Audio from last week’s Public Radio Program Directors conference in Las Vegas is now available on PRPD’s website, including the keynote address by June Cohen, executive producer for TED Media; a Q&A with content chiefs Kinsey Wilson of NPR and David Kansas of American Public Media; and the closing address by NPR “founding mother” Linda Wertheimer. Not all of the recordings are freely available, however — only PRPD members can access recordings of the conference’s breakout sessions. PRPD’s David Hollis has also posted photos from PRPD on Flickr. I’m sifting through my notes from the conference and will have a wrap-up coming your way soon, plus additional coverage inspired by conference conversations in weeks to come. If you went to PRPD, what did you take away from the conference?
Independent Lens just announced that actor Stanley Tucci will be this season’s host. This year, the 11th season of the documentary showcase, now on Monday nights, also will join 62 broadcasters in 180 countries to present “Why Poverty,” a series focusing on the global problem.
Chicago Tribune columnist Rick Kogan will serve as interim host for WBEZ’s The Afternoon Shift, in the wake of Steve Edwards’ announcement he’s leaving the station, reports Time Out Chicago media writer Robert Feder. Edwards departs Friday (Sept. 21) for the Institute of Politics at University of Chicago. Kogan starts Sept. 24 and will fill in “for a month or two,” Feder says, as the pubradio station conducts a nationwide search for Edwards’ permanent replacement.
WNET has renewed its national weekly newmag, Need to Know, through June 2013. Marc Rosenwasser, series executive producer, said in a statement that he thinks the formerly hourlong program “has really hit its stride,” adding that its current single-story, 30-minute format “gives us an opportunity to go very deeply into important topics that don’t get as much time as they deserve on many commercial news magazines.” Original Need to Know reporting includes stories on Christian persecution in Iraq, the aftermath of the revolution in Egypt, renewable energy in Germany and war crime tribunals in Cambodia. Partnering with the Investigative Fund of the Nation Institute, the program produced two half hours documenting widespread abuses in the Border Patrol, leading to Congressional calls for action and a federal grand jury investigation. Need to Know, with Jeff Greenfield, Maria Hinojosa, Scott Simon, and Ray Suarez, is part of PBS’s news and public affairs programming and runs during Friday primetime, with repeats over the weekend in some markets.
Dennis Adkins, the executive director of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, will retire Dec. 21, according to the Charleston Gazette. The announcement came after an hourlong executive session of the Educational Broadcasting Authority on Thursday (Sept. 13), and after “months of Adkins being at odds with authority members over finances and the future of public broadcasting in the state,” the newspaper said. West Virginia Public Broadcasting faces a 7.5 percent state funding for 2013-14, amounting to a $420,000 reduction.
Six new professional directors have been elected to the PBS Board in nationwide member-station voting that concluded at the end of August. New members are Tom Karlo, g.m., KPBS in San Diego; Linda O’Bryon, president, South Carolina Public Television; and Brian Sickora, president, WSKG, Binghamton, N.Y. Members returning for a second term are Jon Abbott, president, WGBH, Boston; Jack Galmiche, president, Nine Network of Public Media, St. Louis; and Lloyd Wright, president, WFYI, Indianapolis, Ind. Each will serve a three-year term, beginning Oct. 26 at the fall board meeting.
NPR White House Correspondent Ari Shapiro sparked an interesting journalistic debate Tuesday (Sept. 11) with two of his tweets from a campaign event for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney: “As a reporter I’m torn about joining in the pledge of allegiance/national anthem at rallies. I’m a rally observer, not a participant.” Then: “Yet most reporters around me stand for the anthem & pledge. I’m one of the few that doesn’t.
Bill Siemering, an early organizer of National Public Radio and its first program director, looks back on his career in an email interview with University of Chicago Professor David Galenson on Huffington Post. Siemering recalls his earliest memories of radio: “In the two-room country school outside of Madison, Wis., twice a day the teacher turned on WHA, the ‘oldest station in the nation’ at the University of Wisconsin and we’d listen to programs from the Wisconsin School of the Air. Prepared with an instructor’s manual, our teacher guided us through science, nature, social studies, music and art all by radio. From first grade on, I regarded radio as a source of information and imagination.” Siemering founded Developing Radio Partners in 2004 for listeners in rural areas of developing countries, and continues that work at the age of 78.
House Republican Don Young, the 39-year veteran representative from Alaska’s at-large district and a longtime backer of public broadcasting, told the Corporation for Public Broadcasting board of directors Tuesday that the field would be more likely to find support in Congress if it presented itself in a more effective manner to its Hill critics. To strengthen public broadcasting’s case, Young stressed the importance of communicating directly with elected officials rather than staff members, and recommended emphasizing the extent to which public broadcasting relies on private funds and donations. “Can we help you? Yes. But you’re going to have to have a better selling program on the Hill,” Young said on the second day of the CPB board meeting, after declaring, “I am a Republican and I support public broadcasting.”
Board members asked Young why congressional Republicans continue to target CPB’s annual appropriation for elimination, and why GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney puts pubcasting atop his list of programs to lose taxpayer funding if he is elected. The lawmaker’s answer was straightforward: Public broadcasting is an easy target.
Patricia Cahill is the new chair of the CPB Board, with Elizabeth Sembler as vice chair. The two were elected to the one-year terms by the board at its meeting today (Sept. 11) in Washington, D.C.
Cahill, who lives in Kansas City, Mo., was appointed to the board by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate in August 2009. She previously served as vice chair. She has worked in pubradio for more than 40 years, retiring earlier this year as g.m. of KCUR-FM in Kansas City.
Kentucky Educational Television is partnering with Eastern Kentucky University as it offers students a chance to speak with astronauts aboard the International Space Station early next yer. NASA selected the university as one of only six downlink sites for the Jan. 11, 2013, event, which will take place at the school’s STEM-H (science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health) Institute. KET will make the session available through its online resources for teachers and students, and will produce related digital learning resources. “KET’s participation in the downlink and surrounding activities will strengthen existing partnerships and open up new possibilities,” said Jaleh Rezaie, the STEM-H Institute’s interim executive director.
Masterpiece has a new national corporate sponsor, Ralph Lauren. It’s the first time the American design firm is underwriting a pubTV program. Sponsorship messages will begin on Sept. 30 on Upstairs Downstairs. The company is planning to create unique spots for the various titles in the Masterpiece series.
The FCC is circulating internally its framework for upcoming spectrum auctions, with a vote on the recommendations expected at its Sept. 28 public meeting. Chair Julius Genachowski said in a statement that the commission “is poised to take an important step toward pioneering the world’s first incentive auctions and freeing up significant spectrum for mobile broadband.” Congress approved giving the FCC power to conduct the auctions early this year (Current, Feb. 28) to clear bandwidth for the growing number of mobile devices.
WUSF Public Media in Tampa, Fla., has acquired Health News Florida, an online nonprofit daily news service that covers health issues statewide, the station announced on Sept. 10. Former Wall Street Journal reporter Carol Gentry founded the site in 2006. Gentry also covered health and medicine for the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) and the Tampa Tribune.
The Association of Public Television Stations and NPR have assumed co-management of the 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting website, which organizes grassroots support for public broadcasting funding. APTS President Pat Butler told the CPB Board at its meeting Monday (Sept. 10) that the two hope to “super-size” the effort by reaching out to other organizations. The site, launched in December 2010, has helped generate hundreds of thousands of emails and calls to Congress to save federal aid for pubcasting. Its original co-managers were APTS and American Public Media.
CPB’s financial analysis on alternative funding sources for public broadcasting, prepared by consultants at Booz & Co. and delivered to Congress in June, has had little impact on lawmakers’ views about continuation of CPB’s annual federal appropriation to date, CPB staff reported during a Sept. 10 board meeting in Washington, D.C.
In the report, analysts for Booz examined a range of options for replacing CPB’s federal aid — from selling commercial advertising to tapping spectrum auction proceeds or selling pay-channel subscriptions, among others. They concluded that withdrawal of federal aid would have a “cascading debilitating effect,” starting first with stations serving rural areas and ultimately leading to collapse of the public broadcasting system. The dire predictions haven’t made much difference in swaying lawmakers on Capitol Hill, CPB’s government affairs staff reported to the board. “I think it’s fair to say that in the past two-and-a-half months there’s been a little change in the conversation regarding funding for public broadcasting, and the idea of commercials,” said Michael Levy, CPB executive vice president. CPB staff have been meeting with key Republicans and Democrats on the House and Senate appropriations committees to discuss why a purely commercial model for public broadcasting is not a viable option. The Booz analysis predicted that public TV could earn more revenue from commercial advertising sales than it now does from underwriting, but the switch to ads would prompt a large portion of those who provide private support to the field — individual donors, foundations and underwriters — to withdraw their support, resulting in a net revenue loss.
Did you hear the one about how This American Life host Ira Glass gave an Oregon Public Broadcasting reporter $101 for asking him a question during a Sept. 9 appearance in Portland? Well, there’s a bit more to it than that. The Oregonian has an explanation here.
Israel “Izzi” Smith signs on at NPR in November as director of programming. His predecessor in the job is Eric Nuzum, who was promoted to v.p. of programming earlier this year. Smith has worked as a pubmedia consultant for almost 15 years, helping to introduce and manage programs such as Radiolab, PRX’s The Moth Radio Hour and State of the Re:Union. “Izzi is a true ‘connector,’ always trying to link good ideas, people and stations to serve audiences in bigger, more inclusive ways,” Nuzum wrote in a Sept. 5 memo announcing the hire to NPR staff.
When Public Radio Program Directors Association was formed 25 years ago, the idea that programmers should do things for an audience “felt like a complete revolution,” says Marcia Alvar in a Q&A with three of the founders.