In maintaining towers, stations face higher costs, lack of space

If any part of the broadcast plant ever merited the label “necessary evil,” a top nominee would be the tower. Expensive to maintain, fraught with potential hazards, bound by an ever-growing web of regulations, unloved by neighbors and often located inconveniently far away, a pubcaster’s tower still serves as the essential link between its program service and its audience. In the early years of public TV and radio — before streaming and podcasting and cable and over-the-top video delivery — pubcasters and their audiences depended completely on the reach of the signals their towers could deliver. When broadcasting was a new and developing communications medium, those towers were much easier to build. As long as they weren’t in an airport flight path, the NIMBY factor was rarely a concern as public TV and FM stations spread across the country from the 1950s into the 1970s.

Jabulani Leffall interviews Kevin Wilmott

The ‘ongoing process’ of diversity

Public radio stations trying to diversify their audiences, staffs and programming have found an increasingly active ally in NPR, whose leaders have been travelling to stations in recent months to help broadcasters walk the difficult walk of achieving diversity.

Wisconsin Public Radio’s Dopart was hailed as PRADO development professional of the year

Since becoming WPR’s director of membership director in 2005, Rebecca Dopart has upped membership revenue by 30 percent — from $5 million to $6.5 million — and increased the number of donors from 40,000 to almost 49,000. Since she assumed the additional title of director of corporate support two years ago, sales have risen nearly 30 percent, to around $1.8 million. “She turned a team that suffered from low morale into one that has sold so many spots that their underwriting rates had to be increased and new avails created,” said Gordon Bayliss, v.p. of sales and marketing at WBFO-FM/WNED-FM/WNED-TV in Buffalo, N.Y., and PRADO’s immediate past president, in presenting the award. “She achieved those results by providing the team with training retreats, instituting new contact management software, creating a copy review team and a new media kit, and by simply applying her own can-do attitude and moral support of each team member.”

This is the 16th year for the PRADO award, which honors the station-based fundraising professional who has demonstrated excellence at his or her public radio station. Dopart received the award at the Public Media Development and Marketing Conference (PMDMC) July 13 in Seattle.

Kickstarter-backed comic book will illustrate pubradio series on consciousness

The Peabody-winning pubradio program To the Best of Our Knowledge has successfully completed a $15,000 Kickstarter campaign to produce a comic book that will accompany an upcoming six-hour series. The series, Meet Your Mind: The Science of Consciousness, will air in November and December. Guests include famed brain researcher Oliver Sacks and Nobel laureates Eric Kandel and Daniel Kahneman. The comic book is intended to help illustrate Meet Your Mind. Jim Ottaviani, a writer who specializes in graphic novels about scientists, will pen the comic, and Natalie Nourigat will illustrate it.

Jim Packard, announcer of Whad’Ya Know?

Jim Packard, longtime announcer on public radio’s Whad’Ya Know?, died June 18 at a New York City hospital. He was 70. Michael Feldman, host of the national comedy quiz show produced by Wisconsin Public Radio, itold the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Packard suffered from cardiopulmonary disease, and that “his lung function had been decreasing visibly” for the past eight months. Packard had been in New York for a live broadcast of the popular show on June 9, at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts at New York University, the Journal Sentinel reported. Packard entered the hospital on June 10.