Delmarva Public Radio gets potential new lease on life from Salisbury University

Maryland’s Salisbury University  is backing away from a consultant’s plan to farm out operations of its two Delmarva Public Radio stations. A proposal unveiled Feb. 14 would provide funding to WSDL in Ocean City, Md., and WSCL in Salisbury for at least three years. The proposal calls for the Salisbury University Foundation, Delmarva Public Radio’s license holder, to transfer the license to the school, said Salisbury University President Janet Dudley-Eshbach in a statement.  Salisbury would maintain current operations  for three years,  but would require that WSCL and WSDL hew even closer to the school’s agenda. At the end of three years, the university would reassess the situation.

A growing push for data-driven documentary filmmaking

Wendy Levy, the director of arts consultancy group New Arts AXIS, called for documentary filmmakers to embrace big data tools as a permanent part of their storytelling process during the keynote address at the Media That Matters Conference, held Feb. 15 in Washington, D.C.

PBS timing for next Downton premiere draws attention

PBS’s pending decision on whether to air the next season of Downton Abbey on Masterpiece in the fall — when it runs in Great Britain — or keep it at its usual January premiere date continues to generate chatter among media analysts. Last month, PBS President Paula Kerger told members of the press at the TCA Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif.,  that the network is indeed considering a fall launch. “We’re going to end up making the decision based on what we think will be best for the viewers and what will serve them well,” Kerger said. But if PBS did premiere Downton in the fall, it could be lost among all the other network shows, notes SNL Kagan, a news site that covers media/communications and other sectors. “I think they realize, and it looks like the ratings have borne this out, that they would get a higher audience holding it,” Carolyn Finger, s.v.p. of Variety Insight, told the site.

Documentary Free Angela premieres in theaters April 5

Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, a documentary developed with pubcasting support, will have its theatrical release April 5, presented by BET Networks. The 2012 film marks the 40th anniversary of social activist Angela Davis’s acquittal on charges of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy in connection with a botched kidnapping attempt. Film funders included Independent Television Service, BET and CPB. Director Shola Lynch previously worked as a visual researcher and associate producer for Ken Burns and Florentine Films before her 2004 debut documentary, Chisolm ’72: Unbought and Unbossed. Free Angela is distributed by Codeblack Films, a division of Lionsgate, and will open in select AMC theatres in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Oakland, Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Dana Davis Rehm to leave NPR due to restructuring

Dana Davis Rehm, NPR’s senior v.p. of marketing, communications and external relations, will leave the network May 6 due to a reorganization of her division under new Chief Marketing Officer Emma Carrasco. The restructuring is intended to “put more emphasis on marketing than on communications,” said NPR President Gary Knell in a Feb. 14 email to station leaders. “Though I have only known Dana for a little more than one year, I can’t think of anyone who has demonstrated a deeper commitment to NPR and public radio, or who better reflects our values,” Knell wrote. “As our longest serving head of Marketing & Communications, she has established effective communications strategies and practices and a built a staff that has given me confidence that we could deal with anything that might come our way.”

Rehm joined NPR in 2001 after serving as head of Wisconsin Public Radio.

American Masters to shine light on reclusive author J.D. Salinger for 200th episode

The author of The Catcher in the Rye and Franny and Zooey died in January 2010 after living for more than 50 years as a recluse in Cornish, N.H. Shortly after news of his death emerged, Hollywood screenwriter Shane Salerno announced he had been covertly working on Salinger, an independent documentary probing the author’s sheltered existence. Susan Lacy, American Masters executive producer, learned of Salerno’s film while attempting to procure the rights to an unrelated Salinger biography for the program. Salerno — whose screenplay credits include Alien vs. Predator: Requiem and Oliver Stone’s Savages — agreed to produce his film for American Masters after Lacy contacted him. Salerno is a fan of American Masters and says he taught himself the craft of documentary filmmaking by watching the biography series.

Latitude News meets Kickstarter goal to fund new weekly podcast

Latitude News, an online news outlet exploring world events and their reverberating effects in local U.S. communities and vice versa,  surpassed the fundraising goal of its Kickstarter campaign to launch a new podcast. As of Feb. 14, 307 backers had pledged $46,200 towards a goal of $44,250. The newsroom currently produces an eponymous monthly 15-minute podcast distributed by Public Radio Exchange; it now will expand its output by introducing “The Local Global Mashup Show,” a weekly 30-minute podcast. Latitude News will use its Kickstarter contributions to fund the first three months of the program and hire a business development staffer to develop a paid subscription model for the podcast.  Latitude News, which is headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., also plans to explore offering “The Local Global Mashup Show” for public radio broadcast, founder and editor Maria Balinska told Current.

Sesame Street hopes Telly Monster video will bring its 1 billionth YouTube view

Sesame Street is closing in on a truly remarkable achievement: 1 billion YouTube video views. So today it’s asking for a bit of help to put it over the top. The number reflects a “rarified digital milestone,”  according to The Associated Press. It will be a first on YouTube for a nonprofit or U.S. children’s media outlet, and “reflects the increasingly multimedia nature of kid entertainment. Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch are now about as likely to be watched on an iPad, phone or laptop as they are on PBS,” the story notes.

Upcoming American Graduate specials tackle lax schools, juvenile justice system

A pair of documentaries to be released for public TV broadcasts next month focus on two of the most difficult aspects of the nation’s dropout crisis — under-performing schools and at-risk youth. 180 Days: A Year Inside an American High School will be presented in conjunction with Tavis Smiley Reports: Education Under Arrest as part of CPB’s American Graduate initiative. Both premiere in late March, and were previewed during a Jan. 30 webinar from the National Center for Media Engagement. For 180 Days, “our goal was to share the perspective of students, how they view the things they have to go through,” Alexis Phyllis Aggrey, production manager of National Black Programming Consortia, told webinar participants.

WBEZ turns to matchmaking in ads aimed at younger listeners

Dubbed the “2032 Membership Drive,” the station’s newest citywide marketing blitz encourages young “interesting people” to “make babies” who will grow up listening to public radio. The ads appear on billboards and buses; a Facebook app created for the campaign has a matchmaking feature to help curious listeners connect.

NPR will move production of Weekend ATC to L.A.

NPR announced today that this summer it will move production of Weekend All Things Considered to NPR West, its production center based in Culver City, Calif. “Moving the show west will broaden and deepen our coverage and allow us to bring strong geographic diversity to our programming,” said Margaret Low Smith, senior v.p. of news, in a press release. “In addition, this plan gives us a new level of business and editorial continuity. By having a full team stationed at NPR West, we will be able to respond quickly if weather or a major news event incapacitates NPR headquarters.”

NPR said the move will give the show access to the Los Angeles area’s pool of program guests in the fields of science, technology, entertainment and international trade. The city’s ethnic diversity will also present a “whole new range of stories,” the release said.

FCC issues urgent call to broadcasters in wake of EAS breach

The FCC is urging all broadcast stations to make immediate changes to prevent unauthorized users to take over the Emergency Alert System, writes telecom attorney Scott Flick of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. “The haste with which these instructions have been generated is demonstrated by the fact that they are not even on FCC letterhead, nor formatted for such a release,” Flick writes. “It is also worth noting that they are not described as ‘recommendations’ or ‘guidelines,’ but as actions EAS Participants ‘must’ or ‘are required’ to take.” What’s all the fuss about? A hacker accessed the EAS system Monday and informed viewers at several stations — including pubcasters WNMU-TV, in Marquette, Mich., and KENW in Portales, N.M.  — that zombies were rising from the ground to attack.

Zombie emergency broadcast hoax on pubTV station blamed on overseas hacker

Updated Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. to add KNME-TV among stations impacted. Management at WNMU-TV, a Marquette, Mich.-based pubTV broadcaster, said it had identified the hacker behind a zombie hoax that compromised the Emergency Alert System on that station as well as others in the Upper Peninsula, Montana, New Mexico and parts of Wisconsin. Viewers expecting to see news programming around 4 p.m. on Monday on WNMU were instead treated to an emergency ticker warning that the dead had risen and had begun attacking the living. Another pubcaster, KENW in Portales, N.M., was also hit by the hoax. Pubcasters weren’t the only ones hit, an ABC affiliate in the area also  had its system hacked during the evening broadcast of The Bachelor.

PBS NewsHour report yields unexpected results

A PBS NewsHour report on population growth and food scarcity in the Philippines prompted an increase in donations to the PATH Foundation Philippines Inc., an organization with a pilot program promoting family planning in rural areas of the Southeast Asian country. The report explored the foundation’s community-based approach of making contraceptives accessible to villagers who want to limit the size of their families. The story, which aired in January 2012, was produced as part of the public media collaborative project Food for 9 Billion, and has also been used by educators to set up discussions of the links between population and the environment. During a Jan. 28 panel discussion on environmental reporting hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., Sam Eaton of Homelands Productions described the impact of his reporting for Food for 9 Billion.

PBS’s Russell takes KOCE executive post, Dominowski to Indiana, Sullivan exits Frontline after two decades, and more . . .

Andrew Russell, PBS senior v.p. for strategy and research, is moving to PBS SoCal in Orange County, Calif., as chief operating officer, a new position. “Obviously, I see Andy as someone who can superbly lead this place when I retire in a few years,” Mel Rogers, PBS SoCal president, told Current. “That is part of why I want him here. But my replacement will be decided by our board of trustees. I can’t imagine a scenario whereby they would not choose Andy. Who could be better?”

Interviews from WGBH and BBC doc series Rock & Roll available in streaming form

Unedited interviews with the subjects in Rock & Roll, the acclaimed 1995 PBS series from WGBH and the BBC, are now available online as streaming video, with support from the Grammy Foundation and WGBH Media Library and Archives. More than 26 million viewers watched Rock & Roll when it originally aired over five nights, according to the station. The programs examined rock’s evolution from the 1950s through the ’90s. In a February 2008 update to its 1995 story, Current wrote that the series “contained so many musical clips that the producers apparently didn’t want to spend what it would take to extend their broadcast rights. For years, as a result, the series has not been available for broadcast or for purchase on DVD or videocassette.”