Saudek’s Omnibus: ambitious forerunner of public TV

When producer Robert Saudek died in 1998, his New York Times obituary called him “the alchemist-in-­chief of what is often called the golden age of television.” From 1952 to 1961, the product of Saudek’s alchemy was Omnibus, a weekly that did what public TV now aspires to do, but on commercial network TV. It turned out to be one of the last but finest gasps of the Cooperation Doctrine — the notion that commercial broadcasting could ignore the bottom line and the largest available audience. [More on the Cooperation Doctrine.]

For the December 1999 pledge drives, PBS distributed the first-ever TV retrospective on the famous series, “Omnibus: Television’s Golden Age,” from New River Media. The writers are William M. Jones, professor of political science at Virginia Wesleyan College and author of Omnibus: American Television’s Season in the Sun, from Wesleyan University Press, and Andrew Walworth, executive producer and president of New River Media.

An Age of Kings: an import becomes public TV’s first hit

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).

FCC Notice on DBS Public Interest Obligations, November 1998

Before the FCC 98-307

Washington, D.C. 20554

In the Matter of Implementation of Section 25 of the Cable Television Consumer Protection and Competition Act of 1992 Direct Broadcast Satellite Public Interest Obligations

MM Docket 93-25


Adopted: November 19, 1998
Released: November 25, 1998

By the Commission: Chairman Kennard issuing a statement; Commissioners Furchtgott-Roth; Powell and Tristani dissenting in part and issuing seperate statements. TABLE OF CONTENTS



IV. DISCUSSION paragraph

A. Definition of Providers of DBS Service


Fred Friendly: ‘a tough man but, my God, full of ideas’

Fred W. Friendly, the legendary CBS News producer who tried to bring innovation to public TV in the 1960s and later developed a celebrated series of televised seminars on major public policy issues, died March 3 at his home in New York City. He was 82. “He was a great broadcaster, a great innovator, a great friend of public television,” observed PBS President Ervin Duggan in a release. At CBS, Friendly worked for years with Edward R. Murrow, producing many of his appearances, including the milestone 1954 report that questioned Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign and the famous CBS Reports: “Harvest of Shame” on the lives of migrant workers, aired in 1960. He was named president of the news division in 1964 and quit two years later when the network carried an I Love Lucy rerun instead of a Senate hearing on the Vietnam war.

A ragtime pianist shows public TV how to have fun

Max Morath reminded America about a largely forgotten part of its musical legacy, but beyond that achievement of mass education, the musician also helped educational TV accept the element of entertainment in its programs. This article by Contributing Editor David Stewart is part of Stewart’s planned book on public TV programming. Stewart, who retired as CPB’s director of international activities, profiled early television’s favorite professor, Frank Baxter, in a January issue of Current. In the summer of 1959 an itinerant musician and sometimes TV producer, Max Morath, was playing piano for melodramas in the restored mining town of Cripple Creek, Colo. A year later, the 33-year-old graduate of Colorado College had written and performed a 12-part TV series that would change noncommercial television forever. Over the next five years — while the music rights were held by National Educational Television (NET) — The Ragtime Era became the most watched noncommercial series up to that time, run and rerun constantly by all the educational (and many commercial) stations throughout the country.

Revisiting Brideshead Revisited

You may have recently reacquainted yourself with this classic public TV mini-series. The American Program Service and 20 stations have brought it back for a third set of broadcasts this year, after a few runs on Bravo. Here, David Stewart reminds us of the quality, scope and impact of the production when it premiered in this country 14 years ago. On Monday evening, Jan. 18, 1982, the 11-part, 13-hour television series Brideshead Revisited broke over the PBS audience with the suddenness of a storm.

Ralph P. Forbes v. Arkansas Educational Television, 1996

Ralph P. Forbes, and The People, Appellant, v. The Arkansas Educational Television
Commission, and its Board of Directors in their Official Capacities; The Arkansas
Educational Telecommunications Network Foundation, and its Members and Officers
Susan J. Howarth, in her Official Capacity as Executive Director; Victor Fleming,
in his Official Capacity as Chairman; G. E. Campbell, in his Official Capacity
as Vice-Chairman; Dr. Caroline Whitson, in her Official Capacity as Secretary;
Diane Blair, in her Official Capacity as Commissioner; S. McAdams, in his
Official Capacity as Commissioner; James Ross, in his Official Capacity as
Commissioner; Jerry McIntosh, in his Official Capacity as Commissioner; Lillian
Springer, in her Official Capacity as Commissioner; Amy L. Oliver, in her
Official Capacity as Production Manager; Bill Clinton, his Official Capacity
as Governor of the State of Arkansas; John Does, Sued as certain “John Doe”
crooked, lying politicians and political “dirty tricks” operatives and special
interests, etc.; KHBS TV/Channel 40 UHF; KHOG TV/Channel 29 UHF; American
Broadcasting Company, Agent Darrel Cunningham; Steve Barnes, KARK TV, 4 Eye-Witness News and AETN Producer; Oscar Eugene Goss, Arkansas Educational Television
Network; Carol Adornetto; Larry Foley; Lavenia Craig, in her Official Capacity
as Commissioner; Robert Doubleday, in his Official Capacity as Commissioner,
Appellees. No. 95-2722WA
93 F.3d 497; 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 21152

April 11, 1996, Submitted
August 21, 1996, Filed

PRIOR HISTORY: [*1] On Appeal from the United States District Court for the
Western District of Arkansas. Civil 92-2190.

Public Broadcasting Self-Sufficiency Act of 1996, H.R. 2979

Introduced by Rep. Jack Fields, 1996; no action taken

A bill governing the phase-out of federal appropriations to CPB, introduced in the House, Feb. 28, 1996, by Rep. Jack Fields (R-Tex.), then chairman of the House telecommunications subcommittee. Cosponsors: Porter, Oxley, Moorhead, Schaefer, Barton (Tex.), Hastert, Gillmor and Frisa. This text was originally posted on the Library of Congress web site. To ensure the financial self-sufficiency of public broadcasting, and for
other purposes.

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.

History-makers tour new archives

The old-timers wandered curiously among the shelves, munching cookies and poking into file boxes, looking casually for their footprints in the history of public broadcasting. It was the concluding field trip of this month’s Public Broadcasting Reunion [related article] — a bus ride from Washington to nearby University of Maryland at College Park, where the new National Public Broadcasting Archives is open for business. Donald R. McNeil, the founding director, and Thomas Connors, his designated successor, showed off a facility that already has:

2,500 shelf feet of corporate records from CPB, PBS, NPR and other organizations;
360 shelf feet of personal papers and dozens of oral histories of the field;
5,600 audio tapes from the National Association of Educational Broadcasters, WAMU-FM and WETA-FM; and
3,000 videotapes from PBS, WETA-TV, Maryland PTV and other sources, among other things. Five hundred file boxes from Children’s Television Workshop are on the way, and 800 more reels from NPR. Standing in the high-ceilinged, half-empty room in the basement of the university’s Hornbake Library, Connors invited the visitors to talk with the archives about old correspondence, reports and other items that might make the day of some future historian.

At reunion, early leaders of public broadcasting express pride about past, concern for future

The man who put New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia on the radio, reading the comics during a newspaper strike — M.S. “Morrie” Novik — talked the other day about his first trip west of Chicago. That excursion to Iowa more than 50 years ago was also the first time the head of New York’s municipal radio station, WNYC, had much contact with the midwesterners who were big in “educational radio.” Novik recognized they were up to the same thing he was, and he joined a fellowship that continues today. He was among his fellows again Oct. 8-9 [1993], during a Public Broadcasting Reunion, where a big roomful of admitted idealists reminisced, ribbed each other, tut-tutted about things these days, and unabashedly proclaimed their values.

Congress emphasizes CPB’s ‘objectivity and balance’ obligations, 1992

CPB from its start had always had responsibility for ensuring “objectivity and balance” in programming that it funded, but on June 2, 1992, the U.S. Senate amended the House bill that included CPB’s reauthorization (H.R. 2977) to add related responsibilities. Amendments were accepted by the House and signed by the President in August. Text below is from the act as signed by the President. Objectivity and Balance Policy, Procedures and Report
SEC. 19.

Independent Television Service Inc. Articles of Incorporation, 1989

ITVS was funded through 1988 legislation requiring the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to establish an independent program service “to expand the diversity and innovativeness of programming available to public broadcasting.” The nonprofit was incorporated Sept. 22, 1989 and after extended negotiations with CPB began operations in 1991. See also ITVS bylaws, 1990. To the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, District of Columbia:

Each of the undersigned, being a natural person of the age of at least eighteen years and acting as an incorporator for the purpose of organizing a corporation pursuant to the provisions of the District of Columbia Nonprofit Corporation Act, does hereby adopt the following Articles of Incorporation.

Tuning out education, Chapter 5

Failing to foster lasting Cooperation between commercial broadcasters and educators, but sticking to its rhetoric, NACRE covered up the fatal inertia that plagued U.S. educational broadcasting.

Tuning out education, Chapter 4

The Depression created a demand for sober, public-service uses of radio. Seizing the moment, NACRE launched the most ambitious experiments in national educational broadcasting that had ever been tried in America.