Idaho needs DTV translators

IdahoPTV says it needs six new digital translators to maintain coverage during and after the digital transition in February, reports Boise Weekly. More than 400,000 people in Idaho watch over-the-air signals; during a pubTVshow on DTV in November, some 2,600 viewers called in seeking advice. For IdahoPTV, buying more repeaters would need to be done through a privately-funded capital campaign. Peter Morrill, g.m., says broadcasters need opportunities from the FCC to apply for digital translator channels.

Audience growth begins at home

Pubradio marketing and programming consultants Deborah Blakeley and Israel Smith propose a 12-month audience growth goal for public radio stations and outline the steps needed to achieve it in “Thinking Audience,” the latest article published by Station Resource Group’s Grow the Audience project.

Harrisonburg stations make urgent fundraising appeal

“We are among the smaller stations in the public radio system,” writes Tom DuVal, g.m. of WMRA and WEMC in Harrisonburg, Va., in an email appeal for year-end donations. “We cannot cut enough expenses without having a noticeable and undesirable impact on the quality of the service you receive.” Underwriting revenues have dropped sharply and decreases in government support and private contributions have added to the stations’ financial woes, DuVal tells the Daily News Record. Staff members have already taken 10 percent cuts in their salaries; lay-offs and cost-cutting program changes may come down next month.

FCC head anticipates DTV challenges

Outgoing FCC Chairman Kevin Martin concedes in a Q&A with Broadcasting & Cable that challenges remain as the February DTV transition nears. One potential problem: Running out of money for converter boxes. The president-elect’s transition team favors a stronger call-center program to assist viewers; Martin is calling on state broadcasters to assist. As far as funding for them, “We have some money, but there are strict rules on the government process that I can’t comment on until the contracts are awarded.”

Year-end fundraising special raises $130k

Best of Public Radio 2008, a year-end fundraising special that aired on 70-plus stations on Saturday, generated contributions totaling more than $130,000 through a special website, John Sutton, one of the marketing consultants behind the campaign, reports that some listeners chose to make donations directly to their local stations. UPDATE: In an email, Sutton estimates that the campaign’s fundraising total could hit $200,000. Donations to the campaign website have topped $166,000 as of 1 p.m. today. Listener contributions via station websites may bring in another $35,000.

Levine’s search for ‘moxie’ turns inward

The idea behind “American Moxie,” an NPR series by Ketzel Levine, was to examine how ordinary Americans adjust when times get tough. But mid-way through reporting for the series, Levine learned that she was one of 64 NPR employees being laid off. “Every story that we all do, we’re always looking for the perfect ending,” Levine tells the New York Times. “And suddenly it was handed to me. It was not one of my choosing, but as a storyteller, what could make a better story?” Ketzel shares the story of her unexpected career setback on (scroll down) and on her own blog, Ketzel Uprooted.

FCC reports viewership changes due to conversion

The FCC has released two reports (PDF) outlining changes in TV coverage areas from analog to digital for all 1,749 full-power TV stations in the country. Some 89 percent of stations (1,533) will see a net gain of viewers in the switch; 11 percent (196 stations) will have a net loss. The FCC posted detailed maps of each station’s coverage areas on its website, as well as maps of those stations with significant upcoming changes.

NTIA , FCC foresee digital conversion problems

The National Telecommunications & Information Association (NTIA) is anticipating problems in the lead-up to digital conversion in February, according to Broadcasting & Cable magazine. NTIA says it may need up to $330 million more for its $40 DTV-to-analog converter box coupons, and reports there may be a shortfall of up to 2.5 million converter boxes. The FCC plans to spend about $10 million on call centers for questions and problems during the week of the DTV transition, estimating 350,000 calls per day Feb. 15-21. However, the FCC also says that would not be enough money or operators to handle the expected flood of calls.

Sesame Street book getting press

Michael Davis’ new book, “Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street,” is getting attention in the press. The New York Times published a review on Dec. 26 headlined, “Brought to you by the letter S,” by James Panero, managing editor of The New Criterion. He laments what he sees as Davis’ focus on trivia: “Do we really need to know that (Joan Ganz) Cooney served boeuf bourguignon, ‘a traditional French country recipe . .