Alaska pubcaster trims staff, benefits

KTOO in Juneau, Alaska, is cutting three workers, eliminating 1.5 vacant positions, reducing two full-timers to part time, lowering benefits and freezing salaries. The pubcaster includes KTOO-TV, KTOO News Radio, KRNN Rain Country Radio and KXLL Excellent Radio. General Manager Bill Legere told The Juneau Empire that the station has lost federal and state money, as well as production contracts. He also cited the $5 million cost of digital transition.

MPR scores $2 million-plus

The Minnesota Public Radio Advocates Network is celebrating passage of the Legacy Amendment in the state, a $2.65 million funding bill for the pubcasters to create “new programming and events, expand regional news service, amplify Minnesota culture to a regional and national audience, and document Minnesota’s history through the Minnesota Audio Archives.” The network is a statewide group that supports the work of MPR and other pubcasters at the state Legislature and U.S. Congress. The Advocates mobilized to place hundreds of phone calls and send emails and letters. The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature.

Senators sign letters of support for pubcasting

Nearly a third of senators have signed letters of support for fiscal 2010 funding for public broadcasting, according to APTS. Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Florida circulated the two letters, for Labor-HHS and for PTFP. “We have not had this documented show of Senate support in many years and we are thankful to all our stations that contacted their senators,” APTS said in a legislative update. All signatories were Democrats, along with independents Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernard Sanders of Vermont.

Processing the outrage over NPR movie review

NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard endorses the editorial policy that prohibited the naming of closeted gay politicians in a review of the documentary Outrage, but she agrees with critics who questioned how NPR handled the piece filed by freelance film critic Nathan Lee.The whole point of Outrage is to identify political leaders who oppose gay rights but are rumored to be secretly gay, as well as to illuminate the mainstream media’s complicity in not exposing them as hypocrites. Both NPR and the Washington Post withheld the names of the politicians identified in Outrage, but other daily newspapers, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and Variety published them, Shepard reports on her blog.Shepard faults NPR editors for dancing around the issue. “As it turned out, NPR did handle its online review in the manner of a blind gossip item,” she writes. “Rather than name a particular prominent politician, the edited version gave enough information for the cognoscenti to easily figure out who the review was talking about.”In addition, NPR illustrated the review with a photograph of former Idaho Sen. Larry Craig, who was arrested in 2007 for soliciting sex from an undercover male officer and pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct while denying that he was gay. “If NPR is not going to name names, then his photo should not have accompanied the review,” Shepard writes.Both Shepard and NPR Executive Editor Dick Meyer have agreed with critics who pointed out that NPR’s policy protecting the privacy of individuals hasn’t been consistently applied.

Pubcasters locate money for Geospatial project

Penn State Public Broadcasting’s Geospatial Revolution Project has received a $50,000 boost from the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation. The project explores location-based technologies (think GPS), “the world of digital mapping and how it is changing the way we think, behave, and interact,” according to its website. It includes eight Web video episodes and a nationally released hourlong documentary.

Houston PBS still waiting for Hurricane Ike funds

University of Houston’s KUHT is still recovering from Hurricane Ike, which slammed into HoustonPBS in September 2008. Insurance claims for nearly $1 million in station damages are still pending, according to spokeswoman Julie Coan. “It’ll be another month before we know what will be covered,” Coan said. “It’s my understanding the delay is due to the fact the station’s claim was included in the university’s claims for Ike.” The hurricane slammed into the pubTV station in the midst of a pledge drive.

Kids can go on Sesame treasure hunts

Sesame Workshop has signed a new licensing agreement that brings personalized letters to small fans of Sesame Street, according to a statement. The “Sesame Street Giftventure” line provides poster-sized letters with a personal game or puzzle for children ages 2 to 5. Solving the puzzle provides the location of a gift the parent has hidden. Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster and Abby Cadabby each appear with a unique storyline and educational games. The $19.95 Giftventures are now available at and

Strickling okayed for NTIA post

The Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approved Larry Strickling as head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, according to Broadcasting & Cable. Strickling will oversee broadband rollout grants and the DTV-to-analog converter box coupon program. He had worked as Chief Regulatory and Chief Compliance Officer at Broadwing Communications for three years before joining then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign as policy coordinator.

Arizona pubradio creating its own programs for “National Parks”

A lone radio station is joining the massive pubTV outreach surrounding Ken Burns’ National Parks: America’s Best Idea. KNAU, Arizona Public Radio in Flagstaff, is partnering with the National Park Service to produce features about sites in the state including Canyon De Chelly, Wupatki, and Hubbell Trading Post. Segments will air in September along with the Burns series, according to g.m. John Stark, who is also board chair of the Grand Canyon Association. The station is producing the programming independent of NPR with funding from the National Park Foundation and Western National Parks Association. See the May 11 issue of Current for more on the $6 million PBS outreach, one of public TV’s most expensive ever.

WNYC, ETV Radio and WDAV, showcase music festivals on-air and online

Pubradio outlets in New York and the Carolinas are kicking off special musical performance series for local and worldwide audiences, beginning tonight with a live performance by Grizzly Bear from New York’s WNYC. The show launches WNYC’s American Music Festival, which concludes May 27 with a live concert featuring the world premiere of new work by acclaimed jazz drummer Dafnis Prieto. Tomorrow, on the opening day of the Spoleto Festival USA, South Carolina’s ETV Radio and WDAV in Charlotte, N.C., co-present Spoleto Today and Carolina Classics, special series to be presented weekdays during the 17-day festival of music, theatre and dance performances in Charleston, S.C. The pubcasters forged a new partnership to broadcast festival programming throughout the Carolinas, and they are providing streamed and archived performances and other coverage online. WDAV extends its daily coverage from Spoleto with The Mozart Cafe, hosted by Jennifer Foster from noon to 1 p.m. daily.

Albright to introduce Muslim doc at June premiere

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will introduce the doc Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think, at its premiere June 3 in Washington. The film will also travel to think tanks, Capitol Hill and several universities before airing on PBS this fall. Produced by Michael Wolfe and Alex Kronemer for Unity Productions Foundation, the film explores the results of the Gallup Organization’s first-ever opinion poll on the Muslim world. Gallup polled about 1,000 people in each of 21 countries, mostly in mid-2007.

Copps envisions broadband project partnership

Acting FCC Chair Michael Copps sees building a national broadband network as similar to past work on rural electrification, universal phone service and interstate highways. In an interview Wednesday for for C-SPAN’s The Communicators series, Copps added that such massive projects require cooperation between government and industry. “That’s the way we’ve always built infrastructure in this country – working together.” The interview is set to air at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Post-merger, Sirius XM is losing subscribers

The Wall Street Journal reports that 1.7 million Sirius XM subscribers dropped the satellite radio service in the first quarter of 2009. With 1.3 million new customers signing on, the net loss of 404,000 listeners knocked the recently merged satellite company’s subscriber base down to 18.6 million. “Company officials blamed the bad economy and poor car sales and said they expected another hit to subscribers in the current quarter,” the Journal’s Sarah McBride reports. But, she found another cause: “Many of the dropped customers were disgruntled after the company dropped several stations after the merger. Chris Ross, who had three separate XM radios, says he canceled them in March when his favorite stations were dropped.

Sprout TV to get all Wiggly

The Wiggles, the Aussie musical quartet that’s a megahit with the preschool set, are coming to Sprout TV this summer. The bouncy band’s television show runs in more than 110 countries and ends a seven-year contract with the Disney Channel in June. The program will premiere on Sprout on Aug. 24. Sprout President Sandy Wax said this is the largest acquisition thusfar for the channel, which is a partnership of PBS, Comcast, Sesame Workshop and HIT Entertainment.

Pubradio comes to the Little Apple of Kansas

Receiving public radio around Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., got a lot easier today, thanks to another big university. Kansas Public Radio (KANU), based at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, turned on two new repeaters nearby, bringing both of its services to town: its main news/classical/jazz service on 99.5 MHz and its KPR2 news/talk service on 98.3 Mhz. Manhattan hasn’t had its own pubradio station since Kansas State gave up on its rare shared-control role in KKSU-AM seven years ago. Manhattan got spotty service from the nearest KPR signal, 91.3 broadcast from Junction City.

Arizona station benefits from new endowment

KAET at Arizona State University in Phoenix will receive about $25,000 annually through a planned giving donation from a longtime fan. The new Melvina C. Killion Charitable Endowment is named for “a really fine supporter” of the station, Gary McMahan, Channel 8’s associate director of development, told Current. Killion died Jan. 6 at age 91. The size of her estate is still being determined, but is estimated at between $1.6 million and $1.9 million, he said.

WNET trimming more jobs

An as-yet unannounced number of staffers will be losing their jobs during the next month from WNET-Thirteen, PBS’ flagship station in New York, and sister station WLIW-21. Neal Shapiro, president and CEO of, broke the news to employees at an all-station meeting this morning. Shapiro later denied published reports of 50 affected positions, saying only that the number will be fewer than the 85 laid off in January. World Focus staffers will be furloughed, and the company is mulling additional unpaid voluntary furloughs. In addition the company will make “significant budget reductions,” according to The New York Times.

PBS ombudsman examines “We Shall Remain” response

In his latest column, PBS ombudsman Michael Getler (right) focuses on controversies surrounding the recent American Experience miniseries on Native Americans, “We Shall Remain.” Getler addresses what he calls a “detailed, non-stop, frontal attack on the program” that arrived in the form of a May 10 letter to PBS head Paula Kerger from a small group calling itself the Wounded Knee Victims and Veterans Association. Kerger had earlier responded to another letter from three tribes in Massachusetts also voicing complaints on the programs.