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WNET's goals against financial woes.

PBS turns 25 and WNET in New York is going to be 32 years old. Born as WHDT, it became WNET in 1970 and it still is the premier public TV outlet in the U.S. Like PBS, the Public Broadcasting System that groups 346 TV stations, WNET/Channel 13 has had a forever nervous time when it comes to its financing. A state of affairs that continues to this day. At press time, an emerging board meeting was dealing with its precarious financial woes.

In 1987, Dr. William Baker took over as WNET president. A one-time TV announcer, later a top TV executive at Group W, and an arctic explorer, Baker was one of few men to set foot on both the North and South poles.

The station's real significance over the past 32 years has been its determination to stay true to its ideals of introducing quality entertainment and information programs, to throw the spotlight on American society, to produce educational services and to survive in a fiercely competitive commercial climate. It's been successful in its search for the elusive goal of better television. Indeed, according to Baker, about 70 per cent -- seven million people a week -- watch Channel 13 in the Tri State area [New York, Connecticut, New Jersey!."

Previously, Baker stated that they'll also "be doing more in the area of American culture, as well as programs for the underserved segments of the audience -- minority groups."

The financial squeeze is, however, cutting into quality program acquisition from abroad. A combination of high prices for U.K. product, driven up by demand from cable and lower revenue growth, is showing up on the screen. WNET program officials tend to dismiss low-cost quality programs from countries such as Italy and France.

For Spain, the semi-valid argument is that, in the U.S. there are Spanish-language networks capable of providing quality fare. However, those outlets tend to focus on commercial products, leaving room for the classic genre. In Baker's view, there have been some culture changes. "People are now beginning to watch public television for some education, and not just for entertainment."
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Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Oct 1, 1994
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