John W. Macy – Pres. Corporation For Public Broadcasting – Commonwealth Club of California lecture – November 13, 1970 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –
It’s interesting that, fifty years ago, the complaint was about the vast irrelevance of our Television and Radio media. And a decade before that, we were complaining that Television had become a “vast wasteland”. And only two decades before that, we were hailing TV as the miraculous invention which would bring unknown riches of culture and education to a mass audience – all at our fingertips.
Well, the promise and the reality seldom match – and Television (and certainly Radio from the 1960s on), abandoned the lofty in favor of the distraction.
In this lecture, delivered by John W. Macy, President for the Corporation For Public Broadcasting, some potential light shines on the horizon of 1970. In 1967, during the Lyndon Johnson Administration. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting was created on November 7, 1967, when U.S. president Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. The new organization initially collaborated with the National Educational Television network—which would become the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Ward Chamberlin Jr. was the first operating officer. On March 27, 1968, it was registered as a nonprofit corporation in the District of Columbia. In 1969, the CPB talked to private groups to start PBS.
Macy points out that both Radio and TV have massive potential, and it was that potential which brought about the Public Broadcasting act in the first place, and why in 1970, being reminded of that potential was more crucial than ever. And it was stations like KQED (TV and Radio) in the Bay Area of California that had the ability to transform a sick media into something vital. By utilizing Public media as a conduit for local viewers and listeners, rather than focusing all the attention on the concerns of a corporation thousands of miles away.
The case Macy puts forth is a case heard over and over – how media have abandoned the concerns of the people who live in the communities these stations broadcast from.
Some fifty years later, it’s as bad if not worse than it was in 1970. Deregulation and the almost constant call for defunding Public Broadcasting have all but obliterated the concept which brought about the Public Broadcast Act of 1967. Public broadcasting has gotten further and further away from local issues and concerns – how broadcast media in general has been dismantled to the point where one company owns numerous stations in the same market and that it has no obligation to broadcast in the public interest, but rather in the interest of the advertiser and shareholder. That stations are no longer obligated to present differing points of view, as was provided in the Fairness Doctrine, has fractured the audience, and America even more.
But in 1970 we were still at that point where we saw the problem and could see a solution – we see no solution today.
To get an idea of where we were in 1970, here is that lecture, delivered by John W. Macy of the Corporation For Public Broadcasting at the Commonwealth Club of California on November 13, 1970.