Akron licensee’s new name harks waaaaay back

PBS 45 & 49, a public TV station covering northeast Ohio, including Akron, Canton, Cleveland and Youngstown, will reach back into the 17th century for a new name it will adopt this fall — Western Reserve Public Media. The Western Reserve name, shared by a major Cleveland university, comes from a strip of Ohio claimed by Connecticut in the 1700s, when present-day Ohio was the frontier, according to Cleveland’s Western Reserve Historical Society. By 1800, after a series of armed conflicts with Pennsylvania settlers, Connecticut had given up on its claims over a strip of land reaching to the Pacific. The pubTV operation said it will open a production hub in downtown Akron, jointly leasing space with public radio station WKSU and NBC affiliate WKYC. The pubTV licensee is owned by a consortium of the University of Akron, Kent State University (operator of WKSU) and Youngstown State University.

Signs point to financial crisis at Pacifica

Pacifica’s KPFT-FM in Houston has taken several steps to respond to what are being called “potentially crippling financial situations” throughout the network. KPFT’s board recently passed resolutions asking the Pacifica National Board to discontinue its in-person meetings as a cost-saving measure. The station board also asked Pacifica to allow “ethical sponsorships and underwriting” to boost station income. Pacifica does not now accept underwriting, relying on on-air fund drives for support. In a report to KPFT’s Board June 18, Duane Bradley, g.m., said, “It is the sense of the paid staff that the greatest threats to the network are the huge costs related to elections, national board meetings and lawsuits.” Meanwhile, Free Speech Radio News reports that Pacifica has cut its funding to the progressive news show.

KOCE observes 35th anniversary

On the occasion of its 35th anniversary, KOCE-TV in Orange County, Calif., is considering how it can add to its local coverage, reports the Orange County Register. “We’re not part of an institution like the community college district, we’re not being sued, and we can finally take off and be what the county needs us to be,” says Mel Rogers, g.m.

Takeaway producers search for new, interactive approaches

Fast Company focuses on the startup of public radio’s The Takeaway, which hinged on a collaborative effort with the design school at Stanford University. An observation: “Program directors are people who think of themselves as visionaries and like to be ahead of the curve, but they’re actually extraordinarily risk averse,” says WNYC’s Dean Cappello. (Via the PRPD blog.)

Streaming video of streaming lava

Want to see what molten lava looks like underwater, as it advances toward you on the ocean floor? WNET gives top priority to video on its new website, including an enhanced web experience for Nature fans. Preview the lava scene, shot for a future show on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano. Paul Atkins swam into 100-degree water to film it in HD, writes Fred Kaufman, e.p. WNET is keeping the new sites easy to update for program staffers by organizing them in a multi-user version of WordPress, an open-source content management system widely used by bloggers, instead of a more complex CMS, says Thirteen.org chief Dan Goldman.

Ad-free pubTV and radio in France: Sarkozy proposes tax on internet and telephone providers to offset revenue loss

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has proposed a new tax to offset revenue losses when advertising is eliminated from state-funded public radio and television, beginning Jan. 1, 2009. In addition to a 3 percent tax on private TV’s ad revenues, the state will tax internet providers and telephone companies 0.9 percent to make up for the estimated $1.3 billion loss in revenue. Sarkozy announced in January that he wanted to eliminate ads to ensure quality programming, but critics say he’s simply handing ad dollars to private channels. France’s biggest private station, TF1, is owned by a close friend of Sarkozy.

Sometimes the whole is revealed as the pieces come together

Longtime PBS pledge guru Deepak Chopra is not pissed that Mike Myers’ movie The Love Guru caricatures his subcontinent murmur, Chopra said Monday on PRI’s Tavis Smiley Show. He’s not cheesed off that Myers mimics his creation of self-help catch phrases such as “EGO, Edging God Out” (a real Chopraism) or “Ecumenical Intuitive Enlightenment Institute” or EIEIO (really Myers). On the contrary, Chopra says he’s an advocate of laughter in his new book Why Is God Laughing? (foreword by Myers), and he’s a longtime friend of Myers and an admirer of the movie’s script, which he called “hilariously silly.” The movie’s silly, at least, according to critics: “Relentlessly juvenile,” says Variety.

Jim Lehrer returns to NewsHour tomorrow

Jim Lehrer will be back in the anchor seat tomorrow night after a nearly two-month absence following heart valve surgery. Lehrer will be anchoring the NewsHour part-time–two or three days a week–and moving toward a full time schedule. In August and September, he will report from the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

P.O.V.’s Traces of the Trade an honest discussion about race

Katrina Browne’s P.O.V. documentary Traces of the Trade examines “what it might look like for whites to talk honestly with one another about racial history’s implications for contemporary American lives and life chances,” writes John L. Jackson, Jr., professor of communication and anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, in his Chronicle of Higher Education blog. The film, which follows Browne and her nine relatives as they travel to Ghana and Cuba to learn about their ancestors’ slave-trading past, “helps to demonstrate why many of the dialogues we have about race and racism in America are not robust enough…” (See the film’s website here.)

A new g.m. for WDAV, a retirement at KPBS

Benjamin Roe will succeed Kim Hodgson as general manager of classical music station WDAV-FM in Davidson, N.C. Roe, an award-winning producer and public media web strategist who directed NPR music initiatives from 1987-2007, led development of the blueprint for NPRMusic.org. Meanwhile, Doug Myrland, longtime g.m. of KPBS/TV-FM in San Diego, announced that he’ll be retiring a year earlier than planned, according to the Union-Tribune. He’ll remain at the station as a consultant through next year until his successor is hired.

ITVS announces winner of Filmocracy mashup contest

ITVS and Independent Lens announced that Kylee Darcy, a 19-year-old attending UC Berkeley, is the grand prize winner of their first annual Filmocracy mashup contest. She wins $1000 for her short film King Corn Takes Over the World, which incorporates clips of the Independent Lens film King Corn. Her film will also play in various cities as part of Community Cinema, ITVS’s free monthly screening series. Based on response from site visitors, the mashup “And So It Is” by Ananta was the most popular Filmocracy video and “The Politics of Food,” by Brandon Savoie, was the highest rated.

50 miles from epicenter

It was purely by chance that a team of veteran NPR journalists was working in Chengdu, the capital of China’s Sichuan province, on May 12 [2008] when the destructive force of a 7.9 magnitude earthquake, its epicenter just 50 miles away, killed some 70,000 people and left millions homeless. “You never want to feel you’re lucky to be somewhere when a huge disaster strikes,” said Andrea Hsu, the All Things Considered producer who managed advance logistics for ATC’s first weeklong broadcast from a foreign country. Hsu was one of four NPR journalists in Chengdu when the earthquake struck, turning the tiny news operation she had set up in a Sheraton hotel into the only Western broadcast news source for coverage of the disaster. After a scouting trip in February, ATC chose Chengdu as its home base for a week of special broadcasts, May 19-23, intending to introduce listeners to a region of China rarely covered in Western media. The city was more ethnically diverse than most and boasted an interesting cultural history, and local officials seemed open-minded about granting access to NPR’s journalists, Hsu recalled.  Plus, the local food was really good.

FCC releases list of MX’d applications

This week the FCC released a list of applications for noncommercial FM stations entangled in mutually exclusive (MX) conflicts (list and Public Notice, both PDFs). Applicants have a month to work out settlements, after which the commission will begin resolving the conflicts by applying its point system. (Related coverage in Current.)

For radio, the basking may now commence

You may not have recognized it back then: April 2008 was Public Radio Recognition Month. The Senate adopted its resolution in March, but the U.S. House of Representatives followed up this week (the final bill omitting mention of any particular month). But Congress passes its budgets late, too, and it’s the thought that counts. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, Democrat of Portland, Ore., and chair of the Public Broadcasting Caucus in the House, introduced the bill in February and made his floor speech Tuesday. PRPD should be pleased that the bills cited three of public radio’s core values.

Job cuts announced at Albany’s WMHT-TV/FM

WMHT in Albany, N.Y., plans to cut ten jobs, six of which are full-time positions, according to the Times Union business news blog. The lay-offs, announced to staff yesterday, are part of a restructuring planned under new CEO Robert Altman. Subject to approval of the WMHT board, Altman proposes to bolster the station’s online content next fiscal year by hiring several new staff for its web division.

A cure for newspapers: cut out that NPR-style intellectualism

Lee Abrams, former XM satellite radio programmer turned chief innovation officer for the Tribune Company, wrote up 15 ideas for growing newspapers, including this gem: “Newspapers strike me as being a little TOO NPR. I like NPR, and their shows like Morning Edition do well. But NPR can also be a bit elitist. Morning News Radio has a lot of similarities to papers: Similar target audience; Old Media; Time restraints. It’s probably a good thing to study the feel of a well honed All News Radio station.

Caucus pushing for more minority-owned channels in proposed XM-Sirius merger

To garner FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s endorsement of their proposed merger, XM and Sirius satellite radio companies voluntarily agreed to reserve four percent of their satellite capacity for minority-owned programming. But, after Martin endorsed the compromise last weekend, members of the Congressional Black Caucus threatened to block the deal.

A subversive plan to influence pubradio programmers

Jesse Thorn of The Sound of Young America has a subversive new strategy to win airtime on public radio stations: he’s offering free t-shirts to anyone who works at a station and likes his show. The catch: all recipients must agree to wear their t-shirts to work and “talk about the show when people looked at them funny,” Thorn writes on his blog. The t-shirt campaign is already underway at one unnamed major market station. “Hopefully, the program director is noticing,” he writes.

Three shows receive Beard awards

Two pubTV shows and a pubradio program were honored with James Beard Awards in the past week. Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie topped the Television Food Show contest. The program is produced by Ruth Reichl and distributed by American Public Television. WGBH’s longrunning The Victory Garden won in the Television Food Segment category. The James Beard Foundation credited host Michel Nischan and producers Laurie Donnelly, Hilary Finkel Buxton, Deborah Hurley, Craig Rogers, Cheryl Carlesimo and John McCally.