Educational TV: Programs’ Intent Weighed
Fifth of a series
By Rowland Bond
Spokane Daily Chronicle
It is possible that some critics of the National Educational Television productions shown on KSPS, the city public school station on Channel 7, fail to recognize that the intent behind these programs may be sound, even if the end result sometimes warrants criticism.
Any products involving the rational presentation of human talents depend for their validity upon the judgment and discrimination of the people who produce them.
For example, the sure-fire timekiller for the past several years has been the long haired guitar player with steel-rimmed spectacles. However, the time has come when Americans (under and over 30) have become extremely bored with the repetition of inane lyrics sung to the accompaniment of the three basic tonal chords. But it may take the producers another year or so to find this out.
This fear of not being with the “in” thing can be expected to influence NET producers as much as it has affected the entire human talent business.
For instance, the Berkshire Jazz Festival has been widely publicized as a place where some rational people and thousands of gooney people go to watch other people perform what is referred to as jazz. They also reportedly indulge in other activities related to the use of drugs.
The point being made here is that, if NET producers feel there is good listening material available at Berkshire, it should be utilized if it has cultural value. And there was some cultural value to be found there. However, the same talents could be showcased to better advantage in another environment.
The NET Berkshire series included the Don Ellis Orchestra and the Cal Tjader Combo. Both groups kept the audience hysterical with a show of studied frenzy that has nothing to do with the creation of the music that both groups are capable of generating.
The propagation of hysteria should not be the function of an educational medium.
As if in answer to similar complaints, the Berkshire series came up with the Modern Jazz Quartet whose music speaks for itself without benefit of facial or bodily contortion. How quiet and impressive is the work of Connie Kay on drums and Percy Heath on bass. And how fortunate that John Lewis is not intent on being the world’s greatest technician on piano. The mellowness of Milt Jackson’s vibes contrasts beautifully with the brittleness of some of Lewis’ piano passages to give the audience a chance to be educated in the possibilities of creative improvisation.
One of the welcome improvements in KSPS Television is evident in the restraints that have been imposed locally and apparently nationally on panelists who were allowed to smoke during interviews and discussions.
When the Spokane schools have developed one of the best programs in the world on the bad effects of smoking, it seemed inconsistent to use television psychologically to negate what was taught in the classroom.
Walter J. Schaar, general manager, reported that KSPS has been getting increasing support from the community.
“I feel that the producers at NET and other national sources now have had a chance to benefit from the reaction, positive and negative, that they have been getting,” Schaar said. “I attended the National Educational Television Managers’ Conference in New York last April and again in October at Madison, Wis. We all feel that NET is getting better – not just watered down.”
Saturday, March 21, 1970