PBS tightens rules for food and drink sponsors of kids’ programs

The PBS Board unanimously voted today to amend national program underwriting standards to require a higher level of review for food and beverage companies seeking to sponsor kids’ shows. Under the revision, President Paula Kerger told the board, “a potential sponsor for a PBS Kids series will be acceptable only if its product could be considered to make a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet.”

The amendment will have “only a minimal impact on our funding mix,” Kerger said. Less than 1 percent of children’s content sponsors in fiscal 2013 will be affected, she noted. The recommendation came after months of review of current underwriting guidelines for children’s shows by PBS staff and the board’s corporate services advisory committee. Major producing station WGBH, Sesame Workshop and nutrition experts also participated.

Friday roundup: NewsHour launches new website; podcasting patent fight continues

• PBS NewsHour unveiled a redesigned website Thursday, featuring responsive design, new navigation menus and an expanded digital editorial presence. The new site combines stories from the program’s weekday and weekend editions, as Current reported in July 2013. “This new site is designed to meet the demands of an expanding and more involved audience,” NewsHour Creative Director Travis Daub wrote in an introductory post, adding that the redesign is the most expansive in the website’s 18-year history. • Pittsburgh Public Media has applied to the FCC for permission to boost the wattage of WYZR-FM, the jazz station it launched in August 2013. The proposed boost to 10,000 watts still would not get WYZR into Pittsburgh from its location in Bethany, W.Va., PPM President Chuck Leavens told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

FCC hews to mid-2015 time frame for spectrum auction

The FCC affirmed today that it plans to hold the spectrum incentive auction for television broadcasters in mid-2015 and will issue the awaited report and orders this spring. The announcement is in line with a December statement by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler that delayed the original target date of holding the auction this year. Gary Epstein, the FCC’s Incentive Auction Taskforce Chairman, assured FCC commissioners at today’s open meeting that the auction will not take place until auction software is thoroughly tested and stakeholders are made aware of the process. FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai emphasized the importance of outreach to ensure that broadcasters participate in the process and testing. To increase participation, broadcasters must get an idea of what the potential payoff could be for selling spectrum, he said.

Afternoon roundup: LPFM permits proliferate, KLRU show sizzles

The FCC has granted nearly 500 low-power FM (LPFM) applications so far, according to Radio Survivor. Applicants include animal advocacy groups, schools, colleges, churches, tribal entities and arts organizations. Austin’s KLRU-TV is producing a documentary series about barbecue culture with local meat legend Aaron Franklin. Called BBQ With Franklin, the show will be based on KLRU’s web series of the same name, which the station launched in 2012 for PBS Digital Studios. The program will air in early 2015 and be made available through national distribution.

$2.5 million in grants will help rural stations complete DTV transition

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced six grants totaling more than $2.5 million Wednesday as part of its Public Television Digital Transition Grant program. “These investments will help public television stations serving substantially rural communities make the transition to digital broadcasts,” said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Patrice Kunesh, who announced the grants in Bethel, Alaska. The FCC required all broadcasters to convert full-power transmitters to digital signals by June 2009, but stations have until 2015 to convert repeaters and low-power TV signals. The largest grant, $750,000, goes to the West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority. The network will convert its television production studio in Charleston from analog to HD digital.

Afternoon roundup: WCAI expands signal, CCTV hosts meet Muppets

WCAI Cape and Islands NPR, the only public radio station for coastal communities in southern Massachusetts, has boosted its signal from 1,200 to 12,500 watts. WCAI Managing Director Mindy Todd noted in Tuesday’s announcement, “Now, more than 200,000 additional listeners — plus millions of fish in Cape Cod Bay, Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean — will have a clear signal and clear access to the region’s only locally-produced and locally-broadcast public radio station.”

Starting Friday, CCTV Children’s Channel in Shanghai, China, is airing a special “Happy New Year” series marking the first time its hosts are interacting with Sesame Street’s Muppets. During a segment on Chinese New Year, Elmo, Cookie Monster and Lily chat with their Chinese friends about their special customs. The 10 segments about different New Year traditions will run on the channel through Feb. 6. The filmmakers behind American Promise, who filmed their African-American Brooklyn family over 13 years as their son and his best pal progressed through school, will interact with participants in a live OVEE online screening of the doc from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern time Feb.

WETA receives $1 million for culture, history and public affairs programs

Washington, D.C., philanthropist and financier David M. Rubenstein has established a $1 million fund at WETA in suburban Arlington, Va., for producing programs about American culture, history and public affairs. Announcing the donation Tuesday, Rubenstein said he believes in “the power of public media to be a force for education, sharing the vibrant culture and rich history of this country.” Rubenstein is co-founder and co-c.e.o. of the Carlyle Group, a global private equity investment firm. He has been a station member since 1988, according to WETA spokesperson Mary Stewart. Sharon Rockefeller, WETA president, called the gift “truly inspiring.”

L.A.’s KLCS to participate in nation’s first TV channel-sharing pilot

Two Los Angeles television stations, one commercial and the other public, will pilot the first television channel-sharing project in the country, CTIA — The Wireless Association announced today. The noncom KLCS, licensed to the L.A. Unified School District, and bilingual KJLA are voluntarily participating in the experiment. CTIA, an international organization representing the wireless communications industry, is supervising the initiative in conjunction with the Association of Public Television Stations. “APTS has been involved in the development of this pilot in support of our member station KLCS,” Lonna Thompson, APTS c.o.o., told Current. “We support this pilot project because we think it will provide valuable information to our member stations considering whether to engage in their own channel-sharing effort.”

The FCC is offering a channel-sharing option to stations as part of the upcoming voluntary spectrum auctions, which will free bandwidth for use by the growing number of mobile devices.

Afternoon roundup: Prairie Home Companion tailgating, Madeleine Brand returns to radio

Episode four of the new season of Portlandia, starring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, will feature A Prairie Home Companion tailgating. The sketch is also being spun off into a series of four webisodes, which can be viewed online before the season premiere.  Season four of Portlandia premieres Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. on the Independent Film Channel. If an avid blogger can’t leave a comment on your website, he’ll write about it. That’s what tech-savvy journalist Doc Searls did when he encountered issues with a story from WBUR, Boston’s NPR news station.

Morning roundup: CPB Board plans a field trip, Downton ratings grow

The next CPB Board meeting, Feb. 10, will take directors on a field trip. While the morning session will be at headquarters in Washington, D.C., the board will head to WETA in suburban Arlington, Va., in the afternoon for a look inside PBS NewsHour. Also on the agenda: updates on diversity work, spectrum issues and American Graduate activities. If you thought ratings for the Season 4 premiere of Downton Abbey were high, wait until you read these numbers: PBS and WGBH announced Monday that the Jan.

Knight Foundation, INN partner on $1M innovation fund

The Knight Foundation and the Investigative News Network (INN) are teaming up to award $1 million in microgrants for innovation at public media and nonprofit news operations. The INNovate Fund is one of several initiatives totaling $5 million that Knight has planned in response to its 2013 in-depth study of nonprofit news sustainability. Knight will provide the funding, while INN will manage the two-year grant program and select recipients. Online applications will open March 1 and are open to all nonprofit and public media news organizations. Successful applications should meet three criteria, according to INN CEO Kevin Davis.

Bresnahan one of three finalists for top job at KBTC-TV

Moss Bresnahan, former president of KCTS in Seattle, is one of three finalists for the position of executive director and general manager of KBTC Public Television in Tacoma, Wash., according to licensee Bates Technical College. The three were interviewed Jan. 24 for the post. Bresnahan exited KCTS in August 2013, citing family issues in an email to fellow executives. The two other finalists are Karen Olstad, chief operating officer of WOSU Public Media in Columbus, Ohio; and Ed Ulman, development director and interim g.m. of KBTC.

Research notes dropoff in use of educational media content as kids age

A new study from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center finds that while 2- to 4-year-olds spend 78 percent of their screen-media time with educational content, that figure drops to 39 percent among 5- to 7-year-olds and to 27 percent for 8- to 10-year-olds. The research, “Learning at Home: Families’ Educational Media Use in America,” also found that children spend an average of 42 minutes a day watching educational television compared with five minutes each day with educational content on mobile devices and computers and just three minutes per day with educational video games. The children of parents surveyed also read an average of 40 minutes per day, which includes 29 minutes with print, eight minutes on computers, and five minutes using e-readers and tablets. The national survey of more than 1,500 parents is part of the center’s Families and Media Project.