House spectrum bill passes; FCC’s Genachowski has concerns

The GOP version of spectrum auction legislation passed the House on Tuesday (Dec. 13) as part of the payroll tax extension package, but that looks destined for a presidential veto. Meanwhile, reports Broadcasting & Cable, Federal Communications Commission Chair Julius Genachowski said he is concerned with parts of the bill that could “tie the agency’s hands in ways that could be counterproductive.” He didn’t reveal which sections, but the proposed legislation would limit the FCC’s ability to decide who gets to bid on spectrum.

Media Ratings Council chair says Nielsen “still trying to figure out diary markets”

In part one of a three-part look at audience measurement ratings, TVNewsCheck interviews the chair of the Media Rating Council, Billy McDowell, who says of Nielsen diaries: “They’re still trying to figure out the diary markets. They’re working on a lot of improvements, some that we have suggested, some they’re doing entirely on their own. I know that sample size is an issue there as well. They have been public about their set-top box initiatives and we will see where it all goes.”Part two examines Rentrak’s growing influence in the ratings game, and part three focuses on a two-year-old dispute over local broadcasters wanting credit for viewing of programs recorded on DVRs.

Is MPTV-Friends merger really “amicable”?

Milwaukee magazine takes an in-depth look at the tumultuous history leading up to the proposed merger between Milwaukee Public Television and its Friends group. In a nutshell: The Milwaukee Area Technical College, which runs channels 10 and 36, “has been at odds with the Friends group for more than a decade and wants to crush it.” Indeed, Current covered the controversy in October and November 1999.Ellis Bromberg, MPTV general manager, told the local Journal Sentinel that the merger negotiations are “amicable talks.” Friends board president David Stroik declined to comment — “but there is good reason for this,” Milwaukee magazine says. “The proposed agreement has a gag order: ‘Neither MATC nor the Friends shall issue any press release (or make any other public announcement) related to this Agreement. … Neither party shall make any critical, negative, or disparaging public statement or announcement about the other party, its personnel, operations, activities, conduct of its activities or management.'”

MPTV Friends, Milwaukee station appear close to merger

Milwaukee Public Television is in “the final stages of merger talks” with the fundraising group MPTV Friends, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Over the years the nonprofit has raised around $100 million for public television in the city. Ellis Bromberg, MPTV g.m., told the paper the talks are “amicable,” adding, “I think both sides believe that this is the best in the long run for our station and our donors. We think so, and so do the Friends.”Under the agreement expected to be announced soon, more than half the Friends’ 19 employees would become MPTV staffers in its development department, and the others may receive severance. Assets of the Friends, worth more than $3 million, would become the property of MPTV.

Blogging voyage to continue for most of NPR’s Argo stations

Ten of the 12 public radio stations participating in the NPR-led Argo Project intend to continue reporting on their specialized topics when the blogging pilot ends this month. “[F]or some stations, it’s been an eye-opening experience in how original, web-native publishing can expand audiences in ways that repurposed radio content might not on its own,” reports Andrew Phelps of Nieman Lab. “At four of the 12 stations, their Argo blog drew monthly audiences bigger than every other part of their news sites combined.” Blogs published by California stations KQED and KPBS were top performers in the Argo Network, and both intend to keep reporting next year.The Argo Project launched in 2010 as a demonstration and proving ground for NPR’s strategy to help stations expand their digital reporting capacity. CPB and the Knight Foundation provided grants totaling $3 million for the two-year experiment.

Fair use: What public media makers are doing right and how they can do even better

Fair use, the right to employ copyrighted material in certain situations without licensing it, is in resurgence after two dismal decades of widespread misinterpretation — and nowhere is the right getting more exercise than in public broadcasting. Public broadcasters have been leaders in asserting their rights appropriately, and can use them even more to advance public media in a participatory and digital era. As Peter Jaszi and I detail in our new book, Reclaiming Fair Use: How to Put Balance Back in Copyright (University of Chicago Press, 2011), media makers are recognizing fair use as an essential free-speech right at a time when the fundamental bargain between the public and copyright owners has become dangerously imbalanced in favor of rights holders. Fair use enables new cultural expression — free-speech acts ranging from news to artistic experiment — because it permits creators to reference the world around them. Fair use balances the rights of copyright holders, while ensuring that their limited monopoly rights remain in place.

Sports: a real community that some stations join

There’s a new game in town — relatively new to public television, anyway. Blessed with digital multicast channels and eager to attract new viewers, PBS stations are finding success with high-school football and other sports as varied as NASCAR and Special Olympics on their schedules. Station execs concede that airing more sports can mean preempting PBS program staples — maybe exchanging Frontline for field goals. They can also face questions about the propriety of carrying women’s basketball in place of Washington Week in Review. Still, they insist, gains in viewer interest, the opportunity to promote other shows during game broadcasts, and the positive vibes of bringing communities together more than justify any inconvenience or criticism.

Pipeline 2012

This year’s Pipeline survey found projects planned, begun or completed about Francis Scott Key and Phil Ochs … religious pilgrims and itinerant carnies … Shakespeare and NASCAR … Margaret Mitchell and Harper Lee … Col. George Armstrong Custer and Joe Paterno … Johann Bach and Freddie Fender … aging brains and young multitaskers. Mark (Survivor) Burnett does a “reality” show for PBS about prime ministers’ chefs, and David (Farmer’s Wife) Sutherland gives us verite of an aspiring Sioux social worker. Ken Burns follows up on the Central Park jogger case and Ric Burns looks at the blood spilled by the Civil War and the bad blood that still remains.

Albany gets a lot of Chartock, but how much is too much?

When Alan Chartock, president of Northeast Public Radio in Albany, N.Y., was on a wife-imposed Mexican vacation, despite her objections he still found a way to call in for his five-day-a-week 7:34 a.m. spot. Chartock, 70, lives and breathes the media institution he created nearly single-handedly in 1981. He’s on air most days and often hosts two weekly shows, one about medicine and the other about media. If you are one of the 450,000 monthly listeners to mother station WAMC or its 22 repeaters in the hilly towns and valleys where New York meets Vermont and Massachusetts, you know a lot about Chartock. You know he’s always trying a new diet (currently, no white food).

Closing of news bureau leaves regrets, questions

There was no shortage of ideas for keeping Capitol News Connection afloat. CNC’s stock in trade was chasing down politicians for local legislators’ take on the day’s developments in Congress. Before it was shuttered in September, public radio’s little nonprofit news bureau on Capitol Hill tried expanding into online news reporting, revising fees, selling localized coverage of Congress to newspapers and TV stations as well as pubradio, and developing widgets and apps to boost its income. As founder and CEO Melinda Wittstock worked relentlessly against recession economics to save the cash-strapped newsroom, she turned to a dot-org hope. Her conception for NewsIt, a crowdsourced social-media news platform, was perhaps her biggest idea to date.

APM acquires Knight-nurtured crowdfunding site

Minnesota-based American Public Media announced Nov. 29 the future cohabitation of two new-media tools for use by public media newsrooms. APM’s Public Insight Network (PIN), which helps journalists find story topics and sources in their communities, has acquired Spot.Us, a platform for raising money to support freelance reporting. Launched in 2008, Spot.Us allows freelancers to post pitches on its website for stories they’d like to report and ask for donations to support their efforts. Spot.Us takes a 10 percent cut of the donations for its own expenses and charges news organizations to create surveys for their websites. Readers who answer the surveys get credits that they can apply to Spot.Us story pitches.

Ancient human remains found under Alaska station

KCAW/Raven Radio in Sitka, Alaska, may not have a skeleton in its closet, but it has one in its basement. Contractors working beneath the studio in October uncovered human remains that may predate the 103-year-old building. KCAW General Manager Ken Fate told Current on Nov. 28 that the station is “working closely with the Sitka Tribe of Alaska” to determine whether the body is that of a tribal ancestor. The station reported on its website that when the bones were discovered between two slabs of bedrock, work immediately stopped.

PBS to produce sessions on TV fundraising at PMDMC

Next year’s Public Media Development and Marketing Conference, the annual event organized by pubradio’s Development Exchange Inc., will include a new track for pubTV professionals, produced by PBS. The conference runs July 12-14 in Seattle. The track will focus on pledge practices, fundraising and community engagement around children’s programming, and television-specific research. DEI and PBS announced the collaboration in a statement Dec. 6.

Fairbanks station quits shared feed as Anchorage arrives

Cooperation among Alaska’s public TV stations took a backwards step last week after a modest gain in September. A major result of three years of talks among the three largest stations was that KAKM-TV in Anchorage, the state’s dominant city, would join the AlaskaOne consortium of stations in Fairbanks, Juneau, Bethel and smaller towns, which have shared a TV schedule since 1995. Last week, KUAC-TV in Fairbanks said it will drop out of the AlaskaOne TV consortium as of July 1. The Fairbanks station, which had assembled the feed, opted out after its partners in AlaskaOne voted in November to merge its program feed with that of KAKM in Anchorage. In a Dec.

PRX gets some fuel to incubate public-media journalism tools

With $2.5 million from the Knight Foundation, Public Radio Exchange will rev up a new Public Media Accelerator next year to assist new public-media journalism projects with seed money, mentoring and help in finding funds and investors. Knight stresses the mentoring. After experience with more than 200 media projects, Knight has found that the most successful have been “nurtured through outside advice and expertise,” said foundation veep Michael Maness. PRX hasn’t set priorities for projects, chief exec Jake Shapiro told Current, but he expects they will tend to develop software tools, especially mobile apps. Shapiro sees benefits for public media organizations that get their hands geeky with the tech side, as PRX did, instead of outsourcing the work, he wrote on PBS MediaShift’s Idea Lab.

NPR rooted in stations that still require federal dollars

When Gary Knell officially started work this month as NPR’s president, he probably found no shortage of ideas about what he should do with an organization that has recently survived bad headlines, turmoil at the top and a near-death experience with federal funding cuts. But he would be well advised to ignore some of those recommendations. Some say NPR should simply forgo federal funding, which accounts for 2 percent of its annual budget. Receiving even that small amount, they say, leaves NPR vulnerable to accusations of political bias in its news coverage. How much easier it would be, they argue, if public radio would give up the federal dollars and ignore the occasional outbreaks of criticism from Capitol Hill.

Four shows on PBS are faves among most conservative and liberal TV viewers

Viewers on each end of the political spectrum, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats, have favorite PBS shows, according to a yearlong study by the Experian Simmons consumer research firm. It wanted to see what programs indexed highest and lowest among those viewers. Masterpiece was the third-highest indexing show among liberal Democrats, behind only The Daily Show and Colbert Report, says the Washington Post, which noted, “Masterpiece indexes at a whopping 234, which means a Masterpiece viewer is 134 percent more likely to be a liberal Democrat than the average adult viewer.”Three shows on PBS also rank in the conservative Republican index: This Old House, New Yankee Workshop and Antiques Roadshow.And Frontline is No. 10 among news shows for liberal Democrats. Here are the complete lists from Experian Simmons.

NJTV selects four colleges as satellite bureaus

NJTV will use four “content bureaus” located at universities across New Jersey, the pubcasting network announced today (Dec. 9). Brookdale Community College, Rowan University, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and William Paterson University be equipped with robotic cameras, provide student footage and interviews, and serve as a remote location for NJTV reporters, reports NJBIZ.

Spectrum compensation included in GOP House legislation

A provision to give the Federal Communications Commission authority to compensate broadcasters for giving up spectrum was included in a House Republican end-of-the-year legislation package released today (Dec. 8), reports Broadcasting & Cable. It provides up to $3 billion for relocation expenses to broadcasters for being moved to another channel or sharing channels after spectrum repacking, and gives the FCC until 2021 to reclaim and auction the spectrum, a necessary move as the increase in wireless devices demand more bandwidth. 

LPB selects 16 programs for Public Media Content Fund grants

Latino Public Broadcasting today (Dec. 9) announced 16 newly funded programs as part of its 2011 Public Media Content Fund for Latino-themed broadcast, new media and community engagement projects. Films include Children of Giant by producer/director Hector Galan, which exposes the events and emotions that transformed small town Marfa, Texas, site of George Steven’s epic film Giant, during and beyond Anglo-Latino segregation; Farewell, Ferris Wheel from producer/director Jamie Sisley, a look at the American carnivals that are endangered by immigration restrictions on workers; and Tales From a Ghetto Klown, producer/director Benjamin DeJesus, which profiles actor and playwright John Leguizamo and his unorthodox rise to fame. Here is a list of all the winners.