Ron Hull, a former director of the Program Fund, reflects on the value of buffer from partisan politics
Jan. 2, 1979 — Robben Fleming, a university president and an authority on (labor) negotiations, comes to CPB as its third president. Also in January, the politically appointed CPB Board suspends its committees to reevaluate their roles. This decision shelved the board’s Program Committee, which traditionally had voted aye or nay on national production proposals for public TV. Even before Fleming arrived, the CPB Board had been rethinking this process.
Ron Hull, a leader in Nebraska public television since the 1950s, recommends that CPB consider reinstating the semi-autonomy of its grantmakers in TV programming. That was how CPB’s Television Program Fund was set up in 1982 when he succeeded Lewis Freedman as the fund’s director. Hull bases this commentary on a chapter of his new book, Backstage: Stories from My Life in Public Television, published in October by the University of Nebraska Press. When CPB’s Television Program Fund began operating with a measure of autonomy, it inspired “an outpouring of heartfelt creative ideas from myriad producers, both independents and those at PBS stations,” Hull writes.
During the 1980s I was the fortunate guy in the right place at the right time when the CPB Board appointed me director of the CPB Program Fund for public television.