Public Radio Tech Survey kicks off July 27

The second Public Radio Tech Survey, a web-based analysis of listeners, runs for three weeks starting July 27. It will explore new media and technology use among pubradio listeners nationwide, as well as by market. Last year more than 70 stations took part, generating some 30,000 interviews. The project is coordinated by Jacobs Media, which calls itself “the largest radio consulting firm in the United States specializing in rock formats.” Partnering in the survey are NPR, the Integrated Media Association and Public Radio Program Directors.

Lightbulbs going off all over Aspen as pubcasters mingle at Ideas Festival

Public broadcasters are in the impressive mix of forward-thinkers this week at the Aspen Institute’s fifth annual Ideas Festival. Here it is, only Day 1, and Frontline e.p. David Fanning had this great quote: “Public broadcasting has always been at war with itself. I don’t need to tell you about Yanni at the Acropolis.” Fanning also detailed ideas for turning the public broadcasting system into a journalistic powerhouse. James Fallow of The Atlantic is keeping tabs on the activities, providing “slightly-longer-than-Twitter-scale real time summaries of what is going on.”

AlaskaOne terminates staff, shifts to live children’s feed

KUAC/AlaskaOne is shrinking its staff by a third due to a $450,000 budget deficit, according to The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Two employees are gone effective tomorrow, the start of KUAC’s fiscal year. Five long-vacant spots “are no longer on the books,” Gretchen Gordon, the station’s director of development and outreach, told Current. Also, two full-time positions are now part time. One of the new half-time jobs is the station’s marketing slot.

Burns requests Dust Bowl memories of Oklahomans for film

PBS filmmaker Ken Burns is asking residents of Oklahoma to share their personal stories of the Dust Bowl for an upcoming documentary The Dust Bowl (w.t.). The Oklahoma Network is helping him gather the recollections. In a personal message to the people of the state, Burns said he thinks the Dust Bowl era of the 1930s, when severe drought affected crop production and created huge dust storms, “is an important event in all of American history.” He adds that his production company, Florentine Films, is in the early stages of research but that the state “will be a major part of the Dust Bowl story we want to tell.” He’s making the request through the press as well appearances in TV ads.

EDCAR’s new name: PBS Digital Learning Library

PBS announced yesterday that public TV’s new classroom service will be called the PBS Digital Learning Library. The project, discussed in earlier Current articles, was previously called EDCAR (Education Digital Content Asset Repository). The searchable trove of “learning assets,” including short videos and games, will be customizable by stations and searchable and tagged for compliance with state teaching standards. PBS made the announcement at the National Educational Computing Conference in Washington.

Familiar metaphorical smell snagged hosting job for Tyson

In a Q&A with The Boston Globe, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson (right, NOVA photo) reveals how he came to host NOVA ScienceNOW. “After their inaugural season, in which I had been interviewed multiple times, they needed a new host,” he recalled. “They knew what I looked like, what I smelled like–metaphorically–and so my name sort of rose to the top.” And who’s the toughest interviewer of all his ongoing media appearances? Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, followed by Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, both on Comedy Central.

G4 comments to FCC on possible ethnicity, gender ID filing requirements

Providing the FCC with a list of ethnicities and genders of individual pubcasters wouldn’t show a true picture of the role minorities and women play in station programming and services, according to a joint filing to the agency by APTS, CPT, NPR and PBS. The statement is in reaction to a proposed rulemaking that would change the FCC Form 323-E Ownership Report to report those details as well ethnicity ownership data. The four noted that while it wouldn’t necessarily be a problem to submit the information, no one individual holds equity interest in a station. And because ownership varies widely for pubstations, “it would be unhelpful, and potentially misleading,” to lump together data for noncoms and commercial stations if the FCC wants a “comprehensive picture of broadcast ownership.” Any new reporting requirements would strain financial resources of public broadcasting stations, the groups added. Speaking for LPFM stations, the National Federation of Community Broadcasters and Prometheus Radio Project favors detailing information about gender and ethnicity.

CPB launches emergency readiness cooperative project

A collaboration between several pubcasting and communications groups is at the core of CPB’s new Station Action for Emergency Readiness (SAFER) initiative. Helping in development are the National Federation of Community Broadcasters; NPR; PBS stations KQED, Mississippi Public Broadcasting and Atlanta Public Broadcasting; and the Integrated Media Association. There’ll be online tools such as a customizable station readiness manual, as well as webinars and workshops in which experts help stations implement a response program for their community. Ginny Z. Berson, an NFCB veep, told Current the website should launch late this year, with webinars starting up in 2010. Budget for the project, three years in the planning, is $270,000.

Pennsylvania stations join forces for pubcasting Advocacy Day

Pennsylvania pubcasters are coming together for a state Public TV Advocacy Day tomorrow in an attempt to save state funding. They’re asking viewers and listeners to write letters to state representatives, senators and Gov. Ed Rendell to restore the governor’s proposed pubcasting budget cuts. His budget would zero out all funding — $7.9 million — for station operations, cut technical support from $4.34 million to $2 million, and abolish the Pennsylvania Public Television Network as an independent commission of state government. Negotiations over the budget could continue for six to eight more weeks, according to published reports. The Advocacy Day Web site also features photos of a May rally by schoolchildren supporting WQLN in Erie, Pa.

NYSE bells ring in “Super Why!” toys

The folks behind PBS Kids’ Super Why! recently got to ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange to celebrate the retail launch of the popular program’s toy line. Pictured from left are Super Why! character Whyatt Beanstalk; show creators Samantha Freeman and Angela Santomero of Out of the Blue; Lesli Rotenberg, PBS children’s media guru; and Larry Leibowitz, a veep at the NYSE Euronext Group, the corporation that runs the stock exchange. Super Why!

Filmmakers working to weather recession

Are you filmmaker with dwindling funds? The Independent has a good tips for surviving the recession while keeping your project going. As writer Sean Jones notes, “Many of these point the way to a new, sustainable business model that could bring independent film increasing relevance and financial promise as the economy recovers.” On interesting idea is documentarian Shelly Frost’s Make a Movie Studios, which teaches kids how to create their own films. For $99, kits include everything from a script to props list and shoot schedule.

Florida writer wants to see CPB “extinct”

“Dinosaurs are extinct. So should be the CPB,” says Phil Fretz, an editorial page writer for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. Fretz thinks the corporation was necessary in 1967 to create programming diversity. “But now I have an Internet radio that picks up thousands of stations, subscription-free and with crystal-clear reception,” he says. He’d rather the government save the $400 million annual appropriation.

NPR crowdsourcing project: Who is that lobbyist?

For its coverage of health care reform legislation being drafted on Capitol Hill, NPR News launched Dollar Politics, a series examining how lobbyists seek to influence the debate. The reportage includes an crowdsourcing project, “Turning the Camera Around,” that starts with a panoramic photograph of the audience attending a June 17 Senate hearing where lawmakers began working on the overhaul. Reporters Peter Overby and Andrea Seabrook did some legwork to identify a few of the lobbyists in the photo and they turned to the audience for help in naming others. “The response so far has been practically ecstatic–at least in the blogosphere and the Twitterverse,” Seabrook says in this Q&A with Poynter Online. ” And we’ve gotten quite a few e-mails from listeners who love the fact that we’ve ‘turned the lens’ on the real story.”

$1 million Chinese jade sets “Roadshow” appraisal record

Antiques Roadshow Asian art appraiser James Callahan stunned Jinx Taylor — and made her extremely happy — when he estimated her collection of Chinese jade was possibly worth more than $1 million. That beats the previous Roadshow record of $500,000 last year in Palm Springs, Calif., for a 1937 abstract painting. Taylor brought the pieces to the taping in Raleigh, N.C.; her collection was from the Chien Lung reign from 1736-1795. Callahan said the value of the pieces depends on the market for them in China. The government often wants to buy back such pieces.

American Archives Pilot stations chosen

Phase I of the American Archives Pilot Program is about to begin. Oregon Public Broadcasting, overseeing the Archive project (Current, April 13) , has selected 25 pubcasting stations. Each will receive up to $10,000 to “locate and inventory video and audio content for the archive prototype,” according to a statement from OPB. The massive effort hopes to preserve aging historical television and radio content. The stations chosen are “a relevant representation of both radio and TV stations both geographically and in terms of the type of content they bring to the pilot project,” said Patricia Lanas-Espinosa, CPB’s project manager for digital media strategy, in the statement.

Think of all the stories we could share

Mediavore, the blog launched seven months ago by Todd Mundt and Graham Griffith, posted its 1001th entry today and marked the occasion with a special post challenging public broadcasters to think more broadly about their roles as curators of online content. Mediavore’s singular purpose is to point readers to the best public media content on news and cultural topics of the day but, as Mundt notes, there is plenty of room for other pubcasting outlets to take up this work. “The technology we have today puts nearly everything that every radio and TV station produces in the hands of anyone who wants it,” he writes. But, oddly, few pubradio websites make the effort to point their online audiences to stand-out coverage of their colleagues at PBS or stations. “consistently, perhaps unintentionally, sends the message that there’s no value in offering a video discussion from The Newshour next to a related report it’s produced,” Mundt writes.

“NOW” shows spark viewer reaction, ombudsman column

Two NOW episodes on controversial issues drew the attention of PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler as well as many viewers. One show, in the wake of the murder of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller, examined whether such attacks could be considered domestic terrorism. Another dealt with mounting debts taken on my millions of college students.

NPR, WNET to participate in investigative conference

Reps from nearly 30 media outlets including NPR and PBS member station WNET are attending next week’s Watchdogs at Pocantico confab, “Building an Investigative News Network.” The “conference on new models for watchdog journalism” is co-sponsored by the Center for Investigative Reporting and Center for Public Integrity–its director, Bill Buzenberg, is a veteran of NPR and American Public Media. “The conclave is unprecedented, and its goals ambitious,” writes blogger Ken Doctor, a media analyst and 21-year veteran of Knight Ridder. Investigative journalism is a hot topic among pubcasters, who been discussing taking on more of a watchdog reporting role as newspapers die off (Current, March 2).

Senate okays FCC, NTIA heads

The Senate on Thursday approved the chair of the FCC and head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration. Julius Genachowski replaces acting FCC head Michael Copps, who will return to his commissioner spot. Genachowski may be sworn in soon enough to preside over the FCC’s next public meeting on July 2. His background includes work as a telecom and technology adviser to then-Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign as well as experience in law, business, politics, communications and new media. Larry Strickling will now oversee the NTIA with the title of assistant secretary of Commerce for communications and information.

Radio Bilingue, WPFW covering Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Radio Bilingue is producing special coverage of Las Americas, the Latino musical component of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival that began this week on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Today’s webcast, streaming here, features Maestros del Joropo Oriental, masters of a distinct musical tradition from Venezuela’s Caribbean coast, and Arpex, whose “big harp” music is an influential predecessor of the Mexican mariachi tradition. Linea Abierta, Radio Bilingue’s Spanish-language call-in show, is also producing daily coverage of the festival. Radio Bilingue’s coverage continues through June 29; podcasts of performances and talk programs from earlier this week are here. This year’s festival also explores the African American oral tradition and features daily events examining the role that black radio has played in reinforcing and promoting black culture. WPFW, D.C.’s Pacifica station, is producing and broadcasting several of these events.