Senate committee approves $20 million in funds for PTFP

The Senate Appropriations Committee late yesterday (July 22) okayed $20 million in federal funding for the Public Telecommunications Facilities Program. “For over 40 years, PTFP has ensured that public broadcasters are able to provide the highest quality, reliable, universal service to their local communities, including underserved areas and communities devastated by disasters,” APTS Interim President and CEO Lonna Thompson said in a statement. “APTS looks forward to working with Congress to ensure that this funding remains in the final bill.” In June, Democratic Ohio Rep. Charles Wilson had introduced a bill to kill the funding, which helps pay for construction and infrastructure at stations.

WQED promotes Deborah Acklin to president and CEO

WQED announced today (July 22) the appointment of Deborah Acklin as president and CEO of the Pittsburgh station. She’s currently executive v.p. and COO. She steps into the spot vacated by George Miles Jr., who was at the helm for more than 16 years. She’s won awards including a CINE Golden Eagle and seven Mid-Atlantic Emmys. Her first day is Sept.

Pacifica’s KPFK prepares to revamp its schedule with audience goals in mind

Citing an “urgent need” to make programming changes at Pacifica’s KPFK in Los Angeles, interim p.d. Alan Minsky asked programmers with afternoon, evening and weekend slots to either take steps to increase their audience and fundraising or make room for programs that will. “We have about eight to ten new hours of Mission-driven programming that we believe will dramatically improve our listenership and our fundraising in the coming year,” Minsky writes in a July 21 memo posted on LA Observed. “In order to make room for these new shows, we need some of the underperforming shows to step aside.”

PBS brings onboard new corporate communications veep from AOL

Anne Bentley is joining PBS as vice president of corporate communications, the network announced today (July 21). Among other duties, she will be PBS’s chief corporate spokesperson. Bentley spent 13 years at AOL, most recently as the senior veep of corporate communications at the global Internet services and media company. Prior to AOL, Bentley worked in publishing, creating publicity campaigns for fiction and nonfiction titles including the Nan A. Talese imprint at Doubleday Publishing, Simon & Schuster, Levi Strauss & Co., Time-Life Books, and Viking/Penguin publishers. (Image: PBS)

MPB fires reporter for leaking Fresh Air memo

There’s one more voice that’s off the air of Mississippi Public Broadcasting following the state network’s cancellation of Fresh Air. Carl Gibson, whose first job out of journalism school was covering the state capitol for MPB, was fired on Friday for leaking an internal memo about the state network’s decision to drop the NPR-distributed show. Gibson was just returning from an assignment covering the Gulf Coast oil spill, he said, when controversy over MPB’s cancellation erupted over the blogosphere on July 15. Friends at the Jackson Free Press, the state’s only alternative newspaper, approached Gibson as a source, and he wanted to help them get the story straight, he told Current. The Free Press’s July 16 story points to the discrepancy between MPB Executive Director Judith Lewis’s official statement describing the “careful consideration and review” given to the decision to drop Fresh Air and the email that Gibson leaked, which was written by MPB Radio Director Kevin Farrell shortly after the axe came down.

NewsHour exec moves to president’s post at MacNeil Lehrer Productions

Simon Marks has been named president of MacNeil Lehrer Productions, according to a statement from the program. He’s currently associate executive producer at the production company’s signature show, PBS NewsHour. Marks oversees daily production of the NewsHour broadcast and digital news. He also helped develop and spearheaded the recent integration of the show’s broadcast and online operations (Current, Jan. 11, 2010).

Survey for CPB: Have some journalists working there?

CPB has ordered up a headcount of journalists working at both public TV and radio stations to serve as a baseline for monitoring future employment levels. Station execs will receive questionnaires later this month from a team of consultants working with Public Radio News Directors Inc., hired by CPB to handle the survey. PRNDI hired Michael Marcotte, Ken Mills and Steve Martin to do the survey, working with a research adviser, Hofstra University media-industry scholar Robert Papper. To induce replies by the survey deadline of Aug. 6, the team will give respondents a shot at winning a highly tactile new iPad touch-screen tablet.

NPR vies for coveted seat in White House briefing room

Former White House Correspondent Helen Thomas’s front-row seat in the press briefing room is up for grabs and NPR wants it. In a July 14 letter to the White House Correspondents Association board of directors, NPR Managing Editor David Sweeney makes his case: “Our audience size, national and international reach, presence at the daily briefings, regular service in the radio pool rotation and on White House travel . . . all testify to our place among the premier news organizations covering the White House.”

Bill would give broadcasters some spectrum auction cash, set annual fees on existing use

Under legislation introduced Monday (July 19) in the Senate, broadcasters would share in the proceeds of a spectrum auction, according to TVNewsCheck. In the Spectrum Measurement and Policy Reform Act, put forward by Communications Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), the Federal Communications Commission would determine how auction proceeds would be allocated between license holders and the government. The legislation would also authorize the Commerce Department to set annual fees on existing spectrum users based “on the fair market commercial value of that spectrum” as determined by the FCC. The government sees the auction as a way to clear spectrum space needed for the increasing number of wireless devices (Current, Feb. 8, 2010).

PBS’s Kerger to chair November International Emmy Awards

PBS President Paula Kerger is gala chair for this November’s International Emmy Awards Nov. 22 in New York City, reports The 38th annual awards presented by the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences honor work in 10 categories.

UNC-TV reporter issues statement on Alcoa investigation controversy

The reporter behind the controversy over PBS affiliate UNC-TV releasing pre-broadcast footage and reporting docs to the North Carolina state legislature spoke out on Friday (July 16). In a statement, Eszter Vajda said: “This is why I became a journalist … to bring information to the public that they don’t have, to arm them with information that sometimes is kept from them on purpose.” She said the story, on Alcoa’s request to renew its license on several hydroelectric dams, “deals with the relationship between big business, people and the environment.”After a state legislative committee investigating Alcoa’s license renewal request declared UNC-TV a “state agency,” Alcoa then demanded, via the state’s open records laws, that the station furnish it all the reporter’s materials on the story dating to January 2008. A station spokesman said its attorneys are currently reviewing the request.

Tribe donates $6 million to California affiliate for first 24-hour Native channel

KVCR-TV in San Bernardino, Calif., has received a $6 million donation from the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians to fund the nation’s first full-time Native American channel, reports the Desert Sun newspaper. “We fully anticipate this channel to become a model for public television programming across the country,” said Larry Ciecalone, president of the PBS affiliate. James Ramos, chairman of the San Manuel Band, said the channel supports the tribe’s mission of “eradicating stereotypes that often stem from inaccurate depictions of American Indians in commercial television.” He said content will be Native-produced film and television, providing potential work for actors and storytellers. The donation will come in three installments of $2 million over the first three years of the channel, called First Voices.

Fans wait for hours to meet “Red Green” in West Virginia hardware store

“The Red Green Show” fans Kerry Comerford and his longtime partner, Brooke Parker, left their home Berkeley Springs, W.Va., for their first overnight away in 25 years and drove five hours to meet their quirky pubTV fave character, currently on his “Wit & Wisdom” tour, in Charleston on Sunday (July 18). The two never get away as they have horses and other farm animals to tend. But that day they were among a massive crowd that waited at Zeeger Hardware in Charleston, Va., for hours to meet Steve Smith, the Canadian who plays the “handyman hero” on the show, reports the Charleston Daily Mail. As fan Bill Riffle of Charleston told the paper: “He’s just like us. Who else but a West Virginian would be a member of the Possum Lodge?”

Production U to teach high-schoolers TV content skills

Production U, a new two-week media camp for high-school students, kicks off Aug. 2 off at PBS 39 in Bethehem, Pa., reports Lehigh Valley Live. “In public television, a huge mission of ours is to educate people,” said Amy Burkett, station senior veep of production. “The thing I’m most passionate about is television and I want to share that passion and education with the next generation of television producers.” The students will shadow producers, as well as write, shoot, edit and act in a 15-minute teen-oriented newscast to be shown online.

Knight-Batten Awards for innovations in journalism

ProPublica, The Takeaway and Ushahidi Haiti, a crowdsourcing crisis map created in response to the massive earthquake in January, each received 2010 Knight-Batten Awards of Special Distinction. The awards, selected by an advisory board, honor innovative journalistic collaborations that “foster unique levels of digital engagement,” according to J-Lab, which administers the awards. ProPublica was lauded for advancing the craft and practice of crowdsourcing; the Takeaway for its use of text-messaging to collect tips from residents in a Detroit neighborhood; and Ushahidi Haiti for its rapid and multi-layered efforts responding to disaster-relief needs in Haiti. Cash prizes of $1,000 go to winners of Special Distinction Awards; the Grand Prize of $10,000 went to Sunlight Live. Notable Entries also cited by the judges for innovation were from NPR, PBS NewsHour, New Hampshire Public Radio and WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, among others.

PEG channel conference shows move toward “community media centers”

An often-overlooked corner of the evolving pubmedia ecosystem hides PEG access (public access, educational, government) channels. But the recent conference of the Alliance for Community Media PEG advocacy group revealed the trend that more of the channels are transforming into “community media centers” to further their public-service mission, write Bill Densmore and Colin Rhinesmith at the New America Foundation blog Sustaining Democracy in a Digital Age. The support once required from the cable industry is fading away; cities including Los Angeles and Las Vegas have totally pulled the plug. But the Web offers low-cost (or free) ways to deliver information to Web-savvy citizens, PEG supporters say.Part of the discussion at the confab focused on that growing use of online media — and the concern it raises regarding audiences with no access to the Web. One solution may be inspired by Access Sacramento’s “hyperlocal news bureaus” in libraries and other community spaces to serve as a bridge between those online and those yet to be trained.

Dayton-Cincinnati merger results in five full-time job cuts

Five staffers have been due to the ongoing merger between PBS affiliates CET in Cincinnati and ThinkTV in Dayton, Ohio, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The two have been operating together since 2008 as Public Media Connect Inc., headed by president David Fogarty. “We’re going through changes with staff realignments and technical operations,” in both cities, he told the newspaper. CET’s signal is now being sent from Dayton. All channel monitoring and program traffic are done there for both.

KQED expands local news for radio, Web audiences

San Francisco’s KQED is adding weekday newscasts to its FM station and as on-demand audio on its website, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “These will be the first local news-only reports on KQED-FM in several years and will air on the half hour from 6:04 a.m. to noon and at 4:33 p.m. The two minutes of air time will be subtracted from the NPR newscasts that precede them,” the Chronicle reports. The expanded news service launched this morning; a blog reporting breaking news, News Fix, rolls out next month.

Public Broadcasting Act of 1967

Public Law 90-129, 90th Congress, November 7, 1967 (as amended to April 26, 1968)
This law was enacted less than 10 months after the report of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Broadcasting. The act initiates federal aid to the operation (as opposed to funding capital facilities) of public broadcasting. Provisions include:

extend authorization of the earlier Educational Television Facilities Act,
forbid educational broadcasting stations to editorialize or support or oppose political candidates,
establish the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and defines its board,
defines its purposes,
authorize reduced telecommunications rates for its interconnection,
authorize appropriations to CPB, and
authorize a federal study of instructional television and radio. Title I—Construction of Facilities
Extension of duration of construction grants for educational broadcasting

Sec. 101.