Jane Lynch turns supervillain for upcoming WordGirl movie

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Jane Lynch, the villainous cheerleader coach on Fox’s Glee, will have a guest-star as an animated supervillain on a movie-length episode of WordGirl, PBS’s vocabulary-building kids series. Lesli Rotenberg, PBS s.v.p., children’s media and brand management (above), announced Sunday (July 31) that Lynch will supply the voice of a character who uses mean words as secret weapons in an episode to air next year, aimed at helping kids deal with verbal bullying.Other PBS Kids news during the annual summer Television Critics Association press tour:Sesame Street, entering its 42nd season this fall, will include parodies of the Iron Chef cooking show and Glee. In addition, Elvis Costello will perform a duet with Elmo, “Ate My Red 2.”The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That, introduced last fall, is tied with longtime fave Curious George as the second-most watched kids show on PBS. Both have a 4.8 Nielsen rating with children between the ages of 2 and 5.Kevin Clash, the puppeteer who plays Elmo on Sesame Street, said the popular puppet is based on his parents.

At TCA press tour, ‘House’ extols jazz; first new series from Fred Rogers Co. coming

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — TV’s Dr. Gregory House will reveal a little-known specialty this fall: a talent for singing and playing jazz piano. Hugh Laurie (right), famous for playing the cranky doctor on the hit Fox show House, told journalists Saturday (July 30) at the Television Critics Association summer press tour that he doesn’t consider himself the equal of the best jazz musicians in New Orleans, but he wasn’t about to pass up the chance to tape an episode and cut an accompanying CD for Great Performances. The show, “Hugh Laurie: Let Them Talk — A Celebration of New Orleans Blues,” is scheduled for Sept. 30.An opportunity like this “is not going to come my way again,” Laurie told critics.

Interim g.m. of former PBS station WDSC announces resignation

The interim general manager of Daytona State College’s WDSC-TV, which recently dropped PBS membership, is resigning in September. “I believe the television station is a critical component of Daytona State College and its future,” said Bob Williams in a statement, “and I believe it is important for the college to find the best person possible to lead WDSC in this new and important role.” WDSC’s Director of Educational Services Andrew Chalanick will oversee daily station operations until a permanent general manager is hired.

Internal programming break research continuing, Kerger tells press tour

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — More than two months after raising the prospect of primetime promotional breaks within programs, PBS is still studying the idea. PBS President Paula Kerger said Saturday (July 30) at the annual Television Critics Association press tour that viewer testing is ongoing at a Nielsen research facility in Las Vegas. Information from that research will be considered along with feedback from public stations, she said.Proponents of the idea say the promotional breaks will give viewers more information about upcoming programs and allow the audience to from one program to the next, all without reducing the actual amount of program content. Opponents warn that such a move goes against the decades-old PBS tradition of not interrupting programs except during pledge periods.PBS will benefit from knowing more about the preferences and expectations of viewers whether or not the new research leads to changes, Kerger said.Earlier in the press conference at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Kerger reported that primetime viewership had increased more than 7 percent over the previous year and  viewing by children, ages 2 through 11, was up 23 percent.

Ombudsman asks: Is PBS overlooking major arts story?

PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler has written an interesting column on PBS arts coverage. Namely, why PBS, with its rejuvenated focus on the arts, hasn’t run any programming about “one of the biggest stories in the art world,” the ongoing controversy over the famous Barnes collection of paintings moving from its original Philadelphia home to a modern facility away from the city’s museum district. “Is the broader PBS silence in any way reflective of the fact that two powerful, institutional forces in Philadelphia — the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Annenberg Foundation, who were important advocates, fundraisers and financial backers supporting the move of the collection to Philadelphia — are also important financial contributors to various PBS offerings?”

Nonprofit Seattle PostGlobe, launched with KCTS assistance in 2009, is closing

The Seattle PostGlobe, which launched in 2009 as an early online nonprofit newspaper venture with help from public broadcasting station KCTS 9 in Seattle, is closing, it announced today (July 29). “Donations have fallen off. Ads have generated no meaningful revenue — ever,” writes Sally Deneen, co-founder and curator. “We began with no startup money. We obtained no grants.

In WJMF takeover, WGBH shows how to make friends in college radio

Among the student-operated college stations to be converted into mainstream public radio FMs this year, the hand-over of Bryant University’s WJMF to WGBH’s 90.5 All Classical differs in one major way: the complete absence of an organized protest by students, alumni and other station supporters, according to Radio Survivor.After looking into the deal, reporter Jennifer Watts discovers one reason why the management agreement sparked so few protests: with a 225-watt signal, WJMF’s student-programmed broadcast service was oriented to the Bryant campus, and the station never developed a strong following in the larger community of Smithfield, R.I. “An indication of this is the fact that WJMF is currently on ‘auto pilot’ over the summer while students are on break,” she writes. “To me, a lack of live DJs for extended periods of a station’s program schedule indicates that a station isn’t using its FM airwaves to their fullest potential.”In addition, managers from WGBH in Boston went to great lengths to convince student managers that the operating agreement was in their best interests. Benjamin Roe, managing director of WGBH Classical services, tells Watts: “[W]e thought it was very important to actually be able to visit the student body and the students and have a discussion in person so that it wasn’t something that was kind of abstract, but really talking about what kind of relationship [we] could ensure between the school and with WGBH.”

WNED acquires WBFO, two other stations, from University of Buffalo in $4 million deal

WNED is paying the University of Buffalo $4 million to operate WBFO-FM 88.7 and two other New York stations, the parties announced today (July 28). Talks have been ongoing for more than a year (Current, March 1, 2010). The stations, which also include WUBJ-FM 88.1 in Jamestown and WOLN-FM 91.3 in Olean, will retain their call letters and frequencies. Their signals reach large portions of western New York and southern Ontario, serving approximately 90,000 listeners weekly. The university will use the proceeds of the sale to provide student scholarships and support for faculty research, it said.

Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy holds first meeting on future of pubcasting

In the first of an ongoing series of discussions on the future public broadcasting, the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy (CCLP) convened executives, journalists, policymakers and others in Washington, D.C., this week, to focus on funding threats to the system. The wide-ranging conversation at the gathering, presented with participation of Current, touched on topics ranging from new ideas for centralized fundraising, to financial stress on local news coverage, to diversifying audiences. CCLP will organize future meetings “on public broadcasting, its mission, and its financial and public support,” it said.More than 35 participants included Pat Butler, c.e.o. of the Association of Public Television Stations; Vincent Curren, CPB c.o.o.; Caryn Mathes, g.m. of WAMU-FM; Andy Russell, s.v.p. of strategy, research and ventures for PBS; Craig Aaron, president of media reform advocate Free Press; Melinda Wittstock, c.e.o. of Capitol News Connection; George Rivera, exec producer of eHarlem TV; Maxie Jackson, president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters; Mark Lloyd, Federal Communications Commission office of general counsel; Kevin Klose, former NPR president; and Michele Salcedo, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.