Tuning out education, Chapter 2

Education had no ‘inalienable right to part of the air,’ said the spokesman for broadcaster-educator Cooperation in 1930. It would have to prove itself in the marketplace. The struggle had only begun…

Tuning out education

How did advertising-driven broadcasting establish itself as the dominant user of the airwaves in America? A crucial episode occurred in the 1930s when commercial broadcasters argued successfully that they would put education on the air, and educators should stick to their books. Eugene E. Leach, Ph.D., a professor of history and American studies at Connecticut’s Trinity College, tells the story, originally serialized in Current. Chapters

1. The doctrine of ‘Cooperation’ won early battles of ideas


Temporary Commission on Alternative Financing, 1983

The Temporary Commission on Alternative Financing for Public Telecommunications (TCAF) delivered its recommendations to Congress on Oct. 1, 1983, after extensive research, including an Advertising Demonstration Program at a number of public TV stations. Letter of transmittal | Membership of TCAF | Executive Summary
Chairman’s letter of transmittal

To the Congress of the United States:

In accordance with Congress’ direction in the Public Broadcasting Amendments Act of 1981, Public Law Number 97-35, the Temporary Commission on Alternative Financing for Public Telecommunications hereby submits its Final Report. This report describes the Advertising Demonstration Program in which selected public television stations experimented with the carriage of limited advertising. The report includes findings, conclusions, and recommendations to Congress concerning the financing of public broadcasting.

CPB budget allocation formula,1981

Congress  limited CPB’s  discretion in spending the federal appropriation. The corporation’s authorizing law imposes a budget allocation formula that divides the appropriation as indicated in the chart. Dividing CPB funds between TV and radio had been a repeated struggle until 1981, when Congress imposed a peace-making formula proposed by Rep. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.), chair of the House authorizing subcommittee. The 75-25 percentage split between TV and radio was based on experience, though with public radio’s later growth, it made radio stations  more dependent on private-sector fundraising than public TV is. Robben Fleming, then president of CPB, complained that the formula “emasculates” CPB, and his successors periodically have objected to the loss of discretion over spending.

A Public Trust, Carnegie II’s report, 1979

Preface to A Public Trust
In 1977, 10 years after the original Carnegie Commission recomended federal aid to public television, the Carnegie Corporation of New York created a second blue-ribbon panel to ponder policies on noncommercial broadcasting. See also Carnegie II’s recommendations and membership. Twelve years have elapsed since the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television recommended a strengthened system of television stations, to be called public television. In the intervening years public radio and television have become established as major American institutions. This year larger audiences than ever before, easily three times the size of those a dozen years ago, will tune into a public radio or television station.

A Public Trust: Report of the second Carnegie Commission (Carnegie II), 1979

In 1977, a decade after the first Carnegie Commission boosted the idea of federal funding for noncommercial broadcasting, the Carnegie Corporation of New York created a second panel to study noncommercial broadcasting. In 1979, the Carnegie Commission on the Future of Public Broadcasting published its report, A Public Trust. Its recommendations for increased federal aid and a Public Telecommunications Trust to replace CPB, had little effect. See also the preface to the report. and the list of commission members, below at right.

Nixon Administration Public Broadcasting Papers, Summary of 1971

A major part of OTP’s activity in 1971 involved the development of a long-term financing bill for CPB. However, because of disagreements with CPB over details of the draft “Public Telecommunications Financing Act of 1971” and the Administration’s displeasure with public broadcasting’s news and public affairs programming, the Administration did not submit a CPB funding bill to Congress that year. On April 13, Flanigan and Whitehead, now OTP Director, met in Flanigan’s office with CPB Directors Cole and Wrather, both of whom had been appointed to the Corporation Board by President Nixon. The meeting was an outgrowth of Flanigan’s and Whitehead’s correspondence with Cole, dating from November 9, 1970, when Flanigan wrote to Cole complaining about the NET documentary “Banks and the Poor.” On March 15, Flanigan sent Whitehead a memo which said:
Regarding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, we discussed having a meeting of our directors to determine where we go from here with the Corporation.

Nixon Administration Public Broadcasting Papers, Summary of 1973

In 1973, CPB negotiated an agreement with the PBS defining the relationship between the two organizations with respect to program control, operation of the public television interconnection, and support of local stations. When the CPB Board voted to defer action on a draft of the agreement which representatives of the two organizations had worked out, CPB Chairman Curtis resigned, alleging improper White House interference in the negotiations process. Six weeks after Curtis’ resignation, the CPB Board approved the “Partnership Agreement” with PBS. Following Curtis’ resignation and ratification of the Agreement, Whitehead recommended a shift in the Administration’s approach toward public broadcasting. On January 6, four days prior toCPB’s first board meeting of 1973, Whitehead, Goldberg, and Lamb had lunch with CPB General Counsel Tom Gherardi.