Years later, columnist still thinks NPR is a “cultish echo chamber”

The Miami Herald’s columnist Glen Garvin recently came across a piece he wrote in June 1993 bashing NPR. Now he writes: “NPR remains a cultish echo chamber with a tiny audience anchored in a dying medium, funded almost entirely with money extorted from taxpayers. Other than that, public radio is great.” Here’s the original 7,300-word column that ran in the Chicago Reader.

“The Old Scout” steps aside, for now

Garrison Keillor is taking a hiatus. Nope, not from pubradio’s popular Prairie Home Companion, but rather from “The Old Scout,” his weekly newspaper column. The Star Tribune in Minneapolis says Keillor told his syndicator, Tribune Media Services, that he wants to complete a screenplay and start writing a novel. No word on when he’ll return to his newspaper writing.

N.C. college station hopes to become the latest NPR affiliate

The radio station at Gaston College in Dallas, N.C., is beginning the process of becoming an NPR affiliate, according to the Gaston Gazette. The catalyst, officials at the community college say, was losing a state grant when the Legislature zeroed out college radio funding this year. Fundraisers weren’t bringing in enough money to WSGE and the college had to make up the shortfall. The station has applied for a CPB grant that would help pay for becoming an NPR affiliate; it will hear on that in July.

Kerger signs on for three more years at PBS

PBS CEO Paula Kerger has inked another three-year contract, according to PBS. No word on salary. According to a 2009 survey of nonprofits by the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Kerger was making $534,500 at the end of fiscal 2008, up from $424,209 in 2007. During 2008 she had $60,198 in benefits and an expense account of $11,225.

Uproar in Charlottesville over pubradio format change

A change in format at WTJU, the University of Virginia pubradio station in Charlottesville, is the subject of dueling forums, a walkout by a longtime DJ and an upcoming town hall meeting. The furor began, according to the C-Ville arts and news site, when new g.m. Burr Beard sent an internal e-mail describing “The All New Consistent and Reliable WTJU.” The station currently plays an eclectic mixture of music selected by DJs. The proposal would drop the number of weekly hours for rock and jazz and institute a rotation of four songs per hour, chosen by department directors from 20 releases and electronically placed on a DJ’s program log for airplay each hour. All this has not gone over well with DJ’s, notes C-Ville.

WV pubcasters seeking permission for staffers to work pledge drives

The West Virginia governor’s office is attempting to determine whether Educational Broadcasting Authority employees can still participate in on-air pledge drives for West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the Charleston Gazette is reporting. A recent legislative audit determined that pubcasting staff should not provide services for the network’s two fundraising nonprofs, the Public Broadcasting Foundation and the Friends of Public Broadcasting. Friends organizations supporting pubcasting in both West Virginia and Florida have recently come under scrutiny (Current, June 21, 2010). The groups give pubcasters more flexibility and speed in purchasing and contracting than government procedures usually permit and they can pay for programming or other mission-related activities that the stations couldn’t otherwise afford.

Vegas PBS opens $60 million facility

Vegas PBS’s $60 million Educational Technology Campus was dedicated Monday (June 28), reports the Las Vegas Business Press. The 112,000-square-foot facility houses operations and production for the station, as well as the Clark County School District’s Virtual High School and educational media database. “Our role in the community as a local media company is to work with organizations to empower them through the use of the technologies and the distribution networks we have,” said g.m. Tom Axtell. Vegas PBS has seven broadcast channels and oversees six closed-circuit channels, and a Homeland Security database of building blueprints for police and fire departments to access during civil emergencies. KLVX is the first totally “green” television station in the United States or Canada to seek LEED gold certification for its facilities (Current, Jan.

Al Rose

Al Rose, 70

Albert E. Rose, former program director of New Jersey Network and later the program distributor who brought nightly British news programs to U.S. public TV, died of lung cancer June 16, 2010, at a hospice in Newtown, Pa.

NJ Senate okays study of NJN assets as part of break from state

The New Jersey Senate today (June 28) approved a study of New Jersey Network’s assets and its plan to break from the state, is reporting. Under the legislation, a panel would investigate the value of equipment and licenses held by dual pubcasting licensee NJN, and ascertain if it could operate as an independent nonprofit without state funding. The network’s state support in fiscal 2011, beginning July 1, falls to $1.98 million from $3.9 million in FY10. Howard Blumenthal, NJN’s interim executive director, wanted the stations to go independent July 1 (his plan, PDF). The network has been asking for independence as far back as 2008 (Current, May 12, 2008).

Pubmedia trust fund hopes dim after White House announces broadband plans

The administration’s fast-track plan for broadband spectrum reallocation does not include the much-anticipated public media trust fund created by auction proceeds (background, Current, Feb. 8, 2010). A four-point White House fact sheet released today (June 28) for the media says auction revenue instead will be used to “promote public safety, job-creating infrastructure investment and deficit reduction.” In a statement (PDF), Federal Communications Chairman Julius Genachowski endorsed President Obama’s plan, including the spectrum auction “generating revenue to fund a world-class mobile broadband network for our nation’s emergency responders.” Neither the White House memo nor FCC statement specifically mentioned public broadcasting.However, the National Broadband Plan did, recommending that “Congress should consider dedicating all the proceeds from the auctioned spectrum contributed by public broadcasters to endow a trust fund for the production, distribution and archiving of digital public media.

Vermont gets new chief content officer

Vermont Public Television has hired Kathryn A. Scott as its chief content officer, the Burlington Free-Press reports. “I am doing my level best to stimulate the local economy through the purchase of a new car and some new appliances,” Scott quipped. She produced American Public Media’s Weekend America from 2005 to ’07, and Sound Money from ’02 to ’05. In the 1990s she was series producer for Newton’s Apple on PBS. She’s also produced news and docs for USA Today on TV, Discovery and Tech TV News.

Benazir Bhutto’s sister to introduce ITVS bio film at Washington premiere

A rare appearance by Sanam Bhutto, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s sister and only living sibling, will open the Washington, D.C., premiere of ITVS’s biographical doc “Bhutto” Tuesday (June 29). Also speaking will be Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States; and CPB’s CEO Pat Harrison. PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff will lead a post-screening discusssion and audience Q&A with the film’s director Duane Baughman and producer Mark Siegel. “Bhutto” has its national broadcast premiere in March 2011 on PBS’s Independent Lens in honor of Women’s History Month.

Once again, PBS brings home most Creative Arts Daytime Emmys

PBS cleaned up at the Creative Arts Daytime Emmy Awards Friday (June 25). The network led nominations with 53, and topped winners with 16. Electric Company scored five, including for new approach to children’s programming. Perennial fave Sesame Street was honored with seven; that included a tie for acting. And Avec Eric’s graphic design took a statuette.

WBUR-FM takes the lead in Boston pubradio face-off

WBUR 90.9 has taken a big, early lead in the news-radio battle of WBUR and WGBH, reports the Boston Herald. Arbiton said it scored a 4.8 share of Boston listeners in January, 4.5 in February, 4.1 in March and 4.5 in April. WGBH, meanwhile, drew a 1.0 in January, 1.2 in February, 1.5 in March and 1.0 in April. WBUR is 11th in the market; WGBH, 23rd. The rivalry began last Dec.

RFP seeks ideas for series to diversify PBS audience

The first RFP for the new CPB/PBS Diversity & Innovation Fund will lead to production of one or more 10-episode x 60-minute primetime weekly series that would help make public TV’s audience  younger (40-64) and more diverse than today. Proposals are due Sept. 15.The grantmakers plan to choose several applicants in December to make pilots. After showing the pilots online, one or more of the projects will get production money. The RFP, posted this week at, says the programs could fit in several popular nonfiction genres but not drama, public affairs or children’s programming.

New leader Susan Howarth arrives in Tampa

The new head of WEDU in Tampa, Fla., wants to focus on creating more local online programming, reports Tampa Bay Online. Susan Howarth, who helped launch the video-centric while president of Cincinnati’s pubTV station (Current, Feb. 19, 2008), has 35 years experience at seven public television stations. She has “lots of ideas but I didn’t come down here with any preconceived notions,” Howarth noted. Former station President Dick Lobo, who announced his retirement in late 2009, has agreed to stay on during the transition.

Visit his headlines blog, get Baltimore news, and be sure to sing along

WYPR’s local Morning Edition host Nathan Sterner in Baltimore (Balmer, to you natives) might be the only pubcaster out there with a theme song for his headlines blog. He’s run it a few times on the air to promote the blog, where he links to station segments as well as stories from other local media. Baltimore filmmaker Chris LaMartina composed the song and quite deftly rhymed “Sterner” with “back burner.”

And now, in pubcasting sports news . . .

ThirTeam, the aptly named softball team from Thirteen/, is on a roll, reveling in three consecutive wins — 13-6, 15-8, 9-8. The players are current and former employees of the New York City station. “It’s allowed us to stay connected with each other,” said Joe Basile, director of program rights and clearances, who has been playing for ThirTeam since it formed in 2004. A few team members and their departments, from left: Manny Santiago, network technologies; Austin Traina, tech support; Christine O’Brien, schedule operations; Ryan DeWitt, research; Dean Li, local corporate marketing; and Basile. (Image:

NPR’s latest iPhone app: a new vehicle for sharing music

A new NPR app for iPhone users launched last night. “[W]ith the NPR Music app for the iPhone, we have another crucial new vehicle for sharing music with our audience,” writes Anya Grundmann, e.p. of the multi-genre music website, on the Inside NPR blog. The app’s launch coincides with release of Apple’s newest iPhone, but the software also works on 3GS iPhones and the iPod Touch. It has multitasking capabilities that allow users to listen to audio while doing other things with their iPhones. A New York Times feature on the growing popularity of NPR Music, pegged to the app release, reports that traffic to the website hit 1.7 million unique users in May.

Charleston Gazette: Private nonprofits protect WVPB from politics

Who should control the private monies raised to support West Virginia Public Broadcasting? Not the administration of Governor Joe Manchin, according to editorial writers for the Charleston Gazette. In an editorial published yesterday, the newspaper questions why private donations and CPB grant monies have been transferred from the pubcasting network’s sister foundation into state accounts and says the state legislative auditor, who has called for greater regulation of pubcasting monies, has it all wrong. “Frankly, we think it’s great for public radio and public TV–the realm of Beethoven symphonies and Masterpiece Theater–to be partly independent, free from politics. It would be dismal for them to be regular state agencies like the Division of Motor Vehicles of Division of Highways.”