Pledge promotions “shameful,” Fanning says

Influential pubcaster David Fanning, Frontline e.p., had harsh words on what he sees as the growing commercialism in pubcasting during his James L. Loper Lecture in Public Service Broadcasting at the Annenberg School for Communication. One evening after he’d spoken at a station fundraiser, he recalled, “I was scrolling through the channels when I came across a shopping channel with a dubious doctor selling nutritional supplements. I was interested in a perversely fascinated way as he promised all sorts of remedies, including — and I’m not exaggerating here — results for cancer sufferers. And then the shot changed to a woman with him who said that if you bought these supplements you’d be making a donation to . .

American Archive project unearths surprises at WQED

WQED in Pittsburgh, one of 22 pubcasting stations participating in phase two of CPB’s American Archive Pilot Program, is uncovering a treasure trove of old programming, reports the Post-Gazette. There are interviews with baseball exec Branch Rickey, who integrated the game; Eleanor Roosevelt; and jazz legend Louis Armstrong. The station received $100,000 to digitize and preserve valuable footage.

Political writer barred from KERA debate

“Snarky” blog postings by Paul Burka, senior executive editor of the Texas Monthly, disqualify him as a panelist for next month’s televised debate between Republican gubernatorial candidates Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Gov. Rick Perry, a spokeswoman for Dallas’s KERA-TV tells the Texas Tribune. KERA, chief sponsor of the debate among several media outlets, invited the magazine to appoint a panelist, just not Burka; the magazine declined to send anyone and dropped out as a sponsor. The Tribune suggests that Hutchinson’s campaign leaned on KERA to ban Burka, who has been “a fixture” in the state’s political debates since the late 1980s. “We were dismayed at what they decided to do, and surprised, given Paul Burka’s involvement in past debates,” Texas Monthly Editor Jake Silverstein tells the Tribune. “We stand behind everything he does, and we consider his voice our voice on Texas politics.”

NPR’s Android app now available for download

The NPR News app for Google’s Android mobile platform, announced earlier this month, has gone live. Mashable has already taken it for a test-run: “[T]he Android version of NPR News is very similar to its iPhone counterpart. Most of the menu designations are the same and most of the layout options are similar.” The biggest missing feature is the live streaming function: “You can listen to archived programs, but live-streaming and tuning in to live stations won’t be available until spring 2010.”

Thomas to exit Etsy next month

Former NPR digital media chief Maria Thomas is leaving Etsy, the online marketplace for hand-crafted goods that she has run as chief executive since 2008. Founder Rob Kalin will takeover as c.e.o. in January. It’s not clear why Thomas is leaving. In a blog post announcing the change, Kalin wrote that the company has become profitable under her leadership. “Maria helped us reach this major milestone….Her long experience and business skills were hugely helpful.”

Comic book reveals listening preferences of mutant antiheroes

What else would Marvel Comics stars Wolverine, a Canadian mutant who has sideburns and retractable claws, and Nightcrawler, a German Catholic mutant who has a tail, listen to during a road trip? In the comic “Nation X #1,” the X-Men’s ears are glued to WBEZ-produced This American Life, as revealed by news producer Hunter Clauss in a blog for WBEZ’s sister station, Vocalo. Current has determined that they are listening to a towering achievement of self-deprecatory humor in which TAL’s staff takes blood tests and finds that even some of the women have more testosterone than Ira Glass. (The stuff is poison, anyway!) Wolverine and Nightcrawler do not acknowledge the subject. They are shown staring straight ahead at the highway, as mutant guys always do.Andrew Gill, a Vocalo web producer, followed up with James Asmus, author of the Marvel comic, who confirmed: “I’m a huge TAL fan (NPR in general), so when trying to depict the warm and wistfully quiet moments in a road trip, it felt like the perfect way to set the mood.” Nightcrawler has listened to TAL for years, Asmus says, and introduced Wolverine to the show.

PBS signs up for full-time Nielsens

PBS announced today that for the first time, it has subscribed to full-time Nielsen ratings, reports the New York Times. The ratings will provide weekly numbers only. Andrew Russell, a senior v.p. for PBS Ventures, told the paper that monthly ratings were no longer satisfying marketers, who want shorter time frames for sponsorships and more information on viewership. The subscription started tracking numbers with National Parks: America’s Best Idea in September. That reached an average of 5.5 million viewers over its six-night run.

Tweet away, pubmedia brainstormers

Want to talk public media 140 characters at a time with like-minded thinkers? Use the Twitter #pubmedia hashtag to join in the discussion. Idea comes from Jessica Clark of the Center for Social Media at American University.

Thumbs up and down from viewers on new PBS Newshour

Comments are coming in to the PBS ombudsman regarding the transformation of PBS NewsHour into a more nimble and multiplatform program. Viewpoints range from appreciation of its “new briskness” to disappointment that “it comes across as a canned program.” Also, thoughts from viewers on specific NewsHour reports including climate change.

PBS shows take 18 CINE Golden Eagles

PBS programs have won 18 CINE Golden Eagle Awards, presented twice a year to recognize work of filmmakers, videographers, producers, directors and other craftspeople in the film, television, and new media industries. Among the winners are Sesame Street, American Masters, four for Nova (including “Ocean Animal Emergency,” above) and a MacNeil/Lehrer doc. WCTE-TV/Two Six Inc., serving the north-central area of Tennessee, also scored an Eagle for Tuba U: Basso Profundo. Full list of winners here.

Bohdan and Paul talked sneakers

How the Beatles Rocked the Kremlin is bringing back some McCartney memories for KCET programming guru Bohdan Zachary. Turns out he actually chatted with Paul McCartney — yes, gabbed, in person, for several minutes, with THE Paul McCartney — backstage at a 1976 Wings Over the World Tour concert stop at Madison Square Garden. A buddy of his was a longtime friend of Paul’s wife Linda. As Linda and his friend caught up, Zachary and the former Beatle visited. “First, he complimented me on my ‘cool shoes’ (old sneakers I’d hand painted) and engaged me in conversation all about me,” Zachary recalls.

Local Community Radio Act passes House

The House yesterday approved the Local Community Radio Act, which would effectively remove channel-spacing regs that have previously blocked new low power FM stations in urban areas (Current, Sept. 20). Reclaim the Media reports that the Act “would allow for the creation of hundreds, possibly thousands, of new, low power FM radio stations dedicated to broadcasting community news and local perspectives to neighborhoods across the country.” The Senate version has been okayed by the Commerce Committee, but a full Senate vote has not been scheduled.

Film, radio producers among United States Artists fellows

Frequent producers for public radio Scott Carrier of Salt Lake City (Hearing Voices), and Elizabeth Meister and Dan Collison of Three Oaks, Mich. (Long Haul Productions), were among 50 individuals named United States Artists fellows for 2009. Also three film/video producers: Cruz Angeles of New York (Sundance 2009 debut Don’t Let Me Drown), Charles Burnett of Los Angeles (first episode of The Blues, Killer of Sheep), Heather Courtney of Austin, Texas (Los Trabajadores on Independent Lens) and Renée Tajima-Peña of Los Angeles (Calavera Highway on P.O.V., 2008). Each will receive an unrestricted $50,000 grant. United States Artists was founded in 2005 in response to a finding of an Urban Institute study that 96 percent of Americans appreciate the arts but only 27 percent believe that artists contribute to the good of society.

Biden announces first broadband stimulus grants today

Eighteen broadband stimulus projects in 17 states worth $182 million will be announced today by Vice President Joseph Biden in Dawsonville, Ga. Public broadcasters are among the many nonprofit and commercial entities vying for the funds (Current, Sept. 21) in four categories: middle mile, to build or improve high-speed connections to communities; last mile, connecting users to their community’s broadband infrastructure; public computing, to expand computer centers; and sustainable broadband, for projects that promote broadband demand. UPDATE: No public broadcasting projects announced in this round. Biggest single grant this time is $39.7 million with $9.9 million in matching funds, to Albany, N.Y.-based ION Hold Co., for 10 middle-mile fiber optic segments in 70 rural communities in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

Salary and funding woes hit WLIU’s new owner

Peconic Public Broadcasting, the new owner of WLIU 88.3 in Southampton, N.Y., could not pay most employees this month. And despite an impressive list of supporters for the station, large donations previously promised have not yet materialized, reports the Southampton Press. Station manager Wally Smith said Peconic didn’t expect to have to cover payroll this month as per its transfer agreement with former owner Long Island University. Smith expects the station will meet full payroll for its 13-person staff after the new year. “There’s nothing unusual about the fact that there are rough patches,” Smith told the paper, which referred to the “complicated transfer of the station” that is expected to be completed in early January.

Might AARP’s first Spanish-language show come to PBS?

AARP Broadcast, a media arm of the nation’s largest membership organization for adults 50 and older, just shot a pilot of Viva su Segunda Juventud, its first Spanish-language show, reports Multichannel News. There’s no distributor yet and an AARP spokesperson declined further comment to that reporter. Is the new program perhaps PBS-bound? AARP Broadcast currently produces two half-hour titles that aired on Retirement Living TV in 2009 but will be distributed to pubTV stations by Maryland Public Television starting in 2010. The partnership is a good fit, considering the pedigrees of both the shows’ hosts: On Inside E Street it’s Sheilah Kast of WYPR in Baltimore, and on My Generation it’s Cynthia Steele Vance, a WETA trustee and former pubcasting reporter.

Watchdog group urges public to petition PBS on Moyers and Now replacements

Fairness & Accuracy in Media, a national news watchdog organization tracking bias and censorship, is encouraging the public to sign a petition urging PBS to replace the departing public affairs programs Bill Moyers Journal and PBS Now with “similarly thoughtful shows” that continue the tradition of “hard-hitting, independent programming that should thrive on public television.” It adds: “What replaces those programs will be a test of its commitment to the very foundations of public broadcasting itself.” Here’s a link to the petition.

PBS Teachers offers new classroom resources on economic, financial issues

PBS Teachers is giving instructors a way to help students become more economically and financially literate through its new Access, Analyze and Act project. It’s a unique collection of educational digital media resources focused on the economy. According to a statement today from PBS, Eight lessons plans offer real-world case studies on four economic topics that explore economic and financial issues from a young person’s point of view. There’s an introduction on the site by PBS Now host and senior editor David Brancaccio encouraging teachers to make the study of economics a personal story, and a video appearance by Michael Mandel, chief economist for BusinessWeek.