NJN fundraising group will assist successor network affiliated with WNET

No hard feelings in evidence, the New Jersey Network’s nonprofit fundraising group said last week it will help raise production money for NJTV, NJN’s successor operated by an affiliate of New York’s WNET. “They will take the lead with underwriting — I’m happy to let them keep doing that,” says Neal Shapiro, president of WNET and chair of NJTV, who adds that there may be occasions when NJTV and WNET’s New York stations might sell underwriting together. Meanwhile, NJTV’s new staff, with help from WNET’s, will handle member/viewer fundraising. Indeed, WNET’s staff will provide many services to the new operation, enabling NJTV to operate with about 20 staffers in New Jersey, compared with NJN’s staff of about 130. One of NJTV’s first hirings will also unite the former NJN Foundation with the new operators of the network.

PBS dropping 21 staff positions, including veteran screeners

Thirteen current staff positions and eight vacant positions are being eliminated at PBS headquarters in Arlington, Va., and six “new or restructured” positions will be added, PBS President Paula Kerger said in a letter to the system July 13. Kerger blamed the “ongoing economic challenges faced by our system” and said PBS made the changes “to focus efforts in areas with the greatest value to the public media system in a time of budgetary constraints.”

PBS declined to verify individual departures or say what departments are affected. Several changes center on programming, which is “a key priority of the FY12 Strategic Plan,” Kerger’s letter said, “and part of a multiyear effort to transform PBS’ primetime lineup in order to grow audience and increase the amount of time viewers watch PBS programs.”

The programming community was surprised to hear that Steven Gray and two other top program screeners are gone. Gray, who had been v.p. of program development and editorial management since 1990, oversaw a staff of nine and reported directly to John Wilson, chief programming exec. Both of Gray’s senior directors of programming, Sandy Heberer and Allison Winshell, also left.

FCC plan could give LPFM apps an edge over FM translators

Applicants for thousands of FM translators may have to reapply if the FCC goes through with its proposal to give new low-power FM stations a chance to compete for the same frequencies. In a July 12 Notice of Proposed Rule Making, the FCC asked for public feedback on a proposal to resolve a years-old backlog of applications for FM translators — low-power stations that relay the signals of full-power FM stations. The commission began a long hiatus from granting translator licenses in 2005 due to concerns that the new relay transmitters could crowd out potential LPFMs, a newer category of 100-watt noncommercial FMs introduced to originate programming. Like earlier struggles over LPFM rules, these policy decisions pit existing stations — including public stations trying to extend service using translators — against the commission’s plan for bringing new community voices to radio. FCC rules give LPFMs and translators equal standing for interference protection; both are secondary to full-power FM stations.

Subsidies lost, urgency gained

As public broadcasting braces for expected cuts from its most predictable revenue source — the annual CPB appropriation — system leaders are talking as much about saving money as raising more of it. Collaboration and consolidation — ideals that pubcasters have long espoused but rarely implemented — were buzzwords at this month’s Public Media Marketing and Development Conference in Pittsburgh. Top fundraisers, station execs and analysts urged their peers to tear down walls that separate local stations and cooperate to preserve and strengthen audience service. 

Keynoters Fred and Paul Jacobs, sibling radio consultants from Detroit, delivered the starkest diagnosis and most urgent prescription — formation of a commission to analyze station finances and design a restructured, pared-down system of stations. Pubradio leaders already working in these trenches described a new strategy for preserving service as more universities spin off their stations. In his first major speech since promotion to chief exec of American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio, Jon McTaggart said pubradio can tackle its funding challenges and competitive threats by relentlessly focusing on audience service.

Pre-Baroque deejay Robert Aubry Davis to do show in ladies’ housecoats

Robert Aubry Davis is not painfully shy. He does pledge breaks for Washington’s WETA-TV, after all. For the winter holidays, local media report, Davis will follow in the large and dainty footsteps of Harvey Fierstein to perform the motherly role of Edna Turnblad in the Tony-Award-winning musical version of John Waters’ “Hairspray,” opening Nov. 21 at the highly touted Signature Theater, just down the street from WETA’s headquarters in Arlington, Va. The late drag spectacle Divine originated the role in Waters’ earlier movie.

At 61, KCRW’s Diana Nyad preparing for record-breaking swim

Marathon swimmer and KCRW commentator Diana Nyad, 61 years old, is getting ready to swim for 60 hours over 103 miles across the shark-infested Straits of Florida from Cuba to Key West. Nyad attempted this swim once before, unsuccessfully, in 1978 at the age of 28. “Physically, I am much stronger than I was before, although I was faster in my 20s,” Nyad tells the New York Times. “I feel strong, powerful, and endurance-wise, I’m fit.” Her plans to swim last summer were postponed due to visa difficulties.

Lights. Camera. Help. festival in Austin spotlights cause films

Here’s a Q&A from KUT in Austin, Texas, with two of the creators of Lights. Camera. Help., who discuss the only festival for nonprofit and cause-driven films. “It’s just like a great day out watching any film at your local movie theater. Except all our films make you want to get up and kick some butt!,” said co-founder David J. Neff. “All of our films have great call-to-actions that cause you to get up and do something about the issue you just watched.

Daily Show’s Jon Stewart: Here’s a real news media pile-on

In a retort to media critics who question news competitors’ motives in devoting so much coverage to the phone-hacking scandal that has engulfed Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show takes a look at how Fox News pundits are downplaying the troubles of their parent corporation as a great big news media pile-on.”Maybe your competitors are taking an unseemly amount of pleasure but perhaps…they don’t have the ability to spot stories of real criminality of, let’s say, NPR,” Stewart says in introducing a clip reel of Fox News punditry on NPR’s dismissal of news analyst Juan Williams. NPR’s Dana Davis Rehm recently responded to questions about NPR’s motives in covering the scandal: “We’re making decisions about the coverage of the News Corp. story, as we do with all stories, based on its importance and news value,” Rehm told the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi. “This is very big news with global impact, and we’re really proud of our coverage.”

V-me Kids now available on former PBS member station WIPR in Puerto Rico

V-me Kids, V-me’s cable channel for Latino preschoolers, is now running on WIPR in Puerto Rico, which just dropped its membership to PBS in part over lack of Spanish-language children’s shows (Current, July 12). V-me Kids, which targets children ages 2 to 6, is the exclusive carrier for Spanish versions of shows including Barney, Bob the Builder, Angelina Ballerina, and Thomas & Friends. “WIPR will add newly created interstitial programming in English to continue to introduce this young audience to learning in both languages; a key element of WIPR’s success,” a V-me statement today (July 19) said.

Anonymous donors provide help to WHYY for NJN deal

At least two anonymous contributions are assisting WHYY in Philadelphia in its takeover of five FM stations from the NJN Network, reports Shore News Today. The expansion deal cost the station $926,000, which was donated by someone who requested anonymity “with good reason,” said Bill Marrazzo, WHYY president. He said the station would have been willing to identify the donor during sale negotiations, but that was ultimately not necessary. Another donor, who also wanted to remain nameless, is giving WHYY funds to launch a market study in South Jersey to look at programming, branding and advertising. Marrazzo would only say it’s a six-figure contribution.

WXEL-TV terminates three employees; potential owners to launch capital campaign

WXEL-TV in Boynton Beach, Fla., has laid off three staffers, station President Bernie Henneberg told the Palm Beach Post Monday (July 18). The station lost around $300,000 in May when Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $4.8 million lawmakers had included in the state’s $69.7 billion budget for public television and radio stations. “We laid off three very valuable employees as a direct result of Gov. Scott zeroing out our Community Service Grant,” Henneberg said in an email. “We simply have to make cuts in order to survive.”Henneberg’s WXEL Public Broadcasting Corp. is hoping to buy the station for $700,000 from Barry University, which has owned it since 1997.

Public Media Chat leaders Tweet a fond farewell

The hosts of Monday night Public Media Chats, who have been conversing with the system in 140-character bursts since February 2010, signed off for the final time last night (July 18). “After well over a year (or has it been 2?) we feel that we have reached our initial goal — to get the #pubmedia community talking & sharing,” they wrote. “All of your hosts love #pubmedia but due to personal, and professional obligations it’s no longer feasible for us to host a weekly chat. Please continue to use the #pubmedia hashtag here, and be sure to join the Public Media Facebook group for further conversation. With much respect and adoration, farewell.”

Flynn of MacNeil/Lehrer to join FORA

Rob Flynn, communications and marketing v.p. for MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, is departing after 11 years to accept a newly created position as sales and marketing v.p. with FORA.tv, a San Francisco-based digital media company. Flynn will open a Washington, D.C., office for FORA focusing on corporate sponsorships and content partnerships — “generally trying to grow the brand,” he said in an email to colleagues. FORA (Latin plural of “forum”) curates and distributes a massive video library of live events, lectures, and debates at universities, think tanks and conferences. It currently works with partners including the Aspen Institute, the New Yorker, the New York Times and the Economist. “As I move along, there is much I will miss about the NewsHour and about public television,” Flynn said in the note.

PBS Kids Go! gets $250,000 from Arthur Vining Davis Foundations

The PBS Foundation last week received a $250,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to support PBS Kids Go! interactive content. The grant will fund website expansions, game development, research and PBS station and producer support for PBSKidsGo.org, which includes a video player with more than 3,000 video clips from series such as Wild Kratts, Arthur and WordGirl and averages 4.8 million streams per month. Upcoming projects include new short-form episodes of web-originals such as Fizzy’s Lunch Lab, customized user features and more content on new media platforms such as mobile devices and interactive white boards.

Half of nonprofit news start-ups produce biased coverage

A survey of the emerging field of nonprofit news organizations found that roughly half produced coverage that was ideological in nature. The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism examined 46 news sites covering national or state-level news. Ideological sites “tended to be funded mostly or entirely by one parent organization,” which in some cases may have various contributors, and “they tended to be less transparent about who they are and where their funding comes from,” according to the study’s authors. Nonprofit news groups that collaborate with pubcasting news units, such as ProPublica, California Watch, and Texas Tribune, received high ratings for non-ideological coverage, transparency and productivity. Public broadcasting’s start-up online news sites — the seven regional Local Journalism Centers and NPR Argo Network blogs — were not included in the survey.

Mexico undergoing massive pubcasting expansion

Mexico is planning a $45.5 million boost to public broadcasting, to rough triple national coverage from 2010 to 2012, Variety reports. That initial investment for 2011-2012 will mainly fund 19 new repeater substations to help boost signals across the nation. An additional $3 million yearly will go to operations through 2020. The government hopes to improve the coverage of Once (Spanish for 11) TV, the largest educational broadcast network (owned by Instituto Politecnico Nacional, or the National Polytechnic Institute), from 50.7 percent to 76.8 percent of the country, an additional 26.9 million viewers. Its goal is to reach more than 91 million viewers by 2020.

Jim Lewis honored for contributions to pubradio development

DEI honored veteran fundraiser Jim Lewis with its President’s Award, presented at the discretion of DEI chief Doug Eichten for outstanding contributions to public radio development. Lewis, who recently retired as a fundraising consultant with Lewis Kennedy Associates, has “dedicated his life and long career in public broadcasting–not only to serving the American public as a reporter, station manager and fundraising executive for public stations–but he also worked to help all of us,” Eichten said during a July 15 session at DEI’s Public Media Development and Marketing conference in Pittsburgh. “He has played a major role in the professionalization of development of public broadcasting.”In accepting the award, Lewis urged his development colleagues to recruit and mentor a new generation of talent for public radio, paying special attention to “people of color, from different cultures, and from different races….If we do this well we will have solved the problem of remaining relevant.”Lewis is the first professional fundraiser to receive the President’s Award. Previous honorees Carl Kasell of NPR and Ira Glass of This American Life were recognized as major public radio talents who “really got” public radio fundraising and actively participated in it, Eichten told Current.

V-me to premiere interactive weekly gaming show

Spanish-language pubTV multicaster V-me premieres an interactive weekly show for gamers, GAME40, at 7:30 p.m. Eastern July 22. V-me said in a July 14 statement that Hispanics, especially bilingual young Hispanic males, over-index in the use of video games of all kinds. GAME40 is “not just a television series,” V-me said, but “spans multiple platforms to engage gamers from the novice to the junkie,” providing updates on new and upcoming titles, the latest innovations and the week’s best releases. The show is already “a smashing success in Spain,” V-me notes.

Pittsburgh news start-up wins CPB aid

CPB is backing development of Essential Public Media, the nonprofit whose purchase of Pittsburgh’s WDUQ is pending before the FCC. CPB President Patricia Harrison announced a $250,000 grant supporting start-up of EPM’s digital journalism newsroom during a July 14 luncheon at the Public Media Marketing and Development conference in Pittsburgh. “We are confident this will be a model for public media news operations across the country,” she said.EPM began managing day-to-day operations of WDUQ on July 1, adopting an all-news format and scaling jazz music programming back to a six-hour weekend slot on 90.5 FM, its flagship channel. It’s begun exploring collaborative editorial partnerships with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and PublicSource, an investigative news start-up that launched with foundation backing this spring, according to Lee Ferraro, manager of Pittsburgh’s WYEP, one of the public media nonprofits that’s a partner in EPM.Harrison also announced CPB’s continuing commitment to the seven Local Journalism Centers launched by public stations on two-year start-up grants. LJC stations have begun discussing scenarios for operating the centers when CPB’s aid expires.

PBS eliminating 21 positions, Kerger tells stations

PBS is eliminating 13 current staff positions and eight vacancies, PBS President Paula Kerger said in a letter to the system today (July 13).”This was not an easy decision to make, and we wish our departing staff the best as they pursue other opportunities,” Kerger said. Six “new or restructured” positions also will be added, including two new vice presidents of general audience programming to support the ongoing revamp of PBS’s primetime lineup. “Change can be difficult, but I remain convinced that by focusing on our larger goals, we will come out on the other end as a stronger organization prepared to support our mission and stations,” Kerger said.