What has made WGBH preeminent is an unwavering commitment to excellence and quality, a commitment evident at its founding nearly 50 years ago when 'GBH set out to provide an alternative to commercial broadcasting. WGBH has changed a great deal from those early days, when it introduced Julia Child to the kitchens of America from the basement of the Boston Gas building. The roster of programs pioneered and produced by 'GBH offers eloquent testimony to the impact and influence the station has had over the past half century.
Multiplying the Impact
Twice a year, WGBH sends NOVA teacher's guides to 65,000 educators across the US, supplying activities that help them integrate the series into their curriculum. Each teacher uses the guide with an average of 75 students. Impressive impact, when you do the math! (And that's for just one year; most teachers
use the lessons over and over. Most also share the guide with at least one other teacher, extending the impact even further.)
But none of this would have been possible without the resources to attract talented and creative people--and here the support of the local community demonstrated both enormous generosity and enlightened
self-interest. This partnership gave WGBH a freedom rarely seen in broadcasting to pursue innovative ideas, to take risks, and to set the very highest standards for program content and production.
Hundreds of awards line the shelves at WGBH, from the Parents' Choice Award to the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award...even two Oscars! 'GBH productions were honored with more than 100 awards in 1999 alone, including: 13 Emmys, 6 Peabodys,
1 duPont-Columbia Award, Gold Baton.
||To sustain this commitment into the next
century will require a major new investment in people and resources. What is needed
is increased funding in the form of
endowment and program venture
capital, combined with funds to convert to--but more importantly to capitalize upon the potential of--digital broadcasting. In its early years, WGBH raised money by door-to-door solicitations, neighbors
calling upon neighbors, and later through its innovative on-air auction and membership drives. While successful, such efforts provide support for ongoing operations but not for long-term research and development or
endowment--both so critical to keeping the pipeline filled with programs of the
Gifts to WGBH's earlier program venture fund, the Fund for the Eighties, provided the leveraging capital that made possible programs such as Arthur,
Frontline, and American Experience.
This new campaign will not only speed the development of programs that bring WGBH's hallmark quality to a new generation of
viewers and listeners, but it also will enable 'GBH to fulfill its educational mission in ways that the station's founders could scarcely have imagined.
Six times as many people watch PBS each week (95,800,000) as visit a public library (15,800,000)
More than twice as many people watch WGBH each day (1,000,000) as read the daily Boston Globe (466,000)
More than four times as many people watched Frontline's The Farmer's Wife (16,680,000) as read Time magazine each week (4,000,000)
Twice as many people watched WGBH's Sister Wendy's Story of Painting (3,600,000) as attended the Museum of Fine Arts, Gardner Museum, and Worcester Art Museum combined in one year (1,838,000)
Nearly five times as many people watch WGBH's Evening at Pops each week (3,000,000) as see the Boston Pops Orchestra perform live over a summer season
||"There is no other outlet for programs like The Civil War, Eyes on the Prize, Vietnam: A
Television History, and Frontline. And while we have done much good work, our greatest
challenges lie before us. Our future lies not in trying to duplicate, nor to oversensationalize, but to innovate, to find ways to attract and keep audiences without
succumbing and giving up certain standards.
Henry Hampton*, Independent filmmaker
* deceased November, 1998
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