Public Broadcasting Act of 1967; Panel discussion, part one
National Educational radio presents a panel discussion on the subject of the Public Broadcasting Act of one thousand sixty seven participants in the discussion are faculty members of the University of Michigan moderator for the program is Edgar Willis professor of speech and formerly a program associate for a National Educational Television. Here to introduce the members of the panel is Professor Willis. Here's Edwin Barrows who is the manager of the University of Michigan FM stations WUOM and WTG R. and he is also serving at the present time as the chairman of the board of directors of the National Association of educational broadcasters. We have also Ben you blanky who is professor of journalism at the University of Michigan and a consultant to CBS News. And finally William Pierce who we're going to call Bill on this program who is a professor of law at the University of Michigan. Now the reason we're talking about this subject of educational broadcasting is that the Senate of the United States on the 17th of May passed a
bill which is now before the House. And this bill will provide a structure of the corporation and the beginning of financing for for broadcasting on educational radio and television. I think the way to begin is to find out just what is involved in this bill. And Ed Burroughs has testified in the Senate hearings and I think he is as familiar with anyone would you tell us Ed what the provisions are. Yes thank you. Let me say first that in 1962 Congress passed what was known as the DTV facilities act. This provided a certain number of millions to be expended over a five year period to purchase equipment and other facilities for educational television stations in the United States and as such was a tremendous boost to the TV in this country. The act
however expires this year. And the concern of broadcasters and of Congress was to in some way or another continue the act and to amend it in various ways. Educational radio in this country was left out of the original TV facilities act and therefore made strong proposals that they be included in any continuation of congressional action in legislation. Therefore when the Act was first written as s 11 sextape radio was included along with television though the act bore the title of the public television act of 1067 during the hearings and due to a considerable amount of very valuable
testimony on behalf of educational radio. The title of the act was changed to be more appropriate shall we say to both media by being called the Public Broadcasting Act of 967 and as such as you say was passed by the Senate after hearings before Senator Pastorius Committee. Now they act in brief is in three titles title one in essence is the renewal of the facility's act of 162. Now incorporating radio 10 and a half million dollars for the fiscal year of one thousand sixty seven sixty eight is called for for the support of facilities for both radio and television. Title 2 of the Act creates something entirely new on the broadcasting scene. A public corporation nine million dollars is given toward the creation and
initial work of this corporation. Title 3 of the Act provides for a study of instructional radio and television and related services and one half million dollars is called for in Title 3. The entire bill. If my addition is correct therefore asking for 20 million for the coming fiscal year. Well now you mention that the first part of it titled One has to do with the development of the soul of these as is continuing basically what has gone on in the past at about the same level it is to provide at broadcasting facilities basically actually the sum of money. If you figure it is more than what had been given previously in the 1962 facilities act some. I believe if I'm correct 38 millions were expended under that act. And if you divide this by 5 you will find that the 10 and a half
million I asked for for this coming fiscal year is considerably more on a yearly basis. And hopefully in the years to come this some or greater Psalms might be renewed and that there is a new aspect to it in that as you mentioned radios your home clothes now coated in the thinking originally there was some thought that perhaps the funds should be earmarked so much for the TV so much for educational radio. The bill actually appeared without these funds being air marked or leaving it open as to how much radio might ask for of the money and how much television might ask for. Well I think what we're particularly interested in is title to that is the significant change. And under title to a Corporation for Public Broadcasting is to be established and nine million dollars will be allocated to support its activities. Now what is the is the nature of this corporation. How will it be
related to the broadcasters how will be related to to government. A bill runs a rather unusual animal from the standpoint of are going to are going to say tional framework in American law. This particular bill calls for the creation of a corporation a nonprofit corporation under the law the District of Columbia which Congress also controls as the legislative unit for the District of Columbia. This nonprofit corporation will not be a government instrumentality a corporation or agency but rather will be in terms of a nonprofit such as would be organized by any group of citizens within the District of Columbia. However it does have important aspects of connection with the government in two ways. One is the membership of the corporation. It will be 15 members of the board for the corporation. Nine of these
members are to be of appointed by the president of the United States with the advice and consent of the Senate. Six additional members are to be elected by the nine appointed members and three of the total of the fifteen are to represent Educational Television and Radio connections in the sense that they are part of the existing industry. At the time of their appointment and qualification. The nonprofit corporation will not have as a nonprofit. The kind of legal framework that we have for example in the Reconstruction Finance Corporation other types of corporations have been formed under federal law but will be under the District of Columbia nonprofit corporation Act which requires of course that it be nonprofit report or
periodic lay as a nonprofit corporation does to a District of Columbia officials. There are generally no major impediments three operations this type of corporation in the District of Columbia. The other aspect of which the government looms large of course is the nine million dollars which will be put in by the federal government into the financing of this corporation and its activities. And it has given a number of charges. I under the Act and I suppose the most significant being of course the development programs for educational broadcasting. By grants and other devices they are not to engage in activities directly under the act they are not to own facilities at all but they are to encourage educational broadcasting
and they are to recommand and encourage your various inner connections among educational broadcasting facilities. Now in that latter point that they are not to engage directly in broadcasting activities that distinguishes them then very definitely from the British Broadcasting Corporation. Which is set up by the British government to actually operate own and operate facilities and broadcast programmes. Yes there's quite a difference. You notice that they one of the major things in this bill is that this corporation will be not directly in the business that's behind the scenes encouraging etc. but it will not own facilities by itself such as the British system or other national governmental systems throughout the world which are owned and operated by the government itself. Well as I recall in reading the some of the testimony and the arguments even before the bill came before the Senate to
me directly in the documents as laid down by the Carnegie Commission study which is the basic basis in part for the bill there's great concern about the the composition of this board. Originally as I recall and it burrows can straighten me out but originally as I recall the the board was to be named entirely by the president. And much noise was created that this would give the president a purple propaganda instrument and the president as strong as President Johnson who knows how to use and manipulate the press would what control this group in his pocket and would be able to legit lead to use the public corporation and its instruments through the control of this board so that a compromise was made whereby we now have the set up of the president naming nine subject to confirmation of the
Senate and then the that group in turn naming six others. I wonder Bill is that an unusual way of appointing a board I just don't happen to have known of any other obvious from the standpoint of government. I'm usual you know at the Federal level of course at the state level we have many examples of various types of memberships on boards and commissions and which. Representatives of the affected groups such as for example druggists. Get to name a slate for the governor just like from. So their bill then prohibitions against if you will Governor overreaching from the standpoint of partisan political appointees. But the federal level this is unusual and of course the problem is in this area what significance is this little feature that nine will point to six. I suppose that it may be a safeguard But is it really any safeguard against
control by the Prez the United States if we can name nine and can also direct them and have sufficient influence over them in the election of the additional six. That you really have nothing. Furthermore of course 9 is a working majority without any question pretty good. So I think however that as in many other areas the the impact of the appointment is not. But largely the result of the direct influence of the president over appointees the president has too many other important matters to handle and he cannot direct. Day by day all these things and so he has to like people that he has confidence in him and these people are going to have a great deal of freedom. Well having this system probably made some people who for government control feel a little better even the prac Yeah it doesn't mean much. You know you saw mentioned that there were
three who were supposed to be selected from the educational radio television group. Now I would think Ed that that would be something that the people would favor am I right in assuming that no I N A B is taking the stand at this moment that the so-called Herky amendment Senator Herky made this amendment after the bill had appeared on the Senate floor and we approve of his intent but not of the actual or the wording or the the implications shall we say of what this addition to to the bill might might have in store. All through the hearings we have been concerned with the key word which is insulation if you will. We're not only interested in the idea of insulating the broadcaster himself from government control but
also avoiding conflict of interest in the in the area of educational radio and television and we feel that the spelling out that three members of this board as the amendment reads shall be associated with the operation of noncommercial educational radio and television stations might well raise the possibility of a conflict of interest. What we would prefer is is the. The existing wording which says that these members of the board in general shall be eminent in such fields as education cultural and civic affairs or the arts including radio or television. In other words there's no reason why you should limit those people who are knowledgeable in the field of radio and television to three which are national. We feel the amendment may suggest that 10 of these people be knowledgeable in the
field but let them not be employees of actual educational broadcasting facilities otherwise they may they may have problems in dealing with the expenditures of funds. Just a minor little technical point. If the amendment stays in and if the president appoints nine people who are not from broadcasting then the nine people will be forced to select three I gather who are is that right Bill. That's the way I would interpret the if I just lived in this would require. The 6 to be elected by the nine appointed members that they would have to bring 3 m out of educational broadcasting operations. I am not as worried about this as Ed apparently is quite contrary to his expression who asked a favor. It is not unusual that in most regulatory governmental agencies that we rely on the idea that the
people who are appointed have some expertise in the area. In fact we say that and give them certain powers and privileges and rights in the mob because they are supposedly experts. And why do you find experts except from the people who are in the business. And if you say well there's always a conflict of interest problem you would never be the experts and so I would be less concerned about this. I think that if they run into a specific conflict of interest to just play same as in any other corporation or governmental agency or city council that when he feels he is in the position of being in conflict with the interests you represents in the public interest that that particular member on that particular boat disqualifies himself. And I was not unusual in government today. That can be handled if the people use their heads and do not get in the position of representing their private interest in the affairs of a public organization.
The fact is that another example is the state of Michigan and its Constitution takes exactly the opposite view. For example in our licensing board the Constitution requires that a majority be a member of that group has to be licensed. Do you have any here. You know what I think it's just it's just part of our attempt to to protect this board both the way you always say to make it as fair and as democratic as possible the other side of it as I say the insulation from government by here Congress says that as long as this corporation has to report to Congress that they do have this check and balance procedure and even if the members of the of the board are appointed by the president and take his word on how things shall operate that Congress still have the
control over the expenditure of the funds and any reports that are made to it when I suppose the most difficult problem here is another one that underlies this whole attempt to put the federal government even in this in a slight way into the broadcasting area. Now it's insulated my standpoint it won't own facilities and it does not do direct broadcasting but it does have money to make grants for the development of programs provide for distribution of programs and could generate connections. Now what can this agency do with a program. That they want to make grant for now almost any program of any about. If we could call it educational and even the broadest sense of the word I must have some kind of message that message can be as a result of a play or artistic or
discussion or whatever. Nonetheless there is an impact and expresses a point of view any program does. There may be different points of view expressed but there are always problems about the quality of the expression and I'm a different part. What concern is there that the government even in this indirect manner is providing through its grant to people as a way to produce a program that has a message. It's not boring. Another idea too is that they may select from among a number of different messages that are being proposed in various programs. The one that furthers their particular philosophy venue were ones that I am interested in the area of news and obviously the new corporation is going to get into the news business and this is the first time in the history of the American Constitution that that a government agency however detached from the government itself
however independent The government is in this business now we don't. The FCC has jurisdiction over broadcasting but it's of another nature the FCC has shied away as much as it could from program content but this group is going to be in program content whether it likes it or not. Well my experience in recent years has been with the election coverage for CBS. And NBC had a previous time before you go on Ben you said the government had never been in the broadcasting of news what about the Voice of America. Well this is a good point but the Voice of America is external. It's a it's a it's over C and there are arguments here too there are many fears expressed inside of Congress and outside of Congress about the Voice of America being used internally and their arguments. You mean that we don't have any internal broadcasting of news by the court of States government right for domestic consumption and there's a great
danger here and again I'm not speaking against the bill I'm just raising some of the hazards of the bill I'm in favor of this this legislation but suppose the bill in an election year which is coming up and hopefully this bill will be and in business before then this corp is going to have to make a decision about how to cover the elections. How much time to give Lyndon Baines Johnson and his party and how much time to give the other parties how much time to give the minority parties. How do you handle great debates. Who's going to make this decision and how are they going to make it. Well I'm limping a lot. Let me try to answer that. First of all it's our interpretation of the bill and the intent of it that the corporation will not make these policy decisions who will. Whoever is operating the actual facilitators and controlling the actual news man. And that is where
we are trying to separate shall we say the corporation as a non operational entity. The corporation may give money to an iti for instance as he did it during the last presidential message to assist them in paying for interconnection. NET however will control the broadcast they will hire the commentators and they will decide what the content of that broadcast is going to be and of the corporation would not have any control over the coverage. There is the further protection that nowhere is there implied in this that this has a long history in educational broadcasting that any individual station is obligated to carry a program. Now this was discussed for instance in this Senate committee in terms of what say of programs dealing with civil rights. Should the corporation give money for the production of civil rights programs
dealing with it from from a certain point of view. There would be no objections to their doing this. But this does not say that a station in Tallahassee or wherever in the south is obligated to carry that program once it has been produced. In other words the local station still has the choice whether they belong to an ongoing network or an immediate interconnection or a one time interconnection or whatever. They still have the right to determine what programs they're going to put on the air. That's absolutely clear in the bell that day local station that is not required now is from the standpoint of let's say they do carry a program that does have a message that is part of the political campaign. The stations are still subject to the control of the Federal Communications Commission and under the Fairness Doctrine and the political campaign equal
rights equal time doctrine those stations if they do carry a program which is subject to these rules they will have to provide a time to the other side or other sides have the same as they do under the present law. There is no change in either one of those basic philosophies by this measure. However there is a difficult problem I suppose. Take it outside the political regime I think it's quite doubtful that this corporation naturally will get highly involved in political programs because of the expressed provisions of the bill. Discouragement of the hat. But let's say that they do have a program in a controversial public issue area. And it is carried because this corporation is going to have now a federal money but able to obtain money and receive grants from private organizations
under its charter. That and of course we know that television particularly gobbles up programs right and left and there is rather widespread publication of a program that is considered to be less than ideal by a substantial number of people within and without Congress. Well is this corporation going to be in trouble. Well the chances are that it probably will but that raises the question is this relegate the corporation to turning out completely. Neutral an imaginative guy put programmers out of its own monies which I think would be discouraging to the whole idea of putting before the American people. I think this is the major purpose of the bill say a different kind of program that they can look to and get intellectual and cultural content out of it.
Well it's a good program in some senses in some sense has to be controversial. I think the few public affairs programs that are being broadcast now by the commercial networks are often criticized because they take absolutely no stand and blandly tell you what the facts are on one side and the facts on the other so that it seems to me that if programs financed under this bill are going to make a worthwhile addition to our television and radio diet that they do have to venture into these dangerous areas. I remember back in the early I guess it was the late 1940s when the commercial networks were broadcasting under contract. To foreign countries that there was a good deal of criticism by Congress of some of the programs that were presented on the Voice of America and some of the scripts were read I think and put into the congressional record I suppose we can actually expect that this is going to happen again. I think it is you know anytime that you get into the area of controversy that you're going to find long have. And heated arguments about it. But I think
this again is part of the insulation. If this is Congress's responsibility I think that they and their presumed wisdom will know how to deal with it and that the fact that they're we're not dealing with just the president of the United States or the office of the executive but the entire Congress representing the entire people. But this in a sense will protect. I like the word that the bill actually uses which is a broad general term but they don't say controversial They say the program shall be innovative. And this this is a good word because it can cover many things like this new ideas new innovative attack on a nicer personal where they could be controversial too. It doesn't deal with that specific part. Well now am I right in assuming that we have a pretty good idea now of what the corporation is going to do I gather by the way that the members of this corporation will serve on a part
time basis. And that's correct they are not to be paid except the officers of the corporation I'd be paid. And I gather all of this is not clear that the chairman or one of the vice chairman of the board may hold a position as an officer of the corporation as well but the president of the corporation and other employees undoubtedly will be paid in fact are not to hold jobs outside except for the chairman and vice chairman. They may receive the members of corp receive compensation for attending a meeting a meeting so as to do the members of most boards in business. But it's not like the Federal Communications Commission was under full time job. GM might as well know we all small government grants.
- Panel discussion, part one
- Producing Organization
- University of Michigan
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This program presents the first part of a panel discussion on the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967.
- Series Description
- 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.
- Public Affairs
- Media type
Moderator: Cliff, Mary
Panelist: Seeger, Pete, 1919-2014
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 67-Sp.9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Public Broadcasting Act of 1967; Panel discussion, part one,” 1967-06-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 1, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t43j2f8k.
- MLA: “Public Broadcasting Act of 1967; Panel discussion, part one.” 1967-06-09. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 1, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t43j2f8k>.
- APA: Public Broadcasting Act of 1967; Panel discussion, part one. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-t43j2f8k