in the past. He celebrates NALIP’s turnout (without Olmos) as “the new punks of Latino media.” Speakers questioned the intentions of CPB under the Bush administration, reports Victor Payan.

An American University project wants to develop best rights practices for producers. Profs. Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi found filmmakers frustrated and broke because of escalating copyright costs. Example: The two Eyes on the Prize series are no longer distributed because (as the Washington Post reported) it would cost so much to renew archival footage rights. The foundation-backed project aims to give producers a sharper ken of copyright law.

The recording industry aided preservation efforts by public TV’s Great Performances and public radio’s American Routes and Beale Street Caravan. The producers were among this year’s recipients of aid from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences preservation grant program. For more information on grants and other opportunities, see Current Opportunities.

Cincinnati’s WGUC acquires seven-station X-Star Network

WGUC will buy another Cincinnati public radio operation, WVXU and six affiliated repeater stations, from Xavier University. The sale price of $15 million is the second-largest sum ever paid for a pubradio license, WGUC President Richard Eiswerth told the Cincinnati Post last week. Selling WVXU was “tough but very necessary,” said Xavier’s president, Michael Graham. The Cincinnati school will use the funds to build a student learning and residential center. The deal had been in the works since September but kept under wraps, according to WGUC.

Christopher Lydon is returning to the radio with Open Source, a co-production with the University of Massachusetts in Lowell. PRI will distribute. Lydon hosted public radio’s The Connection until he and staffers had a public falling-out with Jane Christo, then his boss and g.m. of Boston’s WBUR-FM.

“[W]e could be much more effective if we would just get better at asking listeners to give based purely on value,” says consultant John Sutton in a blog post about on-air fundraising practices. “So few can do it well.”

Nearly half of distance-learning courses used by K-12 schools are given by college-level institutions, says a major U.S. Department of Education study released March 2. Nine percent of schools used distance learning in 2002-03, with 328,000 enrollments a year (counting some students more than once). Two-way video is the most popular platform, used in nearly half of school districts. A big PDF of the full 97-page report is available online.

A different pro-family lobby–this time the Family Pride Coalition of gay parents–is raising a ruckus, calling a “virtual rally” on Thursday, March 10, with supporters phoning and sending e-mails to the U.S. Department of Education disapproving Secretary Margaret Spellings’ attack on the two-moms episode of Postcards from Buster. For the moment you can see the episode on the coalition’s website. In a Current commentary, public TV exec Ron Santora says Spellings and PBS marginalize many American families while catering to the prejudices of others.

“We think as a family it’s important to understand the world and all the people in it,” says a parent who turned out at a Washington, D.C., church for a screening of the Postcards from Buster “Sugartime” episode. The Washington Post covered the event.

“NPR does a pretty good job, but it seems to delight in its own culture more than is absolutely necessary,” said NPR Ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin at a seminar in Mississippi, reports the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.

“I don’t think anyone should ever get over the way this country was founded — on not just liberty but also the extermination of the continent’s original inhabitants and the importation of slaves,” says Sarah Vowell in the Kansas City Star.

“[W]hat the classical fade-out tells us more than anything is that the ‘custodians of public taste’ have left the building, ” writes a Washington Times opiner in the wake of WETA-FM’s format change.

Public TV is the subject, not the medium, for a five-day seminar for journalists at UC Berkeley, May 1-6. The Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism is taking applications for 15 seats in the all-expenses-paid seminar for mid-career journalists, “Channeling Public Interest Media: Reporting on the Public Broadcast System.” Participants will also attend parts of concurrent Input 2005 in San Francisco. Application deadline: March 25/28. See explanation on the center’s website. Contact: Lanita Pace-Hinton, (510) 643-7425.

Perhaps prompted by the Buster fuss or a slow news day, George F. Will joins a gathering pro-marketplace chorus on the right: “In today’s 500-channel environment, public television is a preposterous relic.” PBS sells so many toys, it must have mass market appeal, he argues, then suggests its fans are the kind who re-read Proust.

Tod Maffin lays out his vision of “vertical listening,” which he also mentioned in our recent article about podcasting. Meanwhile, KCRW-FM launched more than 20 podcasts yesterday.

Funding hikes for public broadcasting in Alaska survived a challenge in that state’s House of Representatives, reports the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.