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I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. No, It's fine, no, it's fine Let's talk about it, we have dość out. Nohua. No worried pain Nohua. No consol I only watch public television during fundraisers I like to see him squirm. The Illustrated Daily, Managing Editor, Hal Rhodes.
Good evening. Look familiar? How you are seeing it from a different angle, but this is where the studio productions of the Illustrated Daily get executed. Since his inception, for five seasons now, it has been my pleasure to be Managing Editor and host of the Illustrated Daily, and in all honesty, one of the joys of my job has been the broad range of issues and stories we have been able to pursue over the years. Managing from breaking news stories to investigating reports to personality profiles and cultural affairs, yet there is at least one story which has always been difficult, delicate, to reach. It is the story of public television itself. It is always difficult to turn the camera on a subject about which a journalist has some deep personal feelings, especially for a journalist who values his or her reputation for balance and detachment.
But it can be done, at least we are going to attempt it here tonight. Here's a way I look at it. Given the setbacks and given the uncertain future, which faces public television, right here in New Mexico and around the nation, where the Illustrated Daily produced for any other television organization, the public television story would have been on our agenda a long time ago. So tonight, a conversation with a man who has his hands full, and take it from me, he handles it well. I have watched him firsthand for quite some time now, K-N-M-E-TV, General Manager, John Cooper. At a critical time in the distinguished history of the public television system, of which he is a part. John, even amongst its most devoted fans, loyal supporters, there's a basic misunderstanding about the nature of public television. For example, how is it that the public television is not a network in the sense we think of ABC, CBS, NBC?
Is there any way to make us understand that? Well, the simple thing, simple difference is that PBS is owned by the individual stations, that use it. And we control what it does, and we decide what programming it offers to the stations. And a commercial network doesn't do that. They have affiliates. The commercial network's job is to develop a program schedule that they in turn offer to commercial stations who elect a carrier or not, but they have very little input on the development of individual series and how a schedule will be put together. All right. Then what is PBS, say, in contrast to CPB, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting? Well, there are two separate corporations, first of all. And PBS is charged with developing a national program schedule for individual stations to use. And that, in simple terms, is what their job is. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting has a totally different task.
Their job is to provide the mechanism, the conduit, to distribute federal funding to individual stations. They also operate a national program fund. They hold part of the federal money that flows to public broadcasting each year and use that to help fund nationally distributed programs. And of course, they hold some of the money for a variety of other training and research projects. But they are not involved directly in programming other than to make grants for programs. All right. Back to PBS, as a member of the Public Broadcasting Service, most of the decisions are made in the locality as concerns what goes on the air in that locality, in contrast to the networks, commercial networks, pretty much dictating what their affiliates what go on the air. Is that the way to? Right. The core, what we call the core schedule, which is the majority of the programming that you see on weekday evenings, is selected through a rather long drawn out process where each
individual program manager of each station around the country has a chance to bid on those programs to decide which ones will fit best in their market. And then out of that, a universal package is put together and that becomes the core schedule that PBS offers each year. But each individual program manager has a responsibility to represent their community and bid on those programs that they think will fit best in their local market. All right. Let's talk about the programs which historically fit best in public television, tagging it if we can to budget cuts, notably federal budget cuts. People have asked me, I'm sure they've asked you. How is it given those cuts? We don't see that much of a difference on our public television screen, whether it's here in Albuquerque, over in Patalice, or in Las Cruces here in New Mexico. We still get masterpiece theater, we get McNeil there, we get Frontline American Playhouse.
Our favorite programs are still there. If those cutbacks were serious, how come we still have the same programming? Well, first of all, the cutbacks that have occurred over the last several years are only now beginning to reach the local station because federal funding is done on what's called forward funding, forward funding concept. So the forward funding concept, in other words, in other words, in order to provide some insulation between the political process and provision of funding and the local stations, funding is done two years in advance for public broadcasting. So it's only now beginning to flow down to the local level so that we're feeling some of those cuts. First of all, secondly, programming is a time-consuming process to develop something from idea to completion stage takes time. So those programs that were in process are being started when the first cuts were instituted, had their funding, and they continued to flow to the stations.
Only now, in the next several years, I think you'll see some change because the reductions in federal funds did make a difference in the amount of money that we were able to put into nationally distributed programs out of the federal pool. All right. Two questions. When will we hear the other shoe drop, and what should we look for as that shoe drops by where impact on programming? Well, I think what you'll find is that you'll see less variety in the programs for a while, and unless we get the funding base up again, I think that will continue to be evident. And when is the other shoe going to drop? Well, I don't know. The public broadcasting's federal funds are authorized for a three-year period. So every three years, we have to get a new authorization bill. At the end of the last session of Congress, there were two bills passed, and the White
House vetoed both of those. We will go back in January and seek another authorization bill. So you have to go back to Congress for another reauthorization bill in view of those vetoes. Are you apprehensive? Are you apprehensive that what Congress is going to do, given the fact President Reagan is already vetoed, too? Well, I'm not apprehensive that a bill will be passed. I think an authorization will occur. I have very little concern about that. My concern is the level at which it will be authorized. That has nothing to do with appropriation. It's simply what Congress is authorizing be done. And historically, our authorization bill is always carried levels that were higher than what the actual appropriation was. But I think the difference of opinion that the system or the industry has with the administration right now is the level that is necessary for us to maintain our present operation.
What's going to take to maintain the status quo? Well, just the status quo. The status quo? Anything else? Well, we believe that 200 million for the national system can do it. We think that's a little below where it ought to be, and we had originally asked for 225. But the second bill that went through was said at 200 million for 1987 now. And we think we can do it for that. And it starts going below that because of natural inflation and cost of living increases and whatever. It's going to be very, very difficult to maintain any kind of status quo. What would the public television system look if it did fall below that? Would it be worth maintaining? Well, you do reach a point that beyond which the amount of money that would flow to an individual station would be so small that it would not have much impact on the station's operation and it might very well become a burden. Is public television an endangered species?
Is it an endangered species? No. I don't think so. But what if it falls below that point you just described? Well, I think what we would have to do is rely more on our communities. And as you know, this station relies a great deal on its community now. That's the concern that I have, whether we can realistically go to the community and ask for that much more support in order to maintain that, as you call it, status quo of what we do. But I don't think, no, we won't disappear. We won't disappear. But the things that the audience has come to expect from public broadcasting in the last 10 years may be more than we can accomplish if we don't have that additional support from it. But if that happens, then you lose your support, don't you? It's a chicken and egg thing. If you don't offer the diversity and you don't offer the quality than the individuals watching you are not going to be as inclined to make a personal contribution to you. I'm not sure how applicable it is to the other public television stations in New Mexico. But I have to ask, just this last year, one of the station's own licensees,
K&M's own licensees, failed or refused to make its usual traditional financial contribution to the work of the station. The Albuquerque Public School System. Where does that pinch? Where do you feel that pinch? That was an interesting problem. It still is, as a matter of fact, we haven't solved it totally. I discussed the problem with our boarder directors. And we talked on several different occasions about what can we do to make adjustments to compensate for that loss. And two of the things that the board said was keep our broadcast hours. I mean, maintain the broadcast hours and maintain local production. Because after all, those are the essentials of this station. So what we have done now is we've looked at some cuts in a program acquisition. We've looked at cuts in some of our information services. We've looked at cuts in some of our capital area. And we've looked at some adjustments in our fund balances that we try and hold
in order to protect the station's stability. Those kind of adjustments may not be quite as apparent to the general viewer, but they do affect this stability. But the same thing, they have to be apparent sometimes. If the cost of producing programs and acquiring those programs produce go up as dramatically they have, and the money available to buy those programs declined somewhere. You and I, and everybody else who watched the public television has got to see that. You just don't see as much diversity. And you don't see as many high quality programs. We're having a great difficulty maintaining, keeping up with the pace that our national core service is increasing. The cost for what we call the SPC again, that's the core programming that people see almost every night. That material since 1981 has gone up about 66%. Why has it gone up so much? Well, that's more than an inflation.
Production costs, well that's true, but production costs have gone up faster than inflation has, generally speaking. We are producing higher quality material than we were three years ago. Therefore, talent fees and those types of things is costing us more. And there's not as much money again flowing in from the federal share to help offset the station costs in those areas as they're once lost. So for all of those reasons, the prices of those series have continued to rise. Back to the setback of this past summer for KNME, when APS Albuquerque Public Schools did not make his contribution, there was editorial comment around the state, and as a matter of fact, the former chairman of the Board of Directors of KNME suggested at least raise the possibility that if that is the case, APS has no business being a licensee to a station. Should APS be dropped as a licensee of KNME?
Well, I think that's a question that both the Board of Regents and the Board of Education ought to address, not me. They had some serious funding problems, and one of the areas that they decided could afford a cut, was KNME. I think that's unfortunate. I think that Channel 5 provided, provides excellent outreach effort for both of the institutions, and I think that it's a good investment for both institutions. But if they can't fund it, if it's not something that they feel is appropriate for them to fund, then I think some type of orderly process should take place whereby the Regents and the Board of Education sit down and calmly discuss what the situation is, and decide to do something that will not damage the station, because after all, we're here to serve a rather large audience,
and it will do no one any good if in the process of this whole thing playing itself out. The station loses some ability to serve those people. Is the station in danger of sort of being held hostage in a struggle here? Could that happen? It could, I suppose, I don't think that it will necessarily, because I think both people involved at the university on the university side and those with the Albuquerque Public Schools are interested in maintaining the service that the Channel 5 has provided. Given the hazy financial future of public television, what do you say to those who argue go all out, follow your commercial counterpart, go commercial television? I generally say what then would be the difference. If, in fact, public television has made an impression on the American public,
it's because we've been able to offer program material that was not key to commercial sales or advertising sales. It has been keyed more to the content of the program material in an effort to educate and inform. If we go the same direction of the commercial industry, we're going to have to design programs and program schedules that are going to appeal to larger audiences. And when you do that, you have to have some effect on the content of that program. Yes, but just in the past half decades, you have increased by far in a way the amount of underwriting, corporate underwriting from businesses and the like. You have certainly made a more strenuous effort to reach out to the community to ask for public support. Isn't that a step in that direction? No, I don't think so. Asking an individual who views your programming to make a contribution or asking a business who believes again in the idea of public broadcasting to make a contribution to the station is totally different than going to those individuals and saying,
I want to sell you an advertising spot on my television station because it will deliver to you a certain number of clients. But is it not also true that underwriters generally figure their reaching an audience, their trying to reach, they make advertising decisions as well as altruism behind their underwriting decisions? Most businesses who underwrite with this station, and I think others, believe in public broadcasting, and that's why they basically underwrite. But that's not to say that they're not interested in getting some return for their underwriting expense. Sure, they're interested in being identified with a program that has a positive reflection on themselves or their business, and they always will. But that doesn't mean that we tailor a program or change a program to fit an underwriter's wishes.
We schedule a program, we select a program, we put it in the schedule where we think it will best serve our audience, and then we go look for an underwriter. Some of the public televisions though, Pioneer Ventures, programming ventures, have, over the long haul, prove very attractive to commercial television or at least a variation on the theme. I do not believe ABC would have line to night today if public television hadn't first had McNeil there. Well, I think you're right. We still on public television have sneak previews, but Cisco and Ebert, now are in commercial television. That's right, they left because we, Masterpiece Theater was so seductive that it went its own way. Surely there's room for commercial success if these pioneering ventures can move commercial in public television to warrant the exploration of more commercial possibilities for public television. Well, I think if you look at public broadcasting over the last ten years, you'll see a much more diverse schedule.
We're much more flexible in what we will consider airing now than we used to. That's not bad. If you look at public television ten years ago, we were pretty straight-laced, and there were just certain things you didn't do. And that didn't make it right or wrong, what it meant was that we had such blinders on, we didn't think to look at all of these other areas that we have. Our goal is to serve every one of those people out there in the audience that can view us, and this station, for instance, only reaches half of those. Now, that puts us way up the list nationally, but we still got a long way to go because it means roughly 50% of the people in our coverage area don't watch us. Now, why not? On the flip side of that coin, there are also those who argue given the situation you've just described, that public television tends, if you measure it by ratings at any given time, to serve mainly a minority of the population, a fraction of the television viewing audience at any given time, that it's an elite indulgence. Oh, I don't think so.
Where is it written that says the only valuable television experience is one that is of interest to a vast majority of the viewers at any given time. It's not written anywhere that it says that. That's just the way commercial television has developed because it is an ad-based industry. I think it's just as valid to say if you can offer a series of programs over the course of, say, a given week, which will interest some segment of your total population, and by doing so, each of those add up to a majority of those people able to watch, then you've served your purpose. So we're not interested in getting 75% of the audience at a given time to watch something if they want to, that's fine. But that's not our goal. Our goal is to reach that 10% and that 12% and that 15%. And within that given week, if we can reach 75% or 80% of our total population, then we have given each one of them something.
So I'm always surprised when I look at the demographics of public television viewing. They're basically reflective of the demographics of the United States. They just don't watch it in the same numbers. That's true. Is there a generalization we should reach for there to make sense out of that? No, I think the generalization necessarily, but what I would say is that there is a great misconception that public broadcasting serves an elite audience. It's not true. If you look at statistics, you will see that. But in addition, I think the fallacy is that people believe that someone who makes their living with their hands. Someone who has a traditional blue collar job is not going to be interested in opera, is not going to be interested in Nova, is not going to be interested in Masterpiece Theatre. And I think that's foolish. That in itself is stereotyping.
It sure doesn't show up in the number of speaking of programming. Why is public television as a system now, station after station after station all around the nation, having such a hard time absorbing an hour long MacNeil layer news hour. In contrast to the 30 minute MacNeil layer report, and it's almost as though the body of public television is trying to reject a foreign matter today, the struggles all around the country over that. Well, the program, first of all, MacNeil layer, when it started was innovating. There was nothing like it on television. It was successful in its half hour format. People came to it, viewers made it something that they made time for every night. It was a half an hour. They could afford to do that. The decision to make it an hour program, I don't think was as well thought out. And you can look at statistics around the country and you can find that viewers are not coming to the hour version like they were to the half hour version. And we have a very serious problem with that program right now.
What's going to happen? I don't know. Right now, the program is, we're going through the buying process for the next season. And only about 55% of the stations nationwide have bid on that program. It's in serious trouble. What happens if more than 55% would not bid on it? Well, if it gets down, if they drop to say 45% support nationwide, it'll drop out of the schedule. I suspect. Well, will McNeill air go back to 30 minute format? They say not. You believe them? Yes, I do. They have, they've made indications that what they wish to do is an hour format. And if they can't do it on public broadcasting, they'll try and do it someplace else. And I believe them. Is, is there a niche in commercial television for them if they leave public television? No, I don't think so. It's just, it's not something that commercial stations cannot afford an hour's worth of news for, I think, for commercial reasons, economic reasons. And you can look at the past history. It was either ABC or NBC several years ago. Did their dead level best to move to an hour show? And their affiliates stopped them cold.
Nightline went an hour and then cut back to 30 minute. Is there just not an hour's worth of interest in news and public affairs coming off of a television screen in the course of the day? It's a matter of people's lifestyles. If you come home and you sit down and you watch an hour McNeill air, you also watch nightly business for half an hour. You watch illustrated daily for half an hour. There's two hours of your evening shot. People don't have that much time to devote in a block of time to news and public affairs. Now they may be avid public affairs viewers, but they can't devote very few of them can devote two hours of time to the same subject each and every five nights a week. Flip it over. The reverse, the really other side of the programming interest, great performances, great performances. Is that expensive or inexpensive one to produce and two to acquire? Well, it's expensive to produce. They cut the cost by acquiring material from overseas. I don't have that cost in front of me, but it's it's a relatively relatively expensive series for us.
Now it didn't start out that way because it had some initial underwriting and then it jumped after several seasons. Same thing. Well, the question I wanted to ask is public affairs is having a hard time going to our format? Is great performance is going to be with us in the foreseeable future? Are they going to be victims as well of these federal budget? Well, it tends to be on shaky ground every year and it's largely because of the unit cost to each station, but it has stayed in there and I suppose it will remain on shaky ground and what it really comes down to as long as it can deliver a reasonable audience than stations can justify. John Cooper, you're a pleasure to talk to. Thank you so much for coming by the illustrated data. Actually, I came over here on this set didn't I? Freight that's it for tonight. Tomorrow, even as Governor Tony Anaya is in Asia on an economic development trip. The Japanese ambassador to the United States visits the illustrated daily. Meanwhile, thanks for joining us. I'm Hal Rhodes. Good night. In the state when when we needed the least, it's inherent in the process. I think that it would be very simple. If any elected official is convicted in a court of law,
of committing a felony, he's gone. He no longer serves. And that we eliminate a great deal of all the speculating. The whole question of malfeasance is belonging. I mean, anybody can anybody can can accuse. If we disagree with an executive and we disagree with the judge, there's another election. I think people elect our officials for a period of time and they ought to be given that opportunity to serve that time. Unless, of course, they become criminals. Would you like would you like to go the route of getting rid of impeachment altogether and putting recall somewhere in the Constitution? So the people I think recall is a terrible form of trying to undo something that the electorate did the previous election. I think voters, all right, governor, we're out of time. Gentlemen, you've been very helpful to see. I sure appreciate you're coming along here and talking to us about this matter because I don't think a lot of us fully understood what we were talking about just a few weeks ago and appreciated enormously. We're going to have to leave it at that.
Tomorrow, I'll look at something called hospice, home care for the terminally ill. Meanwhile, thanks for joining us. I'm Hal Rhodes. Good night. Good night. Good night.
Illustrated Daily
Episode Number
Jon Cooper
Producing Organization
KNME-TV (Television station : Albuquerque, N.M.)
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New Mexico PBS (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
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Episode Description
This episode of The Illustrated Daily with Hal Rhodes features an interview with Jon Cooper, KNME-TV's general manager. Cooper discusses the fact that KNME is not a commercial network and, because of its local and public broadcasting nature, abides by entirely different rules.
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Guest: Cooper, Jon
Host: Rhodes, Hal
Producer: Maffitt, Louise
Producer: Groves, Myke
Producing Organization: KNME-TV (Television station : Albuquerque, N.M.)
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Format: U-matic
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Chicago: “Illustrated Daily; 5037; Jon Cooper,” 1984-12-03, New Mexico PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 19, 2024,
MLA: “Illustrated Daily; 5037; Jon Cooper.” 1984-12-03. New Mexico PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 19, 2024. <>.
APA: Illustrated Daily; 5037; Jon Cooper. Boston, MA: New Mexico PBS, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from