Everyone has known and heard about PBS, the Public Broadcasting System. A user-sponsored television channel that does not run advertisements. But instead relies on user donations during their yearly telethon to raise revenue. A few realize that before PBS was the Public Broadcasting System. It was known as the National Educational Television and Radio Center network shortly after ETRC, or the Educational Television and Radio Center. It had moved its headquarters from Ann Arbor, Michigan to New York City in 1958. At this time what would soon be known as PBS was not considered to be a fourth television network. ETRC had only been showing 5-hour blocks of programming and had little actual entertainment value to offer.
When New York City was the new home of the NETRC the cultural diversity and dramatic change in programming. From the old ETRC network may have been the catalyst for it now having a little bit of “flavor.” They began to bring in programming from the BBC. And ran hard-hitting documentaries and took on what some consider to be a liberal style. They underwent yet another name change in 1963 to NET. The American government got involved in 1968 and created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. PBS itself was formed when NET merged with WDNT (which was later branded WNET). When the Ford Foundation that was responsible for initially creating the ERTC decided to withdraw its funding.
The style of programming on PBS has not changed since then. WGBH in Boston does all of their educational programmings, while WNET in New York. WPBT in Miami do all of their news and informational programming. Shows like “Charlie Rose” and “The News Hour” with Jim Lehrer come out of New York. Not all of the programs on PBS have been created through funds by viewers; the network always uses the “Viewers Like You” phrase when this is the case. New York still has a profound experience on PBS however, as shows like Sesame Street, though initially produced by WGBH are obviously filmed in New York City. Many of their documentaries have that “New York” feel to them, and much more are actually about life in New York itself.
A great example of this is their online documentary “Hidden New York,” and “New York: A Documentary Film”. If you want to take advantage of the highly independent film culture of New York, working for PBS may be a great place to start. There may be no way for a film school graduate to get closer to the action than through this excellent source of inspiration that PBS provides.