Preserving Public Broadcasting at 50 Years

Preserving Public Broadcasting at 50 Years


>>SPEAKER: It removed the
process of drafting policy from the eyes of the press and from
the atmosphere of policy politics. It hid the process
somewhat.>>SPEAKER: It was secret.
>>SPEAKER: I would call a benign secrecy, and I don’t
think the history has ever been written, but if you look at the
15 members of the Carnying Commission, you see the man, JC
Kellem, who headed the television stations in Texas.
You see a Texan, you see the President of the United Auto
Workers. Why? Because Johnson wanted a tremendous lobbying
push, and if the chairman of the UAW in Detroit was one of the
people who crafted the idea for the Corporation of Public
Broadcasting, that meant they would be behind the bill when it
came to the hill. So, all of this was apart of LBJ’s
legislative genius, and as I said earlier, I hope someday, a
historian will delve into these legislative task forces, because
it seems to me, one of the most creative, and really,
praise-worthy, despite the secrecy, one of the most praise-
worthy things in that history, and it is all apart of a larger
story. Um, were it not for the dark cloud of Vietnam, I think
the LBJ presidency would be remembered as, um, as the new
deal is remembered, as a flowering of creativity and
positive legislation on behalf of the well-being of the
American people. I see it, I see the great society chapter,
which really ended at about 1967, after the Congress changed
its composition in 66. I see it as the concluding chapter of
the new deal. Johnson told Bill Moyers on the plane coming back
from Dallas that he wanted to do all the things that Franklin
had been unable to do, and so there was this tremendous, um,
election majority that brought on the coat-tails into the
Congress a tremendous working majority, and he used that
majority to pass Medicare, more than 60 education bills,
including the great, um, Corporation for Public
Broadcasting bill. The other thing, and Newton mentioned it,
was bipartisanship. The commission was made-up of
Republicans and Democrats, the support on Capitol Hill came
from Republicans and Democrats. To this day, if you look at
the trustees of the stations around the country, when I was
traveling for PBS, I’d speak to trustees at fundraising dinners
around the country for the stations, it was the civic arts
and business leadership of every metropolitan area in the
country, made-up largely of Republicans, and they could be
counted upon when these periodic outbursts of insanity occur of
misguided people, they can’t kill, but wanted to wound
public broadcasting. These Republican trustees from all
over the country get on the phone and say what are you
doing?>>SPEAKER: They’re still doing
it speak.>>SPEAKER: They are, and we
can count on that. Senator Warner from Virginia told me
once that the Congress would never kill public broadcasting,
because it now is the only way that a member of Congress can
get on television in his local community.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: So, I hope that
they are inviting, um, their members of Congress to appear
frequently, but, um, I went to the White House after the great
landslide of, um, 64, really, a sort of gopher for Douglas Cater
, who was in charge of shepherding the Corporation for
Public Broadcasting into reality , and our office, in the
basement of the west wing, really became a sort of workshop
where the members of the Carnegie Commission, first, John
Gardener of the Carnegie Commission, and then Ellen
Pifer, I would like to claim some creative role in this, but
I really was, you know, I came to the White House, having been
a green reporter for the Washington Post, so I was a kind
of gopher, but I was also a watcher, and what I watched was
visionary people, um, doing amazing things, and it had a
shaping influence, it was a great graduate school of my
life, and my boss hated to write speeches, and because I had
been a newspaper reporter, he would shove all the speech-
writing off to me, and, um, when we passed the legislation and
Johnson had to make a speech, signing the bill, I was given
the task of writing the speech, and about 48 hours before the
speech was locked up and sent into what was called the
President’s night reading, John Gardener, by now, the secretary,
called, and he said we need to extend the vision of this speech
beyond broadcasting and talk about all public media, and he
didn’t even know what that meant at the time, but he suggested
language, and I want to quote a little bit of it, because it is
so visionary and so symbolic of all that was going on in that
fertile period of our time. Right in the middle of the
speech, signing the bill, Johnson said these words, “I
want to create a great network for knowledge. Not just a
broadcast system, but one that employs every means of sending
and storing information. Think of the lives that this could
change; the student in a small college could tap the resources
of a great university; the country doctor could get help
from a distant laboratory or teaching hospital; a scholar in
Atlanta might draw instantly on a library in New York.” Now,
all this is 30 years before the Internet, but suddenly, um, the
chrysalis is beginning to form, and the creative vision of a
network for knowledge, the stations of NPR and PBS had not
always been receptive, I’m sorry to say, to new technology, and
a station manager once said to me, when we were trying to
create PBS.org, um, every hour that a viewer spends looking at
a computer screen is an hour that he is not watching my
station. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: And, um, so, there’s been a certain
hostility, but we know that right there in the womb, um,
when the bill was signed, the President of the United States
was envisioning something called networks for knowledge. May
that, um, increase, may it grow, may the commitment of all
public broadcasters to public media, um, flourish in the
future, but, um, it was great fun to be in on the beginning,
though I can’t claim anything other than a gopher’s role, but
what a great thing we did. It is now embedded in the culture,
it is, um, apart of American life in the way that Medicare,
um, other great achievements of that time are sewn into the
fabric of American life, and heroes of that movement are in
this room. May their tribe increase.
(Applause.)>>SPEAKER: So, Nick, what was the role of the FCC in
all of this?>>SPEAKER: Well, I would like
to go back a little further.>>SPEAKER: Okay.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Since I believe Mr.
Martin and I are amongst the more, um, age of
experience, you know, and, so –>>SPEAKER: The wise men.
>>SPEAKER: What?>>SPEAKER: The wise men.
>>SPEAKER: Well, not necessarily, as we often see.
>>SPEAKER: I’m just trying to help.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: But to go back to
the 18th century, um, because — (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: There are other Presidents involved in this
beside Lyndon Johnson, with regard to whom I might add an
anecdote that he brought me in in February of 64, and shortly
thereafter, a memo went out to all presidential appointees, you
may recall this, saying I want you to tell me what you think
would be in the best interest of our nation with the area for
which you have responsibility, and in my case, at that time, it
was ports and ship-building and shipping. He made me maritime
administrator, just exactly what you would think, a boy from
Iowa. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: The coast of Iowa. (Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: With shipping
experience limited to, um, operating a canoe on the Iowa
River, but not very successfully, something that,
thankfully, the commerce committee found fully adequate
to justify the appointment, but, um, I think that’s another
thing to say about Lyndon Johnson, that compared with, um,
other Presidents, perhaps, who will go unnamed, that there
would actually be that focus on what’s in the best national
interest, but I want to go back to, um, Madison, who I just
learned today is referred to by those who work at the library of
Congress as Jimmy Madison.>>SPEAKER: Yes, he was Jemmy.
>>SPEAKER: Is that right? Was it James Madison?
>>SPEAKER: Jemmy.>>SPEAKER: I’ll be darned.
Did your father tell you that?>>SPEAKER: No, I write history
books. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: They would be so proud of you now and everything
you’ve done. I’m serious .
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Well, anyhow, I
want to go back to, um, Jemmy Madison, however you spell his
name, and there’s an inscription , as you came into this
building, you may have noticed, and I’m going to link this up
with Thomas Jefferson, and then ultimately with, um, public
broadcasting and try to do it in 5 minutes or less, if that’s
all right.>>SPEAKER: That’s all right.
>>SPEAKER: Yeah, less will be better. Less is more. Yeah.
Um, and it contains this line, “a people who mean to be their
own governors must arm them selves with the power which
knowledge gives.” That’s Madison’s quote. Jefferson,
and many of you may know this, but when writing his own epitaph
, chose to be remembered as the father of the University of
Virginia, and made no mention of the fact that he’d been
President of the United States . Now, this is very significant
, I think, because what these folks were doing was recognizing
and establishing and making efforts to maintain fundamental
pillars of democracy, many of which have always been and
continue to be today, um, under attack. One, obviously, is
extending the franchise from originally white, male,
landowners over 21, um, to where now, we even let women vote.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Took awhile.
>>SPEAKER: It did take a long while, um, and 18-year-olds, but
then the addition of free public education, a fundamental
element and pillar of democracy, and then the idea of
independent media, protected by the First Amendment , for Jefferson also said,
famously, as you all know, “were it left to me to decide whether
we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers
without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer
the latter.” And then went on in the next sentence to say,”
but I should mean that every person should receive those
papers and be capable of reading them.” Again, tying it to
education. Subsequently, we added the idea of free public
libraries, where every American could have access to the
resources of kings, and indeed, this library was contributed to
by Jefferson in 1815, as you probably know . Something that is often not
thought about in this context, but related to John Gardener, he
wrote two paperback books, one called Excellence, one called
Self-Renewal, which I think are always worth re-reading, at
least every 20 or 30 years, um, because the other thing we did
was to establish reduced rates for sending newspapers and
books and magazines through the postal system, subsidizing what
was, at that time, the communications network of the
19th century, was the Post Office, and then we added
telegraph and telephones and so on, but that was how it began,
and as all of you know, the early, um, time of radio, and I
want to tell just one story about Iowa City, and then I’m
done, is that okay? Okay. Um, the early days of radio involved
, um, numerous, 72, in the very early
days, educational institutions that did not only the
technological work of creating this box in which little people
lived and could talk, but also, the programming, and the focus
on the use of this as an instrument of education. In Iowa City, Iowa, a city
designated by the United Nations as one of three global cities
of literature, um, was created the first educational radio
station west of the Mississippi. That was in 1911. So, this
goes back before 1967, for those who are younger among us here
today. Um, in 1971, WSUI became a charter member of NPR, one
of, um, the early few, and one of the 90 stations to carry the
inaugural broadcast of, um, Bill ‘s All Things Considered. In
1916, it began transmitting educational content, ultimately
including my father’s lectures in the 19 40s. By the late 19
20s, remember this, 19 20s, they had educational television, um,
broadcasting television images of, um, classroom content, a
station that would ultimately be one of the founding stations
creating Iowa public television, and thus ends the reading for today.
(Laughing.) (Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Well, Bill, that
nicely gets us to you. Um, the fact is, you know, we heard all
about educational TV, and even though radio came before, um, it
was something of an afterthought in terms of public
broadcasting, and you were the person who changed that.
>>SPEAKER: It was actually scotch-taped at the last minute
on to the legislation.>>SPEAKER: And radio.
>>SPEAKER: And radio.>>SPEAKER: It’s like the Civil
Rights Law putting and sex in and changing women’s lives
forever, but, um–>>SPEAKER: If I can note, I
took the position at that time that we ought to forget about
television and start with radio. You got literally ten times
more for your dollar with radio than with television.
>>SPEAKER: That’s still true.>>SPEAKER: That’s right.
Build a really strong national political base in support of
public radio that would then clamor and demand of Congress public
television, but to start with public television and underfund
it, I didn’t think was the right political move. Bill.
(Laughing.) (Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Because many of you
are historians, and we’ve had, um, history of universities, I’d
like to just go back. I was, a couple weeks ago, I was out in
Madison, Wisconsin, celebrating the hundredth anniversary of the
oldest station, the oldest educational station, continuous
broadcasting.>>SPEAKER: Well, but east of
the Mississippi. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: That’s right. We could arm-wrestle about this.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Um, and, um,
tracing this back to the universities, because I think
this is very, a good point, about 11 years before radio was
invented, um, the university President said I was the
beneficence of the university to be at every home in the state,
and it became the motto of the so-called Wisconsin Idea, the
boundaries of the cappests are the boundaries of the state.
So, that was the idea of extending those resources, and
at that time, the very first broadcast, east of the
Mississippi, by an educational station was information to
farmers; weather information, 61 percent were, 61 percent
literacy rate at that time in Wisconsin. Um, as just a side
bar, um, she mentioned I have an organization developing radio
partners, and we’re working in Zambia to improve the weather
and farming information, where the literacy rate is 61 percent.
>>SPEAKER: Back in the beginning.
>>SPEAKER: So, radio continues to be used this way. So
anyway, that idea continued, so the beginnings really were there
, and I started my career in public radio as an engineer in
1952, working my way through the University of Wisconsin, so,
um, that’s where I, my roots are there, and there was, um, a
center for innovation and audio innovation and so on there,
producing, um, radio plays . Anyway, it was that
experience that informed me. Um, I left there and was in
Buffalo and developed a storefront center broadcast
facility in the heart of the Black Community, where, um, 27
hours a week came from that source, so I was, at that time,
giving voice, or helping give voice to folks that had no,
there were no people of color, really, in media at that time.
Um, and we had discussions about race on air; what is it like to be an African American in
our society.>>SPEAKER: What year are we in
now?>>SPEAKER: We’re in 1963 and
64, and, um, I did a series on the confederacy, nation within a
nation. Anyway, so, when I was tasked, as a member of the
founding board, to write the mission statement, um, I felt
very strongly about radio. Our first meeting, I was on the
radio advisory committee, and John macey said to us, well, you
know, of course, television has to go first. Of course,
television always goes first, and, um, I was, um, really
always frustrated by this, of course, because, um, so, I
started a program in Buffalo called This Is Radio. This is
radio, damn it, pay attention. I’m still saying the same thing
in development. Anyway, so, the task was to try to, for me, um,
differentiate it from the educational radio, from
commercial radio, from PBS, to capitalize the unique strengths
of radio as a sound medium, getting out of the studio,
telling stories, and, um, to be somewhat aspirational, but also
practical. So, that was what I was trying to do when I wrote,
um, the mission statement. If you don’t mind, I’ll just read a
few paragraphs of that. National public radio will serve
the individual. It will promote personal growth. It
will regard individual differences with respect and joy rather than hate. It will
celebrate the human experiences infinitely varied rather than vackious bunow. It will
encourage a sense of active, constructive participation
rather than apathetic helplessness. The total service
should be trustworthy, enhance intellectual development, expand
knowledge, deepen oral esthetic enjoyment, increase the
pleasure of living in a pluralistic society, and result
in a service to listeners which makes them more responsive,
informed human beings, and intelligent, responsible
citizens of their communities and the world. And then in the
first description of what became All Things Considered, I said that it would not substitute
superficial blandness for genuine diversity of regions,
values and cultural and ethnic minorities, which comprised American society. It would
speak with many voices and many dialects. The editorial
attitude would be that of inquiry, curiosity, concern for
the quality of life, critical, problem-solving, and life-loving
. The listener should come to rely upon it as a source of
information of consequence, that having listened has made a
difference in their attitude toward their environment and
themselves. And then the concluding paragraph for now,
philosophically, time is measured by the intensity of
experience. Waiting for a bus and walking through an art
gallery may occupy the same duration of time, but not the
same time experience. Listeners should feel that the time spent
with NPR was among their most rewarding in media contact.
National public radio will not regard its audience as a market,
or in terms of its disposable income, but as curious, complex
individuals who are looking for some understanding, meaning, and
joy in the human experience. (Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Well, so now you
have a good sense of how it all began, and since these gentlemen
have been broadcasters, we’re finishing right on time, at 3:00
o’clock, in time for the next panel. Thank you, gentlemen,
very, very much.
(Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Thank you. Thank
you all very much. That was wonderful. Um, as we setup for
the next panelists, would the next set of panelists please
come on the stage? We’re going to show a clip. The next panel
is on news and public affairs and talk shows, and while the
panelists get ready, we’re going to show you coverage from the
Watergate hearings. We’ve just launched a curated exhibit on
the AAPB website about public broadcasting’s coverage of the
Watergate hearings, and that will mark the first time the
complete online access to the hearings has been made available
to the public online.>>SPEAKER: Good afternoon, everyone. I’m the
chairman of the executive advisory council for the
American Archive of Public Broadcasting, and when I arrived
at WGBH, Henry Morganthal was in his heyday as an executive
producer, so he was one of my mentors, and one thing that
Carla Hayden didn’t have time to tell you is he still have the
urge to create, he’s just published a book of his poetry,
his first book of poetry, I’ve got a copy over there, and what
she didn’t tell you is this is actually a stop on his book tour
today. (Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: It is my great
pleasure to introduce this next panel and its moderator, Judy
Woodrough, one of our very special colleagues in public
media. Judy began her distinguished career at the CBS
affiliate in Atlanta and went on to be White House correspondent
for NBC, was the host of Frontline in its early days,
host of Inside Politics for CNN, guest correspondent for NPR
and chairperson of the International Women’s Media
Foundation and has been honored by many distinguished
organizations. So, thank you, Judy, for helping us today, and
we promise to get you out of here and back ready to prep for
the news hour tonight.>>SPEAKER: Thank you very much
. (Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Henry Beckton, of
course, being one of the pillars for public media for so many
years, um, Boston and the whole country has so much to thank you
for. Thank you, Henry. So, I’m the lucky one now, because I
get to preside over this panel of five mega stars in public
media, the pantheon of news and public affairs. Each one of
them has played an absolutely essential role in keeping public
media, public television, and radio at the center of American
life. Um, none of them needs an introduction, so I’m going to
be very brief, starting with my mentor, um, the man you just saw
in that clip, the former anchor and executive editor of the
news hour with Jim Larer, and before that, the co-anchor and
executive editor of the McNeal News Hour, the face of and the
singular driving force behind daily
journalism at PBS, Jim Larer. (Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Next, the President
and CEO of WETA since 1989. Before that, she served as a
member and chair of the board of Corporation for Public
Broadcasting, as well as the member of the WETA board,
following her service on the West Virginia Educational
Broadcasting Authority, Sharon Percy-Rockefeller. The
Executive Director and co-found er of the national Latino
Public Radio Network in 1976, he was the moving force of a group
of Latino farm workers, artists, activists, and teachers
who founded this in California Valley, Hugo Moralis.
(Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Someone who’s already been applauded here,
the long-time host of the Dick Kavitz show, has spanned
networks from NBC, USA, HBO, and of course, PBS. He’s
appeared in movies, TV specials, and several Broadway plays,
Dick Kavit. (Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Finally, the
aforementioned living legend, the woman who moderated the last
panel and commentator for ABC News,
advisor to the American Archives of Public Broadcasting, Coce Roberts. So, what we’re
charged with doing is looking at how news and public affairs
came into being and how it evolved in public media. Jim,
I’m going to start with you. You were there almost at the
beginning. When you came to Washington, it was all about
Watergate. What happened?>>SPEAKER: Well, the Watergate
hearings really did, that was the watershed event for news and
public affairs on public television. Up to that point,
the, um, the stations and the public was generally divided
over whether you even needed anymore news and public
affairs on television beyond what was already there on
commercial television. The Nixon Administration
particularly didn’t think there was a need for anymore news and
public affairs on public broadcasting, but the Watergate
hearings changed everything, and the reason it changed was
because of, there’s several individuals who had the courage
to make some really tough decisions, and one of them was
not to necessarily broadcast them gavel to gavel, because
many of the stations would not broadcast it live, because they
had educational TV on during the daytime, but somebody, and I
was part of the mix of the somebodies, said why in the hell
don’t we run them at night? Repeat them at night? And that
was a big, big deal. It was a big decision, and, um, the
people who were running PBS were nervous about it, so they said
let’s poll the stations, so but the, we did poll the stations,
but we polled the stations in a very clever way.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: We polled the
stations with a question that was kind of phrased in such a
way, do you want to be patriotic, or do you want to be
a jerk. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: And we still barely won.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: And, um, but as
McNeal said at the time, and I quote him almost verbatim, um,
well, the option, because it was summertime, and PBS didn’t
have that much to run at night, they had no original programs to
run at night anyhow, so he said, well, all they would run,
if they didn’t run the hearings, would be, how did he put it um,
English-speaking people talking, animals mating.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: And occasionally,
English-speaking people mating and animals talking.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: So, why not replace
it with the Watergate hearings? (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: That’s why when I said 3:00 a.m., the hearings
weren’t going on till 3:00 a.m., that was the repeat every night
. We would do it live all day, but we only had about, maybe
half the stations were watching it, were broadcasting it, but
at night, um, and at first, it wouldn’t, you know, it was the
old story, you know, um, the big stations wouldn’t take it, but
then they started, because the word got out, and then suddenly,
it became a big deal, and the big deal was that it proved,
beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was a role for news and
public affairs on public broadcasting because of those
hearings.>>SPEAKER: So, when you and
Robin cooked up the McNeal Report, then quickly —
>>SPEAKER: It began, as I said a million times, it began with
the worst title in the history of television, and I was the
Washington correspondent, and then it became, my mother
interceded. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: It was one story a day for 30 minutes when we
started, and then, that was 75, and then 83, it went to an hour.
>>SPEAKER: And that’s where I want to bring in Sharon
Rockefeller, because Sharon, you were already active in public
broadcasting, and you knew what Jim and Robin were trying to do.
What were you up against when they tried to go to an hour?
>>SPEAKER: The stations, in many senses. Um, I was working,
I was familiar with West Virginia Education Broadcasting
Authority, not on the board at that time, because my husband
wasn’t governor, and that was a governor appointment. At the
time, actually, I asked for one thing from my husband, can I be
appointed to the WVEBA, and he said yes, and no
one ever thought twice about it, but that was my training,
that’s where I learned, but the Watergate hearings, actually, I
watched every single day, all day long. Jay had lost an
election by the largest margin in the history of the state. We
had four years in exsile in West Virginia, three
hours north of Charleston, three hours south of Pittsburgh,
about an hour and a half from the Morgantown West Virginia
University Station, so when the Watergate hearings were on, I
could not receive the Washington Post by mail until two days
after it was published, I started watching full-time. My
kids were watching Sesame Street. I loved history, but
news and public affairs was my main attraction, it was what we
had to offer. We, at that point, was little ole public
television, and it was the turnaround. I also came on the
WETA board at the same time through another vehicle, a
friend of mine on the Stanford University Board, which had one
woman on the board, and I was taking her place. She was the
founder of, this is in the 70s, she was the founder of
Caroline Charles. So, she said where do you live, I said West
Virginia, and she said, where is that?
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: She said is it near
the Dakotas? I said no. Is it near the Carolinas? No. Um,
but she knew Mrs. Campbell, and she called her immediately, I
was 29, she said you have to talk to this young woman. I
didn’t know what about, but Mrs. Campbell called me, in a very
authoritarian way, you must come to Washington right now, which
I did. I’ve always taken my orders from Elizabeth Campbell,
and that’s how I got involved with WETA. So, I had a very
small poor rural state, and at that point, WETA was not as
wealthy as it is today, it had a budget of $4 million, now we’re
at $97 million, but we’ve clawed our way up, and it’s
really through news and public affairs. The Watergate hearings
put public television on the map, and WETA, and The News
Hour, which came about in 1983, because we thought we should be
the first and that all stations
were going to go to one hour of news. In fact, they never did.
We did, but we won, if you recall, Robin and Jim and I
went around to visit stations, speak to them .
>>SPEAKER: We divided up the 300-some public television
stations, and, um, we called every station manager or program
manager, because, um, the President of PBS said, well,
it’s a great idea to go to an hour, but I don’t have the power
to do it, you’re going to have to get the stations to do it, so
we physically called them on the phone, and then there was a
vote, and we won by six votes.>>SPEAKER: That’s right.
>>SPEAKER: To go to an hour.>>SPEAKER: Mm-hmm.
>>SPEAKER: And out of 300-something.
>>SPEAKER: Exactly.>>SPEAKER: I felt like, oh,
never mind.>>SPEAKER: All you need is one
more.>>SPEAKER: Absolutely.
Democracy run.>>SPEAKER: So, while all this
was going on in the daily news, daily journalism world, you had
a very successful career as an interviewer in commercial
television. What was the appeal of public television?
>>SPEAKER: Well, I noticed that among the things they
thought might come up would be the question
of why I moved my show from, um, network television to PBS. I
was fired. (Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: That’ll do it .
>>SPEAKER: That’s pretty much what happened. So, that kind of
, um, opened the door, paved the way.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Whatever cliche you
prefer. It was a wonderful change . I was, of course, delighted
to get a show, terrified and very nervous at first, and the
trouble there, the kind that would come up on network, so-
called non-public television, so to speak, started on the first
day. I thought I had a wonderful show to present them
as my first show, to be played about a week later. Mohammed
Ali, Angela Lanesbury, did a wonderful, lively show, and
foolish boy from Nebraska that I am , I went back stage to be
congratulated by ABC Vice President, and I saw his
expression didn’t seem appropriate for a show that he
loved. I think it was worded who the, let’s say hell, um,
gives a damn, that’s a better word, what Mohammed Ali and Gora
Vedal think about Vietnam? Obviously, that had come up.
Second brilliant part of his reaction was we can’t really air
that as the first show because of that, and we’re going to air
it as the second show, and I seem to remember saying, are you
going to be like this all along ?
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: I saw Agent Sam
McCone wince over in the corner, and they did that. I did a
second show that was nice. We had them both, and they aired
the second show first, and it got mildly enthusiastic
reaction, and then they aired the first show the second night,
and reviewers were reviewing the whole week. Almost
everybody said about the second show, the Kavit Show really
found itself on the second show. (Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: I was sure that,
the man who had been waiting back stage to congratulate me
got a copy of that. So, that sort of thing happened, and then
there were other kinds of troubles that I would not have
gotten on, and didn’t, on PBS. One involved that lovable old
couple, the John Lenins, and they came on, and other people
were jealous, and the reviews and ratings were big, and that
was nice, and they even came back. John, when I met him a
week earlier, said, I said why do you want to do this, really?
There can’t be much you need at this point, and he said, well,
you have the only halfway intelligent show on television,
and I said, why would you want to be on a halfway intelligent
show? (Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: He laughed, as many
of you did, and we were friends from that point on, but on the
second show, who would have guessed, the agreement had been
that we would do one of their songs, and John said, well, do
one of Yoku’s songs, and it had the catchy title Woman is the
Nigger of the World, and, um, I thought , by god, we did this song, and
nothing happened, but before it was aired, I was told that it
would not be aired, the song, and I complained, and they said,
well, all right, we will air it, but our decision is that you
will make a statement beforehand about the dangers of
watching it, I guess. (Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: I remember one of
the, well, oh, and there were 412, perhaps, protests about
the song. None of them about the song though, but as one
woman put it, about that mille- mouth speech you delivered.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: My delivery sort of
encouraged that, I think. So, getting to PBS was going into a
green meadow, in a way.>>SPEAKER: Well, I want to
hear more about the green meadow , but Coce, I want to come to
you, because we heard Bill Simmering say words to the
effect that they felt that NPR should have had a, the early
head-start that PBS did. Did you feel that?
>>SPEAKER: Oh, sure. It’s still true, to some degree, but
it turned out to be a blessing, I think, and Bill can probably
talk about this more, that it was kind of a secret at first,
because at the point when Nixon did go after television, and
basically, the television network committed suicide, NPR
was still there, and there was no necessity to disband it,
because it wasn’t on the radar, and, so, um, the ability to just grow and
thrive was much easier in that environment, but then the
growing and thriving, um, became something quite dramatic, and
as of today, we are listened to by more people than the three,
you know, it’s listened to by more people than the three
network morning shows combined. It is listened to by more
people other than anything but Rush Limbal. The difference in
ratings is about a half a million people . So, it is wildly successful,
and really, the primary source of news for millions of people
around the world.>>SPEAKER: And commercial
radio has pulled back from this dramatically over the years.
>>SPEAKER: That’s also true.>>SPEAKER: Leaving a big
opening. So, you were paying attention to all this in
California, but you and some of your friends, um, decided there
was something missing. What did you see?
>>SPEAKER: Well, first of all, there was little, at that time,
little or no news on radio, and that is true today . Spanish language commercial
radio, there is no news. I mean, it sounds maybe sort of
shocking, most of us believe in the mission, but it’s absent.
It’s a shocking truth, that there is no news in Spanish
language radio, and when we got started back in 76, we got started on July 4th,
1980. The population of Latinos in the U.S. was around
15 million, which is around 6.5 percent of the U.S. population.
Now, it’s 58 million, and 18 percent of the population, and
72 percent of Latinos speak Spanish at home home. So, this
is not something of the past. You know, some of us were young
at that time, right? And we had big dreams, but rather it’s
something that is very relevant today, and yet there is no news
in Spanish language commercial radio.
>>SPEAKER: Stunning.>>SPEAKER: Very stunning.
It’s a story that, um, some of us don’t want to, perhaps,
believe, but it is true, and, um, so, back in 1976, when we
started organizing, I started organizing this in Fresno, um, you know,
it’s a community that I came to, because I was born in esh
raised in Sonoma County, where the fires were recently, and
then went to the Silicon Valley . You know, it’s, the amount of
people that I came in contact with, they saw the same thing,
all these Mexican Americans, all of us, all of them were
U.S.-born, except for me, I was the only immigrant, and all of
us were bilingual and educated. We were the
first generation of Latinos to be opened the doors to higher
education. So, that contributed a lot to why it was founded,
because we saw this degree of limitation of public
broadcasting, but not just public broadcasting, but, you
know, English language media that we, as luteen ors or asLatinos, could not access
because of the language, but not just the language, and I see
everybody here, you know, there’s much more than the
language. There’s the culture, the history, the nuances of
language, the literature, the poetry, the arts, all that, and
that was absent in terms of, and we, as young people, thought,
well, wow, you know, it seems like our treasures, our
community treasures are hidden treasures. We have so much, um,
you know, wealth of history, we have so much wealth of art and
so forth in our communities, and we should be able to share that
and learn from one another. So , that’s why we established this
in 1976, then went on the air in 1980.
>>SPEAKER: And it’s still going?
>>SPEAKER: It’s still going, and we also believed public
affairs had to be part of it, because what we wanted to do is,
just like in this situation, we wanted, um, us, as Mexican
Americans and Latinos, to tell the story, have our own
narrative, to be inclusive. I mean, if you look at, for
example, the prison population today in the United States, you
know, something like 19 percent of the, um, imprisoned
population in the U.S. is Latino . So, a lot of our communities
in need. The highest drop-out rates from high schools continue
to be Latinos in the United States, and yet you see the
figures of how a significant number of Latinos, and we’re
projected to grow even larger. So, that’s why we founded it,
because we wanted that to happen. So, we’ve been able to
document and follow some of the stories that some of the other
media have not. For example, there’s a case of, um, of an
indigenous woman living in the south, who was the, you know,
parenting her child , not parenting her child at
birth because she could not communicate in English or
Spanish, because she spoke a native language from my home
state. So, it’s, um, you know, it’s that kind of a case, where
some community, um, folks there from, I think it was Alabama,
called our station and told them the story, and we broke the
story, and the mainstream media picked it up, and eventually,
she recovered her child, but that’s the kind of stories that
we recover, or right now, what’s happening, talk about the need,
there’s, um, a lot of fear among our families about, you
know, deportations, and maybe to those of us in this room, it’s
just another topic, but to people who listen to us, our
listeners, it’s very, very personal. I mean, just, um, I
think about a month, a couple months ago, we had a call from,
um, a mother from Tracy, California, when we opened the
lines, and we were also giving out information at that time,
and she was saying that her son had gone into depression after
the election. He knew what was about to happen, and he was a
DACA recipient, and he had quit his college upon, after the
election, and then soon, later, he quit his job. So, the mother
was very worried about her son and what was about to happen.
So, this is the kind of stories and narratives that are carried.
>>SPEAKER: You’re touching, um, stories of all American
lives, and that’s what public broadcasting, public media, was
founded to do. Jim, let’s talk next, um, for a few minutes
about how hard, or not, it’s been to survive as public media,
as news and public affairs in public media. A lot of competition out
there. The news, the commercial news environment has changed so
drastically. Um, why has public media remained, news and
public affairs remained as strong as it has, do you think?
>>SPEAKER: Well, first of all, McNeal and I said at the very
beginning, um, that if people started, if commercial
television came along, when cable started growing, in fact,
particularly, if they started doing what we’re doing, we’d
quit doing it. There’s no point in our doing, um, what’s
already, what’s available else where. We’ll go on and do
something else, and, um, we had a lot of ideas of other things
that we could do, but as we sit here now, nobody’s done it, and,
um, in fact, there is more, now more than ever, they would say,
the kind of journalism that is practiced on the news hour is
more needed now than ever before, because journalism on
television has had its own growth and its own kinds of, um,
changes, and those changes have been away from the kind of
separation of straight reporting , from analysis, from opinion,
that sort of thing, which is still true of the news hour, but
not true in some elements of commercial television,
particularly cable television, and, so, the reason for our
being, let’s just cut to the chase, the reason for our being
is stronger now than it has ever been .
>>SPEAKER: Good point.>>SPEAKER: We’ll let that just
sit there, because I think it’s right.
(Applause.)>>SPEAKER: But Sharon, as
somebody who has to look at this both, you know, as you know
journalists very well, but you have to think about it as a
manager, as an executive, how hard has it been to keep news
and public affairs going? And we should add, you oversee The
Ken Burns, it’s not just The News Hour and Washington Week,
it’s that show and many others.>>SPEAKER: Well, I think one
of the things that’s great about the public television audience
is that it’s pretty well-educated. Above all, it
continues to want to learn. So, keeping up on a daily basis is
important, but putting in context weekly, as we do on
Washington Week, is very important, and history, the
arts, science, kids, all of the rest means we serve so many
different people in so many different ways, but our
signature is the news and public affairs. It’s the hardest to
fund, and yet our membership money essentially helps
subsidize, although we raise a lot for the news hour, we raise
a good bit for Washington Week, but we never make a profit,
let’s put it that way, we always reinvest in the product and
could spend a lot more than we take in. I think it is our
trademark, our signature. We’re very proud of it, and I think
our audience is proud to be associated with what we do.
>>SPEAKER: But it’s always been difficult to keep it
funded. Always. We’ve never had, we don’t even, the word
surplus doesn’t even, it’s not even in our vocabulary. We’re
always either over budget or having to cut back, and that’s
been from day one, and I hate to say this, but, um, at the very
beginning, when we first started, which was now 38 years
ago, there was a commercial television guy named Marvin
Kalb, I ran into him socially, we’d been on the air a year or
two at that point, and I didn’t know Marvin Kalb, and he said,
yeah, well, you guys are doing things, but let me give you a
warning, and I said, what’s that? He said don’t let them
give you too much money, and I said, that’s not a problem, but
just for the hell of it, tell me why, and he told a quick
story, and he had scads of them, but one in particular, um, CBS
News, he was going to do a minute and
a half, it was going to be a major story, they kept cutting
it back, complainting cutting it back, and a minute or two
before air, they got some great fire footage from downtown
Little Rock. Now, nobody was hurt in the fire, just great
pictures of fires, and they cut his report back to 20 seconds,
and he said if they hadn’t had the money to buy that fire
footage, I would have had my minute and a half. So, and it
was, but it was, clearly, it stuck in my mind, because I just
told the story again, but it, and McNeal always said that too,
you know, if you get too fat and sassy, you will, you’ll do
things that you will do, you’ll do things that you, that are not
required. This way, when you’re limited by money, it
limits you to do what you must rather than what you just kind
of want to do.>>SPEAKER: Well, in radio,
that’s really not true, because what we’re doing is opening
bureaus all over the place, and when we’re living in a world
where what happens in sin tog muSquare in Athens affects your
401K, then you need to have more international coverage rather
than less, and of course, more national coverage,
understanding what’s going on in this country, and, so, really,
the money goes to those very expensive foreign bureaus, which
are very, very difficult to do, but I would argue it’s
essential in this time. So, we need all the money we can get.
Thank you. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: Yeah, it’s probably a story I shouldn’t have told.
(Laughing.) speak>>SPEAKER: The one thing I
would say is, um, that corporations, in the early days,
we went to AT&T, etc., etc., we got huge amounts of money in
retrospect. That has diminished drastically, but foundations
have really upped the ante, and they understand, they’re more
visionary, they have a lot of money now, and it’s not that
we’ve never had a surplus, but foundations, and individuals,
who support the program now, we have, you know, you can give as
an individual to support the PBS News Hour, which was never
possible before, but we’re doing that in a membership kind of
way.>>SPEAKER: Did the funding
situation affect the work you were able to do, do you think,
in any way? You, Dick.>>SPEAKER: I recognize my
name. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: Gee, I like fires. (Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Um, I was never
thoughtful or thinking about such things as funding. That’s
a bad habit, sort of frame of mind for me, and I had to be
urged every now and then to make a phone call or make an effort
or something like that, but I was thinking of shows that I was
able to do. People said, oh, you’re going into public
television now, that’s for intellectuals. Intellectual is
a very dangerous label to have put on you when you’re in
television, whether it’s public or the other sort, but I
remember appreciating the fact that ABC would have gotten a
little nervous when I would have on England’s great entertaining
performer/actor/philosopher /teacher, Jonathan Miller, one
of the greatest intellectuals in captivity, and would have him
on five nights in a row, and people wanted more. I can
imagine trying to do that, um, else where. So, I really wasn’t
conscious of funding in ways that probably were harmful to
me, because I’m sure I might have been able to help with it,
if I had pitched in in certain ways.
>>SPEAKER: But did you feel the freedom to do pretty much
what you wanted when you were working at PBS? Interview the
people you wanted and do the kind of programming you wanted
to do?>>SPEAKER: Oh, I did. Yes. I
usually just did the kind of programming I wanted to do, and
I got away with it. I’m not aware of any particular gripes
of the sort I was used to on ABC .
>>SPEAKER: Well, good. We’ll take that.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Am I disgustingly
happy? (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: That’s good.>>SPEAKER: I’m going to come
back to Hugo. How do you see this question of resources?
How much of an issue is it? Are you able to ignore it? I mean,
how does it affect what you’re able to do?
>>SPEAKER: Well, first of all, I want to say that it’s really,
really important that we maintain that independence of
public broadcasting, whether it be on radio or television.
That’s a value that we always have shared and something we
have to be careful about. So, how do you build not just a
station, but in this case, a network? We have 60
affiliates. How do you build a network when you’re serving
people with, literally, no disposable income, right? I
mean, so, it’s, you know, so, part of it is the employees
subsidize the service in part, which spans the history of
public television, public radio.>>SPEAKER: Subsidize how?
>>SPEAKER: Lower salaries, for example, for starters, and the
other is to be able to keep those employees, you know,
that’s a real, real challenge for us. Um, but the other is
that, um, it’s foundations that have, we manage to attract, but,
um, as the competition for that has grown, our share of that
has gone lower for public affairs and for news and
information from the foundation ations. So, it’s really, really
difficult for us, and, so, I would say that for news
information in Spanish, it’s really difficult for us to
maintain that.>>SPEAKER: So, that leads to
my last question. How do you see the future of news? The
future of public affairs in radio and television. Do you
feel confident about it? I mean, I like to feel very
confident about it, because wherever I go, I get, I hear
good things about The News Hour, but what do you feel?
What do you hear?>>SPEAKER: I think that, um,
one of the things that we’re learning is that Congress
actually likes NPR, and they can’t always say it out loud,
but, um, the truth is is that, um, it gets back to what Nick
was saying earlier, they’re all, you know, they’re on, and it’s
in all of their districts, and it is the source of news, but,
of course, the federal funding is a tiny percentage of NPR
money, it’s really just for the satellite, but the stations rely
on it a lot, particularly the small rural stations, and that’s
an important thing to keepin mind, that these are people who
really are desperate for this kind of information, and
sometimes, it’s also the only, um, emergency signal, you know,
all of that, and, so, um, I think that the fact of the
service is so widespread and diverse and so well listened to
by people in all areas of American life that I feel very
confident about the future, but I do think it requires resources
.>>SPEAKER: I was going to say
that the last two years, the last year and a half have proven
more than ever the need for what we do. It is so complex,
depressing to many, hopeful to those who thought they were
electing someone who would stand for them, but the country is
changing so fast, the political system is practically
impossible to understand. We, despair being despair being ungovernable, but
who brings some sense and order and rationale to what happened
today and this week and this year, plus analysis, plus
thoughtful, complex, sensitive, um, ideas about what might
happen in the future, we are doing that in a way that nobody
else is, and if we just stay true to our mission, stick to
the straight and narrow, I think we’ve got a great future in
news and public affairs.>>SPEAKER: I agree 100
percent. (Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Every one of us — , I was just going to say amen
and add a couple lines. The basic need for the free press
was setup by the founders, and the key to our Democratic
society is an informed electorate, an informed public.
The only device that the founders created through the
First Amendment was the free press. That’s the device for
people to get information, to cast and form votes, and all
levels in government, and we are, what we, public
broadcasting, but we in journalism, we who facilitate it
and practice it and participate in it at any level are part of
a Democratic process that is particularly critical right now
with this explosion of information that’s coming out,
with the tsunami of electronic this and that gadget and this
and all this stuff, this is a critical time, and I agree with
what Sharon said, we must not lose sight of what our purpose
is, and it isn’t about making people laugh, it isn’t about
people making, making them cry, it’s about keeping them
informed enough to function as informed people in this country,
informed citizens. (Applause.)
>>SPEAKER: Thank you. Dick?
>>SPEAKER: I, too, agree with Sharon on that, particularly in
this, um–>>SPEAKER: You don’t agree
with me? (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: I’ll get to you in a minute.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Um, as we are all
living in this seeming time of plague, um, certainly, there has
to be the service that only public broadcasting can do so
well and continue to be the great garden of thrilling,
varied, wonderful things that are not available else where on
television. They’re still not beholden, and they are, public
television is still vital to our lives. Sounds corny, but I
believe it. (Applause.)>>SPEAKER: If you’re not
optimistic, you can’t speak. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: I am, and I agree with, um, these distinguished
panelists, and in terms of, um, Spanish language news and
information, I think the need is there for basic information,
along with, you know, news and information to the Latino
community, and I think the future, um, for Spanish language
media is to be able to communicate that at forums, so
thank you for the invitation, um, of what the reality is and
the need for that, because it’s so critical, and, so, thank you
very, very much.>>SPEAKER: So critical. I
just want to thank all of the panelists, but I also want to
quickly read a little bit of an e-mail, um, we at The News Hour
got yesterday from our colleague, Jeff Brown, who had
been interviewing inmates at San Quintin Prison for a story
they’re working on about a podcast they’re producing, which
is going to appear, but what I want to share with you is Jeff
wrote all of us to say that several dozen inmates in
different parts of the prison, different places, from
different parts of the country, came up to him and the crew
while they were there to say, hey, PBS, we don’t know what we
would do without PBS. (Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: They went on to say
how much the program means. While Jeff is interviewing an
inmate in one cell, they can hear the program in the next
cell being listened to, so I just want to say that we are, we
reach people in public media in every corner of this country.
We’re not just in the intellec tual capitols and the political
capitols and the places of great wealth, we are in parts of the
country where people are struggling and trying to get
their lives back together, and those are the stories that we
will always tell, along with all the others. So, what an
amazing panel. Thank you.>>SPEAKER: If they were, some
of those inmates were to, um, join their local public
broadcasts, it would be a wonderful funding.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: We thought about
that.>>SPEAKER: I will tell you one
quick story, because it gets to the excellent point you just
made. At one point, when Susan Stanburg was the regular host
of All Things Considered, and she took a leave to write a
book, a farmer wrote to her and said my cows won’t give milk.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: And he was always
going into the milking barn and turning on All Things
Considered, and they heard Susan and gave milk.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: And without Susan,
no milk. (Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Okay. We’ve heard
it. (Applause.)
>>SPEAKER: Thank you all.>>SPEAKER: Thank you,
everybody, and thank you to the panels. We’re going to take a
short break now. However, we hope
you will stay to watch some of the clips we’ve put together to
wrap-up this previous panel and launch the next panel, which is
documentary, style, and use of archives, which will begin at
4:00 o’clock. Thank you.>>SPEAKER: If everyone could get to their seats and
settle down so we can start the next session . If everybody could take their
seats so we could get started. Could everyone get seated,
please? There are more seats upfront
now, since some of the speakers have left, if people want to
fill in . We’re going to get started
now, so if people could sit down. We’re not on as tight of
a schedule, because Judy is going to make it to The News
Hour, but we would still like to keep the time. Our next panel is called
documentaries: Style and the use of archives, and Pat
Aufderheide will moderate. She is a communications professor at
American University in Washington, DC. She founded the
school center for media and social impact. Her books
include Reclaiming Fair Use, How to Put Balance Back In
Copyright. She coordinates the free speech — Pat, take it
away.>>SPEAKER: What a great
pleasure it is. I feel like my entire life is passing before me
as I look around the crowd, but this, to be on a panel with
these people is really extraordinary. Um, each of the
people here has been able to not merely make great documentary,
but create a future for a different kind of documentary
than was ever possible on any other kind of television to be
made, and each of them has, um, has contributed differently to
doing that, and also, in some cases, supporting each other,
which is really, um, I don’t know if I’m giving away secrets
here, but that doesn’t always happen in public television.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Anyway, um, and
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of these people as
well, because, um, as Karen mentioned, over the last decade,
Peter and I have been working with different organizations to
make fair use more available, particularly in archival ways,
to, um, to makers and public TV broadcasters, including some of
these people have really been, um, incredibly supportive and
early adopters in being able to make, um, better use of
material, third-party material to tell America’s story in so
many different ways. I want to start, first, with Clayborne
Carson. So, Clayborne Carson is the founder, director of the
Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. He,
um, was the senior advisor for Eyes On The Prize at a time when
no one thought it could be made . I would like to ask each of
you, starting with Clayborne, to talk about what did you have in
mind for these series, each of you have this experience, of
these series that ended up really providing a template for
how to do things in the future for film makers that really hadn’t
been done.>>SPEAKER: To start out, one
of the things that’s so interesting, to listen to the
previous panel, is that, um, you know, just yesterday, I was
lecturing at Stanford to my students who were born well
after all this had happened, and, um, I think that they were
telling me about a period before I came on the scene, so I
suddenly felt younger, in the sense that when, um, I was, I
got a call from Henry Hampton, who should be here. He,
unfortunately, passed away, died way too early, but he was the
visionary , and I had just accepted an
invitation to edit Martin Luther King’s papers, so it wasn’t like I was looking for work. I
realized that this was going to take decades, and it has taken
decades, to edit and publish his papers, but what he was, he
talked about his idea for a series, and I think one of the
themes that I see running through all the discussions this
afternoon is about democrat ization of information and the
interpretation of history , of the way in which, if you
think back to the days before PBS, before NPR, before the
modern documentary style, most information about the past came
from a few sources. If you saw a documentary, it was usually
made by a, well, they didn’t have large-scale documentaries
made by anything other than large corporations. A lot of
them, things like CBS Reports, things like that, they were done
by the commercial networks, and what he was proposing was to do
something very radical, and that is to get away from the
notion of history as a master narrative told by a handful of
people and written in textbooks andbooks, and everyone kind of
took that as authoritative. One of the first things he said
is there’s not going to be any what we now call talking heads
in Eyes On The Prize, that our job was not to come there and
pontif Kate, and, you know, the four of us who were the senior
advisors were all really young, and I don’t think we would have
welcomed that role in the first place, but what our job was, to
go and find how history was made during the nineteen 60s, fifty
and fifty and 60s, and to go to the
sources and find those people and let them tell the story of
how they made history, not to interpret it .
>>SPEAKER: That was a breakthrough.
>>SPEAKER: Yes, because even now, when you look at
documentaries, you see that many of them kind of go back to that
notion, by having the authoritative historian kind of
give this interpretation that’s going to guide you through, but
there’s this other story of these ordinary people who make
history , and the real joy of doing it
was that for us, as historians, we were in our own work, you
know, my first book was on the student on violent coordinating
committee, which was not about King, it was kind of the
counter-King story. So, I welcome that kind of an
approach, and I think that that has influenced the documentaries
that have been made since then , that many of them do take up
that mantle of allowing ordinary people to tell the story of
making history.>>SPEAKER: From what you’re
telling me as well, not that, so, one characteristic, this is
ordinary people telling this story, and also, in an oral
history way. I mean, there was so much rich oral history that
had not, that would have escaped us forever.
>>SPEAKER: And now it’s interesting, because I can go
into my classroom and use those, um,
interviews. I rarely use Eyes On The Prize, but I use the
interviews we did, and often, that works so much better in the
sense that it’ll, I get it to the point where it fits what I
want to talk about. If I want to talk about Karetta Scott King, for
example, there’s this wonderful extended interview we did with
her, where maybe we used, at most, 5 minutes of it, and I
find that my students are so drawn to just seeing her talk
about ordinary things, you knowerse you know, what was it like
talking to the President of the United States when your husband is in jail, and
you’ve never spoken to him before, and he calls on the
phone, and your young son answers the phone and starts
babbling away, and you have to kind of get him off and say the
President’s there, and, um, you know, that kind of a story is
going to get through and stick in the minds of students far
more than simply me giving a lecture about Martin Luther King
, going to jail and writing the letter from Birmingham jail.
>>SPEAKER: Something else I think was so important about
eyes on the prize in terms of standard-setting was really
arguing that every single image had to be exactly what you
claimed it was. It couldn’t be, like, something that looked
sort of like that, which was very common common.
>>SPEAKER: Yeah. There was no reconstruction. We had to, and
in fact, that was when, there’s a story, actually, that kind of
illustrates that. We were interviewing Ralph Abernathy
about the March on Washington, and he told this wonderful story
about coming back after that day at the march, I was there
too , and it had particular meaning
when he talked about coming back after all the people had
departed, and in the evening, seeing the rustling of the
papers and all the leftover things, and then he says, you
know, it was just the most beautiful day of my entire life,
and I remember David Garro, um, kind of saying but it couldn’t
have happened that way. Why? Because we know where Ralph
Abernathy was every moment of that day. So, we had this
debate about whether to trust his recollection as opposed to
our historical reconstruction, and, um, we decided to use it.
We said history might not have happened that way, maybe it
should have. (Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Let me jump to
David, if you don’t mind, who I remember when he was the brash,
young Australian . South Africa, sorry . Us Americans, what’s the
difference? (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: Here to bring us a whole new, um, format that was
possibly too challenging for public television.
>>SPEAKER: You know, I’m a creature of, I’m a baby of
public television. I walked into a television station in
1973 in Huntington Beach, and I walked in and volunteered, got
my hands on the tools, that camera that was there and began
working there. Peter McGuire McGhee found me there in 1977
and brought me to start a series, and the idea was to do a
series about the world as others see it, and I came to
WBGH to find a place that was this extraordinary institution
that was dedicated to ideas, and I had never been around
anything quite like it. It was also that each of the people
that were working in the different genres, from signs to
history to, um, even Julia Child, who was in the back
corner of our offices, um, were doing things because of, um,
they cared about the ideas, and, um, it was an extraordinary
privilege, and it is to this day, this amazing privilege.
The reason there’s a Frontline is because we were trusted with
enough resources for long enough to work it out, to try to
figure out how to do the best work, and the privilege of being
able to give them that resource and to say how are you going to
spend it and justify it, and if you can’t make the best film
you could make about the subject, then don’t make it, and
it was as simple as that. It wasn’t me, it was all the
talented people that I could go out and bring to public
television. I tried that out. We did 60 films along the way,
but there was a moment when I sat in a meeting at the
Corporation of Public Broadcasting, with a man who
must be remembered, Lewis Freedman was then the head of,
um, of programming, and he had walked into it, and he said he
was inenidated with thousands of proposals, and he just couldn’t
sort through it all, and he made a decision to do three big
strands. One was going to be drama, and it became American
Playhouse. The second was Children’s, and it became
Wonder-works, and the third was a news and documentary idea, and
I walked in looking for a little bit of funding to do
eight shows for the next seasons, and he made me sit down
at his table with a sandwich and figure out what the budget
for a 26-week series would look like, and we counted it up to $3
million at the time in 1981, and we came up with that
figure and said, well, we could probably do it for that much
money, and he said, great, I’m going to put out a request for
proposals, and he put out a proposal to various people, and
we proposed it and got the money, and the guarantee was
that we would have the money for three years, if we could
persuade the stations to match the money progressively over the
course of the three years. It was a visionary idea, and it
left us the freedom to do that, and we made our mistakes, and
we, you know, bumped our heads, and we did some good things and
found some smart people, and slowly, this idea grew. So, to
Lewis, to Peter McGhee, who found me on the beach and
brought me to Boston, you know, are the people I thank for
Frontline. That’s what made it happen, and, um, it really has
been, um, as simple as that and as complicated as that.
>>SPEAKER: Although Frontline has , it developed almost a brand,
that you really did put your stamp on a kind of documentary
–>>SPEAKER: But I’d like to say
that the films were very, well, I don’t know, see, I think
there were lots and lots of different styles of films within
them. They were observational films, investigative films, they
were, um, films like, um, you know, there were extraordinarily
different films that came about, and I always thought that
we needed to make the series that young and older producers,
reporters, and film makers would look at and say I can learn
from that, and the people would come to me and say how do you
make these films, I’d like to get into documentaries, I’d say
just watch a lot of them and try to deconstruct them and look
for the different ones that suit you for who you are and the
kind of film you make, because ultimately, these are works of
authorship, and if you encourage authors and then encourage them
because they do good work by giving them another film to
make, then you begin to build a body of work over time.
Frontline has, initially, we, um, you know, Judy was anchoring
the series after Jessica Sabage, but at a certain point,
we felt like, um, we would sort of take the extra time, and we
began to use Will Limen as a voice, and we made that
strategic decision, that there would be something in the
quality of the words, or the quality of the story-telling
that would say that’s that different thing, that’s that
show, and, so, there was a value to that. There were people who
questioned that Will is kind of old-fashioned and, um, the
patriarchy and all kinds of reasons that people would say we
should be using other voices, and we do, but ultimately, you
needed to have some kind of connective tissue at times that
would hold the string through the sets of films.
>>SPEAKER: So, you’re arguing if you could have some of these
marking features, then you could have a lot more freedom,
artistic freedom in other areas.>>SPEAKER: Yeah, but something
other than an anthology series, and the most important thing
about it was it was going to be a work of journalism, not an
anthology series made by independent film makers who
would come to us with films pretty much made, we
would initiate and subject them to the an editorial process,
which meant that the journalism had to be transparent, and we
needed to be, go right deep into it at any point and be able to
understand the source materials inside that film, and that was
at the heart of Frontline.>>SPEAKER: Margaret wants to
–>>SPEAKER: Margaret I also wanted to add that there
is another binding agent in Frontline, and when I came here,
I discovered this, because I had come from CBS, where I
worked at CBS Reports and then a couple of iterations of
magazine shows, and, um, CBS Reports closed, shut down,
because, um, TV Guide, you remember TV Guide? An artifact
of the past. They ran a front-page story, I mean a cover
story saying the documentary is dead, and this was in 1985.
>>SPEAKER: That’s when documentary was still a bad
word.>>SPEAKER: Yeah. So,
everybody went scurrying, and I got a great job offer from Peter
McGhee, who really needs to be mentioned as many times as
possible, because he sort of set the standards at WGBH, and, um,
they wanted, Peter and, Judy Kriten was the original
executive producer, they wanted to do a history series, but the
binding agent in the history series was good story-telling. It had
to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Narrative,
narrative, narrative. We even constructed the documentaries an ax, which was something that
most had not been doing. They had, um, on commercial
television, you had a lot of documentaries that were, like,
NBC White Paper and ABC, I forget what that series was
called, and they were surveys. They were mostly surveys from
the top-down, they weren’t stories, they weren’t actual
stories, where you had characters that you could follow
, and I think, um, that was an element that was emphasized at
GBH, and in particular, I know at American Experience, because
as we were talking before, you want to hear from as many people
as possible who are as close to the subject as possible and
that construct it very carefully to have a story arc, what
happened, then what happened next, what happened after that.
>>SPEAKER: So, let’s point out then that public television is
the real innovator of this character-driven story model
that now is standard expectation for documentary.
>>SPEAKER: Yeah, I think so, because, I mean, I don’t want to
take the credit for it, because it was, I didn’t invent the
narrative style, um, but it was something that was embraced
whole-heartedly by WGBH, and they gave all of us the
resources to figure it out, because when you tell, when
you’re in the process of telling a story, you need time to
figure out what the story is, who the main characters are, who
the secondary characters are, where the break is, what’s going
to happen next, how to conclude it, and without being, um, you
don’t have to tell the entire story, because everybody used to
agonize about what’s left out. Well, if you did your job
properly, no one would even notice notice that you left
anything out. Our philosophy was just go narrow
and go deep. I did want to comment on something you said
before about getting first-hand witnesses, because I admired
that in, um, Henry Hampton’s shop and Eyes on the Prize, and
I thought it was terrific. We had a challenge, because our
mandate was to tell all American history, you know, go back in
the 17th and 18th century, and we were terrified. We avoided
anything that was pre-archival at the beginning, and you can’t
find witnesses who were, one of our first shows was on the 1906
San Francisco earthquake. We barely got a couple of people to
make an appearance, and as soon as we found them, we shot them
immediately, you know, and put them in the bank, because we
didn’t even know we were going to go ahead with this story, but
it was a real stretch for us, and we had to challenge
ourselves to go back into the 19th century and even back into
the revolutionary period, so what we relied on, since we’re
here to talk about the archives, is letters, diaries,
first-hand accounts that could then be employed in many
different ways to recall, maybe it was the Donner Party, I mean,
you know, there’s no first-hand witnesses there, one
of our most suck esful films, and what did we rely on?
Diaries and letters.>>SPEAKER: So, one of the
things that is so, um, I think impressive about what both of
your series, and all of your work in documentaries did was
to, I think, create a sense of trust among the stations, for
something that they had dreaded and feared ever since the days
of NET, which was before there was a PBS and, you know, shows
like the red-lining show, so you sort of created, um, a sense
of quality, dignity, reliability, turn-key and so on
. Something else that is actually really interesting to
me is that public television, in building upon that, has been
able to actually foster a kind of, um, and as you describe it,
anthology show for independent voices as well, and impressively
, I have to say thank you to David Fanning for being so
supportive of anthology shows, as well as, um, these executive-produced
journalism series, and Steven Gong, one of the minority consortia of PPB, has also been involved in,
um, creating archives that we can all draw on. So, I’d love
to hear you talk a little bit about the, um, film-making that
goes to fuel the two big anthology series, POV and independent lens .
>>SPEAKER: Actually, if I could, I’d like to make a
reference to the panels we heard earlier, because the seeds of
the minority consortia, independent and diverse film
-makers really goes back to the same era of the great society,
so many of these entities were founded in the 70s, and it came
out of both Civil Rights, and in many of our cases, Moralis
touched on this also, of the rapidly-changing demographics of
the country, which was starting to be recognized even then.
You know, the Immigration Act was rewritten in 1965,and even
though it would take the rest of the generation, it has
reshaped America. So, in this time period I’m talking about,
the Asian-American community went from 1 percent of the
population, and now we’re 6 percent, over 20 million, and
it’s growing, and he mentioned the statistics for the Latino
community. So, the premise that we all had as this whole
enterprise was getting underway was where were these voices of
other communities for whom our presence in media overall was an
absence or was one of stereo types. So, for Asian-Americans,
in entertainment media, we are only, you know, the villains in
war movies, or we’re house boys or gangsters in Chinatown or
laundrymen, and, um, and yet we have this inspiration of the
Civil Rights Movement to recognize how important it was
for us to be able to participate in society. So, the mechanism
for us in the minority consortia and the wisdom for the
Corporation for Public Broadcasting was to help ensure
that there was a pipeline of programming by and about these
new minority communities, and we’d been doing this between 35
and 40 years, all of us, the five members of the
organization. One of the things that I, one of the first points
I want to make though, and in response to your question, was
that we have learned something deeper in this construct, that
it was important to, um, include the perspectives of people of
color in telling, um, diverse kinds of stories, be they about
history or social issues or even our cultural history, and I
think at first, we thought we were presenting authentic images
that our own communities could recognize. So, one piece that’s
really important is you can’t fully participate in the society
unless, in some ways, you see yourself and your stories told
in the society. The second point I think we came to
understand relatively quickly after that was that these
stories needed to be for all Americans though and not just
for our own communities. The Asian-American community would
be a good example, because we’re so diverse and so different in
language and cultural backgrounds that in some ways,
where you know, you’re an expert in no other culture, in a sense
, in this construct of Asian-America, but I would say
in the recent years, and this is where I want to end my thoughts
on this, I think we now, where we are today, in this question
of, really, who is an American and what is it that makes
America great, it’s clear that, I think in some ways, we took
for granted that there was an acceptance that diversity was an
important and a key factor of the American experience, but it
is vital that we stand in for this notion of what this country
can be and that we’re not just about our racial stories. You
know, diversity is within each of our communities as well, and
I think that’s the larger piece to reshift the way we all talk
about what is our common history, the way we examine
things, and I think we’re still exploring what these different
points of view mean, and it’s a journey we’ll all need to be on,
because we don’t have the guide stone of a, you know, sort of
white, European, male-dominated through history.
>>SPEAKER: Thank you very much. Does anybody want to jump
in before I, yes?>>SPEAKER: I think one of the
points I’d make is that all of us, in some ways, are
beneficiaries of the technological changes that have
lessened the cost and the, um, some would say even the skill
level to get into film-making, so that it has become much, much
easier to do what, you know, a film like Eyes on the Prize
today, you could probably do it for much less money, simply
because the equipment would be so much less, the editing
equipment, all of that sort of thing, and I think that looking
forward into the future, what I see coming out of African American film-making is
that poliferation is kind of pulling us, even within the
African American community, now you have gay film-makers, black
film-makers, might be trying to explain that experience, you
have so much diversity within each of these communities that
one thing I fear is that it’s very difficult to get a sense,
you know, right now, for example, I’ve been involved in
more than two dozen documentary films about Black American life,
and most of it 20th century, and it seems like the pace of
that keeps increasing , and I think there is that
concern that we’re losing a sense of even the commonality of
being black, much less being American, and maybe that’s good,
because otherwise, you would not have a sense that these
communities exist, but in terms of trying to get a sense of it,
you know, for many of my students, I teach, in fact, I’ll
be teaching next quarter a course on Black independent
film, and I find that maybe one student might have
seen some of these fairly famous films. Charles Burnette,
people who really made major contributions, they haven’t even
seen early Spike Lee, so it’s, um, they might have seen
Malcolm X, but that’s it. So, I think that one of the problems
we’re going to have is that there are audiences, but it’s
going to be smaller and smaller rather than larger and larger.
>>SPEAKER: So, let me actually address the changing
marketplace for documentaries, and I’d love to have any of your
responses. So, this is a point at which Netflix is busy giving
people money, and, um, is launching,
you know, entire lines, you’ve got, um, Vice and Vulture doing
instant journalism, Buzzfeed explainers apparently educating
an entire new generation, and you’ve got cable channels just
stuffed with wall-to-wall, something that looks sort of
like maybe documentary. Um, and you have a legacy that’s been
built-up largely through the hard work of public television
that is, that honors the notion of documentary as, like, a
really authentic true thing. At the same time, you have an
enormous proliferation and leaping into the marketplace of
Netflix, Amazon, and so many more, so what’s the role now of
public television documentary? You know, surely not the only
game in town. Um, expensive, oh my god, compared to, like,
almost any other source for documentary, and, um, relatively
slow compared to some of the others. What’s the role? No
pressure. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: But if you could provide us the answer.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: It’s an enormous
challenge. One of the great challenges is going to be, you
know, how do you pick your way through all of this stuff and
know what’s true and what’s trustworthy, and people maybe
won’t care about that as much. There’s going to be an enormous
amount of material that’s out there in the world, being
produced in all these different areas, and, um, it’s going to be
manipulated and used, because this is the most manipulative of
media, and it’s going to be, so we’re going to have a harder
and harder time trying to figure out what we can trust .
>>SPEAKER: The trust brand.
>>SPEAKER: The trust brand, and that goes to very expensive,
um, you know, high octane documentaries, made with big
budgets for HBO and for, um, Netflix and others as well.
There are, you know, it’s very easy to put your hand on the
scale, you know, in documentaries and to be able to
manipulate this medium towards certain points of view. There’s
nothing easier than to kind of, um, you know, Michael Moore’s
famous film of, you know, Fahrenheit 911, being able to
sort of get that sequences, it’s not hard to do, it’s very easy
to be able to manipulate archival material and to use it
in different ways, to lay a voice over it, so we have a deep
worry, I think, behind all of this as to what lies behind it
and where you have trust. The only thing that we can hold on
to is to say we really believe that you can trust us, and the
way in which you trust us is the body of work and the way in
which we keep doing it, and also, to make it as transparent
as possible. So, we made, for me, one of the great moments in
the life of Frontline was 1995, we’d just done a film on Waco,
the inside story, and, um, we’d done all these interviews with,
um, major FBI guys who were part of negotiating with Karesh, we
even had the audio tapes of the actual negotiations, and I kept
saying can’t we make a radio show, and somebody said, you can
put it on the web. What’s that ? 1995, we built —
>>SPEAKER: That was still mosaic.
>>SPEAKER: We built a website for Waco, the inside story, with
that archival material, plus I said, well, can’t we put the
whole film on there? And they said, well, you can’t do that
yet, and, so, then we put the interviews up, and all the
interviews for these were, and that website exists today,
people still actually write to us about that website, and from
then on, we began publishing all of the edited, longer versions
of the primary source materials behind the Frontline, so that
last week, the second film that ran of Puti n’s Revenge, there
were 65 interviews, a body of work that’s both historically
important, now, that’s not going to persuade the average person
that’s doing it that they’re going to go off and hunt through
the interview material, but you’ve made it completely
transparent. In some way, that seeps deeply into the culture,
that if we raise the bar really high, and hold to that bar, then
we begin to hold on to who we are and why we remain the only
place anywhere in the media culture that does that, and, so,
that’s our, um–>>SPEAKER: Okay, so, that’s
your answer. You want to go, Margaret?
>>SPEAKER: Yeah. What I just wanted to say is that you can
take that trust too, and we all had to learn, um, using new
platforms, and it was challenging, in many ways,
because we had been so schooled in the delivery of hour-
hour-long documentaries, or in the case of American Experience,
six-hour long documentaries or four-hour long documentaries,
which were big biographies of Presidents. Um, so, we had to
learn how to use the material on YouTube, and we had to learn
podcasting, and we had to learn all of the different platforms,
mobile platforms, where we could deliver the same kind of
context, shorter, but carries the same branding and the same,
um, scrutiny that goes into an hour-long documentary and
deliver it to your students, who are not going to be watching
hour-long documentaries documentaries, I mean unless
somebody leads them to it and shows them what the benefits are
and what the range of interest is.
>>SPEAKER: And we’re doing that. We’re getting millions of
viewers through Facebook.>>SPEAKER: I think we’re
sitting in an archive. I think for any documentary, one of the
most important tasks is what do you do with all the material
that you’ve brought together, especially the video material,
and I think one of the most important decisions for Eyes on
the Prize was to put it in an archive, where now you can go
and, um, watch the entire Coretta King interview or any
other interview done during that time.
>>SPEAKER: So, we’re going to run out of time. I want to make
sure we get your answer, Steve, for the, the answer for trust
has been partly transparency, but it’s also been partly brand.
Trust us, because we are PBS, we are American Experience, we
are Frontline, and you’re dealing with a different
community, who are, um, independent film-makers of, um,
in your case, specifically Asian-American film-makers, but
each consortia does, in the series, they showcase their work
, all of this work which is very , very different, so how do you
address Clay’s point about a sintriffial universe of
information out there?>>SPEAKER: You know,
historically, our stuff shows up into the system through a
variety of ways, not through one particular strand, you know,
one brand, although in recent times, in fact, we have a
project that’s going on American Experience next May that makes
extensive use of archival materials, and we’re also
participating in the, um, archives of public broadcasting,
I’m really proud of, but to speak in general of this, you
know, a hundred titles a year that collectively come from
independent sources, and we put our stuff on POV, that many of
you may know about, um, you know, it is a, I am optimistic
moving into the future, because this is what we all have to
learn, how to incorporate many more points of view and many
more voices in public broadcasting, and if you stay
true to that, and it’s absolutely mission-driven, what
we heard earlier, it is the future, and then make use of
this incredible education network. I’m going to setup the
next panel for you, PBS learning media, which we, you
know, put our materials on and make available to teachers, um,
that I feel very confident about the future of this enterprise,
because there are thousands, tens of thousands of young
makers who really want to speak authentic stories, that don’t
necessarily have to be in commercial media and be all
about selling a product, or even in the best sense, just to
entertain alone. I think there are so many issues that we share
in public broadcasting, if it stays true to the mission, is
that singular place.>>SPEAKER: So, we’re going to,
um, we’ve got, like, 3 more minutes, and I’d like to be able
to use them to talk to the issue you addressed, which is
archives, and Clay has told us about, is Eyes on the Prize work
in APB somewhere?>>SPEAKER: Yes. Same as
always .
>>SPEAKER: Is D Den Show?
>>SPEAKER: That’s an online digital archive, and we have
placed a number of our collections, the collection
where he interviewed hundreds and hundreds of veterans, we’ve
placed all those interviews on that source, but all of the
other kinds of works, they’re going to go into library of
Congress as part of our collections.
>>SPEAKER: Fantastic. You?>>SPEAKER: I would just
recommend seeing the Putin’s Revenge stuff. It was
done with Duke, and it’s state of the art technology. 65
interviews, they’re all video interviews, you can both read it
and be able to track the video at the same time. You can reach
in and clip a piece out and share it, and, um, it’s the most
interactive, profoundly sort of, um, impressive archive.
>>SPEAKER: Fantastic. And in terms of APB, is there
Frontline material?>>SPEAKER: I think it’s due.
Karen tells me it’s in the pipeline.
>>SPEAKER: Can I, I just want to go back a little bit to
something he had said about the appetite for documentaries. I
also am on the board of POV, the independent documentary series,
and I am astonished, every year, we have an open call, and
we get more than a thousand entries from independent
producers, and of those, it has to be called to, like, we’ve got
18 slots, so that’s every single year, and even in the,
after the, during the, you know, in the middle of the year, when
there’s no entry date, they get inundated with phone calls, or
they get tapes or, you know, um, links to films that have been
produced, so there’s something going on. It reminds me of the
time when, you know, I was at CBS, and they announced the
death of the documentary, I don’t think we can say that the
documentary is dying. I see quite the opposite. I see this
hunger in young people, made possible by technology, in some
cases, and also, just this kind of, um, incessant, fervent
curiosity that they have about their world, and they’re making
these films for practically nothing, and some of them are
really terrific. So, I’m optimistic.>>SPEAKER: Um, I interrupted
you, Clay.>>SPEAKER: Two words that have
not come up and that are really central in this is intellectual
property, and I think that, in general, scholarship and
documentary film- film-makers have not been aggressive enough
in using fair use. I think that in part, that comes from when,
a particular film that I was involved in, when it came to
being shown on PBS, PBS required certain kinds of
coverage, you know, for obvious reasons, legal reasons, and that
forced them to go back, and in this case, you know, have to
take out, um, things, so I think at every level, intellectual
property issues have been crucial. Not so much in terms
of cost, but just uncertainty about use.
>>SPEAKER: And people all being on the same page about
what they regard as acceptable, which is where the best
practices have been somewhat helpful. All right, last
comments? Because we have, like, 15 seconds left. Go.
>>SPEAKER: Thank you. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: Your 15 seconds?>>SPEAKER: Thank you.
>>SPEAKER: I thank you. Yes. Thank you.
(Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Thank you,
everybody. Our next panel is going to begin. We’re going to
show some clips, which I hope you’ll stay seated this time to watch. Um,
it’s on educational uses of public broadcasting, and it will
begin, the panel will begin at 5:10, but we’re going to start
clips right now. And will the panelists please come and get
mic ‘d? Thank you.>>SPEAKER: So, our moderator
for our next panel on the educational uses of public
broadcasting is the person who during most of my tenure as the
head of WGBH held the purse strings, first at PBS and then
at CBB, because she had the most important programming jobs in
those two institutions, not simultaneously, I would say.
Jennifer Lawson was the Executive Vice President of
programming and commercial services at PBS, and then was
Senior Vice President for television and digital content
at CBP, and during a little bit of time between those two, she
ran the Howard University public station, WHUT. Jennifer has
received numerous awards and honors for her work in public
media. The Hollywood Reporter named her, at one point, one of
the 50 most influential women in entertainment in the world.
So, Jennifer, take it away. (Applause.)
>>SPEAKER: Thank you very much. Education is a
fundamental element of public broadcasting. Public television
was established as educational television first in many places
around the country, the E in the call letters of many
stations, like WETA, or KCET in Los Angeles , references education, and
several of the 362 public television stations are licensed
to universities, such as the one Henry just mentioned, W WGBH
at Howard University, or Arizona PBS, which originated at
Arizona State University. Public television, together with
public non-commercial radio, combined to serve as the most
consistent and significant place for informal learning for
listeners and viewers of all ages. We’ll discuss public
broadcasting’s educational underpinnings, its legacy, and
how the preservation of this content creates future
opportunities. I have the privilege now of introducing our
distinguished panel, and we have here Paula Apsell, who is director of the
WGBH science unit. Nova has won every major broadcasting award,
including the Emmy, the Peabody, the AAAS Science
Journalism Award, and the DuPont Columbia Gold Baton, as well as
an academy award nomination. She has also been recognized
with numerous personal awards . Nova is a favorite of
teachers who make extensive use of its high-quality educational
materials and its website, with popular short videos and thought
leader columns as one of the most popular on PBS.org. Lloyd
Morrisett, Lloyd is a co-creator of Sesame Street and
a co-founder of Sesame Workshop , which produces Sesame Street.
He was board chair of the workshop for 30 years and is now
a trustee and chairman emeritus . He is also an experimental
psychology scholar, a former Vice President of the Carnegie
Corporation and the Carnegie Foundation for the advancement
of teaching. He was President of the John and Mary Markell
Foundation from foundation. He is currently a
trustee of Public Agenda, a non-profit organization
conducting research to inform public policy issues. Kathryn
Ostrofsky teaches in the Department of History at Angelou
State University in San Angelou, Texas. Kathryn’s areas
of research and teaching include 20th century U.S.
cultural history, sound studies, television studies, the history
of race and ethnicity, and the history of media and
communications. She is also working to preserve audio,
visual, and paper archival sources related to children’s
television. She has a doctorate in history from the University
of Pennsylvania, and her oral history of the the 1970s through
the sounds of Sesame Street has led to numerous speaking
engagements and conference presentations. She is under
contract with the University of California Press for a book on
this topic. I’d like to start with Lloyd Morrisett and to talk
a bit about the origins of Sesame Street, and I know that
you were at the Carnegie Foundation and had a very good
overview of the state of education in America at that
time, and I would just, I think it would be really useful if you
would put Sesame Street in that, in the context of those
times and tell us a little bit about what led to its creation.
>>SPEAKER: Well, those of you who are expecting Elmo, I’m not Elmo.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: I think, to talk
about the origins of Sesame Street, you have to re-create in
your minds the events of that decade, and I’m going to list
them here, and I’m going to read the list, because I don’t want
to leave anything out. 1960, television may have given
Senator John F. Kennedy the edge he needed to defeat Vice
President Nixon in the first televised presidential debate.
Kennedy wins the election by a margin of 113,000 votes out of
69 million votes cast. 1961, FCC chairman makes his famous
speech, declaring that television is a vast wasteland.
1962, 90 percent of Americans own a television set. ABC
begins broadcasting in color. The federal government funds
public broadcasting through the Education Television Facilities
Act. June of 1962, President Kennedy
federalizes Alabama’s National Guard and orders Governor
George Wallace to allow two black students to be enrolled at
the university . Just recounting these events,
I find I’m very emotional. In January of 1962, Martin Luther King
delivers his I Have A Dream speech. In August, more than
200,000 Americans march on Washington in support of civil
rights. 1964, the 24th Amendment to
the Constitution makes U.S. poll taxes unconstitutional. March
1964, President Johnson declares a war on poverty. He signs an
Economic Opportunity Act in August. Again, in 1964,
President Johnson signs the bill enacting Medicare. The great
society is underway. In August of 1964, Congress approves the
resolution authorizing President Johnson to take all necessary
majors to repel any armed attack against forces of the United
States and to prevent further aggression. December of of
1964, President Johnson announces a substantial
increase in — inaudible — in in 1965, January, in a state of
the union message, President Johnson outlines the program for
the great society that will eliminate poverty in America.
In February, Dr. Martin Luther King is arrested in Selma,
Alabama . In February, also, Malcolm X
is assassinated coincidentally during national
brotherhood week. June of 1965, Congress authorizes the
use of ground troops in Vietnam, . A complete ground defense is
underway, and the column will collapse in a few weeks weeks
weeks. Not months, but weeks. 125,000 troops are in
Vietnam. In August that year, the Voting Rights Act becomes
law, and in August of that year, the Carnegie Commission on
educational television begins its landmark study of broadcast.
In 1967, public broadcasting laboratory airs over national
educational television. It is a Sunday night magazine program
designed to showcase the relevance and importance of
public television. We’ll come back to that, because that was
much more important historically in public broadcasting than is
generally recognized. In March of 1968, President Johnson
announces that he will not accept the nomination for
another term. His presidency has become another casualty of
Vietnam War. In 1968 in April, Martin Luther King is
assassinated . In 1969 — inaudible — begins,
five nights a week. In November of that year, Sesame Street
goes on the air . Now, as you can tell from my
emotions, this was a very turbulent time . It strongly affected all of
us, all of us who were alive then, and it was out of that in
part that Sesame Street was born . We started working on the
idea in 1966, and the people that came
to us to help, our Executive Vice President, for example,
Joan Kuney obviously joined me in the original idea, all of us
were very affected by the events I’ve discussed, and so Sesame
Street was in part born out of a belief in civil rights that we
all had . The fact that it appeared on
public television was somewhat of an accident. When we first
started to raise money for it in 1966, Doc Hal had become
commissioner of education, and he had been formally
superintendent of schools in scarsdale, and he was one of the
first people we talked to about it. He, after some
deliberation, overruled his staff and said that he would
find $4 million to help us get on
the air. So, with that $4 million, plus the million
dollars that Carnegie had already put up, we had $5 million. Lou Halesman, who
was Doc Hal’s point person in , Lou came out of NBC
television, and he strongly believed that the program should
be on commercial television. He said where are the people
going? They’re on commercial television, that’s where you
have to be. So, we took that advice seriously, and I met
with, um, NBC, CBS, Group W Broadcasting, and got very nice,
um, a very nice reception, but no money, no airtime. The
program was fully funded, but we couldn’t understand, I
couldn’t understand, in my naivety, why, with a fully
funded program, we couldn’t have any airtime. Later, I
realized, and I’ve realized it ever since, that the advertising
part wasn’t interested in having those minutes sold that
way. They wanted to raise money around the program, and they
couldn’t, so the commercial broadcasters turned us down, and
just at that point, the Public Broadcasting Act had been
signed, and public broadcasting needed programming, we needed
airtime, it was a, I won’t say it was made in heaven, but it
was certainly made by an accident of history. So, the
things that made it possible, in addition to the
one that I’ve already cited, are that the people, essentially,
who created the climate to accept the idea of a children’s
television program were all in their place. John Gardener had
been my boss at Carnegie, was a good friend. Doc Hal had also
become a friend. Other people who were not directly, um,
involved in the origins, but created the climate in
Washington that made it possible , he’s been a friend the rest of
his life for me. Henry Gellar, who some of you may remember
was an ardent fan of the public’s use of broadcasting
and not giving it away free to commercial broadcasters. The
other person I’d mention, whose name has already come up, is
Doug Cater. Doug Cater was Lyndon Johnson’s special
assistant for education. He shepherded the Public
Broadcasting Act through the process of getting it to
Congress, and he was also a great friend of the kinds of
things that we were trying to do . Joan Kuney had been at NBC,
and then she had been at Channel 13, where she was a commercial,
not a commercial, a documentary producer and had
three good documentaries to her name. So, essentially, not only
had the climate of opinion in the country been, um,
fertilized, I’ll say, by the events of the 19 60s, but the
particular people I’ve mentioned were all interested in the
public’s use of public facilities and public education.
They are what made the idea become possible. I think I’ll
stop there, Jennifer.>>SPEAKER: Terrific. Thank
you. (Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Paula, your work
exemplifies informal education. You’ve helped popularize and
demystify science and science education, and you’ve given
exposure to some scientists that has made them as popular as
rockstars . It’s easy to go places, and
people go, oh, wow, Brian Green, string theory, you know,
and, so, it’s, um, and then you’ve also shown us women and
people of color in the sciences routinely throughout your series
. With Nova, what’s the origin, how did we get from there to
here?>>SPEAKER: That’s good. First
of all, I just want to say, I’m just awed to be sitting next to
Lloyd, because my daughter, Natalie, is here with me today,
and I just can see in my mind’s eye, and this makes me
emotional, when she and her sisters would be sitting on that
couch every single day at 4:00 o’clock, their thumbs in their
mouth, a bomb could have gone off in that room, and they would
not have moved, and what they learned from Sesame Street, way
beyond the importance of the letters, the lessons about life,
about ethics, about morality, about how you treat other people
of all different kinds, even if they’re not familiar to you,
and now, as everyone knows, I have a grandson, and he watches
The Science Kid and also Sesame Street and the other programs
on PBS, so as well as being a content-generator, I’m a
recipient of all the good things that PBS does for kids and
educationally, and it’s just, really, it’s just overwhelming.
I feel so fortunate to be apart of this. Now, on to Nova. So,
education is in Nova’s DNA. We’ve been producing content for
teachers and students for as long as we’ve been on PBS, and
that’s 44 years, which is kind of an eternity in television,
and now I have to mention another man that I think is a
really great person, and that is Michael Ambersino, who started
Nova, and Michael just had — (Applause.)
>>SPEAKER: Michael just had a really good idea. Very simple.
His idea was science is not a collection of facts, it’s a
story, and if you tell the story right, with characters and with
visuals, then people will watch, and they will learn, but
they will enjoy, and it will change their opinion about
science and make, help them to understand what an important
part of our lives and what an important, I would say cultural
institution, that it is really a thrill to get a better
understanding of our world, and Michael always knew that, um,
that it was very important for Nova to go out to teachers as
well, and that they should have supplementary materials that
would help them use Nova in the classroom. So, for years and
years and years, we made teachers’ plans, which had all
sorts of suggestions and tips and activities for the classroom
, but teaching changes, education changes, and
technology changes , and now, it began as teacher’s
domain at WGBH, went to PBS as learning media, a fabulous
digital library, the central hub for all the educational content
produced by all the PBS brands, and it now reaches more than 2
million educators, which is amazing, and WGBH is the stem
lead for PBSLM, and Nova itself has contributed more than 900
resources, mainly video clips, lots of animation, and these are
all contextualized with, um, teaching standards and
discussion questions and background essays, and we
promote these, um, clips really rigorously to teachers at
conferences. We also create new digital content, like Nova Labs
, which is a platform of science games and interactives that
uses real scientific data, and these are actually, they were
originally designed for teens to use at home and, you know, not
as an in-school activity, but they turned out to be really
popular with teachers, which, um, which use them all the time
and actually assign them to their students to do as
homework. So, to date, that platform has engaged nearly more
than 4 million unique viewers, and our education lab, and I
just find this amazing, is Nova ‘s most visited page, so I find
that amazing. We have an upcoming two-hour program on
black holes, which is hosted by astrophysicist, Jana Levin, and
to go with that, we create an iPad app that allows players to
navigate the cosmos by hurling stars at
various sulest real objects. That’s what we call our our
educational content, whether formal or informal, but science
is for everyone, and so is Nova, and, so, of course, I love it
when people tell me I went into science or engineering as a
result of watching Nova, but really, we want to stoke
curiosity and excitement about science in people of all ages.
So, we have a very rich historic archive that chronicles
scientific research over four decades. If you want to know
the origins of genetic engineering or how artificial intelligence got
started, we’ve been covering that throughout the 20th century
and now the 21st century on Nova, and at any given time, we
have about a hundred full-length programs available to everyone
to watch online on PBS.org for free. We also reach out into
the community. We’ve created a coalition of science, um, cafes,
more than 400 of them, and we ourselves, every month at WGBH’s
studio at the Boston Public Library, we hold a science cafe
for anyone who wants to come, and these science cafes are
usually held at, um, non-traditional settings.
They’re a chance for people to actually interact with real
scientists, and it’s really kind of amazing to know how many
people in their daily life don’t get a chance to really meet a
scientist and talk to them, and I think that’s why people get
very wrong ideas about scientists and about science,
and, so, and people really enjoy these settings when they’re
held, and an example of this is we also, of our reaching out
into the community is our program, School of the Future,
which actually looked at the issue of the educational equity and what
kinds of new techniques and technologies can be used to help
equalize things. We organized 293 community screenings at K12
settings, at community organizations, and really, all
over the place, and people came, and they really engaged in the
discussion of how education can be made better for everyone.
And finally, and this really touches the point that you made,
Jennifer, we want people from all backgrounds to appreciate
the importance of science in our lives and the crucial role that
science literacy plays in a democracy. And now, CPB, with
their help, we’ve been able to develop short-form video that
explains the science behind many of the stories that are
dominating the news cycle. If you, um, and embedded on all of
our work is the mandate that we have in public media, to reflect
the diversity of all people and experiences in our country. We
are a hundred percent committed to increasing diversity in
front of and behind the camera, by actively cultivating both
producers and scientists of color, and I really invite you
to take a look at any current Nova, and you’ll be able to see
what we’re doing, but equally important to that, we’re
actually expanding the scope of the stories we tell, focusing
more on the ways that science impacts social justice. In our
episode last spring, poise poison water, about the Flint,
Michigan water crisis is an example of that, with all its
associated content, and I also believe that this really
illustrates the importance of education being embedded in a
production unit like Nova. Our education director, Ralph Bukae,
who taught biology in an inner city high school in Philadelphia
and can really share that experience with all of us, he
has a leadership role in our unit, and not only does this
integration drive many of our initiatives, but the lessons
that we learn in educational and
digital and broadcast go back and forth, and they are all
enriched by this integration, and that helps us better to
serve the American people. Thank you.
(Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Kathryn, you’ve
studied children’s television and Sesame Street in real depth,
and you’ve learned a lot about the role of the series and
educating preschoolers, but through your work and through
the particular angles that you have approached Sesame Street,
you’ve learned a lot about our society as well, and could you
share some of your observations with us?
>>SPEAKER: Yeah. I think I’m here to represent the generation
that did grow up on PBS. (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: And, um, and my education, of course, started
with Sesame Street and is continuing with Sesame Street
through my graduate school, and now in my teaching.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: I just never
stopped watching it. Um, so, I’ve been asked to talk about
public broadcasting as history, and that’s why I use Sesame
Street as a historical source, but so much of public
broadcasting, of course, can be used as historical sources, and
the way that we often think about that is that public
broadcasting recorded our past, um, the public affairs shows,
the talk shows, recordings of great performances, um, are now
an archive of our history, and that is true, but as a scholar
and as a teacher, I am more interested in thinking about
the ways that public broadcasting our history because
it is a forum, a vehicle, a tool through which we seek to
understand our past and our present and shape our future. I
think this is a theme that’s been running throughout all the
panels this afternoon, the theme of democatization and
interactivity, so this happens, um, from both angles, from the
producers, as well as from the audiences. From the producers,
the way that they approach their programs, they don’t just
report the news, they analyze it, they don’t just ask boiler
plate questions of celebrities, they engage them in a
conversation that can take any turn, even, um, almost
coming to physical blows. Um, Lloyd Morrisett did not just use
television to teach letters and numbers, they designed a
program that reflected flected — they built the
program to be able to evolve and to, um, be responsive to
society’s changing educational needs and cultural needs. So,
all of these programs, they’re not just series of short
conversations or presentations, rather they are decades-long
conversations between producers and audiences about issues that
matter to us. So, public broadcasting creates, in
particular creates a really rich record of these discussions of
these long conversations, because its funding comes from
the government and philanthropic foundations, um, and viewers
like you — (Laughing.)
>>SPEAKER: Producers and stations constantly have to
articulate to their audiences and to their funders what
they’re doing, why they’re doing it like that, and what impact
it’s having. This creates a paper trail that is amazing for
historians. Um, because public broadcasting is for the people
and, um, it’s mobilizing this technology, not for advertisers,
but for the audiences themselves, educators, social
activists, have, through the years, felt that they could and
should make their voices heard in public media as a
collaborative effort to improve programs or to use public
broadcasting as a tool for broader social change. So, they
do talk back to their televisions, as Nicholas
Johnson suggested, suggested. So, in the case of Sesame
Street, the producers and the audiences agreed that the show
should provide models for ideal community interactions, but as
Lloyd was just talking about, there’s a lot going on in the
60s and the 70s. There’s civil rights, cultural pride
movements, proliferating and fragmenting in the 1970s, so all
of these people who are invested in Sesame Street in
some way don’t agree on what that ideal community should look
like or sound like, how those people should behave. So, cast
members, staff, parents, critics, advocacy groups, like
the National Organization Group of Women had ongoing
discussions about how characters should speak, what musical
guests to feature, how to represent and celebrate
diversity without perpetuating stereotypes, and there was no
easy answers, and luckily, Sesame Street is a variety show,
so they could sort of do, experiment with all these things
at the same time and see what worked. So, but this
engagement with social issues also happens long after the
program’s first air, and it’s, it has become cliche to say that
documentaries bring the past to life, but they certainly do in
my classroom, not just metaphorically, but, um, these
programs often have the power to continue the traditions that
they discuss. The first episode of Eyes on the Prize, for
example, it’s called Awakenings, and it shows how media
coverage of the lynchings, um, lynching of Emmett Till and the
sham trial that allowed his murderers to go free led to a,
um, public consciousness about the conditions of Jim Crow and
it inspired Civil Rights actions. Watching the
documentary itself is a consciousness-raising experience
for my students, and there’s no more powerful demonstration for
why so many people risked their lives for Civil Rights. One
episode of the American Experience series on Latino
Americans covers the 1968 walk-outs through which the high
school students took control of their education and sought to
understand their place, the place of themselves in their
families in American history and American society, and for one
of my students a couple of years ago, she had heard about the
walk-outs from her mother who had participated in them, but to
see, um, those events depicted on national television, in a
U.S. history survey class, um, did the same thing for her, it
inspired her to take her own education into her own hands
and, um, figure out her place in society. So, um, public
television, we’re here talking about preservation, public
television and radio need to be preserved, not just because they
have recorded our history, because they continue to be the
material that we use every day to engage with our past or our
future, shape our future.>>SPEAKER: Absolutely.
(Applause.)>>SPEAKER: I think your
comments underscore what has been said too at some of the
other panels about the incredible importance of the
material, not just during the time that it is broadcast, but
its archival value into the future. Um, before we come back
to preservation, I’d like to go back to Lloyd for a quick
question that relates to your background in psychology too,
and that is that, um, for example, a national study
recently revealed that 50 percent of American children
under the age of 18 have experienced a traumatic event,
such as witnessing violent acts or experiencing natural
disasters. Last month, Sesame Street, Sesame Workshop launched
an initiative to help children cope with these traumatic
experiences, and Sesame Street puppets have often in the past
been used to help children talk about events, like a death in
the family or divorce, and when you and Joan were starting
Sesame, did you envision this kind of therapeutic role for the
series in its early days, or did that, is that something that
evolved?>>SPEAKER: It evolved. The
early days, the question we were tasked with answering, can
television teach anything? We had to answer that with a
positive in order to gain more funding.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: So, that was the
hard work of it. So, initially, we concentrated on thing things that were taught in
school, or needed to be taught in school, letters, numbers, so
on, and could it be easily measured. Those were the things
we were really trying to look at, and fortunately, the study
that came out showed that people that watched more, learned
more. With that started, with the confidence that we were
going to be able to continue, once we got a second season’s
funding, we then began to broaden the curriculum to take
into account some of the things that you’re talking about,
although the, um, the real change probably came much later.
The military families project was probably the most important
change in that regard, and now, of course, as you mentioned,
traumatic events , autism would be another
example, where we would not have been able to do that initially,
but as the program evolved, we have been able to do more of it.
>>SPEAKER: All right.>>SPEAKER: I’d like to address
that issue.>>SPEAKER: Please.
>>SPEAKER: Of can television teach anything, because I think
it’s really an important question, and it’s very
important for Nova, in a way, because part of our, you know, we were, you know, 40 years
ago, and we’re still discussing it, is is our primary function
to educate or to entertain, and we’re always kind of talking
about how you blend those two things, but when you think back
to your own science classes and how the teacher was always
talking about things that you couldn’t understand what he or
she was talking about, because you couldn’t visualize it, you
had absolutely no frame of reference for it, and I think
it’s one of the huge values to PBS Learning Media and to their
huge stem collection, because it helps, it provides visuals,
so when you’re talking about a volcano and what’s going on, the
molten magnum under the Earth, who really knows what that means
when you’re a kid? But here, you can have an animation, and
it can be contextualized by your teacher, because there are, you
know, the archive helps. So, I really, I just think, in terms
of science, visuals are just so important, and they also help
both kids and everyone take the world from another perspective.
They’re designed to show you things that you can’t see for
yourself, and that, in a way, expands your world, and that, to
me, is just really one of the benefits of the educational uses
of our material and of the fact that we are fortunate enough to
be able to produce these things and have the resources to do
so, even though it’s always a struggle in the first place.
>>SPEAKER: And you’ve had, in many cases, the nature of your
funding from places like the National Science Foundation, or
the funding that you’ve received or Sesame Workshop has received
has required rigorous evaluation, right, and testing
as part of the proving that it has this educational benefit.
>>SPEAKER: Oh, rigorous evaluation.
>>SPEAKER: And costly.>>SPEAKER: But it’s not, you
know, now, one thing that the National Science Foundation, and
actually, a lot of other funders are going off to is they
want you to use your material not just to evaluate it, to see
if it’s any good, but they wanted they want it to add to
the body of learning of how people learn from the visual
media, whether they get more out of an hour-long documentary,
whether they get more out of short-form video, what the
difference is, what the difference is in their attitudes
towards science, so we’re really accumulating with some of
our projects, and we’re working with academics on this, because
we’re not, I mean, I’m a TV producer, trust me, I couldn’t
begin to figure out how to do these projects, but to use them
to really understand the fundamentals of science
learning, and it’s very gratifying that our material can
be used for that.>>SPEAKER: Right. Kathryn,
you had mentioned to me a little earlier that in addition to the
audio visual materials being so incredibly important, that
there are other resources, like the kind that Paula just
mentioned, or the notes from the creation of a program work that
producers do that they might just think is a real throw-away,
that some of that has archival value for scholars like you.
>>SPEAKER: Yes. I’ve been using, um, the Sesame Street’s research
notes too. I’m struck by the parallels between the studies
and the outreach that Nova and Sesame Street have had. They’re
also a paper trail for learning about how we learn from media,
learning about what, um, the history of the discipline of
psychology or education or whoever’s doing these studies,
um, is , and they’re also fun for me to
look at from a humanities perspective, because you do have
certain things that you’re testing for your show, but that
doesn’t mean that’s all we can learn from that data. So, I go
in and read it from a historian’s point of view and
find completely different information about, for instance,
cultural differences between the Spanish-speaking and English
English-speaking kids, about how they’re responding to music,
which is not what was being tested, it was how they were
learning the Spanish language, but there’s more information
there than is used in your studies. So, your studies have
broader impact beyond what you’re doing with them.
>>SPEAKER: And as we talk about these , preserving content and
material from public media and these documents, I also want to
mention that we probably haven’t represented fully enough the
broadest range of public media, because there’s also culture
and the arts, and there is so much, I think, in terms of
performance program, cultural programs that are created by
producers, both at the national and local level, and so I also
want to bring that into the discussion, as well as, um,
public media creating a really, really robust archive of local
content. Most public media stations and public radio really
do an incredible amount at the local level, and so there’s a
wealth of material and a history of communities that’s being
created there as well. Now, we have talked, though, about
reaching the youngest viewers, and we’ve also talked about
adults, in many ways, although I must say that you’re going far
beyond adults, when I look at slimy, gross science programs
that Nova is apart of.>>SPEAKER: Gross science.
>>SPEAKER: Yes, gross science.>>SPEAKER: Call it what it is.
>>SPEAKER: Yeah, or some of your other programs that are,
you know, what makes you vomit, you know.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: It’s your body,
you’ve got to understand it.>>SPEAKER: Yeah. So, I could
imagine you attracting a much broader age range, but that has
been one of the challenges, I think, that has plagued public
media for a number of years, and I want to start with you,
Lloyd, and just going back to the question of did Sesame
Workshop, as the children’s television workshop, what
efforts were made in the sort of earlier years in trying to go
beyond preschoolers and to reach the pre-teens and
teenagers?>>SPEAKER: Well, as Paula has
mentioned, in producing a television show, you have to
attract the audience, as well as teach them something, and, so,
Sesame Street was designed in the beginning, I need to start
that again. The viewing conditions in 1969 are extremely
different than they are today. In 1969, typically, families
had one television set, the family watched together, and the
parents could act as an intermediary between what was on
the television set and what the child learned, say, Johnny, did
you see that A? Or Johnny, take a look at what’s coming up
next, it’s going to be like, and that gets Johnny’s attention to
something on the set that you want to teach about . Now, I think I saw that
maybe 90 percent of adolescents and above have smart phones,
television sets are numerous, and often, the child, at
whatever age, 2 or 3 even, controls the set himself or
herself , so the problem of maintaining
an audience and know what audience you’re really trying to
reach is much harder. I don’t think we’ve figured it out yet,
but we certainly had the idea from the beginning that the
adults had to be attracted to the program as well as their
children.>>SPEAKER: I used to, like I
said, 4:00 o’clock, I was pretty tired, sit there, and we’d
watch Sesame Street. It appealed to adults as well. I
mean, I felt like there were two levels that it was operating on
.>>SPEAKER: There were. There
was a very important precursor to what we did. We used a lot
of the laugh-in techniques in the early shows.
>>SPEAKER: And I think it very definitely did, one piece that
I remember, I think it was Patty Label singing I love my X,
I miss my X, and there’s, of course, the letter X on the
screen, but the look in her eyes suggested otherwise.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: So, it seemed as if
it was very consciously designed to —
>>SPEAKER: It was.>>SPEAKER: To work for both
levels.>>SPEAKER: And the writers
particularly enjoyed doing that. They liked to write
one-liners, and kids didn’t get it, but the adults did.
>>SPEAKER: But in terms of the ages, yes, I mean, we all
worry in public media about an aging audience. I mean, it’s,
like, discussed constantly, and we sweat it constantly. We
try to really figure it out, how we can appeal to younger
people. Well, one thing we find is that we have a very
different audience online, that the audience online is much
younger, and, so, the idea is that the audience online, we do
know that they love to watch our shows on their computer, they
love short-form video, I guess that’s the whole thing about the
attention span, I don’t know, but, um, they also like to watch
our short-form videos, and if we take them off, oh, our
lawyers are right there, but I have to say, in two minutes,
they’re pirated and put on YouTube, and you take them down,
and they go back up. It is really amazing. So, I think
this is a key to us; young people we know do not have
televisions, they don’t watch television that much, they watch
on their phone, they watch on their computer. The hope is they will, youngsters do grow
up, and very often, they have families, and their life
changes, and it starts to, um, they start to realize the value
of public media, and they start to join their local station, and
I think that there is, maybe I’m just an optimist, but I
think that, I think if we can keep reaching out to them and
hold them close to us by various different forms of what we do,
we will migrate them in a direction that many of them will
be watching our programs. Maybe that’s just optimistic.
>>SPEAKER: I think there’s an untapped potential for that
middle audience between children and adults. Um, certainly, my
students, they’re adults, but they, um, one of the things that
I try to do with the document documentaries is, that I show in
class is to not just show a documentary, but do something
with it, and there are a few documentaries that tell us
something about the historical profession. My freshmen are
watching A Midwife’s Tale, but, um, you can use these documentaries
to teach about narrative structure, since they use
narrative structure, we just heard, you can teach them about
media literacy, which I think is, um, a really important skill
that they are not coming to college with these days, and we
need it more than ever. Um, so, there are creative ways to use
these programs beyond simply the formal education or informal
education that they were designed for .
>>SPEAKER: Jennifer, you haven’t said anything about it,
but the title, preserving public media, has two meanings . It means archivaly, it also
means continuing it, and we do not have Newt at the FCC, we do not
have John Gardener, and I would think there should be a
considerable amount of concern about the enduring health under the current
offices of public media.>>SPEAKER: Well, I thought
that it was really quite heartening to hear, with some of
the earlier panels who addressed that, I thought it was
really quite heartening to hear their level of optimism about
public broadcasting and its future and its potential in that
way, but I welcome your thoughts about this.
>>SPEAKER: Well, I think, I was going to say one thing, that
I think, you know, we just talked a minute or so about age.
I mean, the hope is that the American public will demand the
preservation of public media. You know, we have to have our
fans out there, they are our biggest asset, and I think many
of you in this room will remember, um, under a few years
ago, decades ago, I don’t even remember when it was, in the
90s, when public media was really threatened, and people
wrote letters, millions of letters, and said, no,
absolutely not, you cannot take this away from us. That is our
preservation, that is our guarantee. So, the concern I
have is, yes, indeed, we want to expand and get younger people,
listen, I love my older viewers, keep watching.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: Oldies, but
goodies. I love you, okay? Don’t stop watching. People are
living longer and longer, so it’s great. We do want to get
younger people, but we also want to get, and I know this is near
and dear to your heart, we want to get more diversity, not just
because we’re ethical people, but also because that is our
survival. The American demographic is changing, and we
have to change with it, and my job is to really find ways to
and choose topics that show people science belongs to you,
not just to me, not, listen, science has been white, we all
know that. It’s changing, it’s bringing many more minorities
into it. We used to tear our hair out to try to find minority
scientists to put on the screen. Now, it’s really, you
know, in some fields, it’s challenging, but in many, it’s
really not hard at all. That’s great. So, one way is to really
make sure that we have scientists of all different
colors and all different backgrounds on the screen.
Another way is in the choice of topics, that we have to choose
topics that take into account people’s concerns, and, so,
hopefully, this is not something that’s going to be
accomplished. We’re not going to expand our percentage of
minorities from 9 or 10 percent to 25 percent overnight, but my
hope is that if we do it right, we tell good stories, we’re
much more inclusive in topic choice and people, that people
will respond by watching. You know, when we took our show,
poison water to Flint, and we showed it in Flint, and, you
know, that community, it was, the reaction was just so amazing
, that this group of people, these people were citizen
scientists, they did not wait and rely on scientists to come
in and do it for them, they figured out more than the
scientists in a lot of that agencies what was going wrong
with their pipes, and then to see themselves reflected in a
documentary, how they had taken a role in their own survival and
the survival of their children, I think they were really amazed
, and I think it gave them a different feeling about public
media, that it became theirs, and, you know, it’s not easy,
there are not zillions of topics that you can do it with, but I
think it’s imperative.>>SPEAKER: I want to come back
to Lloyd’s, you know, really appropriate question about
preserving public media for the future, but before I do that, I
want to just also get your thoughts, you know, we have just
a quick minute, I want to get your thoughts about, um, beyond
the screen, because we’ve talked about public broadcasting, and
we’re talking about broadcasting, and I know that
all of you are aware of public media, and you do your work on
so many other platforms as well, and I just would welcome your
speaking about the importance of public media on those
additional platforms. I think that you’ve spoken to that, you
know, in a very articulate way, Paula, about what Nova has been
doing, but other thoughts about beyond broadcast?
>>SPEAKER: Well, we get, we now get an enormous number of
hits on YouTube, where we’ve provided a lot of clips, so
that’s a reuse of something that’s been done before, but
it’s a very useful one.>>SPEAKER: Um, thoughtful curation of the things that are
available really helps the professors that are at most
colleges and universities that have a lot of students and not a
lot of time to prepare outside of their fields in teaching, so
I would say, yeah, it’s extremely important.
>>SPEAKER: So so , like, with PBS Learning
Media, where there’s already the thought given to what age
group, what level, what the topic is, all of these —
>>SPEAKER: If there are any –>>SPEAKER: Nicely tagged and
everything.>>SPEAKER: Yes, properly
tagged, and if there are –>>SPEAKER: Keywords.
>>SPEAKER: If there are any interactive things that can go
along with, um, there used to be an interactive game of
pretending you were in the Gold Rush and taking on a character
and seeing if you survived, and it took about two minutes to
play, and it went along with the documentary for the Gold Rush.
I can’t find it anymore. I hope it’s there. It may have
moved, or it may have just been old, and that’s, of course, a
problem.>>SPEAKER: You have to ask a
10-year-old to find it for you. They won’t have any problem at
all.>>SPEAKER: So, as a final
question, just to come back to this all-important point, we’re
at the end of this wonderful day and all of these really very,
very rich panels, um, what about preserving public media for the
future?>>SPEAKER: I would worry most
about just not having the budget go up. Costs are going up for
everything else, there are a lot of things that the budget can
be used for, and we just keep it the same. So, it’s a, in my
view, the strategy is slow starvation.
>>SPEAKER: I don’t want to starve.
(Laughing.)>>SPEAKER: As I always say,
I’m on the spending side, and I like that side, but here is what
I worry about, and you just mentioned something I think is
very important, which is the non-broadcast aspect of series
like the ones that we do, and I know my, um, documentary friends
from the previous panel will really appreciate. When we
started our website in 1996, we just figured, okay, we’ll just
take the same stuff, and we’ll put it online, and maybe we’ll,
you know, put a few, you know, it felt like it was just going
to be a free addition to Nova. Now, it’s its own mouth to feed,
and it’s getting to be a gigantic mouth, and, um, so, the
question is, and it’s so important, because it is a way
to attract so many people who are not going to turn on the
television set, and I think, we certainly find it’s much harder
to raise money for digital than it is to raise money for
broadcast. So, I think that’s something we really have to
figure out and figure out with the foundations and the other
funders that have supported public media in the past,
because this is the new world. This is it.
>>SPEAKER: Kathryn?>>SPEAKER: Um, oftentimes,
academics and broadcasters and archivists live in different
worlds, so I think we need more events like this to bring all of
us together, and that’s the first step, conversations like
the one we’ve had today.>>SPEAKER: Thank you.
(Applause.)>>SPEAKER: We have one more
element to this panel. We’re going to let Newt Minno have the
last word, but before we do, first of all, my thanks to all
of you, and to you, Jennifer, for the work on this panel. I
hope you have found this afternoon as fascinating as I
have, being with these founders of public media and creators of
some of the most iconic and important content in public
media, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t take us back at the very
end to the other meaning of the word preserve and to talk, just
a say a few words about the American Archive of Public
Broadcasting, although I can’t be quite as articulate as
Kathryn was, I think, but we, this is really the, um, archive
of our times times, not just our national times, as you heard,
as Jennifer alluded to, but also, the times of our
communities, geographically around the country from coast to
coast, um, and culturally, and believe me, um, local commercial
broadcasters have not been able to preserve their archives. It
has been too expensive for them, it doesn’t, you know, they
had to reuse those tapes or couldn’t spend the staff time,
given news cycles, and especially now, given news
cycles, endless news cycles, so, um, commercial broadcasters
really have not, with a few exceptions, been able to
preserve their archives. It just wasn’t their business plan.
So, it’s more important than ever that public media preserve
its archives, and it’s also a very critical part of our
mission that we make that archive accessible. It’s been
part of the core mission of public media from the very
beginning, that we make our work available to everyone, no
matter where they are, no matter what their means are, their
ability to pay, and especially, in this universe now, where
almost everything is behind a pay wall in media else where.
So, I’m very proud of the progress we’ve been making
through the American Archive of Public Broadcasting to put these
works up online and make them accessible. Um, I want to, as
we close, make a special thank you again to the two co-heads of
the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, Alan Gevinson in
the back for the Library of Congress.
(Applause.)>>SPEAKER: And Karen Cariani
from WGBH, who shared the podium with me.
(Applause.)>>SPEAKER: Um, following Newt
‘s last clip, which is, I think you’ll find fun, there is a
reception in that room right over there. So, we thank you
again for joining us, and we welcome you to the reception,
but first, the last word from Newt.

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