Feb 17, 2012

Congress gives FCC go-ahead to conduct spectrum auctions

Congress today (Feb. 17) approved legislation providing the FCC with the ability to reclaim and auction broadcast spectrum to help pay for a payroll tax break and unemployment benefits, according to Broadcasting & Cable. The House passed the bill 293 to 132; the Senate, 60-36. House Communications Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said auctions will be voluntary and protect broadcasters and their viewers. "Bill language requires the FCC to make best efforts to protect the coverage areas and interference protections of the broadcasters who don't give up spectrum," B&C said. Auctions are still several years off; the legislation sets a 10-year deadline.

Debate at Oregon Public Broadcasting still on, despite other cancellations

A Republican presidential debate on March 19 in Portland, to be produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting and carried live on pubcasting stations, is still on, despite GOP hopefuls Mitt Romney and Ron Paul pulling out of a debate March 1 in Atlanta, the Oregonian is reporting. Another debate on March 5 on MSNBC also has been cancelled. Greg Leo, chief of staff of the Oregon Republican Party, cosponsoring the March 19 event with OPB, PBS, NPR and the Washington Times, said the Portland debate is attractive to the candidates for several reasons, including that it will be carried by public broadcasting and thus reach households that don't have cable.

Queen Curley reigns over creative kingdom in NPT award nomination photo

Nashville Public Television was a finalist for a local Bowtie Award for Best Workplace Environment, the Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville announced this week. The honor recognizes "a business that integrates arts and creativity into the business culture to build morale and foster employee creativity and innovation." The council said that NPT has "transformed its building into the NPT Arts Center — a modern day, nonprofit arts commune that houses NPT, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, TN Rep and Nashville Film Festival. The creative collaboration greatly enhances each organization, which benefits our entire community." Also in the building is Book’em, a nonprofit children's literacy organization, and NATAS (the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences) Midsouth Chapter.

Although NPT didn't win, it sure had fun creating a photo (above) as part of the nomination process. Joe Pagetta, NPT director of media relations, brainstormed with Denice Hicks and Nicole Sibilski of the Nashville Shakespeare Festival on a picture to capture their shared workplace. They began with NPT's recognizable pledge set and built from there. "There is someone from each of the organizations represented, holding something associated with what they do," Pagetta told Current. And, yes, that's NPT President Beth Curley as the queen, reigning over the creative chaos.  "I positioned everyone, Jim DeMarco from NPT lit it, and I basically just told everyone to act crazy several times," Pagetta said. "And that’s how we got it. It was hilarious!"

Former PBS station WDSC to become college Center of Interactive Media

The Daytona (Fla.) State College Board of Trustees on Thursday (Feb. 16) unanimously approved changing WDSC, its former PBS member station, into an educational Center of Interactive Media. Mike Vitale, senior vice president of academic affairs, told the Daytona Beach News-Journal that administrators are reviewing existing contracts with the television station. Fourteen employees have already been notified that their jobs are ending and they may apply for positions at the new station or elsewhere at the college. Locally produced live shows in the studio "will probably not continue," Vitale said. The school continues to hold the license so it retains the option of returning to PBS. WDSC dropped PBS membership last June after state and federal budget cuts.

Oklahoma bill to kill pubcasting funding withdrawn

A bill that would have ended funding to public broadcasting in Oklahoma failed to make it out of a House subcommittee and was withdrawn Thursday (Feb. 16), reports the Oklahoman. Republican Rep. Leslie Osborn said she has no plans to reintroduce the legislation this session. The bill would have reduced the roughly $4 million support by 20 percent annually over five years.

No blatant self-inflation on this premise, please

Randy Cohen, an Emmy-winning comedy writer and past author of “The Ethicist” column in the New York Times Magazine, starts a monthly public radio series today that invites famous people to talk about something other than themselves. Amazingly, people have been willing to come on the show anyway.

Person Place Thing — those are the other topics that Cohen will let guests discuss ­— debuts with a famed interviewer as guest, TV talker Dick Cavett, devoting his attention to a phenomenal thing called Bob Hope. The second guest in the hourlong show is novelist Jane Smiley. Ian Pickus of Northeast Public Radio (WAMC) in Albany produces the show, and the New York Council for the Humanities pays for production of the first season.

The program is syndicated without charge through Public Radio Exchange and public radio’s Content Depot as well as FTP downloads.

Cohen has done enough installments that he can happily assure people that the format works with guests including Roger Bannister, the original four-minute-mile runner of 1954. “Plus,” Cohen says in the news release, “I had the pleasure of uttering more than one sentence I never thought I'd have occasion to use in my lifetime, like, ‘So, Sir Roger, what is your thing?’”

After Cavett and Smiley, the pairs of guests are queued up this way:
 comedian Susie Essman and basketball coach Dave Cowens,
 journalists Michael Pollan and John Hockenberry,
 singer Rickie Lee Jones and all-time-classic political personality Ed Koch,
 Daily Show performer Samantha Bee and Goosebumps writer R.L. Stine, and sex columnist 
Dan Savage with Sir Roger. This week Cohen interviewed This American Life essayist David Rakoff in a live event at the 92nd Street Y in Tribeca.

Cohen has written for David Letterman, Rosie O’Donnell and Michael Moore, winning four Emmys, plus a fifth Emmy that he got “as a result of a clerical error,” the news release discloses ethically, "and he kept it.”