Fairbanks PBS switches from UHF to VHF

Reception problems with PBS affiliate KUAC in Fairbanks, Alaska, prompted it to move from UHF Ch. 24 to VHF Ch. 9, at a cost of $1.1 million and six days off the air, according to Broadcasting & Cable. It switched in late September by undergoing rechannelization. The new Harris VHF transmitter and ERI transmission line and antenna had to be installed in a “tightly coordinated process,” B&C reported, due to Alaska’s brief period of mild weather.

Mister Rogers and the birth of zombies

In case you missed it, zombie originator George Romero (the creatures were his creation in Night of the Living Dead) was a guest on the Halloween edition of NPR fave Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! He shared this interesting factoid: Romero got his start working with Fred Rogers on the Mister Rogers episode, “Let’s Talk About Going to the Hospital,” in which a little girl gets a tonsillectomy.

How Clifford was born

The books that inspired Clifford the Big Red Dog on PBS, now in its ninth season, were born of desperation in 1963, according to an interview with 81-year-old author Norman Bridwell in the Seattle Times. A woman whose job it was to read unsolicited manuscripts–known as the “slush pile”–at Harper & Row, knew that publisher would not be interested in it. But she “put it in her purse without telling anyone” and took it to Scholastic, Bridwell recalled. “I was just trying to find work,” he said. “I’d been out of work and had a brand new baby daughter who wasn’t sleeping through the night and my mother was visiting from Indiana.

Nothing scarier than nonmembers

KCET head programmer Bohdan Zachary shares his colleagues’ Halloween decoration of this very, very lapsed station member in his latest blog entry. Spooky indeed. Zachary also reminisces about the creepiest soap opera ever, Dark Shadows, and his attempt to contact a dead grade-school classmate using a seance inspired by the gothic show. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work.

Explorer concept inspires UNC-TV channel

UNC-TV used PBS’s Explorer branding identity (Current, June 23, 2009) to create its own new Explorer Channel, offering travel, culture, science, nature, history and outdoor programming. In announcing the channel, the station said it’s in response “to a demonstrated need for diverse public television programming for adults, including daytime programming.” PBS execs continue to draw attention to the Explorer concept. At this month’s Round Robin in Baltimore, PBS programming head John Wilson spoke of ongoing focus the branding, as well as using it to draw in desired audiences such as the 40- to 64-year-old “femographic.”

KCTS renovations will be green

KCTS 9 in Seattle just received a $100,000 award from the Kresge Foundation’s Green Building Initiative to renovate its 23-year-old facility to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) specifications. The station was one of seven organizations chosen from among 114 nationwide. The Kresge Foundation’s headquarters in Troy, Mich., is a Platinum LEED building, the highest rating of the standard (plus, it looks pretty cool).

You don’t need a credit card for StoryCorps’ Day of Listening

StoryCorps is gearing up for its second annual National Day of Listening, to be celebrated Nov. 27, the day after Thanksgiving. The event, an extension of the StoryCorps oral history project that has now collected personal interviews of more than 50,000 individuals, invites public radio listeners to record a meaningful conversation with a loved one and preserve it as a piece of family history. “The National Day of Listening, which coincides with Black Friday–traditionally the largest shopping day of the year–proves that simply listening to one another is the least expensive and most meaningful gift we can give,” said Dave Isay, StoryCorps founder and president. To help promote this year’s event, NPR personalities Dan Schorr, Juan Williams and Will Shortz will record interviews and discuss the experience on-air, and Talk of the Nation will devote its Thanksgiving Day broadcast to the Day of Listening.

Where the Crossroads films and funding went

CPB’s big America at a Crossroads initiative funded 20 independently produced documentaries on aspects of the post-9/11 world, at a cost not wildly above the predicted $20 million. [This list tracks the 21 grants to producers and the resulting 20 broadcasts. See also Current’s related 2009 article and timeline.]
The funding
Costs of the project’s major phases:
$2,520,724 — for R&D on proposals from 36 producing teams, the first cut in the grantmaking process,
+ 12, 629,507 — for production of the final 20 selected projects, and
+ 5,644,158 — for WETA’s work as “Crossroads entry station” including packaging and promotion of the series and outreach efforts. = $20,794,389 — total cost
Here’s a boxscore counting the productions. Number of documentaries for which CPB announced funding in 2006 for its America at a Crossroads project


Additional commissioned in 2006
(The Muslim Americans)


Total productions announced for funding


MINUS Not completed (Invasion)


Total completed and broadcast


Total distributed to public TV by PBS


Distributed by Oregon Public Broadcasting/NETA, Fox News Channel and other outlets


Total distributed


The films
The first 11 Crossroads films premiered on PBS in April 2007 as a packaged series: 

April 15, 2007
Jihad: The Men and Ideas Behind Al Qaeda, originally Holy War

April 16
Warriors and Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience

April 17
Gangs of Iraq and The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom

April 18
Europe’s 9/11, originally Spain’s 9/11, and The Muslim Americans

April 19
Faith Without Fear, originally The Trouble with Islam, and
Struggle for the Soul of Islam: Inside Indonesia  

April 20
Security versus Liberty: The Other War and The Brotherhood, originally The Terror Dilemma

Nine more docs aired later on PBS, listed by broadcast date:

June 11, 2007
Kansas to Kandahar: Citizen Soldiers at War, originally Citizen Soldiers


CPB hires Sanchez for education post

Debra Tica Sanchez is moving from the Association of Public Television Stations to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, according to CPB. As of December, Sanchez will be senior vice president for education services. At APTS, Sanchez had served as v.p. of government relations. Also, CPB’s Susan Zelman will be s.v.p., chief advisor and system consultant for education policy; previously she had been s.v.p. of education and children’s content.

Seattle PBS, NPR stations partner with newspaper for debates

PBS affiliate KCTS in Seattle has been busy this month, hosting two live debates between candidates for county executive and mayor. Station spokesperson Daphne Adair told Current this was the first time a wireless network was set up in the studio specifically to allow other local media to blog live from the set. NPR stations KPLU and KUOW along with the Seattle Times were partners in coverage. (Photo: In the KCTS control room during a debate, courtesy of the station.)

FCC taps Waldman to recommend policies promoting “vibrant media”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced an agency-wide initiative examining how the commission should revise its policies to ensure a “vibrant media landscape.” Steven Waldman, a veteran print journalist who founded Beliefnet.com, will lead the study as a senior advisor to the chairman. Genachowski unveiled the initiative as a response to media reform recommendations developed by the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, and the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. “A strong consensus has developed that we’re at a pivotal moment in the history of the media and communications, because of game-changing new technologies as well as the economic downturn,” Genachowski said in a news release. The initiative will balance the policy changes required to meet the information needs of communities with First Amendment protections for the press, he said.

“Superharp” blows the blues at WGBH

Blues great James Cotton stopped in to the WGBH studios Wednesday for an interview with Greater Boston’s Jared Bowen, and showed off his legendary harmonica talents. Also in the Fraser Performance Center for the show was Huey Lewis of Huey Lewis and the News. Bowen’s interview and Cotton’s WGBH performance will air tonight. Also tonight, the bluesman is being honored in a “Live Tribute to James Cotton” at Boston’s House of Blues. (Photo: WGBH)

NABJ to Schiller: “Actions speak much louder than words”

The National Association of Black Journalists questions NPR commitment to diversity in this letter to Vivian Schiller, network president. The Oct. 16 firing of Greg Peppers, executive producer of newscasts, is the second dismissal of a producer of color in NPR management ranks this year. “Of the 68 members on your corporate team and behind the scenes staff, only eight are people of color,” NABJ’s top leaders write. “You told the National Press Club that NPR doesn’t need programming for communities of color but diversity needs ‘to be represented in the fabric of everything that we do.’

NPR objects when its news report is excerpted in Maine political ad

Is it fair use for opponents of Maine’s same-sex marriage law to excerpt an NPR news story in a political ad? NPR said “No!” and demanded that the political action committee Stand for Marriage pull the ad from television and the Internet. But lawyers for the group rejected NPR’s request. The PAC’s use of the “very short audio segment” is noncommercial and is protected by the First Amendment and U.S. Copyright law, attorneys wrote in an Oct.

Storyplay connects children and far-away family for literacy play

A new research report says combining a traditional book with video conference technology and video segments bolsters “family literacy over distances,” according to the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. The study, funded by the Cooney Center and Nokia Research Center, looked at grandparents, parents and their children using the Storyplay concept system together. The interface enables children to initiate calls using icons on a touch screen. Then Elmo listens in, offering comments and questions when the screen is touched. The full report (PDF) is available here.

Webinar to introduce economics coverage tools for stations

Learn how to use audio and video tools, blogs, widgets, maps and apps to improve your station’s economic coverage in today’s Webinar from the National Center for Media Engagement and Public Radio International. It’s a peer-to-peer workshop at 2 p.m. (Eastern) today to introduce the Knowledge Network, a CPB-funded site to assist stations with their coverage of the economy. Sign up here for the Webinar.

NTIA delays announcement of winning broadband stimulus bids

Larry Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, told a congressional subcommittee that the announcement of winning bids for the broadband stimulus program will be delayed by about a month, according to Broadcasting & Cable. “We’re going to take a few more weeks here to get this right,” he told members of the Senate Commerce Committee’s Communications Subcommittee on Tuesday. Many pubcasters have applied for money from the broadband stimulus program (Current, Sept. 21, 2009).

Smiley name is on one school, off another

Pubradio talker Tavis Smiley’s name is being dropped from one institution, but added to another. The Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs will name its new atrium after Smiley, an alum, according to the Indiana Daily Student. He recently donated $50,000 for a scholarship fund for students in that school, in Bloomington. However, Texas Southern University will strip Smiley’s name from its communication school, reports the Houston Chronicle. Smiley had promised in 2004 to donate $1 million and to raise another $1 million, so the university subsequently created the Tavis Smiley School of Communication.

Giddyup to sign up to win a new saddle

A free saddle each month for the next year is coming from Saddle Up with Dennis Brouse. That’s the pubTV series that “celebrates the storied relationship between horse and human,” as it says. Your horse need a new saddle? Sign up for Brouse’s email newsletter to qualify to win a custom saddle from Bronco Billy’s.