• Peter Marshall, host of TV’s Hollywood Squares from 1966-81, is returning to his home state of West Virginia this week to tape four episodes of West Virginia Squares, reports the Charleston Daily Mail. The show will feature questions about state history and music, and West Virginia Public Broadcasting will produce and distribute to schools. Celebrities in this version are all from West Virginia, including Joyce DeWitt, who played Janet on Three’s Company. • Tom Ashbrook of NPR’s On Point and Here & Now co-hosts Jeremy Hobson and Robin Young of star in a short, old-timey movie from WBUR, “Silence is Golden.” The Boston station isn’t running a June on-air fundraiser, so it’s hoping listeners pledge online to help prove “the power of silent fundraising.”
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.
Now that he’s retiring, Ron Hull has time to find out who he is. Not that he or anyone else in public TV is uncertain on that point. Hull is one of the field’s most prominent advocates for good programs and a memorable character who flips his tie over his shoulder when he gets excited, which is often. He worked most of 47 years at the University of Nebraska’s public TV network, leaving periodically and coming back again to its program side, which he tended while Jack McBride built the transmitters, the relationships and an array of ambitious projects based in Lincoln. Hull is retiring from half-time work at the university this month, but his to-do list is full: dedicating a study center for Nebraska author Mari Sandoz at Chadron State College, raising a million bucks for the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commission celebration in 2004, and tracking down who his parents were.
On a warm summer day in 1946 I find myself, somewhat improbably, at the helm of a U.S. Navy ocean tug, threading through a crowded, palm-fringed Pacific atoll called Bikini. We stay only long enough to anchor the derelict ship we’ve towed here from the Philippines. Several days later, making slow progress east to Honolulu, we learn that the wreck we had pulled into that pristine island sanctuary had been obliterated — along with everything else in the lagoon — by two atomic bombs. More than a few of my shipmates are bitter that, unlike others, they had been denied an extremely close look at the destruction. But for most of us it is simply an isolated event, one among many in those rather bewildering post-war days following the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After a year of combing through PBS’s archives, Ron Hull has uncovered a treasure-trove of programs worth reviving one way or another. Though he still spends part of each week in Nebraska, where he teaches a university class in international broadcasting, Hull has made considerable progress on his special assignment at PBS headquarters in Virginia: he has read through some 12,000 old file folders, come up with 850 programs that might be useful, and begun the gargantuan task of screening the first 10 minutes of these myriad possibilities. He’s been assisted in this by Nancy Dillon, assistant director of program data and analysis. The revival prospects that he’s found could come back through the National Program Service, be syndicated through PBS Select or PBS Plus or be offered as fundraising programs. When Bob Ottenhoff, PBS executive v.p., recruited Hull for this assignment last spring, he also asked the veteran programmer to look for shows that could be released on home video, sold overseas, or packaged for a dedicated cable service. The idea was to cull the archives for programs that could find new broadcast audiences or generate new revenue streams for PBS.