WNYC, the producer of public radio’s Radiolab, has found “no reason to believe” that frequent contributor Jonah Lehrer’s appearances on the show are “compromised.” Lehrer resigned from The New Yorker Sunday after Tablet magazine revealed that he had made up quotes attributed to Bob Dylan in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works. Here’s the full statement from WNYC:
Jonah Lehrer has been a regular contributor to Radiolab as an “explainer,” making technical science more accessible and bringing much needed meaning to new scientific research. He has been a lively and compelling voice and has helped make the history of science come alive for listeners. We are deeply saddened by the news this week about such a talented and valued colleague.
Georgia Public Broadcasting is laying off eight full-time employees and nine part-timers as it outsources its master-control operations over the next 90 to 120 days, station spokesperson Nancy Zintak told Current. Transitioning its master control to Encompass Digital Media in Atlanta will save the state network around $300,000 annually, Zintak said. Zintak said GPB “looked very carefully” at the two CPB-backed public-broadcasting centralcasters, the Jacksonville Digital Convergence Alliance that serves seven stations from Florida, and Centralcast LLC, running controls for 13 stations in New York and New Jersey. A “huge part” of the decision, Zintak said, was that Encompass is an Atlanta-based company. “And, Encompass is up and running now,” she said.
The new nonprofit newsroom that NPR and WWNO announced today will not compete directly with the Times-Picayne, NPR’s Kinsey Wilson told Current in an interview. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on plans for a hybrid radio-digital news operation covering New Orleans, played up the potential for competition between the news outlets, but Wilson sees it differently. “I wouldn’t characterize it as a competitor,” said NPR’s chief content officer and digital strategist. “Frankly I don’t think that’s how anybody locally [sees it], and certainly not how we’re looking at it.” WWNO and various New Orleans community leaders attempted to rally behind the T-P when cutbacks were announced in June, Wilson said.
NPR is launching a new nonprofit newsroom in New Orleans in conjunction with WWNO, the local public radio station owned by the University of New Orleans, the Wall Street Journal reports. The partners announced the changes today. The new venture, which will include a revamped, local-news–focused WWNO lineup as well as the website NewOrleansReporter.org, is a response to the declining resources of the city’s daily for-profit newspaper, the Times-Picayune. On June 12 the owners of the T-P announced plans to cut 201 personnel, nearly a third of its staff, and cut back print operations to three days a week beginning in the fall. “This is an exciting opportunity to converge digital, mobile and broadcast together in a multiplatform newsroom for New Orleans,” Paul Maassen, g.m. of WWNO, said in an accompanying press release.
Sesame Workshop is getting into the for-profit educational franchise business, starting with India, where it’s launching Sesame Schoolhouse preschools and after-school clubs, reports the Wall Street Journal’s India Real Time blog. The Workshop has had a presence in the country since 2006 with Galli Galli Sim Sim, the Hindi version of Sesame Street. Sesame Workshop India also takes the show on mobile screens into slum communities in five cities. Sesame Workshop aims to have 20 franchised schools open by March 2013, with plans for 382 within five years, according to the report. So far, one has opened in Jaipur, the capital and largest city in the northwest Indian state of Rajasthan.
In a move signalling its ambitions to extend its clout and influence in public radio, Boston’s WGBH has acquired Public Radio International, the Minnesota-based program distributor of radio programs such as This American Life, The World and The Takeaway. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed, but the sale will help to stabilize the nonprofit program distributor PRI, which ran an operating deficit of $2 million in 2011, according to PRI spokesperson Julia Yager. “This is a deal borne out of shared visions,” Yager said in an interview with Current. PRI began examining its options last year as its leadership considered the implications of various funding scenarios for public media. PRI looked for partners to help it continue distributing radio programming and found that WGBH was best aligned with its own mission and values.
The national board of the Pacifica Foundation voted Sunday (July 22) to begin a search for two new top executives. The board will not renew contracts for Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt and Chief Financial Officer LaVarn Williams, which both expire Nov. 30. The two were invited to apply for new terms in their positions. The action was reported in an email to the SaveKPFA listserv and confirmed by Margy Wilkinson, chair of the local station board at KPFA, Pacifica’s Berkeley station, who attended the meeting.
Oregon Public Broadcasting is making major changes to its broadcast radio lineup as of Aug. 6, reports The Oregonian. “All the long-form music programs are going away from OPB radio,” John Bell, director of member communications for OPB, told the newspaper. Gone are The Thistle and Shamrock, the Celtic music show the station has carried since the 1980s; the local In House and American Routes are moving to opbmusic.org and HD radio. The variety show eTown is canceled, as are the comedy program Michael Feldman’s Whad’Ya Know?
NPR, PBS and the Association of Public Television Stations are among broadcast organizations weighing in with the FCC on its April proposal for a change in policy to allow pubcasters to raise money for charities and other nonprofits on the air without first obtaining a waiver. All three are opposed. Other pubcasters filing comments include New England Public Radio and the University Station Alliance, which also oppose the change, and North Carolina’s UNC-TV, which “generally supports” the change. Several religious organizations, including the National Religious Broadcasters, also back the proposal. Joint comments from PBS and APTS, filed Monday (July 23), urge the FCC to limit any rule change to licensees that do not receive a CPB community service grant.
Two foundations will back capacity-building for Koahnic Broadcast Corp., the public media nonprofit that operates KNBA in Anchorage, Alaska, and Native Voice One, the New Mexico-based producer and distributor of national shows Native America Calling and National Native News, among others. The grants, totaling $375,000, are intended to strengthen Koahnic’s Native radio programming, marketing and distribution services. The Ford Foundation committed $300,000 to the initiative over three years, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation provided the balance in a one-year grant, according to Jaclyn Sallee, Koahnic president. Koahnic and Native Voice One serve a growing but economically fragile field of tribal stations. They added 11 new affiliates over the past year and anticipate more new tribal stations in Louisiana, Idaho and New York, according to the grant announcement.
LOS ANGELES — It’s unlikely that PBS will reinstate Fred Willard as announcer of Market Warriors, its new antiquing reality show, if Los Angeles prosecutors decline to press charges for his July 17 arrest for lewd conduct in a Los Angeles adult theater. The comedic actor, whose role on the show was limited to voiceover announcing, was fired July 19 after news of his arrest went viral. Producers at WGBH tapped Antiques Roadshow’s Mark Walberg to replace him and to re-voice the episodes Willard had already completed. In Market Warriors, which premiered last week, antique-savvy buyers compete to buy and resell collectibles, and earn the highest returns at auction. Because Willard did not appear on screen, no scenes had to be reshot, PBS President Paula Kerger said during her July 21 executive session with the Television Critics Association.
Current has learned that attorneys for Allan Pizzato, the former head of Alabama Public Television, have filed a civil suit against the Alabama Educational Television Commission, which unexpectedly fired him and his deputy, Pauline Howland, on June 12. The complaint, filed Wednesday (July 18) by the Birmingham law firm of White Arnold & Dowd in the 10th Judicial Circuit in Jefferson County, alleges that commissioners violated the state’s Open Meetings Act by discussing Pizzato’s job performance during a closed executive session. “Because Pizzato is classified as a public employee who is required to file a statement of economic interests with the Alabama Ethics Commission,” the suit says, “such a discussion of Pizzato’s job performance was prohibited by the Opening Meetings Act.” The suit also reveals that Pizzato’s attorneys have been unable to obtain from the commission’s attorneys audio recordings and other related materials from the March and June commission meetings. During those meetings, disagreements between Pizzato and commissioners surfaced over religious programming, and commission members imposed a new mission statement for the station.
Ten employees of American Public Media will lose their jobs in a strategic reorganization announced this afternoon, according to an internal memo provided to Current. Layoffs extend across the Minnesota-based pubcaster and into its news operation in Washington, D.C., where Marketplace Bureau Chief John Dimsdale received a pink slip. In more than 20 years with APM, Dimsdale has covered regulatory hearings, budget battles and presidential elections “with reliability and great credibility,” according to the memo, which was co-authored by four of APM’s top managers. APM also released employees who work behind the scenes on Marketplace Tech Report, local broadcasts of Morning Edition, and the classical music series Pipedreams, which will continue broadcasting but on a “less-demanding” production timetable. Host Michael Barone remains on the show and will take on a “more visible regional role with Minnesota audiences.”
Current has just learned that, effective immediately, Fred Willard no longer will be involved with the Market Warriors series, according to Jeanne Hopkins, spokesperson for WGBH. According to Hopkins, Antiques Roadshow host Mark Walberg will re-voice the episodes Fred Willard had done. Willard, 78, was arrested Wednesday night (July 17) at an adult theater in Hollywood and charged with lewd conduct, the TMZ website and the Los Angeles Times are reporting. During a random walk-through of the Tiki Theater, undercover officers with the Los Angeles Police Department found Willard allegedly engaged in a lewd act, according to TMZ and the Times. He was booked around 8:45 p.m. and released a short time later.
A Republican House Appropriations Committee funding bill heading for subcommittee mark up Wednesday (July 18) contains deep cuts in federal support for public broadcasting in the next two years and complete defunding in fiscal 2015. The Labor, Health and Human Services bill proposed by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) would rescind $111.3 million, or 25 percent, of CPB’s FY13 advance appropriation, and $222.5 million, about 50 percent, of its FY14 support. (Complete bill text here, and a summary from the Appropriations Committee here.)
The bill also bans FY13 funding “to pay dues to, acquire programs from, or otherwise support National Public Radio.” That’s the same language used in a bill last year that attempted to defund NPR, which passed the House but not the Senate (Current, March 21, 2011). Overall, the proposal would cut funding under lawmakers’ direct control by 4 percent to $150 billion, reports the Washington Post, which also calls it a “controversial spending bill” that “is dead on arrival with Democrats but contains many provisions to please tea party conservatives.”
SEATTLE — When public media development consultants and station leaders gathered at the University of Washington’s Seattle campus on July 10 to discuss fundraising programs of the future, two ideas stirred up the most vigorous discussion: the potential for sustaining membership fundraising to reduce stations’ reliance on pledge drive revenues, and a text-giving program that would enable NPR to solicit donations directly from listeners. Maryland-based consultant John Sutton dreamed up the latter idea over breakfast, and he proposed it during the forum as a way to open a new path for listener donations that would provide dues relief to local stations. Under Sutton’s plan, NPR would run text-giving campaigns twice a year soliciting $10 donations from listeners. The monies raised — he estimated $35 million in net revenues — would reduce the program dues that NPR charges stations. Stations wouldn’t have to worry about NPR cultivating their listeners as donors because the text gifts would be made anonymously.
Decades ago, a teenaged Raquel Bitton locked herself in her San Francisco bedroom, suffering miserably from her first broken heart. Her only comfort was an album by Edith Piaf, the diminutive French chanteuse known as “the Little Sparrow.”
“It is the love that you love,” Piaf sang in “C’est L’amour.” “It is love that makes you dream. It is love that wants love. It is love that makes us cry.”
“I listened to it all and came out of my room with a decision to get onstage and sing — and to love again,” Bitton said. “I put together a little revue singing Piaf’s songs, telling pieces of her stories.
The NET Foundations for Television and Radio have exceeded a five-year, $25 million capital goal for their “Inspire Nebraska” campaign. “It was a major-giving campaign, but members grew tremendously,” said foundations Executive Director Jeff Beckman. “And, even more important, we are now positioned to raise more major and planned gifts in the future.”
Since the push began in 2007, NET membership revenue has grown by 50 percent, the number of members has increased 35 percent to nearly 25,000, and assets of the endowment have topped $10 million, Beckman said. The campaign concluded June 30. The campaign will fund both television and radio programs, including NET News and NET Sports productions, which cover more than 200 hours of local high-school and collegiate sports annually.
Pubradio won a pair of medals for reportage on youth and families. WYNC’s Radio Rookies won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism for Coming of Age in 2011, a series of reports covering youth-identity issues such as immigration status, mental-health diagnoses, the foster care system and the process of coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The award was given in the College Park, Md.–based organization’s new youth-media category. “It’s a rare treat to listen to a first-person narrative that moves you; it’s even rarer to find storytellers who are brave enough to confront their own issues and face other people who may not always tell them what they want to hear,” judges said. Among the Rookies and WNYC producers cited for the medal were Beatrice Aquino, Tim Brown-Martinez, Brianna Fugate, Michael Jacobson, Alicia Martinez, Jimmy Musa, Kaari Pitkin, Sanda Htyte, Marianne McCune, Courtney Stein, Veralyn Williams and Mike Jones.