Guam PBS audit by government agency sets goal of transferring to community licensee

Guam’s Office of Public Accountabilty has released an audit of PBS Guam (PDF) that sets a longterm goal of converting it to a community licensee “to alleviate dependency on the government of Guam.” Government of Guam appropriations, 38 percent of station revenues, increased from $596,000 in fiscal 2009 to $610,000 in FY10.The audit shows a revenue decline of $2.6 million due primarily to a one-time $2.5 million grant to purchase and install a digital tower in 2009. The station also ended FY10 with a decrease in net assets of $204,000.

Tony Geiss dies at 86; longtime Muppet composer, lyricist and creator

Tony Geiss, composer and lyricist for Sesame Street for almost 40 years as well as a creator of several Muppets, died Jan. 21 in New York City of complications from a fall. He was 86.He’s at left in the photo, speaking with fellow Sesame Street writer Lou Berger and Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente on the set. (Image: Sesame Workshop)Geiss won 22 Emmys for scriptwriting and songwriting. He created the Honkers Muppets and, most recently, Abby Cadabby.

Signal expansion delays and disappointment in Tampa

Problems with signal interference from the U.S. Coast Guard’s emergency communications system has stymied launch of Tampa’s new full-time classical music service, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Since purchasing the license to 89.1 FM in Sarasota last fall, pubcaster WUSF-TV/FM has been broadcasting its new classical service WSMR at 30 percent power; the signal doesn’t reach far beyond Sarasota, disappointing expectant music lovers in Tampa. “The Coast Guard is huge and we don’t want to get in the way of a life being saved,” says JoAnn Urofsky, g.m. “But I’m still not sure why this stalemate happened.”

Future of “Need to Know” uncertain; PBS says it’s “evaluating the series carefully”

PBS has not yet decided whether to renew WNET’s newsmag Need to Know, which replaced Bill Moyers Journal in May 2010 (Current, March 22, 2010). PBS said in a statement to the New York Times that the show runs through June 2011, and it is currently “evaluating the series carefully.”Stephen Segaller, station v.p. for content, and Shelley Lewis, Need to Know e.p., sent an email to programmers December 3 thanking them for their feedback on the show. Apparently some of those comments had zeroed in on co-hosts Alison Stewart and Jon Meacham. The note, obtained by Current, said in part: “It’s fair to say (as some of you have) that Alison is far more comfortable in the anchor role than Jon, and Jon is a far more comfortable guest on other programs than he was (at first) as anchor on his own. We continue to work on ways to make ‘that Jon’ the Jon who appears in our studio every week.”

Exclusive content deal for Center for Public Integrity

The Center for Public Integrity, the nonprofit investigative news center helmed by public radio veteran Bill Buzenberg, has a new contract to provide exclusive stories to Newsweek and The Daily Beast. A feature on the effectiveness of digital mammography, featured in today’s Web and print editions of Newsweek, is the first CPI investigation to be published under the editorial partnership. “The value of incisive investigative reporting is going up,” says Buzenberg, executive director of the center, in a news release. “This is a tremendous opportunity for us to provide quality journalism to a new audience and to get paid for our work.”

UPDATE: Pubcasting travel show hosts caught in Egypt leading group of tourists

The hosts of WTTW’s nationally syndicated Grannies on Safari are in the midst of the chaos in Egypt, where protestors demanding the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak have been rioting for days.According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Regina Fraser and Pat Johnson (right, image: Grannies on Safari via AP) arrived with their group on Jan. 26 and are hoping to leave before their intended departure date of Feb. 4. At one point, their driver had to drop the group two blocks from the hotel because the bus couldn’t get through all the protestors. “We had to circumnavigate around the hotel because the crowds were massing up,” Fraser said.

Weiss’s departure from NPR, reexamined

Why exactly did NPR President Vivian Schiller tell her Senior News V.P. Ellen Weiss to resign or be fired? According to the Washington Post’s account of the circumstances leading up to Weiss’s sudden departure on Jan. 6, Weiss’s management style as news chief, and her account of the decision to fire longtime news analyst Juan Williams last October, undercut support for her within NPR’s newsroom and leadership ranks.The Post’s Paul Farhi interviews NPR News insiders and points to internal rifts over Weiss’s record and leadership style: “While several employees acknowledged her role in building NPR into a radio-news powerhouse and emerging digital-news player, they also questioned her methods….More damning was the suggestion – hotly disputed by people close to Weiss – that Weiss had preempted her boss, Schiller, in telling Williams that he had to go.”Weiss tells the Post she’d received no warning from Schiller that her job was in jeopardy nor an explanation of why she was being forced out. An anonymous defender within NPR News says Weiss’s ouster was “merely a smoke screen that helped Schiller keep her job and appease critics inside and outside NPR.” NPR communications chief Dana Davis Rehm declines to elaborate on “internal conversations” that led up to Weiss’s resignation.Former NPR host and correspondent Alex Chadwick is one of few sources who talks on-the-record, drawing parallels between how Weiss informed him that his job was being eliminated in 2008, and her cell phone firing of Juan Williams last Oct.

“Damn good schedule” at KCET, President Al Jerome says

KCET President Al Jerome continues to explain the station’s Jan. 1 departure from the PBS system. In the latest interview, in today’s (Jan. 28) Santa Barbara Independent, he describes KCET’s exit and subsequent programming revamp like “changing the tires going 90 miles per hour.” He adds that he considers the new lineup “a damn good schedule.”

Old “Electric Company” clip may just power up your sleepy Friday

It’s Friday afternoon, and you deserve a video break. Today’s feature is brought to you by BestWeekEver.TV, which serves up an Electric Company episode from waaaay back, when actor Morgan Freeman played a vampire caught in Spiderman’s (very fake rope) web. (Actually, the “Kitten Attacking a Spider” video underneath is pretty good too … )

More pubcasting producers vote to join Writers Guild of America, East

Producers for History Detectives and America Revealed on PBS are among new members of the Writers Guild of America, East, the union said today (Jan. 28). The Guild also welcomed nonfiction TV producers for Discovery Network and MTV. Guild President Michael Winship said in a statement: “As a writer for public television myself, I know how valuable Guild membership has been for my colleagues and me.” Winship is a former senior writer for Bill Moyers Journal.

California Watch launches state investigative news network

California Watch, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting, today (Jan. 28) announced its new California Watch Media Network, which includes many of the state’s major news organizations. Participating outlets will receive stories and daily postings from the Center for Investigative Reporting, and collaborate with the center on news projects. The initial members are the San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, San Diego Union Tribune, Orange County Register, Bakersfield Californian, and the Fresno Bee.“This new network represents a step forward in terms of how we market and distribute our content,” said California Watch Editorial Director Mark Katches. The center hopes to add editorial partners.

Influential Ohio pubcaster Robert Smith Jr. dies; former “Washington Week” producer

Robert D. Smith Jr., a longtime public broadcaster who was an early producer of Washington Week in Review and oversaw the creation of two Ohio public radio stations, died Jan. 20 in Oberlin, Ohio, after battling cancer. He was 81.His son, Stephen Smith, host and executive editor of American RadioWorks, told the Toledo Blade: “He really believed in the public purpose of public broadcasting, and so do I – the obligation to serve the audience with stuff that’s meaningful and of high quality and can’t be found elsewhere.”In 1967, as programming director at WETA, he produced the station’s new public affairs show, Washington Week in Review, which remains on the air as Washington Week. He was hired in 1974 to run WGTE-TV, Channel 30, in Toledo. In 1976, as president and general manager of the Public Broadcasting Foundation of Northwest Ohio, he helped create WGTE-FM and, in 1981, WGLE-FM in Lima.Smith retired in 1988 due to the lingering effects of an auto accident, his son said.”He was passionate about public television and public radio,” said Tom Paine, WGTE radio program manager, who was hired by Smith in 1975. “He would say WGTE brings Toledo thoughtful programs which are cherished by viewers and listeners.

FCC chooses nine firms to oversee spectrum white-space database

A database of open channels, or “white spaces,” opening on the television spectrum for use by unlicensed devices, will be managed by nine companies, Television Broadcast reports today (Jan. 27). The companies, selected by the FCC, will oversee a database that will track white spaces within the TV spectrum and communicate those channels to unlicensed devices. It will be the sole source of interference protection for TV signals and wireless microphones, the industry publication said.

PubTV systemwide initiative aims to invigorate station fundraising

CPB and WGBH today (Jan. 27) announced a two-year, $754,000 project to help stations improve their fundraising capabilities. The Contributor Development Partnership will include the first-ever systemwide contributor data reference file to provide analyses of the best in pubTV fundraising. Michal Heiplik, former director of membership at HoustonPBS, will oversee the project. CPB is contributing $504,000, and WGBH, $250,000.Helping shape the initiative is a 12-member station advisory group: Don Derheim, KQED (Northern California); Becky Chinn, OPB (Oregon); Mary Kay Phelps, WETA (Washington, D.C.); Kelly McCullough, KAET (Arizona); David Preston, TPT (Minnesota); Ellen Sinkinson, WNET (New York); Anne Gleason, WTTW (Chicago); Jack Galmiche, KETC (St.

Twelve journalists receive reporting grants from the Fund for Investigative Journalism

The Fund for Investigative Journalism, through the Gannett Foundation and the Green Park Foundation, has awarded 12 grants to journalists for travel and other reporting expenses to cover abuse of power, environmental degredation and corruption here as well as in Asia, Africa and South America. Recipients include reporters from newspapers, websites, specialized reporting centers and freelancers. Their topics are confidential until completed. The fund has supported investigative journalism by independent journalists since 1969.

Spectrum auction bill could come back up today

Broadcasting and Cable reports that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) is expected to reintroduce – possibly as early as today (Jan. 26) – a bill to authorize auctions to pay broadcasters for voluntarily giving up their spectrum for wireless broadband use. B and C notes that the bill “would make it clear that the reclamation needs to be truly voluntary.”

KUSF supporters rally at San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco Weekly reports that KUSF DJs, fans and Ross Mirkarimi, a San Francisco supervisor, rallied in front of City Hall yesterday (Jan. 25), chanting “Whose station?” “Our station!” and “Shame on USF!” A week ago University of San Francisco officials literally pulled the plug on the station, which has been around since 1977, and soon after announced it would be sold to classical music channel KDFC. KUSF would continue online. After the rally, Mirkarimi introduced a resolution urging the university to reconsider the sale of the station.

APTS hires GOP lobbyists for pubcasting funding fight

The Association for Public Television Stations has hired two GOP lobbyists from Quinn Gillespie and Associates to help fend off proposals for public broadcasting funding cuts, according to the Hill. Marc Lampkin was general counsel for John Boehner (Ohio) when the Speaker was House Republican Conference chairman; John Feehery managed communications for former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and ex-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).“What I am facing here are 96 new members of Congress and 20 new senators that don’t know us yet,” said APTS Patrick Butler. “We read the papers like everyone else and we keep hearing about cuts to public television. I want to make sure we are telling our story to everybody who needs to hear it.”