The latest incarnation of Bill Moyers’ distinctive brand of talk programming will be the hourlong, multiplatform Moyers & Company, distributed by American Public Television. The January debut for the program — provided fully funded to pubTV stations — will mark the first time PBS has not been the distributor of an ongoing Moyers program to public TV stations, dating to his first show in 1972. His most recent series, Bill Moyers Journal, left the air April 30, 2010, when he retired. “Collaborating with APT offers stations flexibility in deciding where a broadcast can best serve their communities and it offers producers greater flexibility regarding the Web,” Moyers told Current in an email. “And we intend a major use of Web and social media.”
Moyers described the new show to pubTV stations in a letter Aug.
In the beginning, there was CBS Reports. Then came Bill Moyers. It was 1976. Executive Producer Howard Stringer wanted to show the world that the hour documentary was still viable despite the gaggle of magazine-style news shows pushing their way to the screen. Accountants had discovered there was profit in the magazine format and wise men in good-looking suits informed us we were behind the times.
Ten weeks before the air date of Need to Know, WNET announced the executive producer. Seven weeks before, the producing station named the co-anchors. On May 7 the new public affairs series debuts on PBS. A lot will be riding on the show. For PBS it’s a rare chance to start a potential “icon series” with new styles and substance, demonstrating that folks in “legacy media” can interact and innovate like digital natives.
Six months after retiring as host of PBS’s Now with Bill Moyers, the longtime journalist spoke to activists gathered for the conference in St. Louis May 15, 2005. This prepared text was posted by Free Press [website], the sponsor of the conference. I can’t imagine better company on this beautiful Sunday morning in St. Louis.
When Bill Moyers signs off after the Dec. 17  broadcast of Now with Bill Moyers, he will leave behind one of the longest and most productive careers in the history of public television.He came to PBS in 1971, the first of the crossover journalists — Tim Russert and George Stephanopolous are among his heirs — who parlay experience in government and politics into high-profile journalism. He’s produced and appeared in more than 400 hours of programming — the equivalent of almost 20 years of Frontline, American Experience or Nova. And the equivalent in variety as well: covering not only news and public affairs, but also addiction, death, religion, sports, music, China and the Hudson River. He’s won a raft of awards, among them 30 Emmys and 11 Peabodys, including a rare individual Peabody for career achievement.
For the past four years under PBS President Pat Mitchell, the network has had two chief program executives — at headquarters in Alexandria, Va., John Wilson, a veteran public TV programmer who came to PBS a decade ago from KAET in Phoenix; and in Los Angeles, Jacoba (Coby) Atlas, a news and documentary producer who previously worked with Mitchell at CNN. In this interview they describe for the first time a new formal practice of using minimum ratings, along with other factors, to judge the success of programs. They also discuss brainstorming with producers to create new programs and the tight budgets that limit how many new things PBS can try. Atlas and Wilson spoke with Current at PBS headquarters and later by phone. This transcript is edited. Setting ratings floors
In your programming plan in the PBS budget for next year, you talk about establishing a new set of goals for judging programs. What factors will you consider?
CPB has revived debate within public TV about balance and fairness
in public affairs programs, citing specifically Bill Moyers’ dual roles
of host and uninhibited commentator on his Friday-night PBS show. After a vigorous debate among station reps and producers June 9 
at the PBS Annual Meeting in Miami Beach, CPB President Bob Coonrod
proposed to broaden discussions within public TV on standards of fairness. In a widely circulated letter exchange with PBS President Pat Mitchell,
he put topics from the session–including Moyers’ roles–on the agenda
for future talks between the two. “Specific notions of fairness, or perceptions of fairness, may
vary by individual or by region, but the overall message was clear:
There is a deep and abiding interest among our colleagues to try to
‘get it right,'” Coonrod wrote. After participants in the session
screened a Moyers commentary from Now, “there was serious
Bill Moyers came out swinging three days after the Nov. 5 midterm elections,
and the target of his jabs—America’s right wing—came swinging back. Conservatives said he made a hysterical partisan attack on Republicans in his commentary on PBS’s Now with Bill Moyers Nov. 8. Lamenting the GOP sweep of both houses of Congress, Moyers slammed the
majority party’s agenda, which he believes will “force pregnant women
to give up control over their own lives,” use “taxing power
to transfer wealth from working people to the rich” and give “corporations
a free hand to eviscerate the environment.”
Bill Moyers’ keynote at the PBS Annual Meeting, June 23, 1996, grabbed many of the pubcasters where they live, and invited others to come home. Producer Stephen Ives, a second-generation professional in public TV, said later that Moyers’ Sunday-morning talk reminded him “why I was so proud of what my father did for a living.” I must tell you that being here feels very good. Two years ago you invited me to be with you in Florida to celebrate my 60th birthday but I wound up having heart surgery instead and couldn’t come to blow out the candles. But it was a moment I’ll never forget when all of you sang “Happy Birthday” to me over an open telephone line.