US Ignite partnership will push for apps using a faster, smarter Internet

The state-operated Utah Education Network and several municipalities are among about 100 members of US Ignite, a new partnership creating services for future broadband networks running up to 100 times faster than today’s Internet. This White House announced the partnership this morning, and President Obama will sign an executive order streamlining the approval process for building broadband infrastructure on and under federal property and coordinating excavations. It will reduce costs, for instance, by permitting broadband construction during highway-building. For a vivid demo of the power that the new networks make possible, John Underkoffler of Oblong Industries, showed off a video of G-speak, a commercially available human-machine interface based on Oblong’s design for the Wii-like technology used in the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report. The press conference kicked off a day-long series of sessions and other events.

Car Talk led the way to homogenization of noncom radio, writer says

“Car Talk is the exemplar for consolidation and homogenization on the noncommercial end of the dial,” writes Paul Riismandel, adviser to WNUR-FM at Northwestern University, on Radio Survivor. Riismandel notes that “as syndicated programming has taken over the programming schedule of public stations, local news, information and culture is pushed off. Car Talk is a program which pushed the frontier of this movement.” He cites the 1997 uproar when Wisconsin Public Radio canceled its popular local About Cars program to carry Car Talk, which culminated in a hearing before the state legislature (Current, March 17, 1997). WPR received Car Talk free in exchange for continuing a contract to distribute its own syndicated program, Whad’Ya Know?

Letter threatened JPR Foundation with ‘expensive’ lawsuits

Southern Oregon University’s law firm threatened the Jefferson Public Radio Foundation board with “expensive” lawsuits in a letter addressing issues of ownership and control of the pubradio stations, the Mail Tribune in Medford, Ore., reports.More than 12 phrases in a six-page March 22 letter from the Portland firm of Miller Nash LLP, obtained by the newspaper, suggest or threaten potential legal action, and describe “in great detail,” the newspaper said, possible legal strategies against JPR Executive Director Ron Kramer and the board — including the potential of dissolving the JPR Foundation entirely. Kramer oversees both JPR and the foundation; OSU terminated his station duties on March 25, effective June 30 (Current, April 9). The parties reached a tentative agreement this week following mediation on the issues, which surfaced during an OUS audit calling for greater separation between JPR and its fundraising foundation.

Longtime Sesame Street writer dies

Judy Freudberg, who wrote for Sesame Street for almost 40 years, died June 10 of a brain tumor, according to Hollywood Reporter. She was 63. Freudberg won 17 Emmy Awards for her work on the pubcasting series, and collaborated with Tony Geiss on Sesame Street’s first feature film, Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird (1985), and on two animated movies for executive producer Steven Spielberg: The Land Before Time (1985) and An American Tail (1986). Freudberg joined Sesame Street in 1971, during its third season, as a script typist and began writing for the program four years later.

Alabama PTV’s Jon Beans host, producer, dies at 50

Jon Beans, a reporter and host on Alabama Public Television for more than 20 years, died June 13 at a Montgomery hospital from sickle cell anemia. He was 50. Beans was with APT from 1990 through 2011, working as a producer, executive producer for news and public affairs director. He appeared on For the Record, Capitol Journal, Alabama Stories and other programs. He was also an adjunct professor in communications at Alabama State University. Survivors include his wife, Sagusta; their daughter, Kaitlyn; and son, Jonathan; along with his mother, Bobbie Beans; and two brothers, Hillyard J. Beans III of Tuscaloosa and Michael Beans of Columbus, Ga.

Three trophies put WNYC atop pubmedia’s Murrow winners

WNYC led public media in the 2012 national Edward R. Murrow Awards announced June 12 by the Radio Television Digital News Association.Among 17 pubcasting entities receiving Murrows for excellence in electronic journalism, the New York station won three trophies for two of its nationally distributed shows — Studio 360 andRadio Rookies.Three pubcasting outlets received Murrows in two categories: BBC World News, which won in the division for radio networks; Boston’s WBUR, a winner among large-market radio stations; and WITF in Harrisburg, Pa, scoring a double in the small-market radio division. Alabama Public Radio also stood out among small market radio stations, taking a Murrow for overall excellence.Public stations winning national Murrows in large- and small-market radio divisions excelled during an earlier phase of RTDNA’s annual journalism contest — the regional Murrows awarded in 13 multistate contests this spring.Public media news outlets won national Murrows across four divisions.Radio networks: WNYC’s Studio 360, a coproduction with Public Radio International, for feature reporting and use of sound, and Radio Rookies, writing; BBC World Service, hard news reporting and news documentary; American Public Media’s Marketplace, investigative reporting; and NPR, website.  Large-market radio stations: WBUR, investigative reporting and use of sound; KUT in Austin, Texas, continuing coverage; WCPN in Cleveland, feature reporting; WUSF in Tampa, Fla., news documentary; Mississippi Public Broadcasting, news series; and WFAE in Charlotte, N.C., writing.  Small-market radio stations: WITF in Harrisburg, Pa., news series and sports reporting; Alabama Public Radio, overall excellence; WBOI in Fort Wayne, Ind., feature reporting; KUNC in Greeley, Colo., investigative reporting; WUFT in Gainesville, Fla., hard news reporting; WSLU in Canton, N.Y., news documentary; and KSMU in Springfield, Mo., writing.  Local online news operation: The Lens New Orleans and the G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism in New Orleans, investigative reporting; and the Texas Tribune in Austin, website.The national Edward R. Murrow Awards have recognized outstanding electronic journalism since 1971.

JPR Foundation, SOU reach ‘tentative resolution’ in standoff over leadership

It appears that Southern Oregon University and the fundraising organization for Jefferson Public Radio made progress in their mediation talks held last week. In a statement, SOU said, “The JPR Foundation and Southern Oregon University are pleased to announce the tentative resolution of issues related to the ownership and operation of Jefferson Public Radio, subject to final approvals of their respective governing entities. Additional information will be made available once such final approvals are obtained.”

Ron Kramer, executive director of both the foundation and the radio station, told the Medford Mail Tribune that he was not a party to the agreement that was reached. Previous story in Current: “Did Kramer overreach in Oregon?”

Ahoy, NPR journos!

Public Radio at Sea, a cruise that’s “a celebration of the exceptional programming and beloved personalities of NPR,” sets sail next March. “Presumably,” notes, “karaoke, comedy acts and belly flop contests will not be part of the itinerary.”NPR journalists including All Things Considered host Michele Norris will be onboard the “all suite, all balcony” ship, which will visit ports in China, Vietnam and Thailand.“This isn’t like going to a radio station event where you hear [PBS NewsHour host] Jim Lehrer talk for 20 minutes and then go home,” Kevin Corcoran, president of Artful Travelers, which helped organize the event, told “You’re sailing with these people for two weeks; it creates this level of intimacy where you get to know them and understand what makes them tick.”“It’s an opportunity for fans to get to know our journalists, how they do their work and what that experience is like,” said Dana Davis Rehm, NPR spokesperson. “The hope is that they’ll step forward and be more generous in the future.”

Pioneering progressive rock DJ Pete Fornatale dies at 66

Pete Fornatale, who got his start at the Fordham University’s WFUV-FM as an undergrad in 1964 and went on to become an influential progressive-rock disc jockey in New York City, died April 26 following a stroke. He was 66. “This is a devastating loss, not just for his family, friends, and colleagues at WFUV, but for radio listeners everywhere,” Chuck Singleton, interim g.m., said in a statement. “Pete was a beloved air personality for four decades and a master communicator. His influence as a pioneer of progressive FM radio is almost incalculable.”

“It’s a very sad day for radio,” songwriter Paul Simon told the Associated Press.

Mark Pearson, Market to Market host, dies at 54

Mark Pearson, host of Iowa Public Television’s nationally syndicated Market to Market, died June 2 at grain and livestock farm in rural Madison County of an apparent heart attack. He was 54. “Iowa Public Television lost a friend and a colleague today,” the station said in a statement late that day, “and the state of Iowa lost a smart, enthusiastic, and talented agricultural broadcaster with the passing of Mark Pearson.”

“For more than 20 years, Mark was Market to Market — reporting on the latest news in agribusiness while providing critical insights for viewers across the nation,” the statement said. [In July, Iowa Public Television chose Pearson’s son Mike as his successor on the show, reported.  Mike Pearson had managed his family’s livestock and grain operation, worked in banking and reported for public radio station WOI-AM.]

“Traversing the State Fairgrounds with Mark was like travelling with Elvis,” said a colleague in an obituary for Market to Market’s website.  “It was as if everybody knew him and Mark did his best to visit with each and every one of them.” Pearson also was known to many for his work hosting IPTV’s State Fair coverage, the statement noted.

Alabama PTV appoints interim director after departure of Pizzato

Allan Pizzato, executive director of Alabama Public Television for the past 12 years, has left that position. A press release from the station provides no details.The Alabama Educational Television Commission (AETC) announced Tuesday (June 12) the appointment of Don Boomershine as interim director. Boomershine is a past president of the Better Business Bureau for Central Alabama, v.p. of the Metropolitan Development Board, and v.p., national division of SouthTrust Bank. The announcement also said Boomershine “appeared regularly for 25 years” on Alabama television and radio stations, and received the Outstanding Broadcaster Cooperation Award from the Alabama Broadcasters’ Association.In the announcement, AETC Chair Ferris W. Stephens said the board thanked Pizzato “for all of his years of service as director of APT.”Last year, Alabama PTV endured programming and staff cutbacks due to state funding losses. Its weekly political roundtable, Capitol Journal, had been suspended in June 2011 but returned to the air in January 2012.

As expected, FCC decides to sunset analog/digital viewability rule

The FCC is officially ending its viewability rule, which required cable operators with analog/digital systems to deliver must-carry TV stations in both formats, reports Broadcasting & Cable. Broadcasters wanted  the FCC to extend the requirement another three years, but the cable industry backed the FCC proposal to sunset the rule. Cable operators must still provide dual carriage for a six-month transition period and give customers 90 days’ warning before ending analog transmissions. If too many consumers complain, the FCC may reinstate the requirement.The National Association of Broadcasters “remains concerned” that the decision “has the potential to impose negative financial consequences on small local TV stations that are a source for minority, religious and independent program diversity across America,” said Dennis Wharton, NAB spokesperson. Those stations had protested the end of analog signals.

Dismissals at Alabama PTV linked to concerns over proposed broadcast of videos from religious right

See also more complete story from print edition of June 25, 2012. Two top managers at Alabama Public Television were fired from their jobs June 12 with no explanation of the cause for the immediate dismissals. The Alabama Educational Television Commission came out of an executive session Tuesday afternoon and ordered veteran pubcaster Allan Pizzato and his deputy, Pauline Howland, to clean out their desks and leave APT’s headquarters in Birmingham. “All I can say is that it was an irreconcilable difference in opinion of the future direction of the station,” Pizzato told Current. “I serve at the pleasure of the board.

Alabama commission revises APTV’s mission statement, 2012

See also Current coverage. Alabama network’s mission statement before the Alabama Educational Television Commission revised it June 12, 2012
Alabama Public Television Mission, Vision, Values, and Diversity Statement
Each of us is born with a natural desire to learn. We seek to explore our world and to understand life and the people around us. Alabama Public Television is a center of discovery for people of all ages. We motivate children to learn, empower students and teachers to succeed, and provide a lifelong path to knowledge.

PubTV tests new approaches for fundraising with kids’ TV

This reluctance to fundraise around children’s shows is “a conundrum,” Rotenberg said in an interview. “Kids’ programming is probably the most recognized and valued service that we offer … And yet it seems that, as a community, we shy away from it.”

Ann Thompson

NPR hires two reporters, WXXI news director rappels down 21 stories, and more…

Leila Fadel, Cairo bureau chief for the Washington Post, signs on as NPR’s Cairo-based correspondent in July. She covered the Iraq War for almost five years and won a George Polk Award in 2007 for her reporting from Baghdad. She replaces Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who will report from Kabul, Afghanistan, and then Berlin. Gregory Warner, a senior reporter for American Public Media’s Marketplace, will join NPR as East Africa correspondent, based in Nairobi, Kenya, in December. Warner now covers the economics and business of healthcare, but he’s previously reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and the DR Congo.