Stations share election coverage on ‘Battleground’

For the first major election since NPR Digital Services introduced digital publishing software designed to bolster stations’ online news operations, developers in the Boston-based unit built a platform for local outlets to share and spotlight each other’s election night coverage. Battleground, a live blog that aggregated Election Day tweets and news reports from 11 stations in nine states, was barely promoted on, but 33 stations plugged it into on their own websites — often adjacent to their local news blogs. Live blogging commenced on Battleground at 4:00 p.m. EST Nov. 6 and wound down shortly after midnight. The 144 posts took a variety of media formats: live tweets from the headquarters of Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, a YouTube video interview with retiring Massachusetts Democratic Rep. Barney Frank and audio of a robocall falsely instructing Florida voters that they could wait to cast their ballots the next day.

You can get anything you want, on Thanksgiving on public radio

Several public radio stations are among those taking part once again in a longtime on-air Thanksgiving tradition, the annual broadcast of Arlo Guthrie’s epic and quirky “Alice’s Restaurant” monologue — all 18 minutes and 34 seconds of it. Listeners to pubcasters from WFUV in the Bronx all the way to KRNN in Juneau, Alaska, will hear Guthrie croon, “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant.” The satirical folk song tells the true (but exaggerated) tale of Guthrie’s near conscription into the Vietnam war, which he avoided due to a littering offense on his record. Guthrie first performed the piece live in 1967 on WBAI, Pacifica Radio in New York City, according to the book Active Radio: Pacifica’s Brash Experiment. The song also was part of a dark day in pubradio history.

Sponsor churn, ebb in digital cut into NPR’s bottom line

With one of its biggest corporate sponsors pulling back from a multiyear underwriting commitment, NPR has an uphill climb to rebuild its sponsorship revenues from 2011, when the network’s sales reps reeled in enough deals to set a new earnings record. High turnover — or “churn” — among its corporate clients, and the pullback of companies that spend the most money on advertising, cut into NPR’s bottom line in the fiscal year that just closed. After netting $2.4 million in profits in 2011, largely on robust sponsorship sales, the network aimed high for 2012. But sales fell far short of projections. For fiscal year 2012, which ended on Sept.

PBS announces Black Culture Connection to celebrate African American arts, history

Today PBS unveiled a beta site, Black Culture Connection, highlighting African American history and arts. The vertical site contains films, stories and digital resources available across PBS, including local series such as UNC-TV’s Black Issues Forum and WQED’s Torchbearers. It’s premiering in partnership with 10 stations and five national producers, and officially launches during Black History Month in February.  Details here.

Lawsuit against Elmo’s Clash seeks more than $5 million in damages

Here is a link to the lawsuit filed today by Cecil Singleton, alleging that Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash coerced him into sexual encounters when Singleton was underage. Singleton is seeking more than $5 million in damages. In the wake of the second such accusation against him, Clash resigned today, “with a heavy heart,” from his role as Elmo on Sesame Street. Sesame Workshop accepted his resignation, adding that it is “a sad day for Sesame Street.”

Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash resigns; second accuser files lawsuit

The Associated Press is reporting that Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind Elmo, has resigned, and a second man has filed a lawsuit accusing Clash of sexual improprieties. According to AP, the new lawsuit alleges that Cecil Singleton “was persuaded by Clash to meet for sexual encounters” when he was 15. The complaint seeks damages of more than $5 million. Sesame Workshop released a statement today saying that “unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us wants, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street.  This is a sad day for Sesame Street.” Clash released a statement saying that he resigns “with a very heavy heart.

PRC sets up fund to subsidize consulting work

Public Radio Capital and a New York–based philanthropic investment nonprofit have established a $100,000 Revolving Public Media Fund to help subsidize PRC’s work with five public broadcasting stations to spark growth and innovation. PRC has worked with FJC: A Foundation of Philanthropic Funds on several deals since 2006, said Ken Ikeda, PRC’s managing director. Stations may apply to receive $30,000 in consulting and strategic planning services. The Revolving Public Media Fund will supply $20,000; selected stations will pay $10,000. The Nov.

Retsek, veteran of KCET and KPFK’s The Car Show

John Retsek, a production designer who wore many hats during a 43-year career at KCET in Los Angeles and created one of the longest-running radio programs in Los Angeles, KPFK’s The Car Show, died in his sleep Oct. 31 at home in San Pedro, Calif. He was 75. He had retired in April from KCET. The Car Show debuted on KPFK in 1973.

170 Million Americans campaign to escalate efforts

Now that the 2012 general election is over, the 170 Million Americans campaign is preparing to rally support for public broadcasting by going into an amped-up “on steroids” phase, an adviser to NPR said during the Public Radio Regional Organizations Super-Regional conference in New Orleans Nov. 14. Gov. Mitt Romney’s pledge to eliminate funding for public broadcasting, which he repeated during the first presidential debate, “created an opportunity for us to remind our fans that we need them,” said Liz Schrayer of Schrayer & Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C.–based firm that advises nonprofits on advocacy efforts. The campaign should seek to mobilize at least 1 percent of public broadcasting’s 170 million viewers and listeners, she said. Schrayer is a former national political director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

John Battison, founded Society of Broadcast Engineers

John Battison, former director of engineering at WOSU-TV in Columbus, Ohio, and founder of the Society of Broadcast Engineers, died Aug. 28 at his home near Loudonville, Ohio. He was 96. Battison had a long and interesting career in broadcasting, working for CBS, ABC and Saudi Television in Saudi Arabia. In 1955, he built his own television station, KAVE, in New Mexico.

KPBS journalist Gloria Penner

Gloria Penner, a senior political correspondent who spent 43 years with San Diego’s KPBS-TV/FM, died Oct. 6 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 81. “KPBS would not be the same today if it wasn’t for the contributions of Gloria Penner,” said Tom Karlo, KPBS g.m., in a statement. When Penner joined KPBS (then KEBS) in Dec.

Science Friday suing creationist preacher for trademark violation

The company behind NPR’s Science Friday show is suing a Colorado preacher and radio host for trademark infringement and cybersquatting with his radio show that debunks evolution, Real Science Friday. The lawsuit was filed in the Supreme Court of New York  by Manhattan-based Sciencefriday Inc., the company behind the weekly program heard on more than 300 NPR stations. The complaint names Real Science Friday co-hosts Robert A. Enyart and Fred Williams, as well as the company Bob Enyart Inc.

News of the lawsuit was first reported in the New York Post. Real Science Friday promotes creationism and focuses on science that shows “evidence for the creator God including from biology, geology, astronomy, and physics.” The lawsuit alleges that the show’s companion website,, violates the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act by attempting to misdirect web users who are looking for the companion website to NPR’s Science Friday show to Enyart’s main website Sciencefriday Inc.,  is asking for a permanent injunction, at least $100,000 in punitive damages  and transfer of ownership of the website domain.

Sweetening the deal for partnering stations

NEW ORLEANS — CPB is considering a proposal to allocate $3 million annually over six years to support collaboration among public radio stations, with the amount to be drawn from Community Service Grant incentive funds. The money would support upwards of 20 collaborations among 80 or so stations, each of which would receive an additional $70,000 to $90,000 annually. That financial boost would help stations develop content, streamline operations, plan technology and infrastructure, and undertake other collaborative activities. The program would start in fiscal year 2015 at the earliest. By encouraging collaboration, CPB hopes to “unleash the potential of the network effect,” said Bruce Theriault, senior v.p. of radio, at the Public Radio Regional Organizations Super-Regional Meeting in New Orleans Nov.

PTFP’s last round of grants, fiscal year 2010

PTFP’s last annual grant round came toward the end of fiscal year 2010, and the agency later began soliciting applications for FY 2011, but the lingering recession and budget stalemate took down the grant program early in 2011. In fall 2011 the Commerce Department agency National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced $20.45 million in PTFP grants for 126 projects. Nearly half the money, $9.9 million, went to replace old equipment at existing stations;
$5.1 million went to extend or start 30 radio services and 1 TV service;
$4.1 million helped TV stations with conversion to digital operation, a major expense during PTFP’s last years. A handful of other grants went to four emergency repair projects during the year, digital radio upgrades, facilities planning by future applicants, a radio reading service for the blind, a distance learning project and the perennial grantee PEACESAT. 2010 PTFP Awards

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A project to assist the Alabama Educational Television Commission, Birmingham, AL, with the acquisition and installation of a Flywheel UPS unit and a 3,000 gallon diesel fuel tank for WIIQ-TV, Demopolis, AL.

Detroit PTV documentary to focus on bipolar entrepreneurs

Detroit Public Television has received pre-production funding for a documentary examining how bipolar disorder both hinders and inspires successful business leaders, to be produced by a duPont-Columbia Award winner. “Very often people with this type of brain wiring have advanced us as a civilization,” said Kristen Fellows, Detroit PTV spokesperson for the project. Ride the Tiger: Entrepreneurs and Bipolar Disorder (w/t) will profile heads of industry who cope with the unpredictable mental illness, and those who have learned to use its manic highs and depressing lows to their advantage. The film’s title comes from the Chinese proverb, “He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount,’’ and captures the combination of the exhilaration of the ride and the fear of the sudden crash. The film centers on Heinz Prechter, a German immigrant in Michigan who founded the successful American Sunroof Co.

Stay Tuned in St. Louis is live, interactive TV

Nine Network in St. Louis has premiered a unique interactive weekly television series, Stay Tuned, in which experts and community members discuss matters of community importance live via videochat service Google+ Hangout, as well as on Twitter and Facebook. The first show, on Nov. 8, focused on the election; on Nov. 12, the topic was the area’s growing heroin problem.

Maine network ends Down Memory Lane after 33 years

The Maine Public Broadcasting Network is ending its local radio show Down Memory Lane, which has run since 1979, it announced Nov. 16. The last show will air Nov. 30. Host Toby Leboutillier originally created the nostalgic music program, which played 1940-55 pop hits, as a filler for late Friday afternoons.