The Southern Conference has cut short a three-year deal with four public television stations to air college athletic events. SoCon, a Division I college athletic conference affiliated with the National Collegiate Athletic Association, announced the deals last year with South Carolina ETV, UNC-TV, Georgia Public Broadcasting and WTCI in Chattanooga, Tenn. (Current, Dec. 12, 2011). But SoCon wanted its games televised statewide in all five states within the league, which also included Alabama.
In this commentary, NPR’s v.p. of programming responds to Ira Glass’s suggestion that stations not devote prime weekend airtime to Car Talk reruns after the Magliozzi brothers retire this fall. Like Ira, I’m really excited about all the innovation in public radio today. Each of these new programs will need several things if they are to grow and prosper: an intellectual spark, real talent giving them a unique, authentic voice, money, smart plans for development, and stations willing to take a small risk. There is one other critical thing they need to grow and prosper: Car Talk. Airing Car Talk on Saturday mornings doesn’t stand in the way of innovation.
What if Congress stopped allocating federal aid to pubcasting? The latest bleak financial analysis from CPB, released last week, adds some specifics about how service would be affected in dozens of congressional districts across the land. Fifty-four public TV licensees in 19 states and 76 public radio operators in 38 states would be “at high risk of no longer being able to sustain operations” if federal aid ends, CPB asserts in a report backed by Booz & Co. and delivered to the appropriation committees June 20. Congress asked CPB for a report on the field’s economic options when lawmakers approved the most recent advance appropriation in December.
Attempts to mediate the months-long dispute between Southern Oregon University and the Medford-based Jefferson Public Radio network were put on hold last week after Gov. John Kitzhaber requested that the parties renew negotiations after a 90-day cooling-off period. Members of the board of the JPR Foundation, a sister organization to JPR, voted June 22 to approve the hiatus and the renewed attempt at mediation. The university also agreed to back down from threats of lawsuits against individual members of the board. An adviser to the governor told the Medford Mail Tribune that the governor made that request to the chancellor of the Oregon University System. “That allows mediation to be resumed without a gun to the head of the foundation,” says Ron Kramer, JPR executive director.
Chicago Public Media is paying $450,000 to buy Radio Arte, a low-power station programmed by and for Latino youth and operated by the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. CPM also plans to buy programming from Radio Arte to add to its Vocalo service. “This is a natural partnership,” said Silvia Rivera, Vocalo’s managing director, whose career in public media began in 1998 after taking part in Radio Arte’s media training program. “This partnership between two youth-driven public radio stations builds on a collaborative history and their complementary community missions,” the new partners said in a June 22 press release. CPM will also sponsor museum activities and events as part of the arrangement.
The CPB Board of Directors approved a supplementary grant of $575,000 June 14 to the Independent Television Service for completion of its Online Video Engagement Experience (OVEE), a digital platform that allows moderated interactive online screenings of video content streamed through PBS.org. CPB had backed development of the technology in 2010 with $954,000. The additional funding will support development of technical capabilities to run OVEE on mobile devices and stream live events, such as debates and town-hall meetings — enhancements requested by all five OVEE pilot stations. CPB management presented the grant request to the board at its June 4 meeting, but approval was postponed after Chair Bruce Ramer questioned whether the corporation should take an ownership stake in innovative projects such as OVEE (Current, June 11). The board agreed to take more time to consider the grant and delayed the vote.
NPR and KMBH in Harlingen, Texas, have received donations from a devoted listener who passed away in 2009. Wallace Cameron, a former professor of languages at Ohio University, left NPR $600,000 in his will. Cameron retired from Ohio University in 1992 after a 36-year career at the school. He lived in the Rio Grande Valley and was a fan of KMBH and NPR, says Robert Gutierrez, g.m. of KMBH. The station and network learned of the gift earlier this year.
WMFE-TV in Orlando, Fla., the former PBS flagship that had been set for sale to religious broadcasters, has a new buyer. The University of Central Florida announced June 21 that it plans to purchase WMFE for $3.3 million. The boards of UCF and WMFE, a community licensee that also operates a radio station, must approve the sale contract before it goes to the FCC. UCF, also in Orlando, played a role in preserving PBS service to the market last year when WMFE moved to sell its TV operation and focus on its public radio station. UCF partnered with Brevard Community College in Cocoa to convert WBCC, a pubTV station licensed to the community college, into a full-service PBS station broadcasting as WUCF.