Educational Television. Long before the Internet, long before Personal Computers, the only “modern” access to information was (aside from your local library) your TV or your radio.
When Radio first came into being in the 1920s it was touted as the magic key to all things information and education – it was the great gift to humanity, and its promise was nothing short of miraculous – the idea of having the world at your fingertips; access to book readings, plays, Fine Arts, Discussion programs – all manner of intellectual stimulation was going to happen and it was all going to happen from the wooden box in your living room.
Well, the promise really never became reality – after a few bungled attempts at taking the high road, Radio became the entertainment medium that, in effect, saved a nation. Because radio was coming of age during the Depression and America needed distraction. So the promise of loftier pursuits took the backseat and Radio became the Great Entertainment medium at a time when America needed it most.
Cut to a few decades later – the new medium of Television promised to be all things information and education. It was touted as the great gift to humanity with results nothing short of miraculous. Plays, Movies, Fine Arts, Discussion Programs – all manner of intellectual stimulation was going to happen, and it was going to happen from the glowing tube in your living room.
Like Radio before it, Television had a few bungled attempts at loftier pursuits.The networks felt an obligation of sorts to educate as well as entertain, so TV did fulfill at least a portion of the promise, even if it was relegated to those hours when most of America wasn’t awake, or during those days when most of America was somewhere else, and not in the living room.
And then someone came up with the brilliant idea to dedicate an entire network to Educational Television; one that would devote itself to the pursuit of all things intellectual. Plays, Discussions, sophisticated Children’s Programs (not a barrage of cartoons regular television lumped on their Saturdays). No, this was going to be special and miraculous and it was going to be all things to all people who wanted to learn – it was the miracle of Education on a mass scale.
And the government was going to pay for it.
And then began the studies and committees and projected budgets and taxes so Public Television would get off the ground.
The episode of the ABC News Sunday talk program Issues and Answers features a discussion with members of the Carnegie Commission for Public Television; a group established with President Johnson’s blessing. Discussed are the findings of the Commission’s report and what the future would be in store for America with the promise of this new and exciting project. It was broadcast shortly after the release of the report, in January of 1967.
Have a listen and remind yourself what they were saying about The Information Superhighway.