The Wonders of Public Television

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I've done a lot of interesting (and a few admittedly wacky) things in my career. None has been as rewarding as what I do at KCET as the station's chief programmer, because I believe in the power of television and new media to impact peoples' lives. I get to see every program that airs on KCET, shaping the lineup and schedule with hopes our viewers will enjoy what they see as much as I do. In this blog, called Bohdan's Corner, I'm going to write about the programs that are my personal favorites. Sometimes they'll be the one-off specials that you may have overlooked otherwise but deserve your attention. Check back often, and let me know what you think.

During the early years of public television, when it was called NET (National Educational Television, I was an impressionable kid in Detroit.

My immigrant parents commanded me to take piano lessons, art lessons, dance lessons; my initial protests proved fruitless. Begrudgingly I settled into the schedule of many classes I took outside of my daily school day and on weekends too. And then I saw the most amazing thing on our black and white TV. A conductor named Leonard Bernstein spoke to me about the joys of classical music. Sure, there were hundreds of other lucky kids attending the New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts. But I believed Mr. Bernstein was performing for me (and my family who sat on the couch a few feet from where I was, almost nose-up to the TV console.) That is my first recollection of how the arts became part of my life and also my first-hand encounter with the power of television.

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When I moved to New York City I discovered the marvels of Broadway, the symphony, the opera, the museums through many performances series I watched on WNET. I learned how to cook thanks to Julia Child, whose weekly series I faithfully recorded on my VHS. I was intellectually provoked by William Buckley Jr. whose 33 year career on public television eclipses the mindless rants of modern-day cable pundits. I even turned off the vacuum cleaner during the pledge breaks and learned how important ongoing financial support is to public television. (Imagine how stunned I was when I moved to London for a year and discovered the BBC had financial support from the public and the government!)

Every day I come to KCET, I'm excited about what's next - this week, the next, and later this year. I get a chance to preview the films and special of talented producers who stand apart from commercial television. They continue the tradition of inspiring, education, and entertaining viewers without the distractions of commercial or pressures to deliver ratings over quality. Through the programs we air on KCET, I continue to learn about the parts of the world I'll likely never get to, about the wonders of science of nature I never learned about in school, and even though I can't walk down to Times Square or Lincoln Center any more, I still get to see the best performances in the comfort of my home.

Thank you!

Bohdan Zachary

(BTW: That's me on the right up top, standing next to writer/producer/director Peter Jones. I'll be writing about a his new film in my next entry.)

About the Author

Bohdan is Senior Vice President, Broadcast, Syndication, and Program Development for KCETLink.
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I was watching the Julia Child pledge special this weekend while visiting Andy in the hospital and trying to write down "her tips." Then "the Border Grill girls" came on and I went, "it's deja´ vu all over again and remembered the day I met Julia and got her autograph all because of you.

I look forward to your blog! It's always good to hear how people come to the work they do.

I definitely agree with you that public media can impact people's lives. I think back to my own childhood and the impact that my local public TV station had on me and am grateful the government mandated this programming exist!