• The broadcast tower of St. Louis’s Nine Network picked up an unexpected Halloween decoration Thursday night: a parachutist who was stuck for two hours about 120 feet off the ground, reports KMOV-TV. Firefighters rescued 27-year-old Timothy Church after he attempted to jump off the tower. The illicit leaper and an accomplice were charged with trespassing. https://twitter.com/CoryStarkKMOV/status/528035355585695744/
• Elsewhere on the crime beat, a former finance manager for WFWA-TV in Fort Wayne, Ind., pleaded guilty Thursday to embezzling money from the station in July 2010, according to the News-Sentinel.
The Iowa Board of Regents agreed Oct. 23 to continue funding Iowa Public Radio at current levels through the end of fiscal year 2016, reversing a plan to zero out funding by that time. IPR’s 2012 strategic plan called for zeroing out the board of regents’ support by the end of fiscal year 2016. The station saw shortfalls in major giving revenue and lacked an executive director for a year until Myrna Johnson joined the network in January. Citing those factors, IPR asked for board funding to remain at 12.5 percent of its operating budget.
PBS finished the 2013-14 broadcast season in fifth place among broadcast and cable networks, up from eighth the previous season and 11th in 2011-12. Beth Hoppe, PBS’s chief programmer, has focused on scheduling similar genres together to retain primetime audience from one show to the next. “It’s a strategy that is paying off,” she said in the announcement Wednesday. Average primetime household Nielsen ratings rose over last season from 1.43 to 1.50, finishing with an average audience of some 1.9 million viewers, according to PBS. Viewing on Sunday nights, anchored by Masterpiece and its hit Downton Abbey franchise, grew 7 percent over last season.
Pubcasters Louisiana Public Broadcasting, Twin Cities Public Television and KCOS-TV in El Paso, Texas, were among the almost 700 broadcasters whose licenses were renewed en masse earlier this month, after the FCC quietly cleared many stations nationwide of indecency charges. The renewals had been on hold due to allegations that some of their programming may have violated FCC regulations barring broadcasters from airing indecent material between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The complaints were thrown out as part of an agency effort to reduce the backlog of applications to be processed. The complaint against LPB was apparently over an episode of Doc Martin, according to LPB President Beth Courtney. “You’re kidding me” was Courtney’s reaction when she learned of the complaint’s target, she said. “There was nothing that I saw under any guideline that would be a problem,” Courtney said, adding that the agency’s rejection of the complaint “was the appropriate response.”
The complaint pending against Twin Cities was apparently over “blurred nudity” in an episode of Globe Trekker, according to station spokesperson Elle Krause-Lyons.
• It’s Thursday, which means that fans of Serial are getting their weekly dose of podcast crack. The This American Life spinoff, which digs into the details of a 1999 Baltimore murder case, has spawned a bevy of equally obsessive commentary, including a podcast about the podcast from Slate. But the vortex of meta-analysis doesn’t end there — an English professor has started a weekly video chat with Rabia Chaudry, the lawyer who brought the murder case to the attention of Serial’s Sarah Koenig (and who is also blogging about Serial). “I am interested in exploring how new media engagement affects narrative and knowledge, and Serial presented an fertile ground in which to ask those questions,” writes Pete Rorabaugh. There’s also the Serial subreddit, which as a listener I am studiously avoiding lest I fall into a wormhole from which I cannot return. Plus, I haven’t listened to today’s episode yet.
PBS is once again enjoying a budget surplus, thanks in part to the continuing success of Masterpiece’s hit British costume drama Downton Abbey. PBS Chief Financial Officer Barbara Landes told the board’s finance committee Monday that net income for fiscal 2014 totaled $30.7 million. This year, $10.4 million of that total is a one-time windfall due to the sale of PBS’s 15 percent equity share in the kids’ cable network Sprout. NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment Group acquired full ownership of Sprout, formerly called PBS Kids Sprout, in November 2013. PBS operations generated $20.3 million, thanks to better than expected returns on short-term investments, revenue-generating activities such as online sponsorship and mobile apps, and lower operating expenses, according to Landes.
The PBS Board of Directors elected Don Baer of Burson-Marsteller Worldwide as its new chair Wednesday, promoting him from vice-chair during a meeting at headquarters in Arlington, Va. The board also confirmed Baer, c.e.o. of the public relations and communications firm, for a second term on the 27-member governing body. His career includes nearly a decade at Discovery Communications, in roles from producer to senior executive, and working as senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and as a journalist for publications including U.S. News & World Report. Continuing as general vice-chair is American Council on Education President Molly Corbett Broad, also re-elected to the board. Jack Galmiche, president of Nine Network in St.
PBS Digital Studios is commissioning the digital media unit at New York’s WNET to produce 40 episodes for two new YouTube series, marking its first major content collaboration deal with a PBS member station. WNET’s Interactive Engagement Group will create short-form videos about gender identity. WLIW, the station’s Long Island affiliate, will produce a series on consumer technology. PBSDS will co-produce both. Representatives at PBS and WNET declined to discuss the value of the contract, which was announced Wednesday.