Whither PBS?


It all started with him…. Edward R. Murrow and Channel 13’s first broadcast….
After I graduated from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 1983, my first job was with WNET/13, the PBS station in New York.

It is not, technically, in NY. WNET/13 is actually licensed in Newark, New Jersey.

And my job was as a production assistant for a program called Mainstream, a local public affairs show out of the Newark office. The show was created to protect the license. It aired at 6:30 am on Saturdays. No one watched. Not even my mother. And I had the lowest job in the least significant show in Newark!

The job of a Production Assistant is to make the coffee, slice the bagels and xerox the scripts.

In the early ’80s, becasue I was working at PBS, I went to a conference on the ‘future of PBS’. Channel 13 was there. They showed an extremely mediocre video about some really banal local show they were about to produce. Highly unmemorable.

Then came a talk by Jennifer Lawson, then President of PBS. Droning on and on… I had trouble keeping my eyes open.

They were followed by a talk by Nick Davitsis, then president of A&E. He asked that we watch a video about A&E. It was very slick. A&E. Deft, literate – theater, arts, music, comedy, & politics (this was A&E in the ’80s). I was impressed.

When the video, which ran about 5 minutes was over, Davitsis turned to the audience:

“Future of PBS?” he said. “I don’t think they have a future”.

Fortunately, Davitsis’ prediction turned out to be wrong.

Having worked with The BBC for five years, I know how important a non-commercial broadcaster can be. (Particuarly if it is well funded. The BBC receives an annual guaranteed budget of just over $5 billion a year). PBS has enormous potential, even if we, alas, don’t fund it the way the British do theirs.

This Saturday afternoon, I will be at the Grand Hyatt in NY, addressing the news directors from all of the Public Broadcasting stations in the country. I was the keynote speaker at the Public Broadcasting Conference in Boston in March. This is the follow up. Now we get to specifics.

It’s a big step up from being the Production Assistant in Newark.

I think there are enormous opportunities for public broadcasting, if it is willing to embrace, really embrace, new technologies and new opportunities….

What should I tell them?


17 responses to “Whither PBS?

  1. I have a good idea Michael; you can start by talking about how discrimination, ignorance and insulting stereotype is still alive and condoned by allegedly respected member of the journalistic community.

    You can mention that although Michael Rosenblum has full editing control of his blog and never hesitates to use his editing power when inconvenient remarks are directed to him and has clearly indicated that “personal attacks will be removed” he has allowed insulting and derogatory remarks directed toward Italians by one of his supporters to remain published and undisturbed on his blog and even continue himself participating in the same thread after those remarks were made, evidently condoning and encouraging such behavior, particularly when those remarks were directed toward a well respected member of the production community who happens to disagree with Rosenblum methods of production and who also happens to be Italian.

    This should be a good start for your audience about integrity in journalism.

  2. RE: “what should i tell them?”

    why not lighten the mood early on and say something like you (reportedly) did at rtnda?

    “you’re f#cked”.

    good luck!

  3. Michael, you can edit or delete what you want but I made copies of all this before you hit the delete button.

  4. Nino
    As it says on the front page, I am happy to discuss ideas, but personal attacks will be removed.

    If you feel you have been unfairly attacked somewhere on my blog, I am more than happy to remove that as well. Just let me know where.

    As for your making copies of what you or others have submitted, please copy to your heart’s content. When you open your own website to comments you will see what it is like.

    best regards

  5. So you don’t consider those offensive remarks personal attacks?

    You participated on those discussions after the remarks were made, and in your opinion those were acceptable as long as they were not directed to your personally?

    Accepting racial remarks when having the power of deleting those remarks from your own blog do not exonerate you from your responsibility. By leaving them there for everyone to see them you are agreeing with those remarks, its that simple.

    Maybe you should spell out what’s your interpretation of personal attacks are.

  6. Why don’t you just tell me which ones you find offensive and I will be happy to delete them.

  7. It should be easy for you Michael considering that you already edited derogatory pieces from the post above, I guess you think this is a game but not to me it isn’t. But I guess you are not as intelligent as I though you were if you need help in this department, so let’s play a game like I would with children. Anytime that you see a potentially racist remark add the words Italians or Jewish or Japanese or Hispanic or African-American right next to it, if you consider it offensive then delete it, if in you view it’s acceptable then leave it.

    I waited a month since those remarks were made to see if you did anything about it.
    A simple apology would have been sufficient but by editing my posts in your famous arrogance way you are only getting deeper into this mess.

  8. i find it hard to believe anyone would find my deleted comment(s) offensive; i took the time to offer an apology AND a reasonable explanation of how we got to that point.

    like they said about glass houses.

  9. If this is what you and Michael consider apologizing I would hate to be there when you get really offensive. I think you both needs to take some classes in sensitivity, particularly in the fine art of sincerity.
    As I said before Michael hit the delete button, he accused other of being anti-Semitic for much less reasons of what was posted here about Italians.

  10. I don’t know about all that, but can we get more Sesame Street? The 2005 season (season 36) only had 25 episodes, down from 130 in season one. 25! Which letter of the alphabet would you cut?! (My vote’s for “L”, but that’s for purely personal reasons.)

    But I digress. My point is we’ve fallen a long way from the glory days of “Follow That Bird”.

  11. Good grief – some people act like this is a life or death issue

    For crying out loud. Get over it.

  12. Public stations could really beat the commercial stations at doing more locally-produced programming. It doesn’t have to be boring. Since many PBS stations are ahead of the commercial stations at multicasting, they have plenty of airtime to run more local shows.

    Michael’s VJ model could really be put to good use for a local newscast/news magazine at a PBS station.

  13. Excellent point Mark – in addition, the QUALITY of public broadcasting is light years ahead of the sheeple programming that the masses ingest on a daily basis – and that includes some of the cable networks as well.

    Here in Oregon on OPB, Oregon Field Guide provides an excellent series highlighting what the state has to offer. If Oregon Public Broadcasting would adopt the VJ paradigm with shooters who have proper training, I venture to guess that OPB would have no problems with providing even more quality programming of interest to us Oregonians and raising funds during their annual fund raisers.

  14. Suggest that PBS stations have contests similar to this Travel Channel things where citizen journalists submit stories. The local NPR station is asking for people to compose their own “This I believe” essay. How about a TV version of that???????

  15. Watching closely

    PBS people are different than those of commercial news. They tend to
    A) Care about quality

    B) Be smart enough to know a snakeoil salesmen when they see them

  16. Pingback: Bagel Shops » Whither PBS? Rosenblumtv

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s