Robert Lipsyte 21:30
in the essay that we've just heard, and in the fair report, is that after the taxpayers pay for the hardware of PBS, its corporate sponsors who decide what's actually going on the air. Is that fair?
Barry Chase 21:47
No, it's not fair. The and in fact, much of what is on the air is paid for by the public as well. Though there is in an underfunded system, the possibility and no doubt some reality to this, that that those who choose to support particular programs will pick and choose from among a full range of program options. And we'll pick those that they think make the most sense for whatever their own sensibilities are. So that I, there was a concern here, I think, Pat, there's some food for thought and what Pat has to say as there is in the in the fair report, because the we have known for a long time that with what she calls a jerry rigged system, we are more subject than we like to be to the picking and choosing a program funders, for pieces of the schedule. I don't I don't think that it's necessarily relevant to the to the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour, which is, after all, a news program with an orientation toward the kind of decision making that Robin described. And by the way, Pat also left out some other very important things we've done such as the African series, which was the the first and only series on television done about Africa from an African perspective in which caused a certain amount of consternation among the power elite. But the point still is, there is something to the point, that if the public wishes to have a system of public television service that reflects the public's views fairly, then the public should pay for more of that system than it does at present. I think there's no question about it. And I think with a multicultural public, there will be an increasing tendency toward a multicultural Public Television.
Robert Lipsyte 23:28
Carolyn Craven, is it more than a than Barry Chase's concern? I mean, is it systemic kind of either safe or conservative?
Carolyn Craven 23:37
It is safe, I think it is conservative, and I think it is systemic on South Africa Now, the program of that, that I represent on public television has no corporate underwriting at all, and that we were considered corporate unfriendly, because that the show is considered to have an anti apartheid bias, and so therefore, was corporate unfriendly for corporations. I don't even know what that means. Does that mean they support apartheid? I've never even I've never even understood what that meant, in terms of a South African context. But it's more than that, Oh, you look at public television, and you can look at it hour after hour, day after day. And yes, the Africa series was wonderful. And yes, eyes on the prize is terrific. But they are really exceptions, rather than the rule of one just pays attention to the hours, a white male conservative. Influence is just clearly there. I think that and I know in news programs that when it comes to calling an expert on an issue, you call the people that, you know, well, when most of the people who run these shows are white males, they're going to call other white males whom they know and more. I don't think it's nonsense. And I think that it not only happens, but it's even more than that, even when women or minorities are called in. For example, blacks are called in to discuss issues that either predominantly affect blacks in this country or that effect Affrica, you know, as though we have no opinions on the environment or about China or about Central Europe or Central America, Eastern Europe. You know, I'd love to comment on all those subjects and can have, you know, and have informed opinions on all those subjects. But that, that even when we were called in, were called in to represent such a narrow focus as though you know, as the blacks only concern. Concerns are about what other blacks are doing, either in this country or abroad. And that's truly offensive.
Robert Lipsyte 25:36
That's just the ghettoizing.
Carolyn Craven 25:39
It's a real ghettoizing
Robert MacNeil 25:42
Well, I'm, I'm offended by the implication, in those northern implication, it's a charge in the essay, because they have images from our program, that none of the issues that the woman Aufderheidi raises. none of the questions raised are discussed, I'm just defending our program. Now, PBS has a very wide range of programs, I'm discussing our program, all of the concerns and issues that she raised have been discussed and often discussed more than once, in our program, for instance, the question of worker safety and safety from pesticides and people in the field, the safety of people working on oil rigs have been have been featured on our program, you have to look at the program as a whole. And I, I'm not going to sit here and tolerate the implication that we only reflect a small corporate white American middle class
Carolyn Craven 26:35
I think you do tend to try to reflect a consensus and You said so yourself earlier on, and that, that it seems to me that news programs also
Robert MacNeil 26:44
reflect a consensus. I said that in the case of Nicaragua at a particular time, when the issue had changed in Washington, and after after there being no consensus for a long time. The as a result of the of the intervention by the five American presidents bitterly opposed by the Reagan administration, tolerated by the Bush administration. The the two parties on Capitol Hill had come together, our program reflected that during that,
Jeff Cohen 27:11
why can't you have a critic of that consensus? What is so difficult
Carolyn Craven 27:16
news programs are a part of the public debate and not just a reflection when Washington happens to have a consensus. And that what is it seems to me that, that what you fail to do is to is to be a part of the much broader debate. It's as though the spectrum is this wide, and you represent some kind of narrow or reflect some kind of narrow,
Robert Lipsyte 27:35
Barry Chase in Washington is Is there some way that PBS, which we know is not a network, as we know, commercial networks are can get back to this diversity or wholeness? That was the original mandate?
Barry Chase 27:51
Well, I think there were a lot of original mandates. I think there were about as many original mandates as there were people thinking about public television originally. One of them certainly, though, is the reflection of voices outside of the existing consensus that's in our program policies. We try hard to do that. I think that the jerry rigged nature of the of the funding for the system, the sort of each time being its own new creation, as far as funding programs, causes certain distortions. And I think that we try to be sensitive toward complementing those, those problems when we, when we fund things from within the system itself. I think that we, for example, we very much are aware of the multiculturalism of the country and have a sort of new opportunity to reflect that multiculturalism in our programs. I think that to do that in the most effective manner. We're going to have to have more control within public television itself, of the funding for new program ventures, etc. This is not not not with regard to the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour, which has a particular news program mission, which is a journalistic mission, that's a bit different, I think, from what Ms. Craven and Mr. Cohen are talking about. I think, though, that there is an opportunity to become more multicultural. I think there's a lag time in these things. So you're likely to see more Eurocentric kinds of discussions than perhaps there ought to be given a walk down the streets of major American cities. But I do think we're conscious of it. I do think that there's a new sensibility in public television. And with some new resources for us, I think we can do something about it.
Jeff Cohen 29:23
I've been hearing about, I've been hearing that kind of statement for so many years now,
Carolyn Craven 29:27
most of these ethnic groups have existed in this country for a very long time, much longer than the existence of PBS. And yet PBS continually and conceptually refuses to reflect that. Let me just say that it's not only a racial and cultural bias, but it's also a class bias. I mean, there's virtually nothing on the air that reflects the fact that there's a large working class and underclass in our country
Robert MacNeil 29:51
Not true in our program, and I'm not sure I'm not talking about that and PBS first thought he made the statement at the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour, Good, you might almost think that workers don't exist. It's true. It is it is not true.
Jeff Cohen 30:04
We have the statistics vary, and you had 6% of your guests represented either ethnic groups, public interest groups or labor unions
Barry Chase 30:14
PBS has been criticized broadly, I'd like to get one more word. And if I could, I think that I think perhaps the most successful multicultural program on the air today is Sesame Street. And it's been there for about 20 years. Now you can, I suppose, sneer if you like at the faculty,
Carolyn Craven 30:29
No body is sneering. Congratuations and it's Wonderful,
Barry Chase 30:32
thank you very much. Hold on for a minute. I think that Sesame Street's success with a multicultural approach to children is terribly important. And the influence of that program is very difficult to put limits on since we're dealing with mines that are relatively open and relatively unformed. I do I wouldn't disagree for a moment that we want to make better efforts. I think, Carolyn, for you to say or for Jeff to say you've been hearing this for 100 years, and therefore you don't believe it? Well, you know, I don't know how to deal with that except to say that we are sensitive to it. I think there's a new sensibility to it. I think that there's there's a new sensibility to it in the in the country as a whole. You may say these groups have been here for a long time. And and certainly they have been in one form or another and one population segment or another. But I think that there has been a watershed in sense of sensitivity and sensibility in this country over the past five to 10 years, even as we're having terrible problems. racially, we know in some of the large cities, there's a new comfort with the multiculturalism. And I think you will see that reflected,
Jeff Cohen 31:29
let me ask you a specific question, because it was one that I was invited to Washington to meet your programming board, when you had hearings in February 1987. And nothing has changed that I can see. We asked you back then fair petitioned you. And we said that you have every week, you have regular programs that give the corporate view of things. So they look at the corporate agenda. Louis Rukeyser is Wall Street week, the Nightly Business Report is on most PBS stations, Adam Smith's money world and we made a simple request. How hard is it to every week, have a program for the public interest constituencies those that sometimes conflict with big business, labor, consumer rights, environmentalism? And we asked you the second question about all the programs hosted by the McLaughlin and the Buckley's on the right, how hard is it to get a show hosted by a partisan journalist of the left?
Barry Chase 32:24
Well, let me say first of all, we have tried and we have had one, in fact, the kwitny report, which was on for one season, I think, was generally regarded as a as a program that was hosted by a journalist of the left. And we'll continue to try that
Robert Lipsyte 32:36
Barry, hold that thought. what happened to the kwitny report?
Barry Chase 32:40
it was a combination of a loss of of comity between the station that was presenting it to us, which was another station in New York City, and kwitny On the one hand, and
Robert Lipsyte 32:52
It wasn't a matter of loss of sponsorship and they kwitny never got a corporate sponsor.
Barry Chase 32:58
That's correct. And that and that is that is the fact
Robert Lipsyte 33:00
Let me ask I'd like to ask Robert McNeil something not about the MacNeil Lehrer NewsHour, but about PBS in general. Do you have any concern about the what seems to be the overwhelming corporate sponsorship in in PBS? And what might be the response to that
Robert MacNeil 33:17
Barry Chase is absolutely right as more of the primetime are the regular programming, a larger proportion of the regular programming on the public system is supported by corporate underwriting, there will be fewer programs which corporate underwriters disapprove of. That's true. But there are lots of programs on the corporate underwriters don't choose to underwrite you remember, you mentioned South Africa now front line, which is the only program at the moment anywhere on any network where you get regular what used to be called in the business hard hitting documentaries, which certainly reflect the diversity of opinion everywhere, and which is a stellar program.
Jeff Cohen 33:54
Why can't we get that day after day week after week
Robert MacNeil 33:57
Well you get TV you and I just wanted to complete my point it is not does not attract corporate underwriting yet it is supported by the public television stations to hear you people talk and the essays from American University. You'd think that all public affairs programming get their support solely from underwriters. It is not true. The news our it is not true of most others. They get a combination of support and public television stations choose to support these programs by the money that they collect from their viewers and so on.
Jeff Cohen 34:24
Well, my argument would be that the public TV programmers have got to do something to balance out the undue influence and weight that corporate funders have a good example is Bill Buckley show he's been on for decades. He's funded by big business Mobil Oil is one of his backers. And he wants according to reports in the LA Times, gave $30,000 to a politician he supported Jack Kemp to come on his program twice. Well, if Bill Buckley has got $30,000 to pay somebody to come on his program twice And Jonathan kwitny show a hard hitting show goes off the air for lack of funding. There's something happening at the top of PBS that Barry Chase isn't putting into order
Robert MacNeil 35:08
It isn't only the top of PBS stead programs. All programs have to be approved once a year by the collectivity of public television stations who are independent it was not a network. However, some people might have wondered network perhaps I myself, one might have wondered network it was set up to make the individual stations autonomous, and they decide which programs they will buy by
Jeff Cohen 35:29
now, it's a good point. And that's why John McLaughlin, who's had General Electric behind a Metropolitan Life, ADM, his programs are offered free to public TV stations across the country. And they take it. And so you have corporations
Carolyn Craven 35:43
And they're charged more. Stations are charged for my
Robert Lipsyte 35:47
Let me aks Barry Chase, with with less contributions now from state and the federal government and corporations in picking and choosing what kind of future is there for change in PBS. And especially since a lot of other places now are doing what PBS was charged to do? There's real competition
Barry Chase 36:05
Yes well. That's a that's a broader question than the one raised I think, by the Fair report, but the there are things that that a market based broadcast programming source is never going to do that PBS is going to continue to do and public service education matters. Also innovation that I think is not going to be attempted by the the A and E's and the Bravo's and the Discovery Channels, no matter what happens, because they're market based and they need to have a bottom line driven kind of system. I think that the the best source of funding for us and we've known it for a long time, or the viewers have programs like this, the viewers of channel 13 In New York, are the viewers of all the other stations around the country. Without their support, we are going to be relatively less free to make the changes that Jeff Jeff feels that I should have already made. And I don't necessarily disagree, I think with with with more freedom at the center and with more resources and I think we will be getting that we're reorganizing our own work almost even as we speak here and should have a new system of program funding of at least program funding of a for about a third of the schedule in place by about a year from now. Once that happens, I think it will be more fair to hold me and Jennifer Lawson who's who's my boss accountable for the for the programs that come out the other.
Robert Lipsyte 37:21
We're going to do it Barry but we're going to have to stop now and we will be back to hold you accountable. Barry chase in Washington, Carolyn Craven, Jeff Cohen, Robert MacNeil, thanks so very much for being with us. Keep watching and we'll see what changes in the future. That's the 11th hour I'm Robert Lipsyte