PBS selects Vecchi to replace McCoskey as chief network engineer

PBS has named Mario Vecchi chief technology officer, calling the former AOL executive “a world-class technologist.”

Starting Jan. 27, Vecchi will oversee distribution operations and engineering, media management, interconnection engineering, information technology, web and new media applications/systems and technology strategy and planning. In the Dec. 13 announcement, PBS President Paula Kerger praised Vecchi’s “wealth of skill and experience.” He holds three engineering degrees, including a doctorate, from MIT. He is currently president of P&A Development Inc., a broadband network consulting firm for new businesses.

Facebook adds ‘Donate’ button for nonprofits

A new feature added to Facebook on Monday allows donors to give directly to charities by clicking on a “donate now” button. “The Donate feature will appear beside Posts in News Feed shared by participating nonprofits and at the top of their Facebook Pages,” Facebook said in a statement on the new feature. “When people click ‘Donate Now’ they can choose the amount, enter their payment information, and immediately donate to that cause.”

Facebook said it will store the donor’s credit card on file, but that information will not be shared with the nonprofit. Launch partners include the Nature Conservancy, Oxfam America, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Malaria No More and the World Wildlife Fund. Facebook is accepting applications from other nonprofits that want to join the program.

Producers take podcast covering marketing innovations to pubradio distribution

Ad man and podcaster Mike O’Toole has teamed up with veteran pubradio producer Jim Russell to adapt a narrative-focused business podcast into a public radio series. The show, The Unconventionals, features long-form interviews with executives who run startup companies or established businesses that have adopted game-changing tactics for marketing to younger consumers. O’Toole, host and president of PJA Marketing + Advertising, seeks guests who fit a certain profile — entrepreneurs whose innovative business models disrupt those of their competitors. He aims to highlight undertold stories in business and marketing, looking beyond companies such as Apple, whose narratives have been “told to death.”

During the podcast’s first two seasons, O’Toole interviewed Michael Dubin, c.e.o. of Dollar Shave Club, a web-based company that sells personal care products for men through a subscription-based business model, and Geoff Cottrill of Converse, which refashioned its brand with hip sensibilities by investing in Rubber Tracks, a recording studio that provides free studio time to musicians. O’Toole began podcasting 15 years ago with This Week in Social Media, which was later revamped to focus on news about the field of marketing under the title This Week in Digital Media.

Virginia stations signal intent to hop on joint master-control bandwagon

Virginia public broadcasters WCVE and WVPT are the latest stations to come together to form a joint master control. Starting as early as February, programming for WVPT-TV in Harrisonburg, Va., will be transmitted from a joint control at WCVE, a dual licensee about 120 miles to the southeast in Richmond. The arrangement is a win-win: the service provides WCVE with a new source of revenue, and WVPT rings up savings by avoiding an expensive refresh of its outdated equipment. Execs at both stations said they’ll use the extra cash to produce more content. “We are at end of life for most if not all of the equipment in our current master-control facility,” said David Mullins, WVPT president.

Is “no one in public radio” qualified to head up NPR?

According to pubradio consultant John Sutton, several sources close to the NPR Board say that “current and past CEO search committees have taken the position that no one in public radio is qualified to manage the external relationships NPR must forge to succeed in the digital age.” “I hope that’s not that case,” he notes in a blog post on Radio Sutton. This creates “an interesting dichotomy,” he writes. “NPR’s Board searches for leaders who want to build on public radio’s great success, but does not think the leaders who are very much responsible for creating that success are good enough for the job.” He adds: “NPR’s recent CEO failures raise the legitimate possibility that a highly qualified station manager has a better chance of growing into the external CEO role than an external candidate has of growing into a successful public radio system leader.”

Flatow finds more traction for ‘Science Friday’ in PRI distribution

After two decades as a weekly NPR program, the 22-year-old Science Friday is preparing to shake things up. With its move to Public Radio International distribution on Jan. 1, the talk show has ambitious plans to put its content into wider distribution through collaborations with PRI series such as The World and The Takeaway as well as with the PBS science program Nova. WGBH in Boston, which acquired PRI in 2012, is involved in production of all three major series, opening new cross-platform distribution and branding opportunities. A new educational specialist is working to turn more of Science Friday’s content into curricular materials, and PRI is exploring ways to offer its programming through PBS Learning Media, the online resource providing free media and lesson plans to K–12 educators.

Grants, donations to NPR support expanded reporting, app for personalized listening

NPR has lined up $17 million in grants and individual gifts to expand two beat-reporting units and to complete development of an app designed to provide a personalized, location-based listening experience of content from NPR and local stations. Most of the funding, about $10 million, supports development of the app, which NPR has referred to internally as Project Carbon. Slated for release by April 2014, the app will enable listeners to hear, read and watch public radio content across digital platforms, providing an experience similar to what Pandora or Spotify offer for music. The app is designed to customize the content it delivers by using geolocation, gathering feedback and tracking when and for how long users listen. Though the app will launch initially for smartphones, NPR plans to expand its capabilities to serve “as many platforms as needed,” said Kinsey Wilson, chief content officer.

Bobby Jackson, public radio jazz fixture, dies at 57

Bobby Jackson, a longtime jazz host, producer and program director, died Dec. 9 at his home in Cleveland. He was 57. Jackson was a music and programming director at public radio stations in Atlanta and Cleveland for many years before creating and hosting his own jazz program, The Roots of Smooth, in 2009. The Roots of Smooth aired on 21 stations nationwide.

OPB meets funding goal for new Southwest Washington bureau

12/16/13: This item has been updated. Oregon Public Broadcasting is preparing to open a permanent bureau in Southwest Washington state by early 2014, and has surpassed $400,000 in funding to make it happen. The bureau will allow OPB to deepen its reporting on Washington’s Clark County, which is located just across the Columbia River from OPB headquarters in Portland, as well as cross-border issues and the Washington State legislature in Olympia. It will contain one staff member, a full-time multimedia reporter, to start. Stories produced by the bureau will be shared across public radio stations and for-profit media organizations in the Pacific Northwest, and with national outlets such as NPR and the PBS NewsHour.

Changes at KPCC: Station closes Sacramento bureau, launches iPad app, keeps hiring

Los Angeles’s KPCC is shuffling news priorities. As LA Observed reports, the station is closing its bureau in the state capital and cutting two general assignment reporters. But it has also made eight new hires since October, mostly to expand healthcare and environment coverage as well as its digital presence. Russ Stanton, KPCC v.p. of content, told LA Observed that the station may reinstate a Sacramento staffer in 2015. In the meantime it will rely on reports from Sacramento’s Capital Public Radio for state-government coverage. The station also launched an iPad app Dec.

FCC proposes $20,000 fine for Maryland licensee over multiple EEO violations

The Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission is appealing a proposed FCC fine of $20,000 for multiple violations of its Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) rules, reports Broadcasting & Cable. In a Notice of Apparent Liability, the FCC contends that the pubcasting commission, the licensee of Maryland Public Television, broke several rules between June 2008 and May 2010 by failing to provide notification of 11 full-time vacancies to an organization that had requested that information. The agency also said that those failures “reveal a continuing lack of self-assessment” and that the Maryland licensee “provided incorrect factual information” to the FCC regarding the situation. “We believe it was an overreaction to a minor clerical error, and we are appealing the notice,” said Andrew Levine, general counsel of Maryland Public Television.

Pubmedia roundup: Downton gets Golden Globes nod, PBS Hawaii sells land

As expected, PBS got a Golden Globe nomination early this morning for Downton Abbey. The Masterpiece megahit got its nod in the Best Television Series — Drama category. Its competition? Breaking Bad on AMC; The Good Wife, CBS; House of Cards, Netflix; and Masters of Sex, Showtime. It’s PBS’s only nomination in the annual awards, presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Downton cast members and producers took part in a discussion moderated by arts reporter Bill Carter of the New York Times Tuesday night, which was recorded for use by PBS member stations.

After 10 years on PBS, Smiley still weathering challenges

Tavis Smiley may be celebrating 10 years on PBS, but that tenure hasn’t been easy. In a Los Angeles Times interview, the talk show host admits that getting hip, high-profile guests is tough. “As the handlers get younger and younger and as the artists crave more and more to be in the social media zeitgeist, it becomes harder and harder for my producers to get through to clients the value of being on PBS,” he said. “It’s not an easy sell.” And KCET’s decision in 2010 to drop PBS membership left Smiley without a production home.  “We go overnight to paying for office space, studio rental, parking stalls for my staff — we go overnight to paying full freight at a commercial outlet here in town,” Smiley said.

Next goal for American Archive: 5,000 more hours of content

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting is aiming to add another 5,000 hours of digitally native or previously digitized content to supplement the 40,000 hours currently slated for preservation. Casey Davis, the archive’s project manager, posted a call for interested stations on the archive’s blog Dec. 9. The archive hopes to collect the additional 5,000 hours over the next two years. Some of the materials may come from those digitized during the archive’s 2009 pilot project, Davis said.

CPB Board hears troubling predictions for spectrum auctions and repacking

CPB Board members got an ominous preview Monday of the corporation’s upcoming white paper about spectrum issues in public broadcasting. At a meeting at CPB’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., Harry Hawkes of Booz & Co.’s media and technology practice told board members that if the FCC goes ahead with plans to clear 120 MHz of spectrum for use by mobile devices, 110 to 130 pubcasting stations will need to shift due to repacking even if their operators don’t participate in the auction. “That means that one-third of the system could have to change channels,” noted Vincent Curren, CPB’s c.o.o. “This will likely be more disruptive than the digital transition. This will be a major undertaking for our industry over the next several years.”

CPB commissioned the white paper, due out early next year, to inform policy discussions within the system about spectrum issues. The FCC announced last week that spectrum auctions will be conducted in mid-2015; repacking of the remaining bandwidth is expected to occur soon after.

Sloooooooooow TV coming soon to a screen near you

Remember Norwegian Public Television’s marathon broadcasts of five straight hours of knitting and five days of the “action” on a cruise-ship journey? Well, an American production company has acquired the rights to the trend now officially called Slow TV, reports the New York Post. LMNO Productions bought rights to the camera-switching technology that allows for verrrry long stretches of television. Pubcasters can jump on the trend thanks to Executive Program Service. EPS offers a more manageable, one-hour version of the Norway cruise and has trimmed Norwegian Public Television’s 10-hour documentary on the longest train journey in the country into a new 60-minute program.