P.O.V. film wins award at Sundance

Natalia Almada, director of the upcoming P.O.V. film El General, won the directing award for U.S. documentary at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Her film–a co-production with Altamura Films and ITVS in association with Latino Public Broadcasting–looks at the legacy of Almada’s great-grandfather, former Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles. Almada’s film El Otro Lado, about drug traffickers and musicians on the U. S./Mexico border, aired on P.O.V. in 2006.

Live again in theaters: This American Life

This American Life will again stage a national video telecast to hundreds of specially equipped theaters this spring. Tickets to the April 23 event (8 p.m. Eastern time plus a delayed feed at 8 Pacific time) were offered at a discounted price to stations, PRI announced. Tickets go on sale to the public March 6. The net said that more than 35,000 fans turned out for the show’s first live-to-theaters telecast last May 1.

APTS announces president

Attorney Lawrence Sidman, a longtime telecom advocate, is the new APTS president. Sidman has been involved in the industry for decades, serving in the late 1980s as chief council of the Telecommunications and Finance Subcommittee of House Commerce and Energy under longtime pubcasting advocate Edward Markey (D-Mass.). Most recently, Sidman has been chairman of the government affairs group of the law firm Paul, Hastings, Janofsky and Walker’s DC office. In 2003 he was named one of the 10 top telecom lobbyists by Telecommunications Reports. Sidman replaces John Lawson, who departed for Ion Media Networks in March 2008.

Senate OKs DTV delay

The Senate — on a voice vote — has approved moving the DTV transition date from Feb. 17 to June 12. The House bill is up for consideration Jan. 26.

Delay may cost PBS $22 million

Putting off the DTV transition from Feb. 17 to June 12 could cost pubcasters $22 million, PBS head Paula Kerger estimates. The White House is seeking the delay because the fed program providing money for converter box coupons is out of money. Kerger said she announced the figure so lawmakers might keep in mind the financial hardship for stations. She added that PBS is not aligned with either side in the ongoing debate over the date.

One day only! Get your wedding dress at Milwaukee Public TV

Here’s a new fundraising idea: Milwaukee Public TV is selling some 400 wedding gowns and other formal dresses at its studio and warehouse on Feb. 7. An area bridal shop closed and donated its leftover inventory to the station, which is pricing the dresses at $10 to $40. 

Denver PBS analog signal down for up to four weeks

KBDI in Denver is coping with the aftermath of 100 mph winds that knocked its analog signal off the air. Its antenna and transmission line were extensively damaged and repairs could take up to a month. Viwers are being urged to convert to digital reception immediately. This comes in the wake of KRMJ-TV’s analog transmitter in Grand Junction failing on Dec. 31; that may not be repaired.

McCain opposes broadband stimulus

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, a lead sponsor of the 2005 Community Broadband Act, has reversed his stance. On Jan. 25’s Fox News Sunday, the former presidential candidate said: “Some of the stimulus in this package is excellent; some of it, frankly, has nothing to do — some of the projects and others that you just mentioned, $6 billion for broadband and Internet access. That will take years.” Broadband stimulus is one part of President Barack Obama’s economic proposal.

Report forecasts economy 2009-19

The Congressional Budget Office has issued its economic and budget predictions for FY2009 through FY2019 early to “aid the new Congress in its deliberations,” according to the CBO director’s blog. Outlook details: “A marked contraction in the U.S. economy in calendar year 2009” followed by a “slow recovery” in 2010. It also says America “is in a recession that will probably be the longest and the deepest since World War II.”

WFYI state funding may disappear

Indiana PubTV’s WFYI is facing a total elimination of state funding under Gov. Mitch Daniels’ budget proposals. Due to reductions in private donations, the station last week laid off five staffers and ended production of several programs. Now Daniels wants to strip all state funding, $517,000, or less than 5 percent of the station budget. However, WFYI management said each state dollar helps raise some $8 in funding from foundations, corporations and individuals.

Please, neighbor, save Mister Rogers

A quiet move to “save” that quiet pubTV legendary show, “Mister Rogers Neighborhood,” has sprung up on the Internet. Save the Mister Rogers Neighborhood Campaign, according to the website, was organized by Brian Linder, a father of twin toddlers from Columbia, S.C., who wanted his children to be able to see a show he grew up watching daily. The show hasn’t been discontinued; last September its distribution changed. PBS now offers the show weekly to allow room for more PBS KIDS’ new series on its daily feed, according to PBS Engage. A Facebook page linked to Linder’s efforts is up to nearly 7,000 members.

ITVS film gets Oscar nod

“Waltz with Bashir” continues its run of prizes and nominations with a nod in the Best Foreign Language Film category of the Academy Awards. It’s the 10th Oscar nomination for ITVS, and the first for its ITVS International initiative. The presitgious awards show airs Feb. 22 from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.

Congress moves on DTV date, broadband stimulus

The Senate has approved a bill that would delay the DTV transition date from Feb. 17 to June 12; it will vote on that next week. Also on Jan. 23, the House OK’d rules governing $2.8 billion for high-speed broadband access, one chunk of the proposed $6 billion broadband update funds that are part of the $825 billion economic stimulus bill.

Upcoming P.O.V. doc gets Oscar nomination

The Betrayal, a documentary that will air during P.O.V.’s 2009 season, was nominated for an Academy Award. Produced and directed by Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath, the film–23 years in the making–follows the experiences of Phrasavath, a Laotian immigrant, and his family after they come to America. The doc also recently received two nominations for the Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking.

MacArthur grantmaker Woody Wickham dies

Woody Wickham, 66, a key grantmaker to public broadcasting at the MacArthur Foundation, died of cancer on Sunday at his Chicago home, the Chicago Tribune reported. In more than a dozen years at MacArthur, he helped support such projects as the breakthrough film Hoop Dreams and projects of independent radio producer Dave Isay, including the massive oral history project StoryCorps.

Cincinnati Public Radio to operate WMUB in Oxford

Miami University of Ohio plans to turn over operations of WMUB, an NPR affiliate that has broadcast from its campus for 58 years, to Cincinnati Public Radio. The management agreement is being facilitated by Public Radio Capital and comes less than two years after a university study committee “strongly” recommended that the station pursue partnerships with other news organizations or public stations in Dayton. The university annually contributes $500,000 of the WMUB’s operating budget and provides another $300,000 in indirect subsidies. “[T]he financial obligation of WMUB can no longer be borne by the university with the economic challenges we face,” said Miami President David Hodge. The Dayton Business Journal reports that the university faces a $22 million budget shortfall and has already cut $16 million from its 2010 budget.

WNET to cuts jobs, budget

New York’s WNET-Thirteen will cut 8 percent of its upcoming budget through cost reductions and job eliminations. Also affected will be parent organization WNET.org and sister station WLIW-21. WNET.org’s President and CEO Neal Shapiro told The Observer that of roughly 500 staffers, some 85 positions are targeted. According to Shapiro, individual and corporate as well as government funding for WNET and WLIW all have declined significantly in recent months. Also, N.Y. Gov. David Paterson’s new budget includes a 50 percent reduction in the overall funding for pubTV, which would mean about a $4.5 million cut for WNET.org.

Obama selects acting FCC chair

President Barack Obama has named FCC Commissioner Michael Copps temporary head of the regulatory agency. Copps has been one of the five-member commission since 2001. Tech exec Julius Genachowski is the new president’s reported choice to head the FCC, but that appointment may take weeks or perhaps months.

Ifill’s new book about politics and race on the shelf

NewsHour correspondent Gwen Ifill’s new book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, was published on Inauguration Day. Ifill, who moderated the vice presidential debate last fall, drew criticism from John McCain supporters when news of her book contract hit the press. Critics assumed she would favor Obama’s camp, but The Breakthrough is “less about Barack Obama’s victory than a generational shift among black politicians and voters, black and white,” says Bob Minzesheimer of USA Today. “Her book is a serious but readable assessment, not a celebration,” he writes. Ifill mentions the debate flap briefly: “I was a hard target to resist — an African-American journalist writing about race could not possibly be capable of thinking bigger thoughts, could she?”

Detroit pubTV lays off 11

Detroit Public Television laid off 11 employees yesterday–about 16 percent of the station’s staff. Sister radio station WRCJ-FM laid off one employee. The TV station made cuts to the reception desk, accounting and promotions departments, and all who were laid off received a severance package, according to David Devereaux, v.p. of communications.