Forty years ago: KPFT bombed off the air twice in its first year

Pacifica Radio’s KPFT in Houston “was the first radio station in the United States to be bombed off the air” in May 1970, soon after going on the air, recalled Rick Campbell in a Houston Chronicle blog. That October, 40 years ago this month, the station was dynamited into silence a second time during a broadcast of Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant.”

Three members of the Ku Klux Klan were arrested; two got off by testifying against Jimmy Dale Hutto, who was convicted and sent to jail. He allegedly planned to bomb the Pacifica stations in Berkeley and Los Angeles. When the station resumed broadcasting in January 1971, PBS’s Great American Dream Machine covered the event live. “Outside this room, people are celebrating free speech,” said station manager Larry Lee on PBS, “and something is wrong when free speech is a cause for celebration, and there are armed police out there guarding us.” Guthrie wrote a song for the occasion, including these lyrics: “When I get to Houston, pull out my strings, walk to the station, you can hear me sing — you get bombed, all God’s chillun get bombed.”

Where the Crossroads films and funding went

CPB’s big America at a Crossroads initiative funded 20 independently produced documentaries on aspects of the post-9/11 world, at a cost not wildly above the predicted $20 million. [This list tracks the 21 grants to producers and the resulting 20 broadcasts. See also Current’s related 2009 article and timeline.]
The funding
Costs of the project’s major phases:
$2,520,724 — for R&D on proposals from 36 producing teams, the first cut in the grantmaking process,
+ 12, 629,507 — for production of the final 20 selected projects, and
+ 5,644,158 — for WETA’s work as “Crossroads entry station” including packaging and promotion of the series and outreach efforts. = $20,794,389 — total cost
Here’s a boxscore counting the productions. Number of documentaries for which CPB announced funding in 2006 for its America at a Crossroads project


Additional commissioned in 2006
(The Muslim Americans)


Total productions announced for funding


MINUS Not completed (Invasion)


Total completed and broadcast


Total distributed to public TV by PBS


Distributed by Oregon Public Broadcasting/NETA, Fox News Channel and other outlets


Total distributed


The films
The first 11 Crossroads films premiered on PBS in April 2007 as a packaged series: 

April 15, 2007
Jihad: The Men and Ideas Behind Al Qaeda, originally Holy War

April 16
Warriors and Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience

April 17
Gangs of Iraq and The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom

April 18
Europe’s 9/11, originally Spain’s 9/11, and The Muslim Americans

April 19
Faith Without Fear, originally The Trouble with Islam, and
Struggle for the Soul of Islam: Inside Indonesia  

April 20
Security versus Liberty: The Other War and The Brotherhood, originally The Terror Dilemma

Nine more docs aired later on PBS, listed by broadcast date:

June 11, 2007
Kansas to Kandahar: Citizen Soldiers at War, originally Citizen Soldiers


PBS buys stake in National Public Media

PBS has purchased a 10 percent equity share in National Public Media, the national on-air and online corporate sponsorship rep whose clients include NPR, and public radio and TV stations across the country. Formerly known as National Public Broadcasting, NPM was established in 2007 when WGBH and NPR bought NPB. NPR owns 80 percent of the company,  and WGBH owns the rest. As part of the new agreement, PBS President Paula Kerger will be seated on the board along with Vivian Schiller, president of NPR, and Jonathan Abbott, president of WGBH.

Why & How: ‘Unnatural Causes’

In this Q&A, content creators talk with Current about why they decided to pursue a project and how they produced it. What: Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?, a four-hour PBS series that the network scheduled for four Thursday nights on public TV starting March 27. Who made: Larry Adelman, series creator and executive producer, co-director of California Newsreel. Production companies: California Newsreel with Vital Pictures. Presenters: the CPB-funded National Minority Consortia.

CPB to replace Cox as president

CPB announced Friday it will replace President Kathleen Cox, its president for 10 months. She had been predecessor Robert Coonrod’s No. 2 executive and his chosen
successor when the CPB Board promoted her, effective July 1, but last week’s
terse news release cast her as a temporary hire who was finishing up a series
of research projects inspired by a McKinsey & Co. study of public TV she managed for Coonrod. “Last spring, in no small part because of her significant contributions to [implementing the findings of the study], Kathleen Cox and CPB agreed to a one year contract to serve as president and CEO,” the statement read.

Cincinnati’s WGUC acquires seven-station X-Star Network

WGUC will buy another Cincinnati public radio operation, WVXU and six affiliated repeater stations, from Xavier University. The sale price of $15 million is the second-largest sum ever paid for a pubradio license, WGUC President Richard Eiswerth told the Cincinnati Post last week. Selling WVXU was “tough but very necessary,” said Xavier’s president, Michael Graham. The Cincinnati school will use the funds to build a student learning and residential center. The deal had been in the works since September but kept under wraps, according to WGUC.

PBS loses biggest underwriter as it considers 30-second credits

ExxonMobil will stop underwriting Masterpiece Theatre after spring
2004, the oil company announced Dec. 13. It has spent more than
$250 million on MT and other PBS programs over 32 years. In recent
years, the company has spent about $10 million a year, providing full
funding for the drama series, says Jeanne Hopkins, v.p. of communications
at WGBH, which packages the series. For years before merging with Exxon, Mobil had also supported another series
of largely British dramas, Mystery!, but Mobil had dropped funding
of the sister series Mystery!

Pubcasting on the Web, three years later

PBS Online is celebrating its third anniversary this week with a doubled
staff, an expanded mission, an upgraded teachers’ service that opens next
month, and a much faster connection with the Internet, to be turned on this
month. In the three years since PBS launched its site, the Web has grown to 39
million users a week in this country, with online ad sales approaching $1
billion. During the same period, public broadcasting’s largest web site,
PBS’s, has built an audience of more than 2 million unique visitors a month,
who choose among some 50,000 pages. Things have moved so fast, says PBS Online
chief Cindy Johanson, “it seems like it was 10 years ago, not three.” PBS expanded its Internet connection by one-third last February, and demand
soon had it hitting the ceiling again.

Gingrich wants to ‘zero-out’ federal funding to CPB

House Speaker-designate Newt Gingrich said on his weekly cable TV show last week that he wants to “zero-out” CPB funding this year. Remarks by Gingrich (R-Ga.) and new Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Larry Pressler (R-S.D.) fit perfectly into a dire scenario described in newspaper columns by commentators from Linda Ellerbee on the left to New York Post critic John Podhoretz on the right. Anticipating a coming legislative struggle, presidents of the public broadcasting’s national organizations have joined a task force convened by CPB President Richard Carlson. The leaders aim to “generate a full positive and informative picture of … what public broadcasting does and what it is that CPB funding buys,” said CPB spokesman Michael Schoenfeld.

The Public Broadcasting Act of 1967

Enacted less than 10 months after the report of the Carnegie Commission on Educational Broadcasting, this law initiates federal aid to the operation (as opposed to funding capital facilities) of public broadcasting. Provisions include:

extending authorization of the earlier Educational Television Facilities Act,
forbidding educational broadcasting stations to editorialize or support or oppose political candidates,
establishing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and defining its board and purposes
authorizing reduced telecommunications rates for interconnection
authorizing appropriations to CPB, and
authorizing a federal study of instructional television and radio. Public Law 90-129, 90th Congress, November 7, 1967 (as amended to April 26, 1968)
Title I—Construction of Facilities
Extension of duration of construction grants for educational broadcasting

Sec. 101. (a) Section 391 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 391) is amended by inserting after the first sentence the following new sentence: “There are also authorized to be appropriated for carrying out the purposes of such section, $10,500,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1968, $12,500,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1969, and $15,000,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1970.”

(b) The last sentence of such section is amended by striking out “July 1, 1968” and inserting in lieu thereof “July 1,1971.”

Maximum on grants in any State


Educational Television Progress Report, Sen. Warren Magnuson, 1965

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.