Feature Story News helps stations fill gap left by Free Speech Radio News

Pacifica is replacing its recently canceled half-hour news program Free Speech Radio News with a news show produced by Feature Story News, an independent broadcast news service that operates nine bureaus in the U.S. and abroad. Free Speech Radio News was carried by more than 100 public radio stations before delivering its last program Sept. 27. The grassroots-oriented news operation behind the progressive news show was forced to shut down as it ran out of cash. The Pacifica Foundation, which is struggling to keep two of its own stations afloat, was unable to meet its financial obligations to the program, accumulating nearly $200,000 in unpaid bills.

Online resource PBS LearningMedia registers more than 1 million users

PBS LearningMedia, a digital classroom resource for K–12 educators, topped more than 1 million registered users this month. Operated through a partnership of PBS and the WGBH Educational Foundation, the website offers more than 30,000 pieces of content to its users. The site is also rolling out a new premium tier with enhanced features; that service is now distributed statewide in Kentucky, New York and South Carolina. As part of its ongoing effort to promote classroom use of digital technology and build its user base, PBS LearningMedia launched “Get Your Tech On,” offering free access to its webinars and how-to guides through Nov. 1.

Alabama Supreme Court dismisses lawsuit stemming from 2012 APT dismissals

The Alabama Supreme Court on Sept. 27 threw out a lawsuit filed following the 2012 dismissal of two top executives from Alabama Public Television, reports the Birmingham News, ruling that the pair did not have standing to sue under the state’s Open Meetings Act. Former APT Executive Director Allan Pizzato and Pauline Howland, former deputy director, claimed the Alabama Educational Television Commission violated the open meetings law when they were dismissed. Pizzato and Howland were fired at the commission’s June 12, 2012, meeting after commissioners went into executive session to discuss Pizzato’s “general reputation, character, and job performance.” This lawsuit was filed the next month.

Expansion of classical radio belies format’s many challenges

ATLANTA — Representatives of classical radio stations resolved last week to work toward creating a new organization to represent their format within public radio, a tactic to fight shrinking audiences and build a stronger case for classical radio. During sessions held Sept. 18 and 19 at the Public Radio Program Directors Association conference in Atlanta, station representatives examined research demonstrating that, while more public licensees are broadcasting classical music, listeners are also turning to digital platforms for classical. Arbitron’s most recent Public Radio Today study identified 188 noncommercial FM, AM, HD and streaming stations devoted to classical music, an increase from 178 in 2011. An additional 218 stations programmed classical for least 30 percent of their broadcast schedules in 2012.

New PRI.org highlights network’s focus on global news

Public Radio International has revamped its website to absorb the web presence of PRI’s The World, reflecting the network’s aim to develop a higher profile in international news. The new site gives greater prominence to international news from The World and other PRI programs. The World “is increasingly, for us, a journalism brand,” said Michael Skoler, PRI’s v.p. of interactive media. Previously, The World had its own website at TheWorld.org. It now redirects to PRI.org. PRI has combined the previously separate staff and resources for the two sites.

KCRW brings live Morning Becomes Eclectic performances to YouTube

Select musical performances from KCRW-FM’s signature show Morning Becomes Eclectic are now streaming live on YouTube. The Los Angeles station kicked off the new feature Sept. 17 with a six-minute song from the U.K. buzz band King Krule; until this month, KCRW posted only prerecorded performances on its channel. Created in September 2006, KCRW’s YouTube page has 44,000 subscribers and has received more than 35 million views worldwide — including four from within Vatican City. The most popular single video, Gotye’s live version of “Somebody That I Used to Know,” has about 16 million views.

Viewers get early peek at new Doc Martin from subscription streamer Acorn TV

Acorn TV, the subscription-based British TV streaming service for U.S. viewers, begins offering new episodes of Doc Martin exclusively on Oct. 7 — months before their February 2014 premiere on public TV stations. Episodes from the sixth season of the quirky ITV series starring Martin Clunes will be added each Monday through the season finale on Nov. 25. For those fans of British TV who just can’t get enough of Doc Martin, all episodes of previous seasons will also be available for streaming.

PBS’s top engineer McCoskey heading to Motion Picture Association of America

John McCoskey, PBS’s head of technology for six years, has accepted a position as executive vice president and chief technology officer at the Motion Picture Association of America. He will develop and oversee the MPAA’s global technology policy as well as handle advocacy, legal, communications and content protection initiatives, reporting to COO Diane Strahan. At PBS, McCoskey was responsible for all technology strategy, development, operations and infrastructure for PBS member stations. Prior to his public broadcasting tenure, he was v.p. of product development at Comcast; co-founder and c.t.o. of Brief Original Broadcasts, a digital TV network for short-form content; and s.v.p. of technology and c.t.o. at Discovery Communications.

Sheriff arrests two in connection with break-in at West Virginia pubcasting tower site

Two men were arrested Wednesday and charged with breaking and entering in connection with a burglary at a remote West Virginia Public Broadcasting tower facility on Kopperston Mountain, reports CBS affiliate WVNS in Ghent, W. Va. Wyoming County Sheriff Randall Aliff said arrests were made after the public identified the men on a surveillance video that aired on WVNS. Keith Dotson and Joe Torres are being held on $20,000 bond each. West Virginia Public Broadcasting Executive Director Scott Finn told Current that the break-in occurred around 4 a.m. Sept. 18 in the main building of a tower site, and a nearby generator shed.

Jim Henson’s daughter donates Elmo, Bert, Ernie and other Muppets to Smithsonian

Cheryl Henson, daughter of Jim Henson, donated 21 Muppet puppets and props to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History on Sept. 24, reports USA Today. The latest band of furry Muppets to move to the Smithsonian includes early iterations of longtime Sesame Street fixtures Elmo, Bert, Ernie, Grover, Cookie Monster and Count Von Count. They’ll join up with their buddies Kermit the Frog and Oscar the Grouch, who are already members of the Smithsonian’s Jim Henson Collection. Miss Piggy is also joining the collection.

PBS SoCal offering Imagen Awards for pubTV broadcast

For the first time, PBS SoCal will distribute the annual Imagen Awards for broadcast on public television stations nationwide. The honors recognize positive portrayals of Latinos in media, as well as achievements of Latino celebrities in the entertainment and communications industries. The 28th awards gala took place Aug. 16 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills. The televised special will highlight attendees, winners and presentations.

WKGC dropping NPR affiliation, picking up BBC, APM shows

WKGC in Panama City, Fla., will replace NPR’s newsmagazines with BBC news programs distributed by American Public Media. The station, which is also dropping its NPR membership, cited duplication of NPR programs in the market as the reason for the schedule change, which takes effect Oct. 1, reports the local News Herald. During morning and afternoon drive times, BBC World News and NewsHour will air on the WKGC instead of NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered. WKGC is licensed to Gulf Coast State Community College and shares its service area with WFSU in Tallahassee, operated by Florida State University.

Former CNBC On The Money host Ulrich named new Marketplace Money host

Starting Nov. 2, the new host of Marketplace Money will be Carmen Wong Ulrich. Ulrich is the former host of CNBC’s On the Money, and the author of  Generation Debt: Take Control of Your Money. She is co-founder of ALTA Wealth Management, a New York-based financial planning firm. She will host the weekend show, blog at MarketplaceMoney.org and appear on the daily Marketplace and Marketplace Morning Report shows.

FCC to host workshop on issues surrounding spectrum repacking

Lonna Thompson, e.v.p., Association of Public Television Stations, is a panelist on the FCC’s Sept. 30 workshop on issues surrounding the reassignment of television stations after the upcoming broadcast spectrum incentive auctions. The workshop will be streamed live on the FCC website from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern. Panelists will discuss reimbursement costs that broadcasters may incur as a result of spectrum repacking, and how broadcasters might coordinate efforts to mitigate those costs. The Spectrum Act of 2012 provides a $1.75 billion relocation fund for the FCC to reimburse stations for costs associated with spectrum repacking.

CPB finds pubTV stations committed to keeping spectrum

Anxiety among public TV executives about channel repacking after spectrum auctions outweighs their enthusiasm for selling bandwidth, CPB s.v.p. Mark Erstling told corporation directors during their Sept. 17 board meeting in Washington, D.C.

CPB has commissioned Booz & Co. to research the effect of spectrum policy issues on the pubTV system for a white paper CPB will release early in 2014. The outcome of the upcoming auction to clear broadcast bandwidth for use by mobile devices is as critical to the future of public media “as the original noncommercial set-aside of public spectrum and the Broadcasting Act of 1967,” Erstling told directors. CPB’s greatest concern is loss of universal access to local public TV services, Erstling said.

FCC approves transfer of KSPS to Friends organization

The Friends of KSPS, the nonprofit fundraising arm of KSPS-TV, has taken over as licensee of the Spokane, Wash., pubcaster from the local school district. The FCC approved the transfer, which includes the broadcast license, transmitter, tower and equipment. It was finalized Sept. 1. As part of the transition, the Friends of KSPS Board appointed Gary Stokes general manager.