A well-connected panel of business leaders, broadcasters and policy wonks last week got specific about what public broadcasting could do in the future to use its digital signals for the greatest public benefit—and to justify the increased funding that would make it possible. ¶ The Digital Future Initiative panel, convened by PBS President Pat Mitchell a year ago, released its report Dec. 15…
The same week former CPB Chairman Kenneth Tomlinson resigned from the CPB Board, public TV stations received a low-key announcement that the Wall Street Journal would soon end production of the conservative news analysis series he aggressively championed. Journal Editorial Report, which Tomlinson saw as an antidote to Bill Moyers’ provocative liberal commentaries on Now, will wrap its final PBS program Dec. 2. The controversy over how it came to PBS — especially as details of the process were revealed last week — demonstrated that when politics enters pubTV editorial decisions, none of the players emerges unscathed. Producers for Dow Jones Television, an affiliate of the Journal, initially didn’t explain why they canned the show, but in an unsigned op-ed Nov.
From the opening moments of its 2001 Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, PBS drew on the city’s role in U.S. history and a series of in-person presentations to foster pride and other warm fuzzies among 1,300 conference attendees. In a spoof of Antiques Roadshow with actors as the founding fathers, APTS President John Lawson presented a letter by Alexander Hamilton to appraisers Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. “We must secure our union on solid foundations — it is a job for Hercules,” Hamilton wrote. Lawson feigned amazement when the letter was deemed to be of “immense worth.” For plenary sessions in a convention center ballroom, PBS put on highly produced shows, with musical performances, staged interviews, scripts rolling on multiple teleprompters and program-related stunts replacing many of the clip screenings of past years.
PBS’s new president is Pat Mitchell, departing head of CNN Productions and
Time Inc. Television, whose appointment was ratified by the PBS Board Feb. 4. She is the first producer to take PBS’s top job, and is as comfortable in
front of cameras as behind them, having performed in numerous on-air roles. Her major projects for CNN included the Peabody-winning Cold War,
a 24-part documentary series that she executive produced with Jeremy Isaacs,
and Millenium: A Thousand Years of History, also supervised with Isaacs. A search committee reached an “enthusiastically unanimous” decision to recommend
Mitchell as the best candidate for the post last week, said Wayne Godwin,
committee co-chair and president of WCET in Cincinnati.