Devastated by Katrina, WYES can’t get FEMA funding to rebuild

New Orleans public TV station WYES’s “ordeal with FEMA is a Frontline episode in itself,” writes Dave Walker, Times-Picayune TV columnist. The station’s building was mostly destroyed by Katrina, and although the broadcast signal was restored in December 2005, most of the staff is working out of leased space in Metairie. WYES is able to use its old studio for pledge and several local programs, with temporary utilities and temporary approval from the city to operate there. FEMA declined to provide the station with recovery money, says g.m. Randy Feldman, because, in FEMA’s eyes, it is not an educational institution or arts organization and doesn’t provide emergency communications services–even though WYES provides a slew of educational and arts programming and is part of the Emergency Broadcast System. The station has exhausted its two appeals with the government and intervention by Louisiana’s congressional delegation has failed.

Proposal requiring HD Radio chips in Sirius-XM receivers is still in play

The FCC has reopened the question of whether the merged Sirius-XM satellite radio company should be required to include HD Radio receiver chips in its new tuners. On Monday the commission released a Notice of Inquiry that also asks if satellite radio chips should be added to HD Radio receivers. In a blog posting about the notice, FCC watcher Matthew Lasar also reports on a controversy about channels that Sirius-XM agreed to set-aside for minority broadcasters.

NPR blogs for the Bryant Park generation launched two new blogs today. With daily posts by entertainment writer Linda Holmes, Monkey See explores the intersection of anthropology and comedy that is pop culture. Podcaster Rob Sachs, director of Tell Me More, expands into the blogosphere with What Would Rob Do? (WWRD), a blog serving three weekly doses of humor-laced practical advice. Sach’s first topic is flatulence, but he’s promising tips on making a great mixtape.

James Brown, keepin’ the peace on WGBH

A new DVD set about James Brown features a documentary about the legendary soul singer’s performance in Boston the night after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated — a performance that aired on Boston’s WGBH-TV. Commentators in The Night James Brown Saved Boston credit the station’s broadcast of the show (which pre-empted a Chekhov production) with preventing riots from erupting. The Wall Street Journal reviews the doc.

Journalists’ credibility holding steady at 99-plus, for now!

While Digg and other online news aggregators use popularity to recommend articles, the new site NewsCred asks users to rate the credibility of the article, the journalist, the news org and even the news sources by choosing “credit” or “discredit.” The users’ reactions combine to yield a rating between 1 and 100. Public input has been limited because the site just graduated from alpha to public beta stage on Tuesday, and all of the rated media are scoring north of 99 points (NPR is at 99.12, a point above right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin). But that can’t last. NewsCred kicks off its press release with statistics indicating that most Americans distrust journalism.

Ag Dept helps equip 19 stations for DTV and HD

The Agriculture Department yesterday announced $5 million in digital TV equipment grants to pubTV stations in 19 states. In less-populated areas, the department’s Rural Development grants have been supplementing the Commerce Department’s annual Public Telecommunications Facilities Program aid. Central Michigan University’s six-station network (WCMU and kin) covering the upper half of lower Michigan received the biggest sum, $750K for new digital production equipment, including a satellite uplink truck. Among the bigger checks are those payable to Northern Michigan University, the Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Dakota and Nebraska networks and KEET in Eureka, Calif. For info on the grant program, see here.

Martin Savidge to anchor new nightly news program for pubTV

NBC News correspondent Martin Savidge has been named anchor of public TV’s new nightly news program Worldfocus, produced in New York by WLIW and conceived by WNET President and longtime network newsman Neal Shapiro, who heads up the parent organization of both pubTV stations. Former CBS Evening News producer Marc Rosenwasser is executive producer of the program, which begins airing Oct. 6 and is a direct competitor to public TV’s long-running BBC World News, previously distributed by WLIW but now represented by KCET in Los Angeles (Current, May 12). Worldfocus aims to contextualize international events for an American audience. Look for a story on the program in the Sept.

Narrator of The War wins Emmy

Keith David has won an Emmy for his voice-over narration of Ken Burns’ The War. The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences presents several awards of excellence in “juried categories” before the Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 21. David won the award in 2005 for his narration of the PBS doc Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.

It’s values, not demographics, that drive pubradio audience growth

Marketing and research consultant John Sutton questions whether a CPB-backed project to recommend audience-growth strategies for public radio is on the right track. Directed by the Station Resource Group, the Grow the Audience project published an analysis of audience trends and began consulting with system leaders this summer. Sutton faults the initial work for “starting in the same place of past audience growth failures–age and ethnicity–and not with values and content.”

WGCU moves classical music to digital channel

WGCU in Fort Myers, Florida, is the latest hybrid-format pubradio station to move classical music programming off its main broadcast service. On Sept. 8, the station launches a 24-hour all-classical HD Radio channel, primarily drawn from American Public Media’s nationally syndicated service Classical 24. Its primary FM service picks up NPR’s Fresh Air and the Diane Rehm Show, as well as the BBC’s World Have Your Say. Syndicated jazz and other niche music programs air at night.

Music fees a box of trouble for Pandora

Pandora, the Internet radio service that allows listeners to customize musical selections to their own tastes, is “approaching a pull-the-plug kind of decision,” founder Tim Westergren tells the Washington Post. Under the royalty fee structure imposed on Web radio stations last year, Pandora projects that 70 percent of its total projected revenues of $25 million will go to royalty payments. The Post’s TechCrunch blogger Michael Arrington, an early advocate for Pandora, doesn’t see the music industry backing down from their “absurd” position on webcasting royalties, and says perhaps Pandora should be sacrificed for the larger good of eventually bringing the music labels to their knees. “For now the labels want to squeeze more revenue out of Pandora and others,” Arrington writes. “But when these companies start to go under and the bird in the hand disappears, they may regret their overly aggressive negotiating stance.

Journalist Leroy Sievers dies

Leroy Sievers, TV journalist and author of NPR’s My Cancer blog, died on Friday at the age of 53. Since NPR notified blog readers of his passing, more than 1050 remembrances and notes of condolence have been posted on the My Cancer page. NPR’s obit and commemoration is here.

Alaska net announces reorganization

On his blog, John Proffitt unveils the internal reorganization of Alaska Public Telecommunications, which got underway yesterday. “The primary collapse is to bring together radio and television and the web — to date just a subset of my duties — under a single manager (me),” he writes. The Anchorage-based joint licensee now comprises four divisions: streams, production, advancement and operation.

Was NewsHour right to pass on Edwards story?

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler questions why PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer paid little attention to John Edwards’ admission of an extramarital affair. “[T]he decision not to report the Edwards confirmation story struck me as both patronizing to people who depend on PBS for news, and journalistically mind-boggling,” Getler wrote in his weekly column. But the ombud also noted that most NewsHour viewers who wrote him on the subject favored the show’s decision not to cover the story when it first broke.

LA broadcasters prepare for PPM ratings

Arbitron is gearing up to introduce its Personal People Meter ratings system in Los Angeles, and the LA Times reports on local broadcasters’ reactions to the new methodology. “By and large, it’s a more accurate way of monitoring how people truly do listen to the radio,” Southern California Public Radio President Bill Davis tells the Times. “The overall audience is actually much larger, but time spent listening is going to be less.” Arbitron reports data from its June trial run of PPM in Los Angeles here [PDF]. There’s more PPM news on PRPD’s website, where Arthur Cohen blogs about Arbitron’s first people meter measurement of digital radio.

PubForge, an open source collaborative for pubcasters, surveys system

PubForge, a group of veteran web programmers collaborating on open-source tools tailored to the needs of public broadcasters, is conducting a survey to determine what tools and resources programmers and producers need the most. The group’s wiki already offers some applications and invites others to share expertise and collaborate on problem-solving. KJZZ webmaster John Tynan, a PubForge organizer, describes his objective for convening the group here.

Ford backs growth of PRX

The Public Radio Exchange announced this week that it received a $250,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to support expansion of its website, creation of unique content and strategic planning. The online marketplace received a MacArthur grant earlier this year to support similar efforts (coverage in Current).

CPB supports election coverage

Fifteen pubcasters received CPB grants to support programming about national issues in this year’s elections. The grants are part of the funder’s Station-Based Election Programming Initiative.

Pre-broadcast backlash against Nova Bible program

Nova’s “The Bible’s Buried Secrets,” scheduled to air Nov. 18 and still in production, is already raising the ire of the conservative Christian American Family Association, whose members have written scores of letters to PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler (scroll down). Apparently prompted by an Orlando Sentinel story that referred to a clip of the program and panel discussion from the summer Television Critics Association press tour, AFA founder Donald E. Wildmon sent out an “action alert” asking his flock to sign “a petition urging Congress to stop using tax dollars to fund PBS.” Wildmon wrote: “The Public Broadcasting System, probably the most liberal network in America, will present a program this fall that says the Old Testament is a bunch of made-up stories that never happened.” In a response in Getler’s column, series Executive Producer Paula Apsell said program “represents mainstream archeological and biblical scholarly thinking about the Hebrew Bible.”