On to the White House

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. Continue Reading

Fred Wiseman’s novelistic samplings of reality

As I write these words, Frederick Wiseman's 30th film, Public Housing, is about to be broadcast, Dec. 1 [1998], through PBS, the national network that has presented all of his documentaries. It concerns the Ida B. Wells housing development on Chicago's South Side. The sites of his past documentaries have varied from high schools to hospitals, from public parks to private playgrounds. He has shown us the inside of military and police units, welfare and model agencies, prisons, a primate research lab, a meat packing plant and a zoo. Continue Reading

‘The only place where you have a measure of creative control’

Documentary-maker Ken Burns told why he's continuing to work with public broadcasting at the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles in January [1992]. During a question-and-answer session, a writer asked him: "Ken, for this project, as well as your others, you've found a very appreciative home at PBS. But now, with all your success, have the commercial networks tried to lure you away? Have they made offers to you?''

There have been a lot of very, very generous offers and ideas. But the fundamental reason why I don't intend to move is that this is not only my home — and being a historian, one kind of honors the past and where you've been — but this is the only place on the dial where you can be free of commercials, where you can have a measure of creative control over your project, a lack of interference; where you can have a strong relationship with an underwriter that develops over time, in the case of [General Motors], where you can really forge these kinds of relationships; where we can go and we can say we're thinking about doing this, and you can actually accomplish it. Continue Reading

Now independent producers have role in funding

Independent Television Service (ITVS) announced this week its first round of 25 grants to independent TV producers. The projects will bring to the tube an array of programs about American minorities, ethnic and otherwise, that are seldom featured on television — Indian activists, a Black Panther, elderly couples, gay people in the South and Asian immigrants. Included among the productions will be animated shorts, comedies and historical programs about Hawaii, Margaret Sanger's work in birth control and the Columbus voyage. (A full list, with ITVS' descriptions, follows this article.)

The announcement is a landmark in a long struggle for public TV producers outside of stations to gain an official place in program funding decisions. CPB bankrolled the service under a 1988 congressional mandate but long negotiations between it and the indies delayed a final contract signing until last summer (story at right). Continue Reading

ITVS issues first round of grants

...The announcement is a landmark in a long struggle for public TV producers outside of stations to gain an official place in program funding decisions. CPB bankrolled the service under a 1988 congressional mandate but long negotiations ... Continue Reading

Independent TV Service and CPB finally sign accord

The Independent Television Service and CPB signed a long-delayed contract that will pass $23 million of federal money to the St. Paul-based organization through December 1992. ITVS, mandated by Congress in 1988, will give grants to and promote independent PTV productions. John Schott, executive director of the group based in St. Paul, Minn., said the contract guarantees ITVS "its proper autonomy'' and provides for CPB's oversight responsibilities. Continue Reading

ITVS taps head

The Independent TV Service, the organization established by Congress to distribute $6 million in production grants to independent television producers, has selected John Schott executive director. Schott who will leave his job as executive producer of Alive from Off-Center, produced by KTCA-TV in St. Paul-Minneapolis, Minn. Schott, who will be the first director of the fund that opened for business last October, said his duties will include overseeing the organization's day-to-day operations, helping develop program direction and realizing "the mandate and philosophy'' of the ITVS. The ITVS has a "specific mandate to produce TV programs independent of corporate desirability, independent of an insistence to be broad-based, large number-oriented,'' Schott said. Continue Reading