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Past, present and future.

The following is a statement given by Dr. William F. Baker, President and CEO of WNET/13, taken from an interview conducted by M/Video Age in commemoration of Channel 13/WNET's 30th Anniversary.

I am never totally satisfied with Thirteen/WNET's performance even when we do the very best of what we do. I think we have a long way to go, and that is part of the excitement of it. I think a lot of other people in the electronic media business have kind of been going backwards, and, therefore, it's made us look as if we are going forward at a faster rate than we are. When you think of the power of television-particularly after this election - you realize that television is clearly the most powerful element in our society today. It is our job to take the medium and say, okay what can we do for the viewers' benefit?

Some people have said that a new administration would be more favorable for public television. I don't think any of the administrations -- even the Bush and the Reagan administrations -- were ever against public television, but there were a few people in those administrations who had distorted views or who didn't fully understand us. There is still a possibility of budget cutting, because there are so many institutions feeling a need for government money.

Our position has always been that public television remains one of the most efficient ways to spend government money. I think, too, that we will benefit from the emphasis on education that we at Channel 13 have had in the past. We are very much leaders in that area considering that, five years ago, we didn't even have an education division here.

We must look at new media. With all the changes taking place, we don't want to be limited to just traditional television. We are looking at everything from fiber optics to computers for use in schools and libraries.

We are not going to forget the need to get [financially] tighter and tighter. In the old days, the networks could do an occasional program that just wasn't economical, because they had so much money. Now there is such pressure on them to make dollars that even they can't use marginal dollars to do programs "only for the public good." Hence, the need for us is even greater, and the void that is left -- education and public affairs -- is greater than it was just ten years ago.

We'll also be doing more in the area of American culture, as well as programs for the underserved segments of the audienceminority groups, programs for the poor, for the disenfranchised, and programs for people who can't speak English and need to learn how to read.

There have been some culture changes. People are now beginning to watch public television for some education, and not just for entertainment. Kids are feeling better about watching public TV. That's an evolution that is coming; hence our audiences have not shrunk in the times of a huge media explosion. They have pretty much stayed the same.

But, we have not adequately told our story. That is part of what this institution is trying to do- get the word out that we are not formidable, that we are nothing to be afraid of. You learn something, but it won't hurt. We have been good at individual program promotion but not at institutional promotion.

We are really heavily used. About 70 per cent - 7 million people a week - watch Channel 13 in the Tri State area. About 70 per cent of all the people in America are watching public television on their local stations.
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Title Annotation:interview with Dr. William F. Baker
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Interview
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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