Pubcaster elected chairman of Radio Television Digital News Association

Michigan Radio News Director Vincent Duffy is the new chairman of the board of the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), the first public media news director elected to the position. Members chose Duffy during the 2011 Excellence in Journalism Conference this week in New Orleans. Here’s a roundup of other news from the meeting.

Alvarado, Jackson, Taylor named to FCC Diversity Committee

Three public broadcasters have been named to the Federal Communication Commission’s Diversity Committee (PDF). Joaquin Alvarado, senior vice president for digital innovation for American Public Media/Minnesota Public Radio; Maxie Jackson, president of the National Federation of Community Broadcasters; and Loris Ann Taylor, president of Native Public Media, will serve on the committee, which advises the commission on policies and practices to enhance diversity in telecommunications. It is chaired by former FCC Commissioner Henry Rivera. The committee’s first meeting will be Dec. 6.

Labor HHS proposal would block NPR funds, asks CPB to wean radio money by 2014

The draft for the House Appropriations Committee’s fiscal 2012 Labor, Health and Human Services bill, introduced Thursday (Sept. 29) by the subcommittee chairman Denny Rehburg (R-Mont.), would prohibit the Corporation for Public Broadcasting from funding NPR, and requests a report from CPB on how to remove NPR from federal funding by 2014. CPB receives the expected $445 million in funding over the upcoming year. In all, the bill proposes a 2.5 percent reduction in total discretionary funding over 2011, and 15.2 percent less than President Barack Obama’s budget request. Details from the committee here.A spokesperson for the House Appropriations Committee told Current that specifics on the report requested from CPB regarding NPR will be made public when the bill moves to the full committee for mark up.  UPDATE: The Association of Public Television Stations issued this statement regarding the Labor-HHS proposal.

Cops nab WNET MetroFocus journalist at Wall Street protests

A Web editor with WNET’s new MetroFocus local news and culture site was arrested while reporting on citizen journalism at this week’s protests on Wall Street. John Farley wrote that he was “thrown against a wall and handcuffed with hard plastic zip-tie restraints. I sat on the sidewalk with about 50 others. I yelled over and over, ‘I’m press! I’m with WNET MetroFocus!

DeAnne Hamilton to lead WESA in Pittsburgh

DeAnne Hamilton becomes president of WESA-90.5 FM in Pittsburgh on Oct. 17, Essential Public Radio announced today (Sept. 28). She previously was general manager of WKAR at Michigan State University, and was a vice president and station manager of KQED Public Television in San Francisco. Hamilton also is a member of the PBS Board of Directors.

New PBS primary in Orlando raises $60,000 in first pledge drive

WUCF-TV, the new PBS primary station in Orlando, Fla., has raised $60,000 in its first pledge drive, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Grant Heston, assistant vice president of news and information at licensee University of Central Florida, said he was “very pleased,” and looking forward to larger numbers for its next fundraiser in December. The station took a “low-key approach” to the drive, the paper noted, with no announced goal. WUCF-TV, a partnership between the university and Brevard Community College, signed on as the primary on July 1, in the wake of the sale announcement of WMFE-TV (Current, April 18, 2011).

Documents reveal financial struggles for Michigan State’s WKAR

In recent years, Michigan State University has provided an average annual subsidy of $3.5 million for WKAR-TV and radio — about one-third of its budget, according to financial statements obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the the State Journal in Lansing, Mich. Neither Gary Reid, director of broadcasting, nor Pamela Whitten, college dean, could say what future MSU funding levels will be for WKAR, the paper said. Last month WKAR laid off 10 employees. The pubTV and radio station had combined operating shortfalls of $411,158 in fiscal year 2008, $929,237 in 2009 and $634,991 in 2010, according to financial documents.

Rep. Yarmuth introduces bill to reauthorize Ready To Learn

Congressman John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) has introduced the Ready To Compete Act, H.R. 3036, which would reauthorize public television’s longtime education program, Ready To Learn.“We are extremely grateful to Congressman Yarmuth for his unwavering support of public broadcasting’s educational mission and recognizing the important role local stations play in educating communities across the country,” said Patrick Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations, in a statement. RTL uses public television’s on-air and online educational content to build the math, science and reading skills of children ages 2 to 8, especially targeting those from low-income families and underserved communities. In addition, Yarmuth’s bill, introduced Sept. 22, would expand RTL by including the creation of content and resources for children age 9 to 13, if adequate funding is available. And Ready To Compete would provide assistance to help adults get ready for work through its Ready To Earn program, supporting educational digital content and services focused on GED (high-school diploma equivalency) preparation, adult literacy and workforce training skills.

Two pubcasters honored as Powerful and Influential Latinos

Sandie Pedlow, executive director of Latino Public Broadcasting, and Joseph Tovares, CPB’s senior v.p. for diversity and innovation, are on this year’s list of Most Powerful and Influential Latinos from the Imagen Foundation. The nonprofit advocates for positive portrayals of Latinos in all forms of entertainment media. Honorees will be recognized at a gala at the Beverly Hills Hilton Tuesday night (Sept. 27).

At long last, public radio has its very own style maven

Jesse Thorn, host and creator of The Sound of Young America, has his hands in many creative projects but recently he’s taken up . . . men’s style blogging?If it seems unlikely, think again, because Thorn is a man who knows how to dress well and how to do so on a budget.In a magazine feature published today, Thorn takes readers of GQ shopping in underground L.A., stopping for pastrami in his favorite deli before visiting a Korean tailor, a Mexican shoemaker and three thrift stores. “What Thorn offers is a measure of practicality and instruction, and allows the average man, without stylist or sponsor, to develop a responsibility for his appearance,” writes GQ’s Shona Sanzgiri.

“Teaching Channel Presents” to highlight innovative classroom methods

Teaching Channel Presents, a one-hour weekly magazine showcasing teachers and their methods nationwide, premieres Oct. 2 on public TV stations. It’s produced by the Teaching Channel (Tch), a multiplatform showcase of innovative teaching techniques that launched in June, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.The premiere includes a visit to a multilingual classroom in Los Angeles, sixth-graders on a microscopic safari, a group of active third graders grappling with the concept of graphing, a new teacher working to improve his practice with an instructional coach, and a middle-school math teacher who writes hip-hop tunes to boost retention for his students. WNET is distributing Teaching Channel Presents through the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA).

Six News and Documentary Emmys go to shows on PBS

PBS won six News and Documentary Emmy Awards at ceremonies Monday (Sept. 26) in New York City. P.O.V. claimed four statuettes, and Independent Lens and Frontline each won one. A full list of winners is here (PDF). For those keeping score, these awards join 14 Primetime Emmys and 12 Daytime Emmys awarded to programs on PBS, for a total of 32 Emmys this year.

WAMU’s Fred Fiske, 91, to retire this week

Fred Fiske, senior commentator at WAMU 88.5 in Washington, D.C., is retiring at age 91 on Tuesday (Sept. 27), which marks his 64th anniversary on the local airwaves. “It’s been a wonderful ride,” he said in his final commentary on Monday. Fiske started on radio as a child actor in the 1930s. His career includes serving as a presidential announcer and veteran affairs commentator for Mutual Broadcasting, providing live coverage of the inaugurations of Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.

CoastAlaska creates Radio to Go for stations affected by disasters

In response to several recent disasters worldwide, CoastAlaska has developed two small portable FM radio stations for use by pubcasters in the state, called Radio to Go. The nonprofit, a service partnership among seven stations, developed the portable radio setup in case a transmitter or studio building is put out of service. The FCC-compliant portable stations can be set up and broadcasting on the air in a matter of minutes, CoastAlaska says.The two units will be located in separate communities in shipping cases that can be loaded onto a Coast Guard helicopter, commercial flight or marine transportation. Cost per unit is about $10,000, including shipping cases, a 150 watt FM radio transmitter, CD players, digital audio recorder, radio tuner, mixer and microphones, cables and transmitting antenna and mast.

PubTV’s “Catholicism” series is “game-changing reality TV,” columnist writes

The upcoming public TV series Catholicism gets an early and enthusiastic review from Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online. “It is openly a work of evangelization (complete with available study guides and a prayer card), and is done in a way that is welcoming to a wide potential audience,” she writes. “Catholicism is classic, revolutionary, and plausibly — like the Gospels themselves — game-changing reality TV.” Chicago’s WTTW is sponsoring station, premiering four of the program’s 10 parts; it’s distributed by Executive Program Services. Catholicism was filmed in more than 50 locations in 15 countries over two years.

Ohio’s WYSO to boost signal power

WYSO-FM in Yellow Springs, Ohio, will move its studios and increase its signal strength from 37,000 watts to 50,000 watts before the end of the year, reports the Dayton Daily News. The improvement is made possible by a $1 million grant approved Friday (Sept. 23) by Antioch University’s board of governors to provide the public radio station with a new broadcast facility. The power upgrade will extend the station’s reach to more listeners in southwest Ohio and provide the existing audience with a higher quality radio signal with less interference. The Federal Communication Commission has already approved the changes, university officials said.

Lynn Novick, a filmmaker in her own right

Lynn Novick has shared directing or producing credits on several of documentarian Ken Burns’ major films, including Frank Lloyd Wright in 1998, The War in 2007 and last year’s Baseball: The Tenth Inning. And yet she remains in his shadow. Here’s a New York Times profile of Novick, who began her career as a production assistant at WNET and spent time working as an associate producer on A World of Ideas with Bill Moyers.

Pittsburgh’s WQED announces all-pledge multicast channel

WQED in Pittsburgh is launching what looks to be the first pubTV multicast channel in the nation dedicated to all pledge programming, all the time.WQED Showcase “will include local pledge programming that has previously aired on the main channel, as well as national pledge programming that we were not able to schedule on the main channel due to space limitations,” George Hazimanolis, spokesperson for the Pittsburgh station, told Current. And, yes, “viewers will be asked to make a contribution to WQED just like on any other pledge program,” Hazimanolis said.The new channel “will be another way for WQED to maximize revenue so that we can continue to fulfill our core educational mission to this community,” said Deborah Acklin, station president, in a statement. In addition, WQED Showcase will be a testing ground for national pledge shows from American Public Television, Acklin said.  Local content will include popular shows such as QED Cooks with Chris Fennimore and Rick Seback’s documentaries. The channel goes on the air later this fall.

Cancellation of English-Spanish show in Gary, Ind., causes dispute

Que Pasa!, a talk show in English and Spanish on WGVE, a pubradio station owned and operated by the Gary (Indiana) Community School Corporation, has been pulled from the air, reports WBEZ in Chicago. The host is crying censorship; management says it’s a dispute over scheduling.Lisette Guillen-Gardnerhas co-hosts the show with her mother, Maria Guillen. It runs from 8 to 9 a.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, serving northwest Indiana’s Latino population. “Last Thursday (Sept. 15) was our last show.

A pubcasting pint: Broadcaster Brown Ale

In celebration of World Cafe’s 20th anniversary on pubradio, Philadelphia Brewing Co. has created Broadcaster Brown Ale. ” Just like World Cafe,” it says, “Broadcaster Brown Ale is both satisfying, and contemplative; with a silky malt sweetness, the complex flavors of kilned German malts, and the dry finish of our American hops.” The brewer worked with the WXPN show’s creator David Dye to get the “medium-bodied, deep red-brown hued ale” just right. It’ll be available on tap around Philly in October.