Programming in Brief: PRI launches women-focused initiative, WQXR offers Berlin concerts, and more

Public Radio International will launch a multimedia program focused on women’s empowerment with a grant of about $1.28 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Across Women’s Lives is a “journalism and engagement initiative” examining the connection between women’s empowerment and health and economic development. The program highlights personal stories of women in Africa and India and looks at women’s lives from infancy to old age. The project’s content will be featured on PRI’s global news program The World and online. Additional content includes short video documentaries and educational tools to help listeners learn more about the topics covered.

PBS to track behavior of viewers pledging to core-schedule programs

In an experiment signaling public TV’s resolve to address concerns about the long-term effects of transactional pledging on its donor base, PBS plans to test whether fundraising around regularly scheduled signature series can convert more viewers into loyal members and donors. Though traditional fundraising programs generate more cash for stations, many development professionals believe that pledging around core programs could yield better-quality donors who are committed to public TV’s mission. Stations such as Maryland Public Television and PBS SoCal in Orange County, Calif., have successfully pledged series from PBS’s National Program Service, as well as popular British dramas and comedies acquired from other distributors. Their results prompted PBS to take a deeper dive into the approach. “As we transition from a goal of gross dollars into a broader philosophy of the long-term value of donors, this seemed like a great time to look seriously at best practices with emphasis on sustaining donations,” said Joe Campbell, v.p. of fundraising programming.

Samuel English III, Aviation Weather host, dies at 79

Samuel James English III, host of Aviation Weather, a series produced and distributed by Maryland Public Television in the 1970s, died Nov. 3 of respiratory failure at his home in Pikesville, Md. He was 79. Known as “Jim” on the air, English delivered twice-weekly weather reports for private airplane pilots, and flew in his own spare time. The program was produced live, in partnership with the National Weather Service.

MPT collects Super Bowl wager winnings from KQED

Maryland Public Television can thank the Baltimore Ravens this week for helping the station win a supply of sourdough breads and chocolate. The station laid some local cuisine on the line with San Francisco’s KQED as part of a friendly wager leading up to the Feb. 3 Super Bowl match between the Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers. If Baltimore won, KQED promised to ship the bread and chocolate to MPT. If San Francisco won, MPT would send crab cakes and Bergers cookies, a Balmer fave, across the country.

MPT hires new v.p., Sill to be KPCC’s executive editor, three Illinois pubcasters retire, and more…

Rick Lore is Maryland Public Television’s new v.p. and chief development officer
Lore is responsible for membership, on-air fundraising, major and planned giving, publications, outreach and community engagement at the state network headquartered in Owings Mills. Lore joined MPT on an interim basis last fall after Joe Krushinsky left his job as v.p. of institutional advancement. Krushinsky now directs station development services at PBS. Previously Lore served as executive director of Friends of Milwaukee Public Television, the fundraising affiliate of Milwaukee Public TV; directed  on-air fundraising for PBS; and led development at New Hampshire Public Television. Lore, who began his pubTV career in 1989 in San Jose, Calif., has won eight PBS development awards and is a frequent conference speaker.

Worlds away from Rukeyser’s Wall Street

Wall Street Week with Fortune, the PBS series that reinvented itself last year after a messy split with original host Louis Rukeyser, is setting itself further apart from its progenitor. The program sharpened its reporting this fall on the scandal-plagued financial markets while expanding its coverage to economic trends beyond Wall Street. Acknowledging the steady drumbeat of news about improper trading practices and corporate malfeasance, Executive Producer Larry Moscow wants WSW to reflect investors’ ire over scams that deflated their portfolios and retirement accounts. Investors, he observed, are now saying, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

“We want to put PBS at the vanguard of reporting on that rebellion by providing independent information about what’s going on,” Moscow said. “These are different times and we have to do things beyond sitting in the studio and talking about it.”

The shift in tenor was unmistakable in co-host Geoffrey Colvin’s introduction to the Nov.