New Jersey’s lower legislative house last week voted down the plan by Gov. Chris Christie (R) to turn over the channels and role of the NJN television network to New York’s WNET, and the state Senate is expected to follow if it votes Monday, June 27, according to observers on NJN’s Reporter’s Roundtable. NJN may disappear even if the Senate concurs with the Assembly, however. Last week Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Paul Sarlo (D) raised the option of extending NJN funding for a few more months but predicted that the governor would veto it. The issue has been fully partisanized. Democrats hold a majority of seats in both houses, and the General Assembly’s vote June 23 was 45 to 30, with Democrats opposing the Republican governor’s plan and only one Republican voting with them.
The new report to the FCC about the state of the media and the future of American journalism estimates that filling gaps in local reporting would cost from $265 million to $1.6 billion a year. It also suggests various ways in which the government could help nonprofit media afford to bridge that chasm. “The main focus of government policy should not be providing the funds to sustain reporting but helping to create conditions under which nonprofit news operations can gain traction,” the report advises. But observers point out that the FCC has no power to make many of those changes, which include adjusting tax laws for pubmedia organizations, getting foundations to fund more journalism, and rethinking CPB’s legislated spending proportions to allot more money to nonbroadcast and multimedia innovators. “Information Needs of Communities: The Changing Media Landscape in a Broadband Age” was released June 9.
One of the Knight News Challenge winners announced last week was Zeega, an open-source HTML5 platform co-created by independent public radio producer Kara Oehler, a creator of the Mapping Main Street project, which received $420,000. Zeega will enable the creation of “participatory multimedia projects on web, tablet and mobile devices,” according to its website. The platform will allow creators to combine media web-based media including audio, maps, photos, video and text.Oehler and her collaborators, Jesse Shapins and James Burns, were inspired to create Zeega after producing the multimedia Mapping Main Street project, according to an article in the Harvard Gazette. (The three are affiliated with the university.) That collaborative documentation of Main Streets across the country was supported by CPB and the Association of Independents in Radio. NPR aired reports from the project.Media and Place Productions, the nonprofit where Zeega is based, was one of 16 recipients in the latest round of Knight News Challenge winners.
LulzSec, the hacking group that saw itself as pirates on the Web seas, has disbanded and ceased all activity, according to its final statement posted on Sunday (June 26). Its 50-day run of Internet security breaches included targeting PBS.org (Current, June 13) to protest Frontline’s “WikiSecrets” report; its six members also hit Sony, the U.S. Senate, the FBI and Britain’s X Factor TV show. What was it all about? ” … [W]e truly believe in the AntiSec movement.
John F. Gregory, an early general manager at KPCC-FM in Pasadena, Calif., died May 9 at his Los Angeles home. Gregory led the station at Pasadena City College in the late 1970s and early ’80s, longtime KPCC newsman Larry Mantle wrote on a station blog. During that time Gregory professionalized the station, establishing it as one of the first NPR-member stations and hiring a full-time staff of five to qualify for CPB funding. He hired Mantle as news director in 1983. After the college separated from the Pasadena city public school system, the station went with the college and changed its call letters from KPCS to KPCC in 1979.
Bob Paquette, senior news producer and local host of Morning Edition at WFCR-FM in Amherst, Mass., died unexpectedly May 28 of an apparent heart attack. He was 55. For many listeners, Paquette was “the voice of WFCR every morning,” station General Manager Martin Miller said in a release. “There are no words to express our shock and grief over the loss of our colleague and friend Bob Paquette. Our heartfelt condolences and sympathies go out to Bob’s husband, Michael Packard, and to their families, friends and colleagues.”
“Believe it or not, getting up at 4 a.m. is not such a bad gig,” Paquette said in his profile on the station’s website.
Chris Ulanowski, a former news director at WRVO in Oswego, N.Y., died May 30. He was 51. Ulanowski spent 27 years at the station, winning the Syracuse Press Club’s career achievement award in 2008. During his tenure as news director, the station won three national awards in two years for “Talk of the Nation: Religious Bricks,” on issues of church and state in the Mexico, N.Y., school district. It took first-place awards from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. Awards in 2000 and won first- and second-place PRNDI awards in 1999.
Jim Sweenie, a four-decade staffer at Pittsburgh’s WQED-FM and host of its Saturday Night Requests, died June 4 after complications from surgery the previous day. He was 76. The station will broadcast a special Saturday Night Requests: Jim Sweenie Tribute on June 18 at 8 p.m. Eastern, with memories and dedications, including condolences from listeners. Sweenie got into radio in the early 1950s by hanging around WMCK-AM in McKeesport, Pa. The station paid him $10 a week for putting away records and reading a sign-off.
George Leigh Hall, 82, a public television leader in North Carolina, Illinois and Virginia, died June 5 at a retirement home in Fuquay-Varina, N.C.
His wife of 60 years, Katherine Waddington Hall, had died six months earlier. After starting in radio during the 1940s in his hometown of Reidsville, N.C., north of Raleigh, Hall joined Capitol Broadcasting Company’s WRAL-AM in Raleigh and advanced to program manager; helped the company acquire a television license and served as the TV station’s first program manager. In 1960, Hall became g.m. of North Carolina State University’s Raleigh studios of the state educational TV network, UNC-TV. Later he headed the telecommunications department at the University of Delaware at Newark. In Illinois, he served as president of Convocom, a three-station confederation of stations in Springfield, Macomb and Quincy.
Stanley S. Neustadt, 87, a longtime communications lawyer for public stations, died May 30 in suburban Virginia. He had lived with Parkinson’s disease for the past 12 years. “Anyone who appreciates public radio and TV should give him some credit because he had a large role in preserving and reserving the frequencies for them,” said a friend and law school classmate Herbert Schulkind. Not long after receiving his law degree from Columbia University in 1948, Neustadt found himself near the center of an unprecedented disturbance at the FCC. He joined the FCC staff as legal assistant to Frieda Hennock, the first female member of the commission and a flamboyant, persistent advocate for reserved educational channels.
“Blessed Be the Ties that Bind” may be music to churchgoers, but many station leaders find it discordant. No matter how much CEOs welcome the blessings of major gifts, they tend to start doubting if they find strings attached. Increasingly, big donors do attach conditions. Not all want to see their name on a building or a room, but they do want to see their gifts used for purposes that matter to them, even when giving to the operating fund. Donors give for their own reasons; the fact that a station needs “to pay the power bill,” as one CEO put it, tends to be less compelling than content about topics that matter to them.
Los Angeles Public Media, the CPB-backed startup that hoped to serve a new generation of minority listeners in one of the nation’s most competitive and ethnically mixed media markets, shuttered its operations June 15 after failing to acquire an FM station and secure renewed support from CPB. Radio Bilingüe, the Fresno-based public radio network that oversaw LAPM, disbanded the staff of five and stopped adding material to its website, LA>Forward, launched last fall. Like a number of other forward-looking CPB projects, LAPM became an aftershock casualty of the House-Senate conference committee’s agreement to cut $30 million of CPB’s requested $36 million add-on appropriation for digital projects. CPB had given Radio Bilingüe $2 million in 2009 to start LAPM, and project leaders had hoped for a renewal. “We’re obviously disappointed,” said Hugo Morales, Radio Bilingüe founder and executive director.
NJN’s nonprofit fundaising arm and the NJN staff proposed separate alternatives among the five bidders and one alternate plan for managing the TV network being divested by the state, Michael Symon of the Gannett New Jersey newspapers blogged last week.NJN Foundation (formally, the Foundation for New Jersey Public Broadcasting) proposed a lower-cost approach that it described as “C-SPAN New Jersey.”NJN staffers, under the name New Jersey Public Media Corp., proposed an alternative plan, which wasn’t eligible as a bid. It proposed that the state maintain aid for a transition period and establish the network as a more independent state authority.Three other groups bid to operate the TV stations, Symon reported:Montclair State University, Jersey’s second-largest state university, with two HD studios and a media training curriculum. Montclair was the only bidder besides WNET that was interviewed by state advisors.Public Broadcasting Co. of New Jersey, which said it would pay the state $300,000 a year, mostly for studio rent, and claimed millions in sponsor and donor commitments.An affiliate of Philadelphia’s WYBE (MindTV), Independence Public Media of New Jersey, would shift to a much higher volume, lower cost style of production, with New Jersey shows dominating the schedule. WYBE exec Howard Blumenthal advocated the approach during his year as acting executive director of NJN.WNET’s offshoot, Public Media NJ, got the job.
A section of the PBS website was hacked Friday (June 24), according to the Associated Press. PBS spokesperson Anne Bentley said a “very small number” of administrative user names and encrypted passwords were stolen from the section of the site for the program Becoming American. Here’s a look inside the first hack, which occurred over Memorial Day weekend.
The New Jersey Assembly, half of its state legislature, has voted down Gov. Chris Christie’s plan to turn over management of the New Jersey Network’s TV management to WNET, the Star-Ledger reports. By 45 to 30 the Assembly on Thursday (June 23) voted to block a five-year contract that would allow Public Media NJ, a nonprofit subsidiary of WNET/Thirteen, to be incorporated in the state to operate the TV network. The Senate may vote on a similar resolution on Monday, but that must pass by Tuesday to prevent the WNET deal from going through.No one seems to agree on what may happen. Appearing before a Senate committee earlier Thursday, State Treasurer Andrew Sidamon-Eristoff said if lawmakers reject the deal he negotiated, “NJN as we know it will cease to exist.” Layoffs of the state employees at the network will proceed and the state will do the minimum required to maintain the FCC licenses.
The Public Broadcasting Service (“PBS”) is committed to serving the public interest by providing content of the highest quality that enriches the marketplace of ideas, unencumbered by commercial imperative. Throughout PBS’s history, four fundamental principles have guided that commitment. Editorial integrity: PBS content should embrace the highest commitment to excellence, professionalism, intellectual honesty and transparency. In its news and information content, accuracy should be the cornerstone. Quality: PBS content should be distinguished by professionalism, thoroughness, and a commitment to experimentation and innovation.
The latest analyses from public radio’s Grow the Audience project examine the performance of public radio news stations, revealing two top predictors of these stations’ ability to attract sizable audience shares within their markets: the percentage of core listeners in their listenership and the educational level of the market. The new studies, co-authored by Station Resource Group and Walrus Research, also focus on the relationship between audience and listener support and the size of local news staffs.
WYES in New Orleans finally broke ground for a new headquarters Wednesday (June 22), nearly 20 years after General Manager Randy Feldman had first hoped to do so. “WYES staffers aren’t likely to miss the old building, an unheated cave with shaky air conditioning and lots of exposed wiring,” the Times-Picayune notes. Phase one is a new 20,000-square-foot, $7 million new building right behind the old; that should be done by March 2012. Phase two, to raze the original building, doesn’t yet have a start date.
The former NPR chief reflects on her two years at the helm of public radio’s top news organization, including the stormy final months of her presidency, in the latest edition of American Journalism Review.Leading NPR through the political crises that began with the Juan Williams dismissal strengthened her as a chief executive, Schiller says: “You develop a certain toughness and clarity of thinking about what matters and what is just a lot of noise. It would have been easy for me to get distracted, but too many people were depending on me for leadership. And so I discovered a strength I didn’t even know I had.””I made a few mistakes back in October, which I’ve publicly acknowledged many times,” she says. “But beyond that, I’m proud of what my colleagues and I accomplished while I was with NPR. There’s not much I would change.”Schiller signs on as chief digital officer of NBC News next month.