Mister Rogers and Some Other Updates
It’s a holiday week and I have a movie recommendation.
A few months ago I wrote about the fact that Mister Rogers was having a moment. One of the things I mentioned was that a new documentary, "Won’t You Be My Neighbor?," was coming out in the summer.
I’ve now seen that documentary and though an unusual thing to suggest in my column, I would urge anyone who has the opportunity to go and see it to do so.
At this particular moment in our civic life, Mister Rogers stood for kindness, openness and understanding. He was, of course, a revolutionary, not a word usually assigned to him. In our world of hundreds of television channels it's hard to believe that he saw the promise of television when he first started. He said, “Television has the chance of building a real community out of the entire nation.” You will understand the full scope of his mission and his steadfastness in sticking to it despite the winds of change and challenges around him.
As a bonus, you’ll also get to see his testimony to Congress about his work and the work of public television, which frankly saved public television from extinction.
For those of you unable to get to a cinema to watch the film, the good news is that the documentary will air on PBS stations next year.
I’ve provided periodic updates on the dispute between Tavis Smiley, whose show was dropped by PBS over claims of sexual harassment and relationships with members of his staff. Smiley sued PBS and it passed my notice, and I think many others, that Mr. Smiley’s case was dismissed by the court earlier this spring, deciding that the plaintiff’s claim was without merit. You can read more about it here.
No word yet if this is the end of Mr. Smiley’s complaints against PBS.
STREAMING AND VIDEO ON DEMAND
We get a steady trickle of letters into this office asking several questions that come under the heading of rights and clearances. Some of them include: Why can’t I stream PBS outside the U.S.? Why can’t I watch older shows that aired on PBS on demand? How long can I catch up with a show online on my station website? What is Passport?
These are all good questions with not many simple answers! I’ve addressed many of them over the last few months and I thought that this was a good moment to remind you of some of them and allow you to peruse and bookmark them.
PUBLIC MEDIA FUNDING
We also get a fair amount of complaints from folks who object to something about PBS and demand that they should be put out of business by removing federal money. Federal funding is only one part of the revenue stream for PBS. You can read about how the funding works here. And here's a quick visual guide to the sources of funding for PBS.
HOW LOCAL IS MY PUBLIC TELEVISION STATION?
Extremely local! You can read all about it here and get the answer to the question "Why am I always asked to check local listings?"
Our aim in this column is not just to address specific queries and questions pertaining to content, but to also explain the public media system and the world of media in which your public stations are operating.
ABOUT THE GREAT AMERICAN READ
It's a holiday week, a good time to get lost in a good book. Many of you are perturbed by some of the 100 books featured in PBS's Great American Read project. Some of you may have missed this column where I talked about this effort. As I explained, it's not about the "greatest American novel." It's about books that Americans love to read, chosen via a survey of American readers. So while I, and many of you, might not have included the "Fifty Shades of Grey" trilogy, it's there because it was well read by millions of Americans.
But there are 100 books to choose from, I'm sure there's something that will keep you enthralled.
Wishing you a happy July 4th holiday.
Posted on July 3, 2018 at 11:25 a.m.