Phil Charles, former g.m. of Montana’s KGLT-FM, dies at 65

Phil Charles, retired longtime g.m. of KGLT-FM in Bozeman, Mont., died Nov. 29 of heart failure at his home in Cape May Court House, N.J. He was 65. Charles joined KGLT in the 1980s and stayed for more than two decades before retiring in 2010. He introduced a freeform format on the station. A licensee of Montana State University, KGLT brands itself as “Alternative Public Radio” and airs music and several nationally distributed public radio programs.

Before arriving in Bozeman, Charles worked at a series of alternative stations throughout the 1970s, including KSAN in San Francisco and KSJO and KOME in San Jose, Calif.

PBS partners with UK producers for Nova special on Typhoon Haiyan

PBS and United Kingdom–based Sky Vision Productions are collaborating on a pair of documentaries about Typhoon Haiyan, to air in both countries, RealScreen reports. Sky1 is collecting footage from the Philippines in the aftermath of one of the deadliest natural disasters in history, which the UK network will use for a documentary to air Dec. 11. PBS will repurpose the same footage for an episode of the science program Nova with the working title Monster Typhoon, to air Jan. 22, 2014.

Guitar allegedly owned by Dylan sets new auction record, thanks to History Detectives

A guitar played by Bob Dylan at his famous Newport Folk Festival appearance in 1965 sold for nearly $1 million Friday, two years after it was featured in an episode of PBS’s History Detectives. The 1964 Fender Stratocaster went for $965,000 at New York auction house Christie’s, setting a new auction record for a guitar. A Christie’s spokesperson told CNN that it was purchased by an unidentified buyer. In 2011, the daughter of a pilot who flew Dylan to performances in the ’60s submitted the guitar to History Detectives, claiming that it was the same instrument the musician played at Newport, then his first live electric performance. Dawn Peterson claimed that Dylan left the guitar on her father’s plane, and the PBS program confirmed that it was in fact the same guitar.

Ninth Circuit sides with FCC, upholds ban on political advertising for pubcasters

A federal appeals court last week upheld a ban on political and public-issue commercials on pubcasting stations, ruling that its removal would compromise their educational mission. The split 9–2 decision was handed down Dec. 2 by a panel of judges on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Writing for the majority, Judge M. Margaret McKeown said that the restrictions Congress imposed on advertising were intended to shield noncommercial broadcasters from the competitive pressures of commercial media, not to limit constitutionally protected free speech. “The hallmark of public broadcasting has been a longstanding restriction on paid advertising to minimize commercialization,” McKeown wrote.

Break out the biscuits, it’s nearly Downton Abbey time

The publicity onslaught preceding the Jan. 5 premiere of Downton Abbey arrives in New York next week in the form of a tea truck. Variety reports that costumed servers will hand out free tea and biscuits to fans of the hit Masterpiece costume drama. And, this being 2013, the tea truck will be closely tracked on PBS’s Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Instagram. Following appearances by stars of the show on various network TV shows, the week culminates Dec.

FCC to delay broadcast spectrum auctions to mid-2015

FCC Chair Tom Wheeler announced today that the agency is shifting broadcast spectrum auctions from 2014 to 2015. In a blog post, Wheeler said that the decision for the delay was based on the complexity of the undertaking. “Having spent most of the last decade helping technology-based companies from the ground up,” he wrote, “I know the incredible challenge of taking a cutting-edge product from concept to market on deadline.” Wheeler said he believes the FCC “can conduct a successful auction in the middle of 2015.” He said the agency’s Spectrum Task Force will provide more details about the timeline in a presentation at the January 2014 FCC meeting.

SiriusXM picking up WGBH’s Innovation Hub

Innovation Hub, WGBH-FM’s weekly hourlong dive into big ideas and innovative technologies, goes national Saturday on SiriusXM’s public-radio content channel, XMPR. The program, distributed by Public Radio International, will air at 10 p.m. Eastern time Saturdays, featuring interviews with thought leaders on cutting-edge news in medicine, education, transportation and more. XMPR is Channel 121 on XM and Channel 205 on Sirius. PRI, which already offers streaming and podcast versions of the program, will make it available next spring for pubradio broadcast. Innovation Hub currently has more than 500,000 followers on SoundCloud.

Late WVTF music director’s family sues over his 2011 death

The children of Seth Williamson, a longtime music director and host at pubradio WVTF in Roanoke, Va., have filed a lawsuit against a medical manufacturing company over his 2011 death, reports the Roanoke Times. The complaint says that following hernia surgery, Williamson received more than five times the prescribed amount of an analgesic medication and died a short time later of a “massive” overdose. The family contends a medication pump was faulty. They are suing Hospira Inc., which made the pump, and Abbott Laboratories Inc., which once owned Hospira. Both are based in the Chicago suburbs.

Dotcom entrepreneur invests $250K in Swell app

Jason Calacanis is betting big on Swell, the five-month-old app that curates podcasts and news reports. The angel investor, who co-founded the blog network Weblogs Inc., the search engine and the podcast network ThisWeekIn, announced Dec. 3 that he would invest $250,000 in the app. In a blog post on his tech website Launch, Calacanis cited the app’s pedigree, mission, design and focus on podcasting as reasons for his investment. He had been interested in the similar apps Stitcher and TuneIn, he said, but wasn’t able to invest in them in time.

CPB financial report shows pubradio closing the gap with pubTV

CPB recently released its Public Broadcasting Revenue report (PDF) for fiscal year 2012. Findings about the number of contributions, total contributions and the amount of cash business (direct revenue such as underwriting and payments for services, but not in-kind services) show that public radio’s fortunes have been rising as public television’s have been on the decline, to the point that they are close to intersecting in these areas.  

FCC details plans for moving ahead on LPFM applications

The FCC announced Tuesday details of its plan for working through the more than 2,800 low-power FM (LPFM) applications that it received during the recent filing window. Its first priority is identifying some 900 “singleton” applications that do not conflict with others filed during the window. The commission will start granting those permits next month, according to the public notice, and will then give remaining applicants a chance to resolve conflicts with each other. The FCC will then move to identifying tentative selectees. “It is clear .

Knight and Ford donate $500,000 to reporting projects in Detroit and Michigan

Detroit may have filed for bankruptcy, but public-service reporting efforts there and in Michigan just got a big boost. The Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation announced Tuesday $500,000 in support to two projects, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative and the Michigan Reporting Institute. The cooperative consists of five nonprofit media organizations that will receive $250,000 from Knight to focus on the city’s financial straits and engage citizens in the search for innovative solutions. The convening partner is Center for Michigan, a “think and do tank” advocating for citizen involvement in policy issues, along with pubcasters WDET-FM, Michigan Radio and Detroit Public Television, as well as New Michigan Media, a network of ethnic and minority-oriented news operations. The Michigan Reporting Institute will receive the remainder of the grant from Ford for Zero Divide, a social-impact consultancy using technology to tackle issues of health, economic opportunities and civic engagement in underserved communities.

NEA’s Alyce Myatt returns to private sector next month

Alyce Myatt, media arts director for the National Endowment for the Arts and a former PBS executive, is leaving the NEA next month. She joined the agency in January 2011 and broadened its media arts grant category. Traditionally, most of that funding went to public television and radio projects; Myatt widened the pool of recipients to include work on transmedia, app development and video games. “I was given an extraordinary opportunity to expand federal support for the media arts to encompass every platform used by Americans to engage with art,” Myatt said in a statement. “It has been an incredible honor to do this work and to be with colleagues whose knowledge represents the depth and breadth of the arts in America.”

Ruling reinforces advertising ban on pubcasting airwaves

A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a constitutional ban on political advertising on public television and radio stations, Reuters reports. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 8-3 that Congress was justified in prohibiting pubstations from running paid ads for for-profit entities, issues of public interest and political candidates. In April 2012, a three-judge panel of the same circuit voted to allow pubcasters to run those ads in the Ninth Circuit states of the West.

FCC Chair Wheeler advocates for public TV stations to sell spectrum

The new chair of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, is urging public broadcasters to sell their television bandwidth in upcoming spectrum auctions, reports TVNewsCheck. In an appearance Monday at Ohio State University in Columbus, Wheeler advocated for channel-sharing deals in which broadcasters would sell off pieces of spectrum and consolidate their signal with other broadcasters. Wheeler said that arrangement would give “forever cash-starved” pubcasters a “pot full of cash” that they could use as an endowment to run their operations while using spectrum more efficiently. “It may be just a great godsend to the PBS business,” said Wheeler, a former PBS Board member. In response, Patrick Butler, president of the Association of Public Television Stations advocacy organization, told Current in a statement that pubTV stations “are committed to pursuing their public service missions by the most effective and efficient means possible.”

Seidel, Malesky and Carvin taking NPR buyouts, will exit by year’s end

NPR news executive Stu Seidel and librarian Kee Malesky have accepted buyout offers from NPR, and social media strategist Andy Carvin has told Current that he plans to take the buyout as well. The employees will leave NPR at the end of the year. Seidel is the network’s managing editor for standards and practices. He worked for NPR as a freelance editor from 1996-98, then joined in December 1999 as senior editor of Weekend Edition Sunday after a year with Marketplace, where he was senior editor. He later worked as deputy managing editor for news.