Educational Television Progress Report, Sen. Warren Magnuson, 1965

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Sen. Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wash.), then chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, laid out the case for federal aid to public broadcasting in this report published a month before the creation of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Television. The senator entered the report in the Congressional Record as an “extension of remarks” for Oct. 22, 1965. Little more than two years later, President Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act.


Mr. President, in 1962 the Congress enacted the Educational Television Facilities Act which made it possible for direct Federal support for educational television stations.

Since 1962 grants have been made under the formula set forth in the Educational Television Facilities Act on a matching basis for the development of new stations and for the expansion of existing facilities. Almost 100 applications have been accepted since the enactment of the Educational Television Facilities Act of 1962.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed at this time a progress report on the development of educational television that I have prepared.

There being no objection, the progress report was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:


The educational establishment in this country has been struggling since 1945 to keep up with new techniques and developments in communication. Still, the situation in American education is critical: numbers of students continue to increase at all levels while the number of qualified teachers is not increasing at the same rate. In addition, the amount of information to be taught grows almost daily requiring almost continuous curriculum changes. One of the emergencies is arithmetic: there are too many students who must learn an increasing amount of material through the efforts of too few teachers.

Thus, we must consider education as we do advertising, entertainment and manufacturing, in that the distribution must be efficient. For at least part of our educational effort we are forced to think of the mass media, the most potent of which is television.

The use of television in education is about 12 years old. Between 1948 and 1952 the Federal Communications Commission suspended television licensing while it investigated technical problems in allocations, color compatibility and station separation. During this period educators across the country acted with surprising solidarity in convincing the Commission that a number of television frequencies should be set aside and reserved for the exclusive and specific use of education. With its sixth report and order in 1952, the Commission so reserved 242 frequencies, with the stipulation that they be used to meet the educational needs of communities and that the stations be noncommercial and nonprofit enterprises. Today there are slightly more than 100 educational television stations on the air, and it is expected that there will be 130 by the end of 1966.

In addition to broadcast television, many schools and colleges have installed their own closed circuit systems, which require no Federal licenses. It is estimated that there are approximately 800 such systems in operation, and the prognosis is that the number will double in 5 years.

In 1963 the Commission reserved frequencies between 2,500 and 2,690 megacycles for low-power educational signals, thus providing another type of ETV. With this UHF band a single school system can reach the schools in its community with several different programs simultaneously, which means that scheduling remains a local issue.

There are other means by which educational televisions signals are transmitted. The Midwest Program on Airborne Television Instruction, with headquarters at Purdue University, operates DC-6 aircraft, which beams programing to several States and phenomenal numbers of students. Mobile television units are also used in cooperative projects involving several schools or institutions.

The most pervasive of these educational television signals comes from the broadcasting stations, which are Federal licensees, charged with meeting community needs. It is about the stations that I would like to comment, realizing fully that there are other, more restricted means of signal distribution: closed circuit systems, the 2,500 mc. band, airborne techniques and mobile units.

Of the 105 stations on the air, about 20 are owned by school systems. These stations are supported to a large degree by local boards of education, and more than 60 percent of the programing is designed specifically for classrooms.

More than a dozen stations are owned by States, or State ETV authorities, and are committed not only to programs for schools, but also to the education and enlightenment of audiences at home. Several States have interconnected their stations, and now operate educational television networks.

Almost 35 stations are operated by universities, some of which also make use of closed circuit systems. University stations often serve local public schools, under contract with boards of education.

In more than 30 communities, corporations have been formed for the specific purpose of owning and operating educational television stations. The boards of directors are local businessmen, industrialists, educators, public officers, and prominent citizens. These are cooperative educational ventures, committed entirely to the communities in which they operate, and are called community stations. Examples are WQED in Pittsburgh, KTCA in Minneapolis, WGBH in Boston, WTTW in Chicago and KQED in San Francisco.

Educational television programs are produced and distributed to stations by only a few agencies. National Educational Television in New York, which has been supported heavily since 1953 by the Ford Foundation, produces the bulk of ETV’s cultural and public affairs programs. These are mailed from station to station. As NET grows older, its library of programs also grows, making available additional material to the newer stations. Educational Television Stations, a division of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters, has recently developed the ETS program service, a second source of general programing for stations. This will be, basically, an exchange system whereby programs produced at local ETV stations are made available to others across the country.

Instructional programs—the tapes and films used for school audiences—are either locally produced or are obtained from one of three instructional libraries. (Each of the libraries was started as a project supported by the National Defense Education Act.) One is operated in cooperation with the Eastern Educational Network, with headquarters in Boston and another is at the University of Nebraska. The third, the National Center for School and College Television, recently moved to Indiana University from New York City, where it was called the National Instructional Television Library.

Two regional networks exist, though only one of them, the Eastern Educational Network, involves interconnection that crosses State lines. Fourteen stations are affiliates of the EEN, and half of them are interconnected. The member stations which support the operation, stretch from Washington, D.C., to Maine and westward to the Ohio border. The other network is incorporated as Midwestern Educational Television. Its headquarters are in Minneapolis and its goal is the actual interconnection of stations in six States.

A recent study by the National Association of Educational Broadcasters indicates the following about educational television stations:

(a) The average station is on the air between 9 and 10 hours a day, and a little more than 5 days a week

(b) School stations emphasize classroom television to the extent that more than 60 percent of their programing is of a direct instructional nature. Most stations devote a little less than one-half of on-the-air time to in-school broadcasting.

(c) There are 2,445 people employed by 95 educational television stations on full-time bases, with 1,199 working part time. The average station employees [sic] about 25 people full time. University stations tend to make greater use of part-time help than do other types of stations.

(d) More educational television stations, after several years, have investments of between $400,000 and $500,000 each in broadcast properties. Community stations tend to own more property than do other types of stations.

(e) More then half of the money ETV stations receive comes from direct budgeted support — money budgeted each year by a parent organization. A little less than one fourth of the income realized by ETV stations comes from gifts and donations, with approximately the same amount coming from services rendered by the stations.

(f) Community stations show the highest percentage of money earned through services or gifts: State stations are supported directly by State taxes for 95 cents out of every dollar, and earn very little money through contract services.

(g) Average ETV station income, regard less of ownership, is $368,000 per year. Community and State stations tend to operate on larger budgets than school and university stations.

(h) Station incomes range from less than $50,000 to $2,500,000. Community stations are more predominate in the higher income groups, while university stations tend to be found among the stations with lower budgets. However, a full 50 percent of the community stations report that their expenses are greater than their incomes. Of the other varieties, only school stations have no reports of such situations.

(i) Seventeen percent of all stations operate on less than $100,000 per year, and 39 percent on less than $200,000.

(j) Three cents out of every dollar expended by educational television stations is used for procurement of programs from outside sources — 44 cents is spent for salaries, and 26 cents for engineering supplies and equipment.

The Federal Government has not only been aware of the growth of educational television, but has also assisted, through several important pieces of legislation. The National Defense Education Act provides for experimentation in the use of new media, and in the past 7 years more than $8 million has been obligated by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare for studying, planning, and reporting about ETV. Beyond this, almost 40 contracts have been awarded under Title VII for the dissemination of information about the use of television in teaching.

The Educational Television Facilities Act, Public Law 87-447, has made possible direct Federal support for educational television stations. Grants have been made since 1962, on a matching basis with States, for development of new stations and for the expansion of existing facilities. Almost 100 applications have been accepted for filing.

The All-Channel Receiver Act makes it mandatory for manufacturers of television receivers to include capability for UHF reception in their products. A large number of the frequencies reserved for educational use are in the UHF band, and this has often been a deterrent to local station activation in VHF markets. Where potential audiences have no UHF receivers, an ETV station broadcasting above channel 13 is not likely to survive. Almost two-thirds of the ETV stations on the air today are in the VHF hand, representing 30 percent of the VHF reservations. Only 18 percent of the frequencies set aside in the UHF spectrum have been activated. The impact of the All-Channel Receiver Act is yet to be felt: as more time passes, a greater number of receivers across the country will be able to see UHF broadcasts, and this fact is already spurring many local educational agencies toward activation of UHF stations.

The growth of educational television has been reassuring over the past decade, and the rate of expansion is increasing. Half of the stations on the air today were activated subsequent to 1960.

Private foundations have been committed quite heavily over the years to educational television. Between 1950 and 1960 the Fund for Adult Education, an independent agency established by the Ford Foundation, gave more than $12 million to ETV, after playing a major role in the very beginning of the movement. Since 1960, the Ford Foundation has continued to demonstrate a deep interest in the future of ETV, for which the entire country is very thankful. Other foundations have come to the assistance of stations — at both local and national levels — without which, in some cases, the stations might not have survived.

The educational television station is an instrument that has proven to be useful and powerful. More and better use of it must be made, but is there a single role for television in education? If we were free to mold local and national educational television into whatever shape we pleased, what could we choose?

Some would insist that educational television must be built as part of formal education, making its services aim primarily at the needs of school and classrooms.

There are those who would argue that the 2,500 megacycle band, closed circuit installations and other facilities are available for schools and that educational television station programing should provide “alternate viewing” for American television audiences, offering a steady stream of cultural and informational programs for those who wish to view.

Still others would tell us that the value of educational television lies in its ability to reach minority groups in need of specialized training. Continuing adult education, they would insist, is the area on which ETV must concentrate. Literacy programs, series for the socially neglected, extension courses for professionals in the community and programs in foreign languages should be the work of educational television.

The needs of American education, however, transcend any single philosophy for educational television. ETV must become as many things as possible, depending, in each instance, on the needs of the community and the needs of the station. There can be no single philosophy for educational television, and it is diversity itself—among stations—that will strengthen the national effort. Educational television must become a service; its properties and goals should change from day to day to day and from city to city.

Three fundamental needs in educational television persist, and the future of ETV will depend on these issues.

Educational television stations have no firm financial base on which to operate. The United States is unique in the world because its commercial broadcasting system is a giant in comparison with its educational and information service. We have been careful to define what educational television stations may not do, but we have not clearly described methods by which they may support themselves and expand. Television is as expensive as it is useful, and I do not believe we can expect noncommercial educational licensees to exist without a basic financial structure. This is not to propose Federal support for all of educational television, but it is to suggest that we examine the areas in which the Federal Government can assist, as we have assisted in elementary, secondary and higher education, vocational rehabilitation, and other specialized fields.

Continuity of growth must be assured. Educational television has passed through two important phases. The first included the establishment of a few stations, and the recognition of ETV as an instrumentality of importance. The second was the activation of many stations across the country, their organization into a single body of educational telecasters, and the establishment of distribution systems for programing.

The next phase for ETV is that of expansion. The agencies and foundations that have supported the movement from the start will, it is hoped, continue to contribute to its growth. Networking in the sense of actual interconnection will change during the next number of years from being statewide or regional to national. Interconnection among educational television stations is essential, if the medium is to provide the national service of which it is capable. Efforts are being made now toward this linkage.

For the stations themselves, the costs are prohibitive, but the advantages of a network are such that ways must be found to support the operation.

Additional stations must be activated across the country. Some cities already use more than one ETV station, but 40 percent of the country’s population is not within reach of an educational signal. While the All-Channel Receiver Act will act as encouragement toward station activation, all other sources must be tapped to stimulate smaller communities toward the establishment of local ETV stations. I believe the FCC was wise in July of this year when it developed a new allocations plan calling for more than 600 ETV reservations. There is need for that many educational stations.

Educational television must be stimulated to produce a continuously better product. The outcome of education is the enlightenment of citizens; the output of any broadcasting service is its programs. Therefore, it is the mission of educational television to produce and distribute enlightening programs. Since there is intense competition among broadcasters for the attention of viewers, it is clear that ETV programs must be nothing short of excellent. Because of stringent budgets, ETV programs have hardly reached this level.

Instructional libraries and program centers must be nurtured for the good of all ETV stations. Regional centers for educational programs should undoubtedly be developed to serve stations at local levels, and part of the underpinning of these centers could well be a federal responsibility. It warrants serious consideration.

The Educational Television Facilities Act has now been operating for a period of 3 years. Its 5-year period will expire in the next Congress. What has been the impact of this act on the development of educational television? Should the ceiling limitation of $1 million to one State be raised? Should the matching funds formula be modified? Should the formula pertaining to interconnection costs be changed so as to encourage the early development of a nationwide interconnected educational television system?

It is my intention to have a full examination made of this entire subject matter in the very near future. The Department of Health, Education, and Welfare and the Federal Communications Commission, the two agencies charged with the administrative responsibility of the Educational Television Facilities Act, will be asked to submit their views and recommendations.

I am hopeful that all individuals and groups interested in educational television will put their minds to work on this subject so that a meaningful analysis and appropriate action can be taken to assure the continued expansion and development of this significant service to the public.

Source: From Congressional Record, Oct. 27, 1965.

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