NEW YORK — A cultural C-SPAN, an MTV promoting the arts, a Chautauqua for the video age.
Depending upon your age and cultural references, all of those are good descriptions of the grand designs for a new cable channel, Horizons TV, that PBS said Tuesday it will launch late next year.
With what was described only as modest start-up funding from PBS and two public-TV stations, WGBH-TV in Boston and WNET-TV in New York, Horizons TV will be a 24-hour cable channel providing videotaped lectures, readings and seminars from libraries, museums and other institutions around the country.
The new channel will be offered to cable subscribers and paid for through a small fee from cable operators, plus advertising. It will be a separate, nonprofit entity and will receive no government funds, PBS executives said.
"Every day, there are Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, artists, architects, playwrights, scientists and others speaking at institutions around the country," said Lawrence Grossman, the president of the new channel. "We will be able to tap into these resources and offer them to cable subscribers."
Grossman, a former president of PBS and NBC News, said he believed the potential audience for such programming would be significant--not only in terms of numbers, which he said would be sizable given the number of people who support cultural institutions and are involved in continuing education, but also in terms of demographics. "These are the people that many cable-TV executives have said that they must reach--the light TV viewers, the ones who don't watch much TV and don't subscribe to cable--in order to expand," he explained.
Robert Ottenhoff, executive vice president of PBS, said the new channel will give PBS stations a chance to provide greater service to their local communities and also will offer the network some "cross-promotional" possibilities, such as programming a series of lectures on Horizons TV that relate to a concurrent PBS series.
"A number of our stations already are taping events in their community, and this new channel would provide a way for the events to be seen nationally," Ottenhoff said. "Some of our stations already are forming alliances with local cable operators, too, and it's important for PBS to be involved in the new, multichannel world."
Ottenhoff said that Horizons TV would not change PBS' funding or programming mix. "It's basically a way to expand our service to communities and another way to reach the American public," he said.