Frank Baxter, television’s first man of learning

Like Norman Corwin, the exceptional radio producer profiled in the last issue of Current, Frank Baxter had his great broadcast successes on the cusp, just before his medium became too commercially successful to continue airing the kind of programs that made Corwin and Baxter famous. Both were forerunners of today’s public broadcasters. This Baxter profile was written by CPB’s director of international activities, David Stewart as part of his history of public television programming. When he died in 1982 many were astonished: Frank Baxter still alive in the ’80s! Many remembered him as mature, if not quite elderly, nearly 30 years before when he grasped national attention simply by talking to a TV camera about Shakespeare’s plays and poetry.

CPB Board sets audience criteria for radio grants

With no vocal opposition to a CPB task force’s proposal to add audience size to the criteria for radio station grants, the CPB Board unanimously approved the policy Jan. 22. Endorsing the proposal will “send a strong message to stations on the edge that they must try harder,” said task force member Mike Lazar, g.m. of WNIU/WNIJ, DeKalb, Ill., before the board vote. Another task force member, Tom Thomas of the Station Resource Group, estimated
that one in six stations will have to improve its audience service to meet
the new requirements, which take effect in 1998. “The overall majority of
stations that now enjoy the support of the corporation will be doing so in
three, four and five years out.”

Federal agency will help station build new tower despite broadcasts of Mass on Sundays

With its new transmission tower half built, WFUV-FM in New York City now has some more money to pay for it, after prevailing in a funding dispute with a federal agency, but its neighbors won’t rest until the station tears down the steel and erects it elsewhere. The Fordham University station in the Bronx got its good funding news in December when the National Telecommunications and Information Administration settled the university’s lawsuit and gave WFUV an equipment grant of $262,858, plus about $100,000 in legal costs. In declaring WFUV eligible for the federal grant, NTIA Administrator Larry Irving reversed his 1993 decision that the agency would not assist stations carrying religious programming, including WFUV’s weekly one-hour Catholic Mass. Under the new policy, NTIA announced on Dec. 20 [1996], public broadcasting stations will be eligible for grants even if ”a grant might result in some attenuated or incidental benefit to sectarian interests,” though not if religious activities are ”the essential thrust of the grant’s purpose.”

”In other words,” says WFUV General Manager Ralph Jennings, ”it’s okay to serve the religious needs as well as the other needs of the community.”

”Religious voices cannot be driven from the public square,” said Fordham’s president, the Rev. Joseph A. O’Hare, in a press statement.

Duggan will look to nonprofits in search for top PBS program executive

PBS will look at theater, arts and nonprofit executives to fill its long-vacant position of chief program executive, President Ervin Duggan told reporters in a Washington press briefing in January. Several candidates for the job from the commercial media world had possessed the “skill sets” that PBS is seeking, but are making “stratospheric salaries” between $600,000 and $700,000, plus stock options, and won’t work for PBS, where all salaries are capped by law at about $150,000, Duggan said. He believes PBS can find “the instincts of the impresario” and lower salary demands among nonprofit leaders [November 1995 article on search] . Jennifer Lawson, the former chief program exec, resigned last February after Duggan announced plans to hire an executive above here.