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REINVENTING PUBLIC TV: American public broadcaster PBS is trying to reinvent itself. It's essential - the network is facing increased combination from all sorts of specialty channels, and its core audience has shrunk. The changes, though, are controversial. Christian Science Monitor 05/04/01

BUY AUSSIE? Australia ponders dropping its Australian-content laws for the Australian Broadcasting Company. The quotas currently stipulate a minimum amount of Australian-produced content must be shown. Sydney Morning Herald 05/03/01

THE EROSION OF PUBLIC TELEVISION: America's PBS is losing members and viewers. Between 1993 and 1999, stations suffered a slow net loss of 376,000 members, or 7.4 percent, according to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's latest comprehensive financial report. During the same period, public radio gained 740,000 members." Current 04/12/01

THE QUESTIONS OF SUCCESS: So PBS' "Jazz" was a big hit. "As PBS congratulates itself for making a program that many Americans actually wanted to watch (creating Sidney Bechet and Bix Beiderbecke fans in Iowa in the process), this uncomfortable question pops up: Why can't more of its shows be like that?" San Francisco Chronicle 03/04/01

JAZZ HAS RATINGS JUICE: So the critics may have been jousting over Ken Burns' PBS "Jazz," but what about viewers? "On the average, 10.3 million Americans a night have watched "Jazz," whose final chapter airs tonight. The series has averaged a 3.6 rating nationally," tiny by commercial network standards, and small by Burns' 9.0 "Civil War" series numbers. "But they're big for a program dedicated to an art form that hasn't had a mass audience in 60 years. PBS' five-part series 'Rock and Roll' a few years ago drew fewer viewers, scoring an average 3.3 rating." San Francisco Chronicle 01/31/01

"JAZZ" A RATINGS HIT: PBS ratings for the show are double its usual prime time numbers. "The first three segments, tracing jazz from its ragtime roots through the Roaring '20s, averaged a 4.1 household rating and 5.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research figures for 48 selected cities. That is more than twice the 2.0 rating and 2.7 million viewers that PBS normally averages during prime-time." National Post 01/12/01

TURNING THE SUPERTANKER: American public broadcaster PBS is "a system plagued by sagging ratings, aging members, and internal tension between a few major producers and far-flung member stations." New president Pat Mitchell is making changes and shaking things up, but that has stations and some longtime fans anxious. Boston Globe 02/18/01

NEW PBS HEAD vows to pursue those things that set the public broadcaster apart. Pat Mitchell says she wants to make sure it remains clear that "what we stand for is something singular in this consolidated and commercialized world." Los Angeles Times 02/08/00 

JUST WHO makes the scheduling decisions at PBS? Putting great programs on against over-hyped network sweeps and Tesh-a-thons opposite Christmas reruns is goofy. Isn't the idea to get more people to watch? San Francisco Chronicle 01/10/00   

IS THERE STILL A PLACE for PBS in the vast cable spectrum? 
Philadelphia Inquirer 11/2/99
     AND: SELLING ITSELF SHORT. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 11/2/99
     ALSO: REMEMBER THE GOOD THINGS. Detroit News 11/2/99
     PREVIOUSLY: REVERED AND REVILED: PBS is 30 years old and from right and left everybody dumps on it. It will be a quiet anniversary. Dallas Morning News 10/31/99
     AND: PBS AT 30: Public broadcaster is at a crossroads - what's the mission in a 500-channel world. (AP) MSNBC 10/25/99


OF SALARIES AND SUPPORT: Last month Christopher Lydon and his producer quit their WBUR Boston public radio show The Connection after the station refused to give them a stake in ownership of the show. "Lydon was making $230,000 a year as host of The Connection, and had been offered a financial package that could have increased his compensation to $330,000 next year." One station supporter wonders what effect such large salaries have on supporters' willingness to contribute. Boston Globe 04/15/01

A DISASTER AT ABC: The Australian public broadcaster ABC has had a rocky first year under chief John Shier. Now one of the broadcaster's unions has written to the ABC board to urge that Shier be reigned in. He's not competent. "Under his stewardship the ABC has wasted millions of dollars of taxpayers' money on a restructure that is ineffective and unworkable." The Age (Melbourne) 03/21/01

AUSTRALIA'S ABC IN TURMOIL: Australia's ABC, the country's public broadcaster and one of its primary cultural institutions, seems to be unraveling in some important ways. John Shier has been running the corporation for a year now, and his vision for the company seems increasingly difficult to comprehend. Sydney Morning Herald 03/12/01

REDEFINING PUBLIC TV: Public broadcasting is feeling pressure everywhere - in Britain, in Canada, and in Australia. The head of Australia's ABC lays out a roadmap for the next five years: "To do nothing is not an option for the ABC. We are at an early point in the digital communications revolution - one in which the rules will be rewritten for all, commercial and public broadcasters alike." The Age (Melbourne) 03/07/01

SELLING OUT PUBLIC BROADCASTING: There are plans to commercialize some parts of the Australian Broadcasting Company. But the chorus of protest is loud. “Who will trust the ABC if it succumbs to the temptation for quick cash and sells its logo to enhance the reputation of a credit card company?" The Age (Melbourne) 11/20/00

BITING THE HAND THAT FEEDS:  Minnesota Public Radio is the 800-lb. gorilla of classical music radio. The network not only broadcasts throughout the Upper Midwest, its "Classical 24" satellite service provides programming to more than 250 stations nationwide. Increasingly, MPR is under fire for the incessant "dumbing down" of classical music on the air, and one of the network's own news-talk hosts took on the man in charge of such programming on her public affairs show. "Midmorning," Minnesota Public Radio 1/23/01 [RealAudio file]

MINNESOTA TAKES ON L.A.: Minnesota Public Radio has been moving into Southern California, taking over the public station in Pasadena, with plans to remake it into a dynamo news operation.  "What we're interested in is content. And here you have a city where there's no L.A.-based radio being produced for [a nationwide] public radio [audience], and we see that as a huge opportunity for us." New Times LA 06/29/00

TURF WAR: Public Radio International is suing Minnesota Public Radio over the latter's purchase of "Marketplace." MPR has been expanding its empire, and will control PRI's two top programs. PRI is concerned that Minnesota Public Radio will start competing with it as a program distributor. Current 05/01/00 

MINNESOTA TAKES ON LA: Minnesota Public Radio has bought "Marketplace" from KUSC. The northlanders previously assumed control of a Los Angeles public radio station and the MPR president says "I want the doors to be open to the creative community." The new venture should be "a hothouse to incubate new ideas based on Los Angeles talent, cultural resources, ideas." The production company's name might evolve into something like Los Angeles Public Radio Productions. Los Angeles Times 04/14/00

A HOLLYWOOD HOME COMPANION: Some see Minnesota Public Radio's foray into Los Angeles to takeover and makeover a local public radio station as an opportunity. MPR (whose biggest programming asset is Garrison Keillor) promises new local public affairs programming and a significant news operation. Others decry the Minnesotans' arrogance and lack of familiarity with LA values. Los Angeles Times 04/10/00

AUSTRALIAN BROADCASTING CORPORATION is the latest of the big national public broadcasters to find its role changing. After the government cut its budget, ABC went looking for commercial sources of revenue. The latest deal has some worried about the network's independence. Sydney Morning Herald 02/08/00 

REVERSE BODY SLAM: Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura was a foe of government funding for public radio and TV. But he's reversed that position. "You seem to stick to issues and you don't go after one's personal life. You don't go after cheap shots and I appreciate that. So I'll reward." Minnesota Star-Tribune (AP) 12/06/00

THE NEW PUBLIC RADIO: Fresh Air is heard on 330 National Public Radio stations, and ranks among the top five public radio programs in the nation. But with more and more talk radio shows cluttering the airwaves, host Terry Gross acknowledges that snagging the hottest guests and coming up with original topics is competitive. Philadelphia CityPaper 11/16/00

SAVING PUBLIC BROADCASTING: "Activists and citizen groups are crying out that public broadcasting in America has abandoned its Great Society-era foundations and is failing its Carnegie Commission mandate to present diverse perspectives. They warn that it has bowed to commercial pressures and corporate influence, due to inadequate funding. Charges of bias abound from both the right and the left. In a media-saturated country and a media-saturated age, can we still seclude some public space from the marketplace?" [a collection of stories about public broadcasting]  Mediachannel 07/25/00

THE "CURIOUS" NETWORK: Pat Mitchell, PBS's new president, is talking about reinventing the public broadcaster. "If you look at this new media landscape we're moving into, with more and more choices ... who are viewers going to trust? Our mandate is ... to bring a certain vitality and relevance to our schedule; new ideas that appeal to new viewers, as well as keeping the ones we have." Minneapolis Star-Tribune (St. Petersburg Times) 07/24/00

LAST DAYS? Over the past decade the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has lost more than half its viewers for CBC-produced programming. "From the '50s through the '70s, the CBC was one of the world's great public broadcasters. But the Corporation was also evolving into its own self-contained world of bigger budgets, exploding infrastructure, myriad administrators and, ultimately, a kind of on-air arrogance." Now budget cuts and a failing mandate with the politicians threatens the network. Mediachannel 07/00 

THE STAR OF PBS: "The Boston station produces or co-produces nearly 35 percent of PBS's prime-time lineup - an output rivaled only by WNET-TV in New York - and also generates roughly 20 percent of the children's programs. The advent of the Internet has expanded the station's reach: More than one-third of all visits to PBS Web sites are for WGBH programs. As for the numbers that matter most - ratings - WGBH accounts for more than half of PBS's 10 most-watched shows in any given month." Boston Globe 07/23/00

RATINGS - NOW THERE'S A CONCEPT: For the first time in its history, PBS is being run by a programmer. And big changes are coming to the way the public broadcaster does business, with an emphasis on gaining viewers. "Ultimately, more viewers and more time spent viewing by current viewers will translate into more viewer financial contributions, PBS hopes, and higher ratings nationally should make it easier to find corporate underwriting support." Los Angeles Times 06/12/00

WHAT TO DO... Hollywood heavyweights from a variety of disciplines, from film's Steven Spielberg and Spike Lee to television's Gary David Goldberg, are being invited to what's being called the PBS Summit on Creativity and Community. They'll be asked for ideas about what the noncommercial broadcaster ought to be doing. "We're looking at a media landscape that's going to change dramatically in the next five years, and public television and its member stations really need to look at some new ideas," says new PBS president Pat Mitchell. "We need an infusion of outside thinking." Los Angeles Times 04/28/00

A GIRL'S GOTTA MAKE A LIVING: While everyone was focusing on the AOL/Time-Warner merger last month, AOL and PBS made a deal to co-brand and co-produce. Is this good for public TV? "This deal is just one more brick in the wall which basically says that we no longer have public broadcasting in the U.S." San Francisco Bay Guardian 03/02/00

TOTAL WORLD DOMINATION, PART II: In a deal unrelated to the Time Warner merger, AOL announces a "strategic alliance" with PBS in which the public television system will become a "premiere content provider" for AOL and the internet provider will receive an on-air "branding presence." Cleveland Plain Dealer 01/13/00

MINNESOTA COMES TO TOWN: It took an outsider in the form of Minnesota Public Radio to take over a Los Angeles public radio station and give the city its first local morning public affairs program. Is this public radio of the future? LA Weekly 03/23/00

A TALE OF TWO NETWORKS: While Canada's CBC is reeling from cutbacks and layoffs, America's National Public Radio, by contrast, is thriving. As it marks its 30th anniversary this month, NPR is flush with cash. Its audience has tripled in the past six years, reaching 15 per cent of Americans, and its network of stations is expanding. Are there lessons for Canada in NPR? Toronto Globe and Mail 02/19/00


OUT DAMN HOLLYWOOD: Canadian regulatory board tells Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to cut out American movies and reduce its sports coverage. Less hockey and curling they say. More arts and regional programming. "Yikes," CBC execs say - "We could turn into PBS of the North!" Edict spells financial ruin, broadcaster says. CBC 01/06/00


NEW ARTS TELEVISION INITIATIVE: BBC chief announces major new initiative to revamp the public broadcaster. "BBC3 would target younger viewers with home-grown comedy, drama and music and BBC4 would be an "unashamedly intellectual mixture of Radio 3 and Radio 4 on television". He said that the 800,000 visitors to the Monet exhibition at the Royal Academy last summer and the huge popularity of Tate Modern proved that there was a potential audience for a channel for 'arts, ideas and in-depth discussion'." The Telegraph (London) 08/26/00

TAKING THE BBC TO TASK: Writers AS Byatt and Alan Plater have launched a public attack against the BBC for failing to respect artists’ rights and using inequitable contracts which force artists to waive all rights to their work in perpetuity. "They can't decide whether they're a public service or market-driven organisation — they're public service when they're buying and market-driven when they're selling." The Independent (London) 3/16/01

THE BBC'S FADED GLORY? Some 150 million people worldwide tune in to the BBC every week. "But it isn't only resentful professionals from rival companies who now wonder if the BBC's reputation may not be a shadow—albeit an awfully big shadow—of former glories. The past year has seen turmoil at the corporation's London headquarters and heavy criticism of the BBC as an institution, not for the first time but in a manner more insidious and damaging than ever." The Atlantic 03/01

MORE TIME FOR THE ARTS: After a period of widespread questioning of the BBC’s commitment to the arts (given the many months it spent without anyone in charge of its arts programming), a new initiative has been announced to upgrade and expand its arts coverage. The most significant change is an extra half-hour devoted to culture built into its flagship Friday-night news program. The Independent (London) 2/07/01
  • AN INTERVIEW WITH BBC ART CHIEF: "I want to remind people why we have the programmes in the first place. It's about belief: making the best cultural experience more available is a social good. People [in the BBC] have woken, if not from a sleep, then from a nap." The Independent (London) 2/07/01
  • ARTS TO NUMBER 2: After 34 years on the first channel, BBC moves its premiere arts series "Omnibus," from BBC1 to BBC2, leading some to question the corporation's commitment to arts programming. "Because of the extra investment in BBC1, there is going to be an increase in entertainment and drama programming, although BBC1 will retain a commitment to arts programmes." The Guardian (London) 02/07/01


DISSENTING OPINION: Although the BBC’s recently announced plans to enhance its arts programming have met with popular approval, one critic at least sees only flaws: “BBC4, the new outlet for eggheads and art-lovers, is foredoomed to failure. Among arts leaders, the BBC is viewed with suspicion verging on contempt. Its credibility vanished years ago, along with all its best producers.” The Telegraph (London) 08/30/00

BBC AMERICA, the BBC’s U.S. channel, was launched two years ago and is already so popular its audience base rivals the BBC proper. “Why is BBC America growing so fast? [BBC America’s president] and his programming staff get to pick the best of the BBC, programs that already are battle-tested, turned into hits and refined.” 08/28/00

A GAME OF RISK: BBC chief Greg Dyke proposed a “revolutionary transformation of the BBC channels” last week that includes more arts programming and educational content. “If he pulls it off, Dyke will earn himself the reputation of the man who saved the BBC from the ravages of the digital age, maintaining the corporation as a universal broadcaster at the centre of cultural life in Britain. The risks of the strategy cannot be underestimated: mess it up and the BBC will be left in ruins.” The Guardian (London) 08/28/00

NEW ARTS TELEVISION INITIATIVE: BBC chief announces major new initiative to revamp the public broadcaster. "BBC3 would target younger viewers with home-grown comedy, drama and music and BBC4 would be an "unashamedly intellectual mixture of Radio 3 and Radio 4 on television". He said that the 800,000 visitors to the Monet exhibition at the Royal Academy last summer and the huge popularity of Tate Modern proved that there was a potential audience for a channel for 'arts, ideas and in-depth discussion'." The Telegraph (London) 08/26/00

DISSENTING OPINION: Although the BBC’s recently announced plans to enhance its arts programming have met with popular approval, one critic at least sees only flaws: “BBC4, the new outlet for eggheads and art-lovers, is foredoomed to failure. Among arts leaders, the BBC is viewed with suspicion verging on contempt. Its credibility vanished years ago, along with all its best producers.” The Telegraph (London) 08/30/00

BBC BOUNCING BACK?: Arts programming has been getting increasingly less airtime at the BBC over the past few years. “BBC has been without a head of music and arts for nearly nine months. Programmes are scattered idly around the schedules. Major series have been arbitrarily cancelled. Television hours devoted to the arts have almost halved since the mid-90s. There is no longer a regular documentary arts strand, single music documentaries have virtually disappeared, and the two literary strands have been axed.” Yet, some new programming hires may signal the beginning of a reversal of the trend. The Independent 06/06/00

BBC ARTS - BATTERED, BRUISED AND CRITICIZED: In the past year the BBC's arts section has been accused of dumbing down, giving up, cutting back and banishing things so far to the edge of the schedule that they have all but fallen off. What to do? Create a new arts initiative - "Arts Zone" is designed to be "the home of arts on terrestrial television". London Sunday Times 03/12/00





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