Fred W. Friendly, the legendary CBS News producer who tried to bring innovation to public TV in the 1960s and later developed a celebrated series of televised seminars on major public policy issues, died March 3 at his home in New York City. He was 82. “He was a great broadcaster, a great innovator, a great friend of public television,” observed PBS President Ervin Duggan in a release. At CBS, Friendly worked for years with Edward R. Murrow, producing many of his appearances, including the milestone 1954 report that questioned Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign and the famous CBS Reports: “Harvest of Shame” on the lives of migrant workers, aired in 1960. He was named president of the news division in 1964 and quit two years later when the network carried an I Love Lucy rerun instead of a Senate hearing on the Vietnam war.
In 1997, the FCC fined Chicago public TV station WTTW for violating commission standards for underwriting credits (Current coverage). More than two years later, the commission found that three of the four contested credits were permissible, and reduced the fine (text of March 2000 order). Federal Communications Commission Washington, D.C. 20554
In reply refer to: 1800C1-KMS 97040529
December 2, 1997
Released: December 3, 1997
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Window to the World Communications, Inc.
Licensee, Station WTTW(TV)
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This letter constitutes a NOTICE OF APPARENT LIABILITY FOR A FORFEITURE pursuant to Section 503(b) of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended (the “Act”), for violations of 47 U.S.C. Section 399B and Section 73.621(e) of the Commission’s Rules.
In his keynote address at the PBS Annual Meeting, June 22, 1997, David McCullough celebrated the value of history, the joy of collaboration in making films and both the achievements and promise of public TV. McCullough, a celebrated historian whose biography of President Truman won a Pulitzer Prize, has narrated many documentaries, including Ken Burns’ The Civil War and hosted the PBS series American Experience for 10 years. Did you know that if you were a flea, you could jump as high as Rockefeller Center? And, furthermore, you could do it 30,000 times without stopping? I learned that from Miriam Rothschild, who is the world’s leading expert on fleas.
In May 1997, former PBS President Lawrence K. Grossman put forth results of a study backed by the Markle Foundation. He proposed a compromise on corporate support: Public TV would be permitted to raise needed production money by selling on-air advertising two nights a week. James A. Fellows examined the issues in an analysis published by the fledgling Hartford Gunn Institute. Current also carried several news stories on the project’s origins. Current’s June 23, 1997, issue described the PTV Weekend (a.k.a. P2) proposal and featured a debate on the experiment between two station leaders.
Richard Carlson, a Republican credited with defending public broadcasting from attacks by members of his party, announced Jan. 24 that he will leave the CPB presidency June 30 or before. He opposed overlapping stations and pushed new rules to limit grants to them–winning support among politicians but losing the backing of many station execs. He spoke up for objectivity and ideological balance in programs, while spurning demands that CPB take a more intrusive role in programming to detect and correct imbalance. He trimmed the CPB bureaucracy and paid a quarter of the staff to leave, changing its human face, with consequences not yet known.
San Francisco’s KQED-TV remains one of the most-watched public TV stations in the country, but, in the 1980s and ’90s it suffered under the expectations of a viewership that recalled its early years. David Stewart reminds us of KQED’s fertile ’50s and ’60s. In his history of public TV, The Vanishing Vision, James Day recalls that the first year of KQED/San Francisco, 1953, was nearly its last. Its headquarters was in the back seat of a station wagon. Day, the president, and a staff of eight had managed to keep the station on the air, but the board, alarmed by its increasing debts, had decided to call it quits.
What do viewers and listeners have to say about public broadcasting’s purposes? You can work backward from their letters and calls to stations and producers about the field’s achievements. Relief from yappy dogsDear NPR,
Ever since I arrived in Ukraine in June, I have suffered acute NPR news withdrawals. Sure, I miss my family, my friends, and all those “things” that have come to represent my previous life in America — hot showers, clean tap water, brown sugar for my oatmeal and lighted stairwells. But I suspect that it is the lack of those familiar voices that woke me up each morning in Salem, Ore., that has made my transition in this country most difficult. Please send those tapes soon.
Max Morath reminded America about a largely forgotten part of its musical legacy, but beyond that achievement of mass education, the musician also helped educational TV accept the element of entertainment in its programs. This article by Contributing Editor David Stewart is part of Stewart’s planned book on public TV programming. Stewart, who retired as CPB’s director of international activities, profiled early television’s favorite professor, Frank Baxter, in a January issue of Current. In the summer of 1959 an itinerant musician and sometimes TV producer, Max Morath, was playing piano for melodramas in the restored mining town of Cripple Creek, Colo. A year later, the 33-year-old graduate of Colorado College had written and performed a 12-part TV series that would change noncommercial television forever. Over the next five years — while the music rights were held by National Educational Television (NET) — The Ragtime Era became the most watched noncommercial series up to that time, run and rerun constantly by all the educational (and many commercial) stations throughout the country.