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Unprecedented Effort Budgeted At $2.5-$3 Million : Pbs Pools Resources For 'Election '88'

August 21, 1987|CLARKE TAYLOR

NEW YORK — The Public Broadcasting Service plans to utilize its news and public affairs programs, personalities and funds in an ambitious, first-time effort to cover the 1988 presidential campaign and election. In confirming plans for an "Election '88" package of programs, budgeted at $2.5-$3 million, one public television official said this week that the current attempt on the part of the non-commercial network to pool its resources to cover a national election is "unprecedented."

"There has been a feeling within public broadcasting and among our stations that we have missed opportunities for such coverage in the past, usually because of funding, or timing, or lack of coordination, and that we are now in a strong position not to do so," said Barry Chase, PBS vice president for news and public affairs programming, by telephone Thursday from PBS' Alexandria, Va., headquarters.

"In addition to coordinating coverage for the first time, we aim to assure that there is a better effort to make happen the kinds of coverage our member stations see as top priorities, as well as acquiring programs and covering significant events as they come along," explained Chase.

According to Chase, definite plans for the election coverage now include: the Democratic and Republican national conventions to be held next August in Atlanta and New Orleans, respectively, covered under the auspices of public television's "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour"; the presidential and vice presidential debates that are scheduled to be sponsored by the two major political parties in the fall of 1988; one or more special "reflective" reports by journalist/commentator Bill Moyers, near the November, 1988, Presidential election; and election night update reports, intended to allow viewers to watch regularly-scheduled PBS programming, as well as keep abreast of election results.

Chase said that a highlight of the coverage plans to date calls for an election-eve special that would "harness and gather in one place virtually all (PBS') journalistic talent," from Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer to satirist Mark Russell, for final thoughts on the 1988 campaign.

Far more ambitious plans are envisioned, however, pending full funding of the "Election '88" package. Chase said election specials would be sought from PBS' regular news and public affairs programs and series--including "Frontline," "Adam Smith's Money World," "Wall Street Week" and "Washington Week in Review"--as well as from independent producers.

He said plans also call for coverage of pre-convention debates among the presidential primary candidates, such as those scheduled by the League of Women Voters.

According to Chase, funds for the election package to date, totaling $1.6 million, have been commited by PBS' program development fund, the Corp. for Public Broadcasting and "approximately two-thirds" of the licensees representing the country's 300 public television stations, including KCET in Los Angeles.

Chase pointed out that programs in the election package will be offered only to stations that have contributed funds toward the project, based upon the size of the station.

Chase said corporate underwriters now are being sought for the remainder of funds budgeted for the project.

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