Sunday, September 18, 2011

Public Television for the 21st-Century Public?

Yesterday I used my national site to give a shout-out for all those wonderful videos that Merrill Brockway produced for the old PBS Dance in America series.  As I wrote in my second sentence, Brockway “brought to the video capture of both ballet and modern dance that same ‘gold standard’ of production values that Jordan Whitelaw had established in his video coverage of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for Evening at Symphony.”  The occasion for my writing this piece was a New York Times story about Brockway donating his archives to the National Dance Institute of New Mexico.

Now I have no problem with those archives being given to an institution committed to dance education.  Another sentence in my piece asserted that both Brockway and Whitelaw “were committed to educating their viewers without making ‘educational television’ feel like a tedious and oppressive concept.  However, this was not just “educational television;”  it was public television.  Without casting any aspersions on the National Dance Institute, does this mean that Brockway’s videos will be out of reach for the rest of us?

This prompted me to do some poking around on YouTube in search of video content.  Apparently PBS is not uploading any of its programming, at least as a matter of national policy.  I found a few things that had been uploaded by individual stations but nothing on the national scale of Dance in America or even the national distribution level of Evening at Symphony.  PBS does have its own video site.  However, this is all relatively recent stuff (long after PBS production standards went down the tubes, consigning the likes of Brockway and Whitelaw to the dustbin of a history meant to be forgotten);  and the Performing Arts section seems to consist heavily of previews and other fragments, hardly a resource for an engaging introduction to the performance of either dance or music.  This should serve as an informative barometer of just what our government thinks of the performing arts, but I doubt that this data point will surprise many of us.

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