Outlook grim for pubcasting in New Zealand

“2012 will be a make or break year for public broadcasting in New Zealand,” according to the Spy Report, an Australian media news site. “New Zealand governments have never shown a strong commitment to public broadcasting, but 2011 has witnessed a remarkable dismantling of what little there was of public broadcasting on television.”On Dec. 23, it says, Stratos Television, the country’s only national independent noncom channel, went dark; its c.e.o., Jim Blackman, cited “transmission costs coupled with the economic environment and general lack of support at all levels” as the cause. The noncom children’s and family channel, TVNZ 6, ended broadcast on Feb. 28.

Florida stations still struggling after May cut of state funding

The Tampa Bay Times is looking back at a rough year for pubcasters in the state, after Gov. Rick Scott’s decision in May to veto nearly $4.8 million in state funding. Public TV stations lost more than $300,000 and each public radio station saw a $60,000 drop. All told, in the Tampa Bay area, WEDU, WMNF and WUSF radio and TV stations lost a total of around $1 million. “And while Tampa Bay area public broadcasting fans initially responded with a surge in donations,” the paper noted, “as the year wore on, local stations found themselves increasingly challenged to find new, permanent solutions to the funding dilemma.””The public, in times of emergency, comes through,” said Rob Lorei, WMNF’s news and public affairs director. “Now they don’t have that sense of urgency.”

Bob O’Rourke dies at 72; developed pubcasting science shows

Bob O’Rourke, a former vice president for public relations at the California Institute of Technology who helped develop several pubcasting science features, died Tuesday (Dec. 27) of complications following a lung transplant. He was 72.O’Rourke conceived the idea for AirTalk: The CalTech Edition, a collaboration with local NPR member station KPCC in Pasadena, Calif., as well as The Loh Down on Science, “the fun way to get your daily dose of science in less than two minutes,” hosted by Sandra Tsing Loh. He also was a driving force behind Curious, a four-part pubTV series from WNET that focused on the work of scientists at CalTech and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.”Bob O’Rourke’s passing is a loss to Caltech that is incalculable,” said Loh, a Caltech alumnus, in a statement from the university. “I feel his loss as deeply as I would the loss of a member of my own family.

FCC reaffirms “tribal priority” for broadcast licenses

The Federal Communications on Wednesday (Dec. 28) issued an order reaffirming the “tribal priority” it created in 2009 to bolster Native American rights in broadcast licenses. In a concurring statement, retiring Commissioner Michael Copps called the order a “wonderful step” toward “bringing modern telecommunications to Indian Country.”John Crigler, a longtime telecom attorney working with Native Public Media (NPM), told Current that the order recognizes “the inherent right of tribes to serve their own people, by recognizing that tribes and Alaska Native villages are political, not racial classifications.” Crigler said the FCC adopted a requirement that protects tribes from proposing a broadcast allocation, only to lose it to a non-tribal bidder at auction. Now, only a tribal entity may bid on a tribal priority allocation.

KET to provide public-affairs programming to Kentucky pubradio stations

Kentucky Educational Television in Lexington begins programming partnerships with pubradio stations in the state in January, it said in a statement Wednesday (Dec. 28). Participating will be WEKU in Richmond and WKMS in Murray, with other pubcasters coming on soon. “Our partnership with Kentucky public radio stations will strengthen the public broadcasting service for Kentuckians by expanding access to trusted signature public affairs programming,” said Shae Hopkins, KET executive director. KET series and programs available to public radio stations for broadcast will include Kentucky Tonight, Comment on Kentucky, One to One with Bill Goodman, Connections with Renee Shaw, Education Matters, Jubilee, Legislative Update, candidate forums and election night coverage.

Reno’s KNPB to drop 2.5 hours of children’s shows, forgo after-school programs

KNPB, PBS in Reno, Nev., will end children’s programming at 12:30 p.m. starting next week, cutting 2.5 hours from its nine-hour daily schedule of kids’ shows, reports Technorati, noting that the change “will put KNPB tied in third place for the fewest hours of daily children’s programs among 30 PBS affiliated stations surveyed in the western United States,” after California stations KRCB in Rohnert Park and KCSM in San Mateo, which is currently for sale. The new schedule goes into effect Jan. 2, 2012.In an email to Technorati, Kurt Mische, KNPB president, said that the changes “will allow us to serve a larger audience of viewers . . .

Romney: Under his presidency, PBS would have advertisements

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, on the stump ahead of Iowa’s Jan. 3 GOP caucuses, today (Dec. 28) told a crowd at a deli in Clinton, Iowa, that if elected, he would end public broadcasting funding, reports ABC News. “We subsidize PBS,” he said. “Look, I’m going to stop that.

Funeral on Thursday for attorney Bob Woods, 80

Robert A. Woods, 80, a retired founding partner in the communications law firm of Schwartz, Woods & Miller, died Dec. 22 following a long illness. A funeral service will be held Thursday morning in Bethesda, Md.The firm handled FCC and other matters for numerous public broadcasting stations as well as for common carriers and commercial broadcasters. Woods had served as outside general counsel for the National Association of Educational Broadcasters and the Joint Council on Educational Broadcasting, which advocated the commission’s reservation of channels for educational TV in the 1950s.Woods and Louis Schwartz started the firm in 1970. Lawrence M. Miller later became a name partner.

PubTV in L.A. not yet a case of win-win-win-win

When KCET announced in October 2010 that it would quit PBS after four decades as its primary Los Angeles affiliate, the task facing PBS was enormous: Find a local outlet to step into the breach, establish new branding, arrange for cable carriage, find homes for orphaned shows, and, most importantly, change long-term tuning habits so 16 million-plus potential viewers could find their favorite programs. All in less than three months. The outlet that stepped up was Orange County’s KOCE, a second-string station still recovering from a costly, drawn-out legal battle with religious programmer Daystar Television Network several years earlier. KOCE became PBS SoCal and, with extensive effort and CPB aid, the PBS program schedule began broadcasts on a new channel Jan. 1. But nearly a year into the new reality, it’s clear that the changeover has not been without complications.

Former WBAI talker Lynn Samuels found dead at 69

Progressive radio talk-show host Lynn Samuels, 69, who began her career on public radio, was found deceased in her apartment on Christmas Eve, the New York Daily News reports. When Samuels didn’t show up for her Sirius XM show on Saturday (Dec. 24), reps for the satellite radio company asked the police to investigate. Officers found her body in the apartment in Queens. Samuels began her radio career in 1979 at Pacifica Radio’s WBAI in New York City.

Man injured, two charged in BASE jump attempt from MPT tower

A man attempting to parachute off the Maryland Public Television tower in Crownsville, Md., was injured after his chute didn’t properly open, reports local ABC station WJLA. Robert Scott Morgan, 25, of Fairfax, Va., was hospitalized. Morgan and Sean Michael Bullington, 34, of Draper, Utah, were charged with trespassing.This was the second BASE (buildings, antennas, spans and earth) jump incident recently in the area. Five persons were charged with trespassing at WETA’s radio tower in Arlington, Va., Dec. 14.

Judy Jankowski dies at 61; former g.m. of WDUQ, KKJZ

Judy Jankowski, who held top management positions at several public broadcasting stations, died Dec. 17 at Kindred Hospital in Westminster, Calif. She was 61.She started her long pubcasting career as a traffic manager at WOUB in Athens, Ohio. She worked as general manager of WDUQ in Pittsburgh, Pa., from the mid-1980s until 1994; she retired as general manager of KKJZ in Long Beach, Calif., in 2005. She also held executive positions at stations in Birmingham, Ala., and Houston.”I first knew Judy when we both worked in Texas in the early 1980’s, and from then on she was a friend, colleague and collaborator,” said Scott Hanley, another former g.m. at WDUQ.

Virginia Gov. McDonnell proposes to zero-out state aid to pubcasting

After using a line-item veto this spring to trim state funding for Virginia’s public broadcasting stations, Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed to completely eliminate the subsidies. McDonnell’s first biennial budget, unveiled on Dec. 19, would cut $3.6 million in annual appropriations for Virginia’s public television and radio stations and their educational telecommunications services. The total reduction over two years, 2013-14, would be $7.2 million.David Mullins, president of WVPT in Harrisonburg, plans to appeal to state lawmakers to reject McDonnell’s proposal. “[W]e will make our case with the General Assembly for funding the unique and valued services WVPT and our public broadcasting partners throughout Virginia provide,” he said in a statement provided to the Washington Post.

Board unanimously agrees to merger between Milwaukee pubTV and Friends group

The Milwaukee Area Technical College Board of Directors voted Tuesday (Dec. 20) 7-0 to place the fundraising operations of the MPTV Friends group under the management of Milwaukee Public Television. The Journal Sentinel reports that the Friends group has raised $100 million over several decades to support public TV stations WMVS-TV (Channel 10) and WMVT-TV (Channel 36). Ellis Bromberg, general manager of Milwaukee Public Television, refers to the agreement as a “merger”; a former Friends board member and president, John Bernaden, calls it a “hostile takeover.” The agreement now proceeds to the Friends board.

PBS NewsHour tops international and government TV coverage in new Pew analysis

PBS NewsHour gave viewers more than one-third more coverage of international events over the last year than other TV outlets, including cable, morning and network evening news, according to “The Year in the News,” the annual analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The report says that 39 percent of time on the NewsHour was spent on foreign events and U.S. foreign policy, compared with 28 percent on television in general, 23 percent on cable news programs, 24 percent on network morning news shows and 24 percent on network evening broadcasts. NewsHour also spent a third more time covering government than its direct competitors, commercial network evening newscasts (12 percent vs. 9 percent).

You heart NPR? Check this out

In case you haven’t seen it yet, “Hey girl. I heart NPR” on Tumblr is pretty amusing, with its hunky-dude photos and accompanying come-on lines like, “Wait, wait . . . don’t tell me you’re busy Friday night.”

Vision and risk necessary for pubmedia in 2012, observers say

What’s the most important innovation necessary for public media in the new year?That’s what pubmedia thinker/blogger/advocate Amanda Hirsch wanted to know, so she asked around. “According to some,” she writes on the Integrated Media Association blog, “what’s needed more than anything — more than any individual innovative approach — is a shared, collective vision of where public media needs to go next.”She said several respondents agreed with Ian Hill, community manager at KQED, who said, “I think what’s still needed most is a change in the culture so that innovation and risk-taking are supported and encouraged.”