9/11 conspiracy doc is a top pledge show for Denver

Denver’s KBDI-Channel 12 has stirred up local discussion with recent pledge content. Joanne Ostrow, arts and entertainment columnist for The Denver Post, writes that the station “aired controversial documentaries promoting conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11 and claiming taxes are unlawful. Answering the phones during the pledge drive were conspiracy believers who reportedly encouraged callers to believe.” KBDI Membership Director Shari Bernson told Ostrow that her goal in selecting pledge shows is to provide a forum for many different viewpoints and present things not seen on other stations. 9/11: Pressed for Truth was one of KBDI’s top five fundraisers in the past year, and it plans to repeat it in September.

Stations receive STEM content grants

CPB has granted nine pubTV stations a total of nearly $900,000 to create content on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that will be shared with the system and other educational organizations. Stations, their projects and grants are: Louisiana Public Broadcasting, “Global Warming Consequences and Mitigation, $118,777; Maryland Public Television, “Changing the Balance: Digital Assets Investigating Climate Change,” $125,000; Nebraska Educational Telecommunications Commission (NET Television), “Antarctica’s Climate Secrets,” $125,000; Northern California Public Broadcasting (KQED), “Clue into Climate: A Digital Media-Based Curriculum Unit on Climate Change,” $97,200; Utah Education Network (KUEN), “Utah Climate Literacy Partnership,” $125,000; WGBH, Wisconsin Public Television and ThinkTV, “Climate Literacy Collaborative,” $226,481; WOSU Public Media, “What Ice Cores Reveal About Climate,” $80,655.

Julia Child, toaster-oven chef

So many Americans have fond memories of Julia Child’s legendary cooking shows on PBS. But Bohdan Zachary, chief programmer at KCET, is lucky to have memories of a very special experience: visiting Child in 2002 in her apartment at a Montecito, Calif., seniors’ complex. “Julia was the one and only resident allowed to turn her guest bedroom into a kitchen,” noted Zachary, who was there with a camera crew to interview Child for a retrospective to run during a fundraiser. Zachary made an interesting discovery in the kitchen — a toaster oven. Child told him she enjoyed learning new ways to prepare food using the handy little appliance.

What does it mean to be a “NextGen” station?

The availability of station webstreams through iPhone apps such as the Public Radio Player “ramps up the pressure on local broadcast stations to figure out what their unique value proposition is, given the opportunities for bypass,” says PRX’s Jake Shapiro in this extensive Q&A with Xconomy Boston. Mobile phone subscribers are increasingly using the devices to tune into the pubradio outlets and programs of their own choosing, but it will be a “some time” before this new distribution technology cuts into the audience for pubradio’s traditional broadcast service, he adds. “So one of the risks is actually that there isn’t the same sense of urgency, because it doesn’t feel like a crisis, even though there is a fairly widespread agreement that the transformation is underway.” Stations offering their streams on the Public Radio Player and programming secondary channels now have a “leg up” in transforming themselves into multimedia hubs, Shapiro says, but it won’t be a cakewalk: “[T]hey have a window of time where a direct appeal to a sizeable audience can help them develop a Web presence that’s meaningful. And they have a lot of potential assets at play.

What’s on magazine covers? Faces!

“Faces are how I sold 60 Minutes,” recalls the late Don Hewitt in an interview being reaired by KCTS in Seattle this week. “I wanted 60 Minutes to be a magazine, and I said, ‘How do they sell magazines?’ The covers sell magazines. I haven’t got covers–I’m gonna use faces. Mike Wallace, Diane Sawyer, Leslie Stahl, Harry Reasoner, Ed Bradley.”

La, la, la, LINOLEUM….

On Nov. 10, exactly 40 years after Sesame Street’s debut, Sesame Workshop will release Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days, with five hours of famous segments (remember “Rubbery Ducky”?) and guest appearances including actor Robert De Niro. It’ll cost $20.99; look for it on Amazon.

Chance meeting charms PBS Hawaii staff

PBS Hawaii staffers were treated to a meeting of two divas in the station lobby recently, reports President and CEO Leslie Wilcox in her blog. Both Hawaii Opera singer Marlene Sai and Broadway actress Loretta Ables-Sayre starred in productions of South Pacific; Ables-Sayre landed a Tony nomination for her performance. The two, in the station for separate tapings of the weekly show Long Story Short, hugged, held hands and chatted “for a long time,” Wilcox says.

Twelve WUFT employees riffed in Gainesville

Campus-wide lay-offs announced yesterday by the University of Florida include 12 employees of Gainesville’s WUFT-TV/FM, the public broadcasting outlets that are being reorganized by outside consultants to College of Journalism and Communications Dean John Wright. “I don’t know how they’re going to run things,” Bill Beckett, program manager of WUFT-FM, tells the Gainesville Sun. As a faculty member, Beckett has a year before his job ends; staff who aren’t on the faculty will be out the door in 45 days. Lay-off notifications came down on the same day that classical music fans mounted a street protest of WUFT’s recent switch to an all-news format. The Chalkboard, a blog following UF news, has details of 60 jobs lost across the university; comments posted there so far deal entirely with the changes at WUFT.

PBS cancels Dev Con, folds it into broader spring conference

With registrations for the upcoming PBS Development Conference running “very low,” network President Paula Kerger said network management made the”extremely difficult decision” to cancel the Oct. 1-3 conference and fold it into the PBS Showcase event next spring in Austin, Texas. On behalf of attendees, PBS cancelled hotel reservations for the Dev Con in Orlando, Fla. The network now plans a broader Showcase event for fundraisers as well as general managers and program execs. In the meantime, Kerger said, PBS will plan more webinars and other professional development options for fundraisers.

Sesame to introduce several new shows at confab in France

Perky little Abby Cadabby gets a 3D animated makeover in her new Abby’s Flying Fairy School, which Sesame Workshop will show off in October at MIPCOM. Characters for the CGI-animation series were created by Peter De Séve, character designer for the big-screen Ice Age. Each segment works to foster preschoolers’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills, according to a Workshop press release. Abby, along with new pals including fairies, trolls and a part-gerbil/part-unicorn named Niblet, attend Fairy School with Ms. Sparklenose. Other shows debuting at MIPCOM include Munchin’ Impossible, teaching healthy eating; and Elmo’s Backyard, introducing science concepts.

Savidge shifts from anchor chair at Worldfocus

Martin Savidge, anchor of WNET.ORG’s Worldfocus since its launch (Current, Sept. 2, 2008), is shifting from that seat to become a special correspondent in the field. Daljit Dhaliwal, a contributing correspondent, will become anchor. The changes are effective Aug. 31, according to a statement from the show.

Community Broadcasters Association closes

The Community Broadcasters Association (CBA) disbanded July 15 and has canceled its trade show scheduled for this fall, it announced last Thursday, according to Broadcasting & Cable. The group represents more than 2,800 Class A and low-power television stations and has drained available funds in recent regulatory battles, including work to ensure that all DTV converter boxes eligible for coupon discounts include analog pass-through capability. Amy Brown, CBA’s former e.d., predicted that around 40 percent of Class A and LPTV station operators may have to shut down in the next year if they are not helped through the digital transition.

Iraqi troops returned with Muppet booty in 1990 invasion

Tapes of Sesame Street episodes along with a Muppet camel were stolen by Iraq’s Republican Guard troops during their 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Sesame Workshop President and CEO Gary Knell tells CNN.com’s World website. “To this day, they’ve never been recovered,” Knell added. “That’s how much the show is loved there.” Children in some 120 countries watch versions of the show, and the Workshop hopes to add to that number with localized programming in other conflict areas such as Pakistan, according to the site. Meanwhile, in Denmark …

Early review of NPR’s new News app: “awesome”

The NPR News App for the iPhone and iPod touch is now available for free downloads from Apple’s App Store. The application, one of several that NPR is developing, is the first news-oriented app allowing users to read or listen to news stories and programs, or to do both simultaneously. It also offers live or on-demand streams from 600 NPR stations. NPR introduces its news app here, where Weekend Edition’s Scott Simon hosts a video demo of its features and navigation. Unlike the Public Radio Player, which serves up web streams and programming information for more than 300 pubradio stations, the NPR News app is focused on the “NPR experience,” Kinsey Wilson, senior v.p. of NPR Digital, tells paidContent.

The cost of dismissing Ken Stern as NPR chief

NPR’s David Folkenflik reports that former NPR chief executive Ken Stern was paid more than $1.3 million in fiscal 2008, the year in which he was ousted from NPR’s top job. Folkenflik got an early look at NPR’s tax documents for 2008 and did some math to figure out the cost to NPR for Stern’s hasty exit. “The actual cost of the buyout was not broken out in the documents for the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30, 2008. But in the previous year, Stern earned about $426,000.

Cutting costs means cutting airshifts for KUT DJs

Longtime music hosts Paul Ray and Larry Monroe lost airtime when Austin’s KUT revamped its evening schedule, and their fans are mighty upset about it. Cleve Hattersley of the Greezy Wheels, a quintessentially Austin band from the 1970s whose influence lives on, organized a public forum last week for listeners to discuss ways to reverse KUT’s programming changes. “At least 100 people attended Hattersley’s town hall meeting, where suggestions for action included cutting off donations to KUT, a position not endorsed by everyone,” reports the Austin American-Statesman. Meanwhile, the Facebook group Support Larry Monroe and Paul Ray at KUT, “two of the best DJs ever to spin a record,” has 940 members. Ray lost two weeknight airshifts that had been devoted to jazz music; Monroe’s “Phil Music Program” on Thursdays was cancelled.

Long Island’s WLIU up for sale

Long Island University is looking to sell WLIU, an NPR News and jazz station broadcasting from its campus in Southhampton, N.Y. The station “currently runs at a deficit that the university can no longer afford to subsidize,” said Robert Altholz, Long Island University’s vice president for finance and treasurer, in a news release. The Southhampton Press reports that LIU covers roughly 54 percent of the station’s $2.4 million budget. Under orders of the university’s trustees, all subsidies for the station are to end on October 3. Wally Smith, WLIU manager, learned about the university’s plan in April; efforts to find another public institution to take over the license and preserve the service have failed. Smith hopes to establish a new non-profit that can raise enough money to buy the WLIU’s broadcast licenses and equipment.

Arbitron analyzes ratings trends by pubradio format

Public Radio Today 2009, Arbitron’s analysis of public radio listening patterns and demographics, digs into Fall 2008 diary and Portable People Meter ratings and sifts out details about the performance of the eight different public radio formats. Driven in large part by interest in the 2008 presidential elections, news/talk stations increased their weekly share of all public radio listening to 48 percent, a 10 percent increase from Fall 2006, the period covered in Arbitron’s last report on public radio. Led by the emergence of KUSC in Los Angeles and WETA in Washington, D.C., as the only all-classical stations in their markets, the classical music format boosted its average quarter hour share of pubradio listening to 13.7 percent. The weekly cume of 5 million listeners for classical music stations is a 15 percent increase from 2006. The news/music format, which encompasses stations that broadcast a variety of musical genres, and news/jazz also boosted their AQH share of pubradio listening.