Corporation for Public Broadcasting logoThis is depressing. Just a couple of weeks ago, an FCC commissioner wanted to revisit educational program requirements for broadcast TV stations, pointing to local PBS stations as the proper substitute. Today, the president’s proposed 2019 budget eliminates funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which subsidizes those local PBS stations.

As described by Ted Johnson in Variety, the previous year’s budget tried the same trick, but fortunately “funding survived, which is a testament to just how much of a wish-list the White House budget really is, as opposed to something that will actually gain traction on Capitol Hill.”

Patrick Butler, president and CEO of America’s Public Television Stations, said he hoped that Washington would see that “we provide the only preschool education for more than half of America’s children, that we are the backbone of public safety communications networks at the local, state and national levels, and that we do more to equip America’s citizens to do the hard work of democracy than anyone else.”

I’m surprised that anyone has to explain this, but education is a societal investment. Kids with hope and knowledge grow up to become productive taxpayers. Kids who see no way out become unhappy burdens to society. Let’s hope that Congress again recognizes that a small outlay today can prevent huge outlays for years to come.

 His Girl Friday (1940) on IMDb

There are fast-paced comedies, and then there’s His Girl Friday, where Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell and the rest of the cast ad-lib over each other to get a word in edgewise. The film is based on the play The Front Page, in which a newspaper editor tries to keep his star reporter from defecting with one last great story. The switch here is that the role of the reporter was changed to a woman, the editor’s ex-wife.

An IMDb poster said that director Howard Hawks thought of the gender switch at a dinner party where a woman spoke the dialogue from The Front Page. Wikipedia says it occurred during casting after Hawks’ secretary read the reporter’s lines. However it happened, the added level of conflict turned a good play into a great film. The American Film Institute’s 100 Years…100 Laughs ranked this as the 19th funniest movie of the century, and it fits well as the second-highest ranked movie in the Internet Archive Top 100.

Locast.orgs TV gridLocast.org, the “non-profit digital translator service” that streams 15 New York City over-the-air TV stations, has added a standard programming grid to the main page of its web site. And not to bury the lede, almost a month after its launch, Locast has continued to operate apparently without lawsuits.

In the site’s News section, it has added a story about implementing its “public service mission”. “As part of that effort, Locast.org is including residents of the New York City Public Housing Authority system and other similar institutions without our sphere of outreach and engagement in New York City.”

The story concludes with a quote from Habiba Alcindor, daughter of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and a board member of Sports Fan Coalition NY. “I believe every sports fan, casual viewer and all New Yorkers in between should have access to local broadcasting,” she said. “… I truly believe in the public interest mission of ensuring universal access to local broadcast stations for little to no cost.”

Locast is only available to devices that can prove that they’re in NYC, if you know what I mean. The grid is a very nice improvement. Now if they could add a cloud DVR, it would be just like Nimble TV, except cheaper.

 The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) on IMDb

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp is the story of a British officer who rises through the ranks, but it touches on much more. Shown in flashback, we see Clive “Sugar” Candy change from a dashing young man to a retired brigadier general and wrestle with the conflicting ideas of British fair play and the ruthless tactics of modern warfare.

According to the directors, the idea for the film came from a scene cut from their previous film, One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (IA #27), in which an elderly member of the crew tells a younger one, “You don’t know what it’s like to be old.” Due to the British government’s disapproval of the film, it was not released in the United States until 1945 and in a modified form, reduced to 150 minutes, then later to 90 minutes for television. We’re fortunate to have the original 163-minute version available in the Internet Archive Top 100.

Logo for Walter PresentsWalter Iuzzolino, who once left his job so he could watch television full time, recently said, “I think some TV channels will literally become joint ventures with the giant streamers, and Netflix will buy channels.” The occasion was the release of the annual Nostradamus Report (pdf), which was summarized yesterday by Jenny Priestley at TV Technology.

The report, published by the Göteburg Film Festival, “aims to sketch out the future of the screen industries 3–5 years from now” by interviewing several industry experts. One of them is Iuzzolino, who now curates Walter Presents, a service offering dramas from around the world.

Comparing the online world with terrestrial, linear TV, Iuzzolino said, “We are in the middle of a terrible war, and then there will be a marriage. In five years I genuinely think that the integration of streaming and TV will have been, if not completed, then 75 % advanced. There’s probably a period of adjustment of the next 5–7 years where that terrestrial audience declines and disappears.”

Picking on Netflix, possibly as an example, he said the company was great at expanding its subscriber base but still could use a way “to shape the national conversation. [For that] you [still] need the billboard, a national terrestrial channel, which on a Wednesday night shows you this, on a Thursday night shows you that.” There’s so much more from Iuzzolino and others, so you really ought to go read the PDF.

Personally, I think the natural vehicle for something just like this is Hulu. It’s already mostly owned by three channels, soon to be two if Fox sells its stake to Disney. It’s already offering a live package to go along with its streaming TV library. Although its short-term losses appear to be growing rapidly, it’s got enough name recognition and momentum to be a serious contender. I hope its owners continue to see free TV as a complementary, as well as complimentary, service.