Public Broadcasting Act of 1967; Panel discussion, part two
I think we oughta move now into the the problem of the operation of educational radio and television out of this bill we've said specifically biggest public corporation is not going to produce programs that they are merely going to finance the production of programs by other agencies and it seems to me this means other agencies are very vague.
Add to what you mention the National Educational Television is one of them that might be financed yet but it's headed if you'll go back to the Carnegie Commission report. The thinking which is embodied in in much of the writing of this bill Carnegie Commission in dealing with the TV only way recommended for instance that monies be given to two at least two major production agencies I am not sure where they use those words are not in the United States and that one of these might well be any t. In other words here we have an existing production agency. But let's not limit it to two a net. Let's get the other production agencies Well another piece of the obvious one is any Our national elevation already saying this is what this is in the area of television only you know.
Here here you've got Nat with considerable financing from the Ford Foundation each year and operating race excessively and producing excellent programs and having in essence a network of existing ie TV stations around the country some of which have been actually interconnected for live programming but mainly use their programs on videotape now in the area of radio not to the same degree by any means but we have had since 1950 a tape network now called the national educational radio. There is no reason why monies couldn't be given by the Corporation for instance to set up a production centers in various places around the country whose programmes would be distributed either on tape or by some live interconnection means via national educational radio. In other words we would anticipate that agencies would come into being that there might be one major National Educational Television Network and one major national educational radio network live networks a paralleling CBS NBC and ABC for instance. But that production agencies above and beyond those existing on our separate campuses would be funded to do the specialized work of producing new programs and my series and individual station thinking about its own local audience be financed Yes.
I more a program a corporation can give monies for the production of programs to individual stations and these monies can get actually. Be used for the for the hiring of personality to produce the programs this is this is the beauty show we say of that title to the corporation whereas the facilities part of the Act and the only TV facility acted not permit you to use the money for programming or for personnel. But now the corporation can give money for this purpose and this will help the local station produce programmes for its local audience as well as to shall we say start the ball rolling in a bigger area.
Ed as I recall in my reading of the current eggy study it seemed to me that Koenig stressed local autonomy greatly over that of a networking inner inner connection and that they had the funding as much as possible to be done at the local level so that individual radio what television stations in the case of the Carnegie study be in a position to put on a play. Broadcast of local repertory group a series of cultural programs a series of discussion programs. And then if these were deemed worthy of the network they might be put on a network just as any tea does now on any Our does your station WUOM produces programs which go over any hour.
And it seems to me this was the Carnegie stuff that you know there is as I don't know what president will goes further than that Carnegie report did in this area and perhaps putting additional emphasis on the networking idea and the big production center idea rather than than limiting the money to be given to individual existing stations wherever they may be located around don't you think both are necessary I think both are necessary and I think the bill does include both it does not say that the money will be given only to the major production agencies or to networks it does it does provide for monies to two individual stations as well.
But I gather that we're thinking primarily either about a network organization being financed to produce programs for its affiliates or a local station being financed to produce a program that will be broadcast nationally.
Well let's put it this way though you know. Looking at it in terms of what to the broadcasters themselves see as their paramount need is perfectly true that we have we have for many years felt that that one of our primary needs certainly is to produce better programmes for local consumption. But at the same time what we have lacked is the national image. The National interconnection and the ability to obtain programmes in the same way and at the same speed as the commercial networks have. And so as opposed to what's happening really in commercial broadcasting these days we have gone back to a situation in commercial broadcasting of some 20 or 25 years ago and said What we really need right now and fast is this national interconnection.
Now Ed you have used two terms here networking and interconnection do you see a distinction between I was there I think a distinction can be made.
It's it's one that you simply have to define your terms when you're when you're speaking they they are interchangeable in a way in the thinking of most people. I would define it this way that interconnection is it is simply tying together a number of stations nationwide either by landline or as we're looking toward the future by satellite transmission. For the purpose of presenting simultaneously a single program. So it's a temporary set I'm interconnection in that sense would be temporary and network as something which is an organized group of affiliated stations who carry programs every day for a certain number of hours or every week for a certain number of hours from a central location. This to me is a network that has a staff and production you're talking about isolated in a hall and no I live or or my take and we have two networks now at least in framework that is any TV or television and any are for radio brand.
Your hope then is that this bill will help to build up.
He structures and make them more open more and possibly to create new ones. I'm positive you know it is no limitation on what could be done and you could you could create too many and I don't think any corporation to simply proliferate this sort of thing it would be wasteful.
Course there could be as there are no regional and the Eternals networks returner not for their actions. You could have a Michigan state of Michigan or mid western region of radio and television station. We've been talking for many years about the.
Well let me say it this way you have an existing network situation in radio on the East Coast with what is now known as the Eastern educational radio network with interconnection from from Boston and south to Washington Philadelphia and this network is radio network has carried programs on a regular basis for a good many years in the Midwest using the. The concept of the Big Ten We have been speaking of a Big Ten radio network for many years and planning toward it this is would be essentially an interconnection or a network between the radio stations on the Big Ten campuses where the number of feeder stations from those institutions that are not connected officially with the Big 10 group. This kind of a grouping could be supported by the corporation both for the purposes of paying interconnection costs and for producing programmes of particular interest to let's say the Great Lakes area.
Let's move on now to I think probably the most difficult problem of all and that is the problem of finance.
The bill does not provide in its present form the kind of money that educational television and radio really needs it has nine million dollars which is a starter isn't it.
I think we all of us who have worked in education radio and television have been impressed with the contrast between the kind of money we have to spend and the kind of money that the commercial people spend on a program of one of my students has just written a master's thesis analyzing the budget of one of the major our television programs and it costs one hundred thirty thousand dollars a week to produce one essential a 50 minute film which runs an hour with commercials. I remember when I was working for National Educational Television we would often have $2000 maybe 5000 and exceptionally $10000 to do a single program. I think in the field of educational radio you have the same kind of contrast Ben. You were mentioning one of the statistics that some stations run on what per year.
Well they report to which Ed referred awhile ago which is in which is called The Hidden median and made for a national educational radio has a great many.
These data and I believe it points out that the average station operates average radio station operates on a budget of about $10000 a year or even less. There are only a handful of stations it's been in the area of what in hours a network television program costs as you cited and these are stations essentially which have which operate more than one unit and interconnection or the figure that we've often used at our national educational radio networks entire yearly budget is only $60000.
And you can't even buy a decent hour long television program on commercial TV for that amount of money one day in one commercial minute of time on Bonanza costs $35000.
Well there have been two major re reports made which I think when they were made we're thinking only of television the Carnegie report and the suggestion or proposal by the Ford Foundation Ford Foundation one I think was interesting in that it proposed that all all networking be done in the future by satellite transmission. This would be cheaper than the present microwave and coaxial cable connections and that the difference between this cost of satellite transmission and the present transmission be used to finance educational television and other commercial broadcasting kicked in the deaf or they would in essence yes they would kick in the difference and I think that if I recall the figures correctly that amount to about 30 million a year or something like that which would be much more than that. Educational broadcasting has it present and then the Carnegie report recommended that an excise tax be placed on television receivers at 2 percent to 5 percent tax. That the federal government funds would also be used in that state's municipalities and private foundations would be expected to contribute and this would provide funds of about one hundred seventy eight million a year. Now is this in prospect if this bill passes if the financing on this basis is not in the present bill.
That's correct isn't right then so I sure would sidestep both of the issues in fact that you mentioned were sidestepped in this current bill. They one of the things in the president's message dealing with this subject he said that he would present to Congress next year proposals for financing. So the only financing that was authorized in this bill is 9 million hours for the first year and that doesn't mean of course the authorization that that is what appears appropriate that's what Congress can appropriate up to nine million dollars. That doesn't mean that it's appropriated now and that they one more year under this bill is all it's authorized and that the president will come forth with recommendations for financing in the future. There is one provision here of course which the corporation can utilize and that is that it can accept gifts from private organizations agencies and individuals so that it is not confined only to the government money but may receive additional funds and by gift to it from other sources. The nine million records for both television and radio is sparse and you have a very tight budget. If anything major is to be done under this because there are all the costs to the organization of this corporation etc. that must come out of it and there. So there are other factors like creating libraries and in the country etc. that they are charged with doing if they desire to do so. So that the total amount of programs is not going to be large. I mean the other issue that was adopted at this time was the problem of the communications satellite in which again they are. The Senate is looking into further study and investigation fellow feeling that they did not have sufficient information at this time to advance on that front.
The Federal Communications Commission has of course been holding hearings on the whole business of a variety of proposals not only the Ford Foundation proposal but Ford satellite for the Bundy bird as we like to call it. And it's vital Missouri to Bundy the satellite proposals that have come from Comsat the existing corporation and from the various commercial networks themselves have proposed to perhaps put up satellites right TNT and to utilize in some way or another profits to a certain degree to assist educational broadcasting.
I think what started there is there is a there is discussion going on and I think some of the feeling was that it should not enter into the discussion of this bill because no one really knew the answers yet. These estimates to savings to be.
Benefitted by the satellite are very questionable particularly as you launch your satellites and you get them going and the Ford Foundation has been criticized in this instance for the savings they think will be derived this 30 million dollar figure certainly is open to question.
The Canadian government helped to finance television by I think it was a 15 percent excise tax on the purchase of new television receivers I think they have now abandoned it in their financing broadcasting out of public general public funds do you think a bill that there's much chance of Congress authorizing tack on excise tax which is devoted specifically to one kind of project namely educational broadcasting.
Well is there a possibility but by and large one of the things that Congress has to be worried about and is worried about in any kind of taxing measure is the cost of administration of a new tax. There's a cost of administration of that where taxes run out run and the benefits are derived by just merely tacking about to the existing tax structure in some other form and have it go into the general plan. Now an excise tax at the manufacturers level would not be as difficult of course they have the one bill right where they are the war emergency etc. We have paid excise taxes that would not be as difficult to administer. Depends on the form and whatever the tax measure that would be proposed. But it is a possibility of course that again at a local level state level is very usual that certain kinds of taxes are. He imposed and the revenues from it high are earmarked for specific but not so common on the federal level. Not as common although with that for example the federal gasoline tax although it was supposedly earmarked never was of course directly for many many years but there are obviously any tax on saps or any other product is going to be passed on to the consumer.
It's the American public who in the long run through an excise tax are going to write a paper that I gather there's been no mention of license fees that is paying fees for the use of a set as is the situation in great many other countries of the world.
Actually this is a very small tax or the sum as I saw it would range from two and a half dollars per set to 5 or $5 per set and this is a very as I recall reading the original thinkers. And this is a one shot affair you put you pay this tax at the time you purchase a new receiver and then you don't pay it again.
It's on like it licensed and certainly every year only and this is us.
Infinitesimal when you compare it to what people in Britain are paying under the BBC system or in India they pay something like 60 dollars a year I believe in Great Britain you know.
Well now I think perhaps we'd better go back in a sense to where we began. We were talking about the fact that this bill has passed the Senate. It is now before the House.
I understand that hearing dates have not yet been cept Ed you've testified before the Senate probably you're going to make another trip to Washington.
What do you think the future of the bill is for the present session. Well because of the tie up in the house with a number of items of legislation the House interstate commerce committee under representative stackers that will be considering this bill has a pretty heavy docket. They've been involved with the railroad legislation and they are now. Trying to find the time to consider air and water pollution bills. And somewhere along the line they will be taking up the broadcasting bill. As time goes on as as it gets later and later I think that the broadcasters become more concerned as to not whether the bill is going to pass both houses of Congress but whether it's actually going to come into a hearing in the house and so we are we are very hopeful that some pressure can be exerted on the individual congressman in the committee or in the House in general to get this bill into hearing how hearings may not last very long or they may last considerably less than they had two weeks of hearings in the Senate. But just to get it out and get it discussed and and then then to appear on the floor of the house is something that will take speaking to and we're hopeful that if the hearings can be held that the passage of the bill may be assured if it is not passed in this session of Congress I think the results may be quite serious. You've got to remember that the TV facilities Act will expire. And that if no new bill is passed that there won't be any money appropriated for assistance to either educational television or educational radio for the coming year until Congress meets again and new build are introduced.
I know that's quite optimistic about the chances of a House committee is tied up with other business right now but the generally speaking the easy. Road that this bill followed on the Senate floor. Would be indicative of an excellent opportunity for a limited hearing within the house and a fairly rapid action in the sense that the rules committee would report it out with a rule with limited debate and that action and substantially the same form of the Senate has passed the bill.
So I think it I'm afraid that the house fish are much more concerned about the expenditure of money perhaps and then the Senate is just and its general philosophy.
And they may be much more conservative in this particular year. In terms of suggesting that monies be appropriated and then when it gets to the actual Appropriations Committee there's going to be the real test yesterday about the way actual appropriation is always a big battle is like foreign aid.
There there's the authorization but the red the big battle comes when their money is actually appropriated and much will be appropriated in the given year is distinguishing how much is authorized.
Well there are many there are many steps yet. Just because the House has or the Senate has passed the bill is by no means assures that it's going to be passed by the entire Congress and this is our concern at the moment that the House do take action on it and get it through in some form or another they fear before it's too late. Well I was impressed with the need for the kind of broadcasting we're talking about I'm thinking at the moment particularly of radio because I've recently been driving about three weeks between me in the United States and some in Canada.
And even though I may have heard something like a hundred different commercial stations in essence I was listening to just one station. They all had basically the same kind of format.
I didn't hear during this entire three week trip one shred of what we call our generally classical music moment mainly five minute newscasts interspersed with recorded music and commercials. And we need educational television. That's a good word for educational radio which will provide us with some kind of choice.
It's rather interesting that on the floor of the Senate that a relative a little debate was engaged in respect to this bill but the one thing that did stand out in reading the record was that those spender senators who spoke were uniformly of the opinion that the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 may be one of the most important pages pieces of legislation that Congress passed.
My concern Edgar would be that commercial broadcasting both radio and television not abrogate. It's responsibilities in the area of cultural programming public affairs program. The things we've been talking about that. Non-commercial broadcasting can do so well and there is this kind of a danger. Again I'm speaking as a point of view of a devil's advocate but you'll recall that the day the Carnegie Commission study was announced the Columbia Broadcasting System announced a million dollar pledge immediately took. Now CBS is an enviable organization which has a sense of responsibility but I wonder if inherent in this whole idea of this new corporation isn't a failing on the part of some network people my goodness this will let us off the hook we won't have to spend days and losing a great deal of commercial money broadcasting the Middle-East discussions of before the Security Council the United Nations this is very costly this runs into thousands of dollars a day progressive television. And yet I think they should do it I think. I think they have an obligation to do it because at best I don't know whether Ed agrees with me but at best this corporation will still this network or whatever it is will still reach a minority audience. Yes.
Well I think as far as radio is concerned that. There would be very little difference because I didn't hear anything comparable to what you're talking about. I think as far as commercial television is concerned they do make the occasional stab in the direction of culture and real news information I was interested to see for example at CBS broadcast of Chekhov's even on off the other night 9 joyed watching it. But these experiences have become so rare that I almost take the attitude that if there is an educational service that will provide this kind of choice then I will let the networks present the kind of programs that they're mainly presenting now.
Rebel though isn't specifically contemplates no change in a public service requirement for television and radio broadcast as they are to continue to comply with existing requirements.
And if they don't I think you're right band. It is true that the number of people who would see the type of program will not see them because they won't be within the range of an FM station or a tv set of those representatives of the FCC who testified before the Senate.
Emphasize this point time and again that their support of this bill did not by any means indicate that they were going to relax their supervision in the area of public service or commercial broadcasting. The question often comes up as to what can the educational broadcaster do that is can be as good or different from the commercial broadcaster and it's true that the cause of the of the budgets of most commercial networks when they really do tackle a subject that they can perhaps do it better technically at least than the educational broadcaster today can. But I think Fred Friendly who for whatever reasons has become a great champion of educational broadcasting has pointed out that it's the regularity of the availability of these specialized programs in these specialized services that that in essence makes the difference between between the educational network and the commercial network.
Well I think we might well end this discussion on on the note of hope it has to come out here that we are perhaps going to have. Enhanced educational radio and television and at the same time the commercial broadcasters will not relinquish their responsibilities in the public service area. My colleagues in this discussion have been Edwin Burrows who is the manager of the University of Michigan stations w o M and W V Jr. and also it present as chairman of the entity board. Then your blanky is professor of journalism and a consultant to CBS News and William Pierce a professor of law at the University of Michigan this is Edgar Willis speaking.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- Panel discussion, part two
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- This program presents the second part of a panel discussion on the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.
- A panel discussion on the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. Moderated by Edgar Willis, former program associate for National Educational Television. Panelists: Edwin Burrows; Ben Yablonki; and William Pearce.
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Moderator: Cliff, Mary
Panelist: Seeger, Pete, 1919-2014
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
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Identifier: 67-Sp.9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- Chicago: “Public Broadcasting Act of 1967; Panel discussion, part two,” 1967-06-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 16, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_500-dz03342k.
- MLA: “Public Broadcasting Act of 1967; Panel discussion, part two.” 1967-06-09. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 16, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_500-dz03342k>.
- APA: Public Broadcasting Act of 1967; Panel discussion, part two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_500-dz03342k