PBS North to premiere mental-health series tonight

An ambitious 18-part series of call-in shows on mental health premieres tonight (Sept. 30), produced by WDSE/WRPT PBS North, serving northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin. The 30-minute Speak Your Mind, airing Thursday nights, aims to openly discuss mental health topics, increase public awareness and reduce the stigma of mental illness. It’s hosted by psychologist Dr. Caroline Phelps and former local news anchor Pat Kelly. Topics include depression, managing stress, family issues, learning and behavioral problems in children, anxiety and eating disorders.For 28 years the station has done Doctors on Call “to give the community the language they need to communicate with their doctors,” Juli Kellner, WDSE director of production and programming, told Current.

STEM Collaborative joins four pubTV stations in middle-school work

Four pubTV stations are joining in a STEM Collaborative to help middle-schoolers in science, technology, engineering and math, the stations announced today (Sept. 30). But this is no dry and dull initiative. Students will use geometry, algebra and proportional reasoning to build a skateboard ramp, measure a roller coaster, whip up recipes and plan a rock n’ roll tour. Maryland Public Television, Alabama Public Television, Arkansas Educational Television Network and Kentucky Educational Television will develop the digital-media projects.

Still no decisions for New Jersey Network

New Jersey Network staffers, state officials, professors from Princeton and Rutgers, civic and union leaders and viewers and listeners spoke Wednesday (Sept. 29) in Trenton at yet another hearing on the future of NJN, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. The paper quipped that the 11-plus hours of testimony “were as static and repetitive as the network’s nightly programming.” After the hearing, the 10-member task force seemed no closer to deciding how to wean the network from its state subsidy (Current, July 6). They’re facing a Dec.

PBS, other broadcasters suing TV programming provider ivi

Several major broadcasters, including PBS, and other content providers filed a lawsuit in New York federal district court against ivi TV on Tuesday (Sept. 28), alleging copyright infringement, reports Broadcasting & Cable. ivi sells an app that allows subscribers to watch programming as broadcast from various stations for $4.99 a month. It says it can do so because it is an online cable provider but does not fall under the definition of a cable system as far as the need to negotiate retransmission consent from individual stations. The signals from WNET/Thirteen in New York City and KCTS in Seattle are being broadcast by ivi, which uses a teaser on its website that says, “Watch the Berenstain Bears on PBS!”

Knight-sponsored courtroom project considers transparency vs. privacy

WBUR’s Order in the Court 2.0, winner of a $250,000 Knight News Challenge grant, is working to set best practices for effective ways to cover courts using digital technology. It’s moving ahead to create an area in the Quincy (Mass.) District Court for live blogging and live-streaming of the court’s proceedings, along with a website for its daily docket. But all this raises issues of privacy vs. public interest. Project creator John Davidow, also exec director of WBUR.org, writes on MediaShift that he and his team met last week with Judge Andre Gelinas, a retired justice on the Massachusetts Appeals Court who is now special adviser to the chief justice for administration and management for information technology.

PBS viewers continue cleavage debate

The Great Sesame Street Katy Perry Cleavage Kerfuffle continues, with Team Perry taking the lead. PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler said that after an initial spate of disapproving letters, “mail to me is running heavily in favor of Katy and her dress.” That would be the golden bustier-topped frock that sparked all this in the first place. (Check it out on YouTube, where her perky dance with Elmo is up to 4.3 million views.) One letter to Getler summed up the vibe: “Get a grip, prudes.”And speaking of cleavage, did you see Perry’s now-notorious Elmo shirt sketch on the season premiere of Saturday Night Live? That video’s up to 2 million hits.

Pacific Islanders’ “One Voice” takes to the skies

A 15-minute segment of One Voice, the latest doc from Minority Consortia group Pacific Islanders in Communications (PIC), is soaring high over the Pacific this month on Hawaiian Airlines. It’s featured on the airline’s “Hawaiian Skies” in-flight programming. The movie tells the story of the Kamehameha Schools Song Contest through its student directors. Every year, around 2,000 high schoolers compete in the competition, where teen leaders direct groups in Hawaiian four-part harmonies. The movie’s local Facebook followers who correctly answer weekly trivia questions on the song contest win prizes and are eligible for a two-night stay at the Waikiki Beach Hotel for the Hawaii International Film Festival screening of One Voice on Oct.

After three extensions, Peconic meets deadline with cash to buy WLIU’s independence

With the help of $300,000 from two major donors and a bank loan of up to $337,000, WLIU-FM management is now prepared to buy the station’s independence from longtime licensee Long Island University. The new nonprofit licensee, Peconic Public Broadcasting, said today it assembled the remaining $637,000 of the purchase price. Earlier this year, Peconic came up with a $213,000 down payment. Six supporters guaranteed the $300,000 loan from Bridgehampton National Bank. Peconic plans to pay down the loan with its ongoing capital campaign.

State broadcasting group takes precautions for Vegas PBS live campaign debate

Vegas PBS will produce the only live televised debate in the extremely contentious race between U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and GOP challenger Sharron Angle. And the Nevada Broadcasters Association is already ramping up security for the Oct. 14 event, reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During the last campaign event Faith Lutheran High School, a fistfight broke out in the audience. Bob Fisher, president of the state association, said it is limiting each candidate to 12 accompanying persons instead of 40 to accommodate security as well as local, national and international media requests to cover the debate.

NewsHour announces new science unit under former CNNer Miles O’Brien

PBS NewsHour isn’t resting on its recent Emmy laurels. It’s hired former CNN reporter Miles O’Brien to head a new science unit, reports the Associated Press. He’ll be joined by producer Kate Tobin, also from CNN, and reporter Jenny Marder, reassigned from the NewsHour’s national affairs unit. O’Brien left CNN in 2008 when the network disbanded its science and technology unit. NewsHour’s science unit is being funded through a $350,000 grant from two foundations and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Ten Indian stations among 31 signal expansion projects aided by NTIA

Thirty-one projects got matching Public Telecommunications Facilities Program grants to bring first public radio or TV service to a total of 500,000 people. Ten new stations will serve Indian reservations. Others will broadcast to communities as large as Honolulu, Portland (Maine) and Philadelphia. In all, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced yesterday it will spend $20.45 million in this year’s grant round. NTIA committed $10 million for equipment replacement at 72 stations, $5.1 million for starting new stations and extending service, and $4.1 million for converting station facilities to digital — 16 in TV and three in radio.

Harvard professor who helped develop Sesame Workshop model dies at 84

Former Harvard professor and chairman of the Children’s Television Workshop’s board of advisors, Gerald Lesser, died Sept. 23, according to the Harvard Crimson. He was 84. His tenure with the Workshop, forerunner of Sesame Workshop, lasted from 1969 to 1996.  “He was instrumental in building the Sesame Workshop model, which was the bringing together of educators and researchers to work directly on a production process,” said Charlotte Cole, vice president of international education, research, and outreach at Sesame Workshop. “They were actually members of the production team.” Lesser had a great sense of humor, recalled Joseph Blatt, his former student and now director of Harvard education school’s technology, innovation, and education masters program.

Independent Filmmaker confab session definitely not “butt-clenchingly boring”

POV Series Producer Yance Ford moderated last week’s (Sept. 19-23) Independent Filmmaker Conference panel with the intriguing title, “Cage Match: Filmmaking or Social Activism?” Journalist Tom Roston reports on the POV blog that in the session, Nick Fraser of BBC Storyville lamented the sorry state of the documentary medium, blaming funders for no appreciation for form, aesthetics, storytelling, or, as he put it, anything that is not “butt-clenchingly boring.” But wait, Fraser wasn’t done: “Doc makers are so desperate that if [Nazi Joseph] Goebbels was providing funding, there’d be a queue lined up around the block.” As Roston quipped, “Fraser led by example by showing that a panel about documentary film can indeed be entertaining and a hell of a lot of fun.”

Former NPR voice Ketzel Levine goes to the dogs

When NPR correspondent Ketzel Levine was laid off in 2008 after 30 years with the network, “the shock left me numb,” she writes. “The numbness was a blessing. Until it wore off.” Now the network’s former Doyenne of Dirt has shifted her attention from nurturing plants to saving animals, she reveals in the latest All Animals magazine from the Humane Society of the United States. Several months ago, Levine says, she decided to travel to Ecuador — because she knew nothing about it.

PBS takes third place in News and Documentary Emmy Awards

In what the Hollywood Reporter is calling “an upset,” both CBS and NBC beat out PBS, the usual top winner, for most News and Documentary Emmys at last night’s (Sept. 27) ceremonies. CBS won seven; NBC, six; and PBS, five.Nevertheless, PBS was well represented during the evening. The prestigious Chairman’s Award went to the PBS NewsHour. Roger Mudd, former Washington correspondent for CBS News, NBC News and the McNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS, presented the award to Robert MacNeil, Jim Lehrer, longtime executive producer Les Crystal, and current executive producer Linda Winslow.

“Smiley & West” partners up pubcaster and Harvard professor

Public broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Princeton professor Cornel West are co-hosting the new radio show Smiley & West, premiering Oct. 1. The program was announced Sunday (Sept. 26) at the Public Radio Programming Conference in Denver. On the weekly hourlong PRI offering, Smiley and West will talk current affairs, politics and cultural news, especially focusing on stories not covered by the mainstream media.

Imagine all the people!

The American Masters presentation of “LENNONYC” will have a free screening on Oct. 9, which would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday, in New York City’s Central Park. Onstage Sept. 24 to announce the event were New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono and Neal Shapiro, c.e.o. of WNET/Thirteen. The screening will be at 7 p.m. (grounds open at 6) at Rumsey Playfield near the 69th Street and Fifth Avenue entrance, rain or shine.“LENNONYC,” written and directed by Michael Epstein and executive produced by Susan Lacy, premiered at the New York Film Festival on Sept.

Public media for young Angelenos: it’s more than news

“For our target audience, entertainment is the gateway drug to news,” said Nicole Childers of L.A. Public Media (LAPM) when she unveiled LA>Forward, the first content offering of Radio Bilingue’s service for a new generation of young adults in Los Angeles. Childers, chief content officer of the CPB-backed start-up, presented the website and the research that informed its design Sept. 24 during a session at Public Radio Program Directors conference in Denver. The multimedia website launched Sept. 16 with coverage of news, entertainment and sports–key topics defined during seven months of research led by Paragon Media Strategies.

Library discovers film gems in PBS collection, turns over copies to British Film Institute

The Library of Congress is turning over to the British Film Institute more than 68 rare recordings from 1957 to 1969 that were discovered in the Library’s National Educational Television Collection, reports the Government Video website. NET was the forerunner to PBS. PBS had donated its film and video holdings, some 20,000 reels, to the library through WNET/Thirteen in New York. For many years, NET imported a host of British teleplays and comedies — still popular on PBS today. One gem that is typical of the collection: Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens in “Much Ado About Nothing,” stage-directed by Franco Zeffirelli, from 1967.