By Stephen Segaller, Vice President, National Production
Welcome to Blueprint America. We invite you to join us on what we hope will be an exciting journey over the next year.
Blueprint America is a precedent-setting multi-platform initiative — developed and produced by Thirteen/WNET, and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation — that will harness the power of public broadcasting’s most prestigious programs, primetime documentaries, community and educational outreach, and the web to shine an unyielding spotlight on one of the most critical issues facing our country, yet one that has been under-reported by the traditional news media: America’s decaying and neglected infrastructure. We hear about infrastructure only when it results in a catastrophic bridge collapse or levee failure, but in fact, it is placing our quality of life and our ability to compete in a global economy at risk.
The rusting bridges, overcrowded airports, endless traffic jams, suburban sprawl, choked tanker terminals, lack of public transportation, water shortages and rolling brownouts that so many of us experience are just the most visible symbols of neglect, but the issues run deeper. They are more than an inconvenience to us; in an era of climate change and $5-a-gallon gasoline, they are a wake-up call about our nation’s ability to face the social, economic and environmental challenges of the future. They also represent the urgency to find new, bipartisan creative policy and funding solutions. And as the nation chooses a new President and Congress, the need is underscored for a coherent, shared vision of how our nation will begin to address the problems of growth and the sustainability of our standard of living.
The costs of fixing years of neglect and underfunding are indeed staggering. Although it is estimated that the price tag will swell to more than $1.6 trillion dollars over the next five years, we hope that Blueprint America’s content will challenge all of us with the question: “what are the economic and social costs of doing nothing?”
Over the next year, we at the Blueprint America team at Thirteen/WNET hope to create a unique portfolio of dramatic and compelling programming on this critical subject, including:
- Individual reports produced in partnership with PBS’s most prestigious and most-watched news and public affairs programs, as well as public radio
- Original, high profile documentaries produced for national broadcast on PBS
- Educational and community outreach to integrate study and debate on this subject into schools and community groups
We hope you will come back and visit this website often. We’ll be posting video and audio exclusives, behind-the-scenes video and interviews, and informative links to resources and background reports. We hope the site will serve as a focal point for debate, an aggregator of print and video content, and “virtual meetinghouse” for you to share stories, videos, and information about the infrastructure in your cities and towns.
The initiative is planned to roll out in three distinct phases:
Phase I will run from August through November this year, with the goal of creating debate and awareness of our neglected infrastructure during this all-important election cycle. There will be unique production and content partnerships with PBS’ news and public affairs programs, including NOW on PBS. We will create a wide footprint of information and debate on a subject with which too few Americans have context.
Phase II is planned for April of 2009, as our new President begins setting our nation’s agenda in his first 100 days, and a new Congress begins to tackle its first legislative challenges. During this time, we will air an original, high-profile television documentary event – with attendant promotion, complementary web content, and outreach to schools and the media – to underscore, amplify, and provide context to the largest audience possible. Working with PBS member stations around the country, with their deep roots in their local communities, we will provide editorial support and — where needed — funding for local programming efforts including documentaries, talk shows, town meetings and community screenings, that underline specific regional issues and innovative local solutions to our infrastructure challenges.
Phase III is being planned for the summer of 2009 as Congress begins to debate America’s all-important transportation bill that will set our infrastructure priorities for years to come. The last time Congress tackled this job, it wound up taking 2.5 years to get it through… and the $286 billion price tag was loaded with earmarks and “special projects” in the home states of some key lawmakers. Our programs will focus on the political process, but also present bold visions and solutions for the future. We will create original documentaries, and also partner once again with PBS’s most prestigious programs to amplify the content.
Here’s what we have scheduled so far:
• The NewsHour will present a five-part series on how infrastructure issues affect every region of country, reported by Senior Correspondent Ray Suarez, beginning the week of September 22nd.
• NOW on PBS will present a report on how transportation infrastructure impacts working families with David Brancaccio as correspondent, currently scheduled for October 10th.
• Worldfocus: Our new internationally-focused nightly newscast will air a series of segments on how our global competitors treat infrastructure. Likely air dates are shortly after its launch, in October.
So we welcome your feedback, ideas, and your thoughts on what YOU would like to see on this site. Stay tuned…