An extra digital TV channel should be reserved in every community for noncommercial
educational purposes, the Gore Commission recommended last week in its report to the White House. These channels, the usual 6 MHz wide, would be granted more than seven years from now, or whenever broadcasters turn back their old analog channels to the FCC. The expected recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters was one of the most concrete in a report constructed of compromises between seven commercial broadcasters and 13 other members of the committee. Co-chairmen Norman Ornstein and Les Moonves “were trying very hard to get a consensus, which is a good goal, but I think the splits were simply too wide,” said Newton Minow, a committee member, last week. “The result is, you get the lowest common denominator.”
It was public TV’s first unqualified national success, a smash hit. Before Masterpiece Theatre, American Playhouse or Hollywood Television Theatre, there was An Age of Kings, Shakespeare’s history plays in 15 parts, a chronicle of Britain’s monarchs from Richard II (1399) to Richard III (1484).
In 1998, the Clinton administration’s so-called Gore Commission reviewed the “public interest” basis of federal broadcasting law as part of its report on policies for the fast-approaching era of digital television. The Advisory Committee on Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters published its full 160-page report Dec. 18, 1998 (PDF). Federal oversight of all broadcasting has had two general goals: to foster the commercial development of the industry and to ensure that broadcasting serves the educational and informational needs of the American people. In many respects, the two goals have been quite complementary, as seen in the development of network news operations and in the variety of cultural, educational, and public affairs programming aired over the years.
If you were among a certain handful of people watching the Ken Burns/Lynn Novick bio Frank Lloyd Wright Nov. 10–11, you could get a whole lot more from the broadcast after
it was over. Most people watching the two-night series saw only a stylized “E” icon appear
briefly in the corner of the screen (with the disclosure “where available”),
reminding viewers that the program was “enhanced.” But there was more for viewers watching on specially equipped personal computers in the
seven cities where public TV stations were putting out DTV signals. As participants in a
technical trial by Intel Corp.
Various people tried to prepare Juanita Buschkoetter for the public reaction to The Farmer’s Wife, filmmaker David Sutherland’s cinema verite depiction of the real-life struggle to keep her husband’s farm and their marriage afloat, but the reponse to the show’s debut this fall was far beyond her expectations. “I had no idea how many people would actually watch it,” she said in a recent interview–let alone the folks who would go far out of their way to drive by the Buschkoetter house, or send the family generous gifts. “Since the film, people come by to take pictures, pull in and talk,” Buschkoetter added. It’s gotten so she doesn’t want to leave her three daughters at home alone anymore. Since the eldest is now 12, she previously had found it safe to do so.
Henry Hampton, the visionary filmmaker who documented the history of the civil rights movement with the landmark PBS series Eyes on the Prize, died Nov. 22 . He was 58. Hampton recovered from lung cancer some nine years ago, but complications from the treatment that sent the disease into remission claimed his life. The official cause of his death was myelodysplasia, a bone-marrow disease.