It was public TV’s first unqualified national success, a smash hit. Before Masterpiece Theatre, American Playhouse or Hollywood Television Theatre, there was An Age of Kings, Shakespeare’s history plays in 15 parts, a chronicle of Britain’s monarchs from Richard II (1399) to Richard III (1484).
In 1998, the Clinton administration’s so-called Gore Commission reviewed the “public interest” basis of federal broadcasting law as part of its report on policies for the fast-approaching era of digital television. The Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters published its full 160-page report Dec. 18, 1998 (PDF). Federal oversight of all broadcasting has had two general goals: to foster the commercial development of the industry and to ensure that broadcasting serves the educational and informational needs of the American people. In many respects, the two goals have been quite complementary, as seen in the development of network news operations and in the variety of cultural, educational, and public affairs programming aired over the years.
Various people tried to prepare Juanita Buschkoetter for the public reaction to The Farmer’s Wife, filmmaker David Sutherland’s cinema verite depiction of the real-life struggle to keep her husband’s farm and their marriage afloat, but the reponse to the show’s debut this fall was far beyond her expectations. “I had no idea how many people would actually watch it,” she said in a recent interview–let alone the folks who would go far out of their way to drive by the Buschkoetter house, or send the family generous gifts. “Since the film, people come by to take pictures, pull in and talk,” Buschkoetter added. It’s gotten so she doesn’t want to leave her three daughters at home alone anymore. Since the eldest is now 12, she previously had found it safe to do so.
Henry Hampton, the visionary filmmaker who documented the history of the civil rights movement with the landmark PBS series Eyes on the Prize, died Nov. 22 . He was 58. Hampton recovered from lung cancer some nine years ago, but complications from the treatment that sent the disease into remission claimed his life. The official cause of his death was myelodysplasia, a bone-marrow disease.
Direct broadcast satellite companies will have to set aside 4 percent of their video channel capacity for noncommercial educational programming, the FCC said last week. For a DBS operation like DirecTV/USSB, with around 200 channels, that would make eight for education. The companies will get to choose the provider of each channel. The vote Nov. 19  ended a long wait for set-aside rules.
Public radio’s Gen-X listeners don’t fit their generational stereotype; they’re closer to its older audience than to their peers, said a report from public radio’s Audience 98 research project. Pubradio programmer J. Mikel Ellcessor comments and then trades letters to the editor with the Audience 98 researchers. Dan Yankelovich and Pete Townshend: are they the conceptual bookends of generational cohort analysis? In the mid-1960s, Dan Yankelovich explained the “generation gap” and introduced the world-at-large to generational cohorts. These “cultural variations in time” articulate the enduring importance of key life-stage experiences, and the social context within which they occur.
On a warm summer day in 1946 I find myself, somewhat improbably, at the helm of a U.S. Navy ocean tug, threading through a crowded, palm-fringed Pacific atoll called Bikini. We stay only long enough to anchor the derelict ship we’ve towed here from the Philippines. Several days later, making slow progress east to Honolulu, we learn that the wreck we had pulled into that pristine island sanctuary had been obliterated — along with everything else in the lagoon — by two atomic bombs. More than a few of my shipmates are bitter that, unlike others, they had been denied an extremely close look at the destruction. But for most of us it is simply an isolated event, one among many in those rather bewildering post-war days following the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The House and Senate resolved last-minute differences over public broadcasting’s fiscal 1991-93 authorization bill and late last week passed the three-year, $800 million measure. The bill also makes a variety of other changes, including requiring the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to collaborate with the public TV system to develop a new plan for distributing CPB’s national TV production money. The bill also requires CPB to establish a $6 million-a-year fund for independent productions. The Senate passed an earlier version of the bill October 7, but when it reached the House telecommunications subcommittee, Chairman Edward Markey objected to language requiring CPB to seek private funding to replace public broadcasting’s aging satellite program delivery system. Both sides agreed to a diluted directive for CPB to submit a report to Congress on the “availability of private sector rather than federal financing.” The House and Senate also agreed to postpone until October 1, 1989, a requirement that CPB devote its interest income to pro÷ gramming and provide producers with “grants” instead of “contracts.”
With these final hurdles cleared, the House passed the bill without comment about 5 p.m. Wednesday.