The Vanishing Vision: The Inside Story of Public Television by James Day

By James Day

This lively, first-ever heritage of public tv deals an insider's account of its topsy-turvy, forty-year odyssey. James Day, a founder of San Francisco's KQED and a prior president of recent York's WNET, chronicles public television's attention-grabbing evolution from its inauspicious roots in the Fifties to its powerful, fiercely debated presence in modern tradition. The Vanishing imaginative and prescient presents a vibrant and sometimes a laugh behind-the- monitors historical past. Day tells how a software manufacturer, wanting to find a kin keen to dwell with tv cameras for seven months, borrowed a dimeand a suggestionfrom a blind date and telephoned the Louds of Santa Barbara. The outcome was once the enthralling twelve-hour documentary, An American kin. Day relates how significant chook and his buddies have been created to boost Sesame highway whilst try out runs confirmed a flagging curiosity within the program's "live-action" segments. And he describes how Frieda Hennock, the 1st lady appointed to the FCC, overpowered the resistance of her male colleagues to put the root for public tv. alongside the best way, Day identifies the actual forces that experience formed public tv. the outcome, in his view, is a Byzantine forms saved on a leash by way of an untrusting Congress, with a fragmented management that lacks a basically outlined challenge in state-of-the-art multimedia surroundings. Public television's "democratic" constitution of over three hundred stations stifles boldness and innovation whereas soaking up funds wanted for nationwide programming. Day demands a daring rethinking of public television's venture, advocating a method that's competently funded and self reliant of presidency, one able to countering advertisement television's "lowest-common-denominator" technique with a complete diversity of substantive courses, comedy in addition to tradition, leisure as good as info.

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9 Frieda Barkin Hennock was born in Poland and came to this country as a child. After earning a law degree from Brooklyn Law School, she became a successful criminal lawyer in New York City. When President Truman appointed her to the FCC in 1948, she became the first woman ever to serve on what was then a seven-member body. During the critical four years of the FCC "freeze" from 1948 to 1952, when educators were pounding on the FCC doors for admission to the television medium, Hennock was the only commissioner willing to lend a receptive ear to their arguments.

In its place, a newly installed program executive, Jennifer Lawson, was given the authority to make those selections herself. Lawson and her PBS colleagues expressed enthusiasm for the Markle proposal. With characteristic caution, however, PBS stopped short of committing itself to the project and declined to take part in funding the planning phase. Moving ahead on its own but keeping PBS fully informed, Markle put the planning phase in the hands of an independent producer, the Alvin H. Perlmutter Company.

Lawson, doubtful that the additional $3 million could be raised, proposed a scaled-down version of The Voters' Channel to fit the $8 million already in hand. But by then Morrisett's patience was exhausted; the foot-dragging, the delaying tactics, and PBS's unwillingness to commit itself to the project were too much for even his strong will. He withdrew Markle's offer of the $5 million. " 3 If his frustration and anger were contained, others were less restrained. "Disgraceful," said Ward Chamberlin, president of WETA/Washington and a former vice president of PBS.

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