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The vanishing vision : the inside story of public television /
James Day.
imprint
Berkeley : University of California Press, c1995.
description
x, 443 p. : ill.
ISBN
0520086597 (alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Berkeley : University of California Press, c1995.
isbn
0520086597 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
1387918
 
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Flap Copy
"A monumental achievement. He has written a comprehensive history of public broadcasting that reads like a 'who done it.' Sometimes a detached observer and sometimes a key participant, Day provides the reader with a riveting account of the events, the heroes, the villains and bit players that make up the compelling and complex story of public broadcasting."--Joan Ganz Cooney, Chairman, Executive Committee, Children's Television Workshop "A lively, highly readable, important account of the idealists, bumblers, bureaucrats, well-meaning incompetents, and dedicated souls who built America's flawed and perpetually endangered public television system. James Day is one of the giants of public television's not-so-distant early days, and he provides a knowing, fascinating, and intelligent history of the little television system that has tried to be everything to everybody, has satisfied practically nobody, was built on a foundation of no visible means of financial support, and is more desperately needed now than ever."--Lawrence K. Grossman, former president of PBS and NBC News and author ofThe Electronic Republic "James Day's fascinating history of public television is the very best way I know of to understand that glorious, complicated, frustrating, and utterly American institution. It comes at a time when PBS is facing its greatest challenges and could well bethereference guide as public television approaches the millennium."--Ken Burns, producer of "The Civil War" and "Baseball" "The long, unfinished struggle to create--against daunting odds--an alternative television not tethered to market forces is James Day's theme in this sweeping chronicle. This story--one of achievement eroded by internal dissention but, more significantly, by political log-rolling and chicanery--needs to be told, and Day does so with panache."--Erik Barnouw, author ofTube of Plenty
Flap Copy
"A monumental achievement. He has written a comprehensive history of public broadcasting that reads like a 'who done it.' Sometimes a detached observer and sometimes a key participant, Day provides the reader with a riveting account of the events, the heroes, the villains and bit players that make up the compelling and complex story of public broadcasting."--Joan Ganz Cooney, Chairman, Executive Committee, Children's Television Workshop "A lively, highly readable, important account of the idealists, bumblers, bureaucrats, well-meaning incompetents, and dedicated souls who built America's flawed and perpetually endangered public television system. James Day is one of the giants of public television's not-so-distant early days, and he provides a knowing, fascinating, and intelligent history of the little television system that has tried to be everything to everybody, has satisfied practically nobody, was built on a foundation of no visible means of financial support, and is more desperately needed now than ever."--Lawrence K. Grossman, former president of PBS and NBC News and author of The Electronic Republic "James Day's fascinating history of public television is the very best way I know of to understand that glorious, complicated, frustrating, and utterly American institution. It comes at a time when PBS is facing its greatest challenges and could well be thereference guide as public television approaches the millennium."--Ken Burns, producer of "The Civil War" and "Baseball" "The long, unfinished struggle to create--against daunting odds--an alternative television not tethered to market forces is James Day's theme in this sweeping chronicle. This story--one of achievement eroded by internal dissention but, more significantly, by political log-rolling and chicanery--needs to be told, and Day does so with panache."--Erik Barnouw, author of Tube of Plenty
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1996-02:
Day, a 40-year veteran of Public Broadcasting, provides his personal history of the "institution of enormous promise mired in a self-created bureaucracy." Day's career began with the feisty KQED/San Francisco and went on to the presidency of New York's WNET. His firsthand details are persuasive and useful for researchers. He discusses the controversies behind The Great American Dream Machine, VD Blues, Death of a Princess, and An American Family, the hostility of Richard Nixon, and the "orgy of deregulation" during the Reagan administration. Despite such major successes as Sesame Street and despite independent documentarists (e.g., Frederick Wiseman, Ken Burns), the country's "casual disdain" for its audience, especially the young, prevents Public Broadcasting from "balancing the questionable commercial values projected by the nation's dominant broadcasters." Against the social fragmentation of the new technology's "narrowcasting," Day calls for "a single national institution" that will revive the concept of broadcasting as a public trust, an institution that "would provide a helpful context for living by opening the mind to yet unexamined textures, deepening faith in the human potential, and provoking a laughter of recognition at the absurdities of our own narrow vision." Instead, the compromising, timid industry fails to "counter the featherweight fare of common-denominator television," which dullingly persists with the apparent "acquiescence of a compliant and leaderless public-television establishment." That's one absurdity that's no laughing matter. M. Yacowar; University of Calgary
Appeared in Library Journal on 1995-10-15:
Day, former president of National Educational Television and a public TV executive in both San Francisco and New York, is well qualified to write what should be a pioneering history on Bert and Ernie's and Ken Burns's kind of television. Unfortunately, his book turns out to be turgid institutional history-full of references to NET, PBS, and CPB, not to mention the FCC-that won't excite (or inform) the average reading viewer. In a book obsessed with the funding mechanisms that those acronyms mostly signify to public TV, Day offers almost no sense of the grass-roots fundraising that contributes to making local public stations so memorable to its ardent devotees-and perhaps infamous to others. Indeed, his lively dscription of the first on-air "auction" fundraiser at San Francisco's KQED is agonizingly brief and merely hints at fascinating behind-the-scenes/ before-the-camera details that will need to be recorded by another historian. Day predictably calls for an invigorated public broadcasting system supported by all the resources due a national treasure. But such blatant advocacy-though Day makes a just case-is out-of-joint with the dry, detail-drenched narrative history that precedes it. Day's epilog more properly belongs-and would probably have a far greater impact-in a mainstream journal. Still, given its subject and the author's credentials, libraries with serious media and communications collections must purchase this work.-Scott H. Silverman, Bryn Mawr Coll. Lib., Pa. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Reviews
This item was reviewed in:
Kirkus Reviews,
Choice, February 1996
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Long Description
This spirited, first-ever history of public television offers an insider's account of its topsy-turvy, forty-year odyssey. James Day, a founder of San Francisco's KQED and a past president of New York's WNET, chronicles public television's fascinating evolution from its inauspicious roots in the 1950s to its strong, fiercely debated presence in contemporary culture. The Vanishing Visionprovides a vivid and often amusing behind-the-screens history. Day tells how a program producer, desperate to locate a family willing to live with television cameras for seven months, borrowed a dime--and a suggestion--from a blind date and telephoned the Louds of Santa Barbara. The result was the mesmerizing twelve-hour documentary,An American Family. Day relates how Big Bird and his friends were created to spice up Sesame Street when test runs showed a flagging interest in the program's "live-action" segments. And he describes how Frieda Hennock, the first woman appointed to the FCC, overpowered the resistance of her male colleagues to lay the foundation for public television. Along the way, Day identifies the particular forces that have shaped public television. The result, in his view, is a Byzantine bureaucracy kept on a leash by an untrusting Congress, with a fragmented leadership that lacks a clearly defined mission in today's multimedia environment. Public television's "democratic" structure of over 300 stations stifles boldness and innovation while absorbing money needed for national programming. Day calls for a bold rethinking of public television's mission, advocating a system that is adequately funded and independent of government, one capable of countering commercial television's "lowest-common-denominator" approach with a full range of substantive programs, comedy as well as culture, entertainment as well as information.
Main Description
This spirited, first-ever history of public television offers an insider's account of its topsy-turvy, forty-year odyssey. James Day, a founder of San Francisco's KQED and a past president of New York's WNET, chronicles public television's fascinating evolution from its inauspicious roots in the 1950s to its strong, fiercely debated presence in contemporary culture. The Vanishing Visionprovides a vivid and often amusing behind-the-screens history. Day tells how a program producer, desperate to locate a family willing to live with television cameras for seven months, borrowed a dime--and a suggestion--from a blind date and telephoned the Louds of Santa Barbara. The result was the mesmerizing twelve-hour documentary, An American Family. Day relates how Big Bird and his friends were created to spice up Sesame Street when test runs showed a flagging interest in the program's "live-action" segments. And he describes how Frieda Hennock, the first woman appointed to the FCC, overpowered the resistance of her male colleagues to lay the foundation for public television. Along the way, Day identifies the particular forces that have shaped public television. The result, in his view, is a Byzantine bureaucracy kept on a leash by an untrusting Congress, with a fragmented leadership that lacks a clearly defined mission in today's multimedia environment. Public television's "democratic" structure of over 300 stations stifles boldness and innovation while absorbing money needed for national programming. Day calls for a bold rethinking of public television's mission, advocating a system that is adequately funded and independent of government, one capable of countering commercial television's "lowest-common-denominator" approach with a full range of substantive programs, comedy as well as culture, entertainment as well as information.

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