In times of crisis, FM chips in smartphones will better serve public

Disasters strike every year in every corner of America. Hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard, ice storms in the Midwest and Plains states, wildfires in the west and arid states of the southwest, tornados through our nation’s heartlands and flooding along the Mississippi and elsewhere. And horrific acts of terrorism like the Boston Marathon, the Oklahoma City federal building bombings and the attacks on September 11th are all too familiar reminders of just how important information is during and after these events. During every hurricane, tornado, flood and wildfire, local public radio stations play an essential role in conveying information about response efforts, local relief supplies, evacuation orders, emergency routes, and where to find food, shelter and fuel, as well as on-the-ground, at-the-scene reporting to help affected communities understand and respond. Because of public radio’s role as a trusted media and information resource and an essential public-safety asset, we hope all stations will join us in calling upon the mobile phone industry to install and activate FM chips in all cellphones and smartphones.

NPR names new v.p. for member partnership

NPR has promoted Gemma Hooley to v.p. for member partnership, succeeding Joyce MacDonald, who has been assigned new responsibilities in sponsorship and marketing. Hooley previously served as senior director of member partnership. She joined NPR in 2000 as a program services associate and later worked as manager of station relations. MacDonald retains her title as NPR chief of staff while taking on management of NPR’s relationship with National Public Media, the sponsorship sales group that provides marketing and distribution services for public radio and television. NPM President Steve Moss will report directly to MacDonald.

PBS adds Odd Squad kids show, more films for Makers project

PBS Kids announced today a new live-action math series, Odd Squad, for children 5 to 8 years old. The latest addition to the schedule was revealed at the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. Available on-air and as interactive online games, the program features youngsters Olive and Otto as part of the Odd Squad, an agency that saves its town from bothersome math-related problems. The show was created by Tim McKeon and Adam Peltzman, who both worked on The Electric Company, and is produced by Sinking Ship Entertainment and the Fred Rogers Company. It’s funded by CPB and a Ready to Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Also at the Press Tour, PBS said it will again work with AOL on six more one-hour documentaries as part of its Makers: Women Who Make America initiative.

AIR, PRNDI release freelance pay guidelines for pubradio stations

The Association of Independents in Radio and Public Radio News Directors Inc. have published guidelines to assist freelance reporters in negotiating pay rates with stations. The guidelines use a scale model that assigns three tiers to the experience levels of producers and also accounts for the effort spent on pieces. They also take station budgets into account. The suggested pay for a beginning-level reporter working on a “superspot” — a short-turnaround story involving minimal effort — is $100–$150. On the high end of the scale, an advanced-level reporter working on an “advanced feature” involving extensive research and a sophisticated narrative would command a pay range of $500–$900.

PBS recruiting new development chief

PBS is in “the final stages” of hiring a new executive to improve public TV fundraising efforts at both the local and national levels, President Paula Kerger announced during the Television Critics Association Winter Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif., Monday.

Congress passes omnibus spending bill, secures $445M for CPB

A government-wide spending bill containing more than $1 trillion in appropriations, including $445 million for CPB through fiscal year 2016, passed the Senate Thursday by a wide margin on its way to President Obama’s desk. The Senate voted 72-26 for the measure after it cleared the House the previous day. Republicans cast all of the dissenting votes. In addition to CPB funding, the bill allocates $2 million for rural noncom stations that qualify for CPB’s Community Service Grants. Federal aid for CPB has remained relatively stable over the past three years, though appropriations took a hit with the automatic spending cuts that took effect in March 2013.

Aereo set to launch in Cincinnati

Even as it prepares to defend itself before the U.S. Supreme Court, online TV service Aereo Inc. continues to roll out in new markets — most recently in Cincinnati, the company announced today. Aereo will launch in the greater Cincinnati region Jan. 21. It initially launched in New York City and expanded to Baltimore, Boston, Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, Denver, Houston and Salt Lake City. The company plans to launch in additional cites throughout the year.

NPR’s Scott Simon to host second pilot of Wonderful Town variety show

NPR is mounting a second pilot performance of Scott Simon’s Wonderful Town, a variety show featuring the Weekend Edition Saturday host. The live taping will take place Jan. 22 at the Bell House in Brooklyn, N.Y., where NPR’s trivia show Ask Me Another also tapes. It will feature appearances from comedians and musicians including Eugene Mirman, Nellie McKay and Daily Show contributor Aasif Mandvi. This is the second Wonderful Town pilot to be taped; the first was in February 2013.

PBS launches new Cyberchase app, and more news in pubmedia programming

PBS has created its latest augmented-reality app, this one based on the television math series Cyberchase. The development of Cyberchase Shape Quest was funded with a Ready To Learn grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The free app, announced Jan. 9 and offering three games, uses a tablet’s camera to combine real-world images with digital content. Users follow characters Buzz and Delete through various environments, applying spatial memory, visualization and modeling skills to solve problems by taking apart and putting together two- and three-dimensional shapes.

PBS member KMBH seeks operating agreement with commercial broadcaster

The operator of KMBH-TV in Harlingen, Texas, announced Tuesday that it will pursue a local management agreement (LMA) with a commercial entity as part of the station’s sale. The PBS member station serves the Rio Grande Valley in the southern tip of the state. The board of RGV Educational Broadcasting Inc., a nonprofit formed by the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville in 1983, oversees the station. Directors authorized Washington, D.C., attorney Larry Miller to petition the FCC to convert the station to a commercial broadcaster. Because the station does not operate on a channel reserved for noncommercial use, it is eligible for such a conversion, Miller told Current.

KPCC bolsters newsroom, Babes of NPR blogger joins pubradio, and more comings and goings in pubmedia

Southern California Public Radio/KPCC in Los Angeles has bulked up its news department in recent months, adding eight staffers to its team and promoting several employees. Since mid-October the station has hired Stephen Gregory as science and environment editor; Doug Krizner, business and emerging communities editor; Dorian Marina, reporter and producer for Take Two, a locally produced weekday newsmagazine; Kristen Lepore, digital producer for social media; Jed Kim, environment reporter; Adrian Florido, community health care reporter; Jeremy Hoffing, software developer; and Joel Withrow, project manager for mobile news experience. KPCC has also promoted Steve Profitt to program developer for broadcast, Molly Peterson to environment correspondent and Stephanie O’Neill to health care correspondent. Meanwhile, the station has cut two general-assignment reporters and a reporter based at the state capitol in Sacramento. “These moves reflect a shift in resources .

MacArthur Foundation grants $2 million to documentary projects

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced today $2 million in new grants to 18 documentary film projects, including some from frequent collaborators with public TV. Individual grant amounts range from $50,000 to $225,000. The latter amount goes to the film 500 Years, which follows the genocide trial of former Guatemalan President General Efraín Ríos Montt. The film is a follow-up to co-director Pamela Yates’s previous film about the Guatemalan genocide, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, which became a 2012 episode on PBS’s POV. A couple of the projects incorporate multiplatform outreach, according to the release: Immigrant Nation is “a multi-platform project that explores the interconnectedness of U.S. immigrants, past and present,” while the team behind Map Your World will build an “interactive web platform enabling global youth to map their communities’ assets and challenges and create media to catalyze positive change.”

Among the other grantees:

In the Game, a documentary about Latina adolescents and soccer from pubTV producer Kartemquin Films;
Hazing, a film about “the cultural practices of hazing,” from director Byron Hurt, who also made the 2006 Independent Lens episode Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats & Rhymes;
Freedom Fighters, a film about exonerated men who start a detective agency, from director Jamie Melzer, who directed the 2003 Independent Lens episode Off the Charts: The Song-Poem Story; and
The Arrivals, a story about two undocumented immigrants from director Heidi Ewing, whose PBS credits include The Boys of Baraka and an episode of the now-defunct Now on PBS.

“f gwenifill”? Former pubmedia consultant’s Twitter mistake results in bizarre messages

Several news organizations’ Twitter accounts, including some public media accounts, emitted a deluge of cryptic messages reading “f gwenifill” today. The tweets trace to social media strategist Kate Gardiner, who has consulted for public media and nonprofit news organizations and has access to many of their Twitter accounts through TweetDeck, a Twitter client. Gardiner initially tweeted that she had been hacked but told Current that the tweets were a mistake on her part, caused when she was “cleaning up” her TweetDeck account. “f gwenifill” was a test tweet she had created for PBS NewsHour when she worked for the program as its first social media desk assistant, and she accidentally sent it via all the accounts she still has access to. In Twitter’s early days, mobile phone users typed “f” to follow another user. Affected accounts included that of New York’s WNYC and several of its individual programs,  the NewsHour and its specialized Twitter feeds, and the Poynter Institute.

Love of cheese leads to new career for former pubradio exec

Chris Kohtz is no longer in a position to tell you about portfolios of programs available for airing on public radio stations. But he’s definitely your guy if you’re craving a good cheddar or Camembert. After 25 years in broadcasting, Kohtz has shifted careers to pursue his dream of opening a cheese shop. The Wedge & Wheel opened for business Jan. 2 in Stillwater, Minn., on the outskirts of Minneapolis, offering a selection of domestic and foreign-made cheeses to an enthusiastic bunch of cheese connoisseurs.