PBS Renews Arts Support


In its battle for federal funding, PBS has clung to its educational mission and stressed a renewed commitment to arts coverage, which gets increasingly short shrift not only on television but in the pages of newspapers.

WNET New York launched SundayArts March 23, a regular program dedicated to the visual and performing arts in the cultural mecca that is New York City.

The first installment, which aired at noon, included segments on exhibits at the Morgan Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York and New York City Opera's iconoclastic incoming director, Gerard Mortier.

SundayArts includes a companion Website where users can e-mail directly to the artists and organizations profiled.

"There are 500 channels on television, but very few of them that have arts and culture," WNET President and CEO Neal Shapiro said.

Indeed, cable networks including Bravo and A&E Network have migrated drastically from their original mission as high-minded cultural respites and now serve up a steady diet of reality programming.

"As successful as things like [Bravo's] Top Chef and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy are, they are not about arts and culture," Shapiro said.

Recent media reports questioning PBS' relevancy spurred an outpouring of support for public television from readers and PBS regulars including documentarian Ken Burns and former NPR CEO Ken Stern.