Allan Pizzato

Alabama firings expose rift over PTV mission, editorial standards

It’s not clear what objectives the political appointees of the Alabama Educational Television Commission had in mind when they came out of an executive session on June 12 and voted 5–2 to fire the state-operated public TV network’s top managers. Allan Pizzato, executive director of Alabama Public Television for 12 years, and his deputy, Pauline Howland, were ordered to clean out their desks and immediately vacate the station’s Birmingham headquarters. The dismissals triggered a series of unintended consequences that included an exodus of nine lay leaders from APT’s fundraising organizations, as well as Howland’s reinstatement on a temporary basis two days later. After the dismissals, the commissioners realized that they needed her knowledge and expertise to complete work on APT’s 2013 budget. The fissure also exposed an internal struggle over the commission’s push to schedule programs from the religious right for APT broadcast, and a revision of the network’s mission statement.

Alabama PTV appoints interim director after departure of Pizzato

Allan Pizzato, executive director of Alabama Public Television for the past 12 years, has left that position. A press release from the station provides no details.The Alabama Educational Television Commission (AETC) announced Tuesday (June 12) the appointment of Don Boomershine as interim director. Boomershine is a past president of the Better Business Bureau for Central Alabama, v.p. of the Metropolitan Development Board, and v.p., national division of SouthTrust Bank. The announcement also said Boomershine “appeared regularly for 25 years” on Alabama television and radio stations, and received the Outstanding Broadcaster Cooperation Award from the Alabama Broadcasters’ Association.In the announcement, AETC Chair Ferris W. Stephens said the board thanked Pizzato “for all of his years of service as director of APT.”Last year, Alabama PTV endured programming and staff cutbacks due to state funding losses. Its weekly political roundtable, Capitol Journal, had been suspended in June 2011 but returned to the air in January 2012.

Dismissals at Alabama PTV linked to concerns over proposed broadcast of videos from religious right

See also more complete story from print edition of June 25, 2012. Two top managers at Alabama Public Television were fired from their jobs June 12 with no explanation of the cause for the immediate dismissals. The Alabama Educational Television Commission came out of an executive session Tuesday afternoon and ordered veteran pubcaster Allan Pizzato and his deputy, Pauline Howland, to clean out their desks and leave APT’s headquarters in Birmingham. “All I can say is that it was an irreconcilable difference in opinion of the future direction of the station,” Pizzato told Current. “I serve at the pleasure of the board.

Alabama commission revises APTV’s mission statement, 2012

See also Current coverage. Alabama network’s mission statement before the Alabama Educational Television Commission revised it June 12, 2012
Alabama Public Television Mission, Vision, Values, and Diversity Statement
Each of us is born with a natural desire to learn. We seek to explore our world and to understand life and the people around us. Alabama Public Television is a center of discovery for people of all ages. We motivate children to learn, empower students and teachers to succeed, and provide a lifelong path to knowledge.

PBS grandfathers sectarian shows

In a compromise with the few pubTV stations that carry religious programming, the PBS Board voted June 16 to allow them to keep their PBS membership without dropping the shows. Member stations also can carry worship services and other clearly sectarian programs on their DTV multicast channels or other distribution platforms so long as they don’t carry the PBS name or PBS-distributed programming. The ruling pleased the handful of pubTV stations that have longtime commitments to religious broadcasts. The PBS Board, aiming to maintain a clear separation between public TV’s identity and religious groups, did draw a line on sectarian programs, but the new member eligibility rule is much less restrictive than what the network’s Station Services Committee proposed in February. Stations that want to keep their membership in PBS won’t be able to add any new sectarian programs on their main channels or wherever PBS programs or the PBS name are used.

CPB inquiry, deficits: more tribulations for KMBH

A public broadcaster removed unexpectedly from the board of Catholic Church- controlled KMBH public radio and TV in Harlingen, Texas, is heading an effort to create an independent pubradio station in the Rio Grande Valley. Betsy Price of Brownsville and 30 other volunteers call themselves Voices from the Valley. Their goal is to provide more local and NPR programming than KMBH currently carries. The group’s forthcoming announcement of its board members may coincide with more news about KMBH, the region’s only pubcaster: CPB’s inspector general is completing a review of its compliance with grant rules and examining station financial documents related to CPB. The inspectors are likely to find an operation that, like a significant minority of public stations, is in “fragile” fiscal condition.

Where church rules pubcasting, pledge drive comes up empty

The nightmare scenario is probably familiar to anyone who ever worked an on-air fund drive: What if nobody pledges? In February, KMBH-FM, the public radio station in Harlingen, Texas, cut short its fundraiser because it received only six pledges in three days. “Drastic changes” in services could result, the station management warned listeners, in a chastising message broadcast and posted online: “Remember: Those who have not given their financial support will not have any right to complain when their favorite radio station changes or even vanishes from the air.”

“It was a painful, realistic warning,” said Monsignor Pedro Briseño, the g.m. of KMBH-TV/FM (and repeater KHID-FM), the only public stations for more than a million people in the Rio Grande Valley. “We simply cannot afford running a public radio station without support from the audience.”

The valley, which includes the cities of Brownsville, McAllen and Harlingen, is a borderland as far south and about as poor as Texas gets, with an average income half of the national level. Fundraisers say their work is hard because immigrant families retain a cultural bias against giving to nonprofits.

Abortion issue heats dispute over WDUQ underwriting

Pittsburgh jazz/news station WDUQ finds itself in the middle of an abortion-politics hardball contest between its licensee, Catholic-run Duquesne University, and Planned Parenthood. Soon after WDUQ began running Planned Parenthood underwriting spots Oct. 8 [2007], the university ordered the station to stop accepting money from a group “not aligned with our Catholic identity,” even though the underwriting went solely to the station. Though abortion is one of the reproductive health services offered by the local Planned Parenthood affiliate, the word wasn’t used in the spots. The text for one spot said: “Support for WDUQ comes from Planned Parenthood—reducing unintended pregnancy by improving access to contraception.” Another spot mentioned optional abstinence training.

‘Hasty mistake’ at WFDD prompts talk of ideals

For the faculty of Wake Forest University, the hush order given to reporters at the university’s WFDD-FM last September came too close for comfort.”I’ve never seen anything rile the faculty on this campus like this did, and I’ve been here 11 years,” says law professor Ronald Wright. “A lot of faculty members identified with those reporters. We’re both in the business of telling the truth.” “What has occurred on our campus violated certain ‘givens’ about what a university should be: a place where freedom of thought and expression thrive,” said this month’s report by an ad hoc committee appointed by the faculty senate. The defense of free speech on the campus in Winston-Salem, N.C., has whipped up antagonisms, uprooted most of WFDD’s news staff, and required lots of long, tense meetings, but the issues may be nearing resolution.