WXXI ends 54-year run of Assignment: The World due to lack of funding

Assignment: The World, the longest-running social-studies instructional TV program in the country, broadcast its last episode May 23. WXXI in Rochester, N.Y., which produced the ITV series for 54 years, announced the cancellation May 20. “Assignment: The World has experienced an increase in news acquisition costs, which were unfortunately not offset by program funding,” said Elissa Orlando, WXXI v.p. for television, in the announcement. “WXXI is saddened by this decision, but will continue to discover new ways to serve the educational needs of students.”

Every season, students could watch 32 weekly episodes, 15 minutes in length, in classrooms, either on the air or on-demand over the Internet. Teej Jenkins, the last host to anchor the show, presented a roundup of news events from the past week; teachers and students often interact with the show through writing prompts, issue questions and polls.

Alaska Public Media’s new web-first series is part of its ‘video renaissance’

Alaska Public Media has introduced a new weekly web-first series in what promises to be its “larger video renaissance.”

Indie Alaska, a weekly YouTube series profiling unique Alaskans, is co-produced with PBS Digital Studios and partially funded with a $10,000 Digital Entrepreneurs Grant from PBS. The show launched May 6 with an episode about a ski train polka band. Producers will deliver 52 episodes in total, with new ones debuting each Monday. Patrick Yack, chief content officer at Alaska Public Media, said the dual licensee plans to eventually repackage the episodes in a magazine-like format for TV broadcast and may adapt some for radio as well. The network broadcast promo spots for the series in addition to promoting it through social media.

Former Iowa Board of Regents head files open-meetings suits against IPR Board

Michael Gartner, a former president of the Iowa Board of Regents, has filed a 41-page lawsuit complaining that the Iowa Public Radio Board of Directors violated state law when it conducted a closed meeting last December before terminating IPR C.E.O. Mary Grace Herrington in February, the Des Moines Register is reporting. The Board of Regents will next week consider a renewal of its operating agreement with Iowa Public Radio that includes a provision requiring it to follow state open meetings and open records laws, according to the Gazette in Cedar Rapids. This is Gartner’s second such lawsuit, the Gazette also notes. Herrington’s ouster was sparked at least in part by internal dissension over her decision last year to fire Jonathan Ahl, a respected news director at the station (Current, March 5).

APTS chief sees renewed battle over CPB aid

APTS President Patrick Butler is warning public broadcasters of continued threats to their federal funding this summer as Congress takes up work on appropriations for the next federal budget. During an appearance at the Public Media Business Association conference this morning, Butler recalled a private meeting with a key House Republican from Georgia who opposes federal aid to CPB. Rep. Jack Kingston, chair of the House appropriations subcommittee with oversight over CPB, told Butler that he plans to zero-out CPB funding. “He told me point blank, in January, that he was going to do everything he could to eliminate our funding,” Butler said during a PMBA breakfast meeting at the Washington Court Hotel in Washington, D.C. Public TV’s top lobbyist expects Kingston to introduce the bill in June. “I’m sure there will be a big zero in his bill for public broadcasting,” he said.

Orlando Bagwell departing Ford Foundation, Cara Mertes to head its JustFilms

Cara Mertes, a past executive director of American Documentaries Inc., ex-e.p. of its POV and former programmer for WNET’s Independent Focus, will succeed Orlando Bagwell to head up the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms, which backs social-justice documentaries. Mertes is currently director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Fund, where she will remain until September. Bagwell is returning to filmmaking after more than eight years at the foundation, it announced today. He joined Ford in 2004 as a program officer and initially led its five-year initiative, Global Perspectives in a Digital Age, Advancing Public Service Media. He also directed grantmaking for public media, media rights and access, arts and culture and religious issues.

Downton producer ITV on a “spending spree” in U.S. reality production market, Variety reports

Britain’s ITV, production home of Masterpiece titles Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge, is on a “spending spree” in the United States, according to Variety. ITV just bought a controlling stake in reality producer High Noon Entertainment (Cake Boss) for $39 million, and in December acquired 61.5 percent of Gurney Productions (Duck Dynasty). “Another U.S. buy is believed to be on the horizon as ITV Studios beefs up ITV Studios America,” Variety reports. ITV Studios also produces longtime pubcasting favorites Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Poirot. Variety notes that Mr. Selfridge “encapsulates a key part of what ITV wants to do more of — produce inhouse U.K. hits that can sell strongly overseas.

ITVS responds to New Yorker story about documentaries on Koch

The Independent Television Service on Tuesday posted a statement in response to what it calls “the rising flow of misinformation surrounding Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream and Citizen Koch” stemming from a lengthy New Yorker piece last week. “As a matter of policy,” the statement reads, “ITVS respects the privacy of filmmakers and our negotiations. We therefore declined an interview request from The New Yorker staff writer Jane Mayer for a May 20, 2013, article she was framing around two documentaries with storylines on [billionaire conservative] David H. Koch. In the days after its publication, we continued to decline interview requests from other outlets.” As part of its statement, ITVS says it “initially recommended the film Citizen Corp for production licensing based on a written proposal.

Louis Cook, Native American broadcaster

Louis Cook, a longtime host and producer for North Country Public Radio in Canton, N.Y., and a mentor to Native American broadcasters, died May 13 in Pine Ridge, S.D., of complications from a car accident. He was 66.

WNET hopes cheeky fake ads generate real contributions

Have you heard about that crazy new reality TV show, Knitting Wars? WNET in New York City is using that fake title and others to make a point, and, it hopes, score a lot of donations. The New York Times reports that the station is running an ad campaign touting titles including, Bad Bad Bagboys, Bayou Eskimos, The Dillionaire and Married to a Mime. Next to an ad for the fake program is a real pitch: “The fact you thought this was a real show says a lot about the state of TV. Support quality programming.