WXXI ends 54-year run of Assignment: The World due to lack of funding

By Dru Sefton

Assignment: The World, the longest-running social-studies instructional TV program in the country, broadcast its last episode May 23.

WXXI in Rochester, N.Y., which produced the ITV series for 54 years, announced the cancellation May 20.

Teej Jenkins anchors the last broadcast of Assignment: The World, an instructional television series that shut down production this month after a 54-year run at WXXI. (Photo: WXXI)

Teej Jenkins anchors the last broadcast of Assignment: The World, an instructional television series that shut down production this month after a 54-year run at WXXI. (Photo: WXXI)

Assignment: The World has experienced an increase in news acquisition costs, which were unfortunately not offset by program funding,” said Elissa Orlando, WXXI v.p. for television, in the announcement. “WXXI is saddened by this decision, but will continue to discover new ways to serve the educational needs of students.”

Every season, students could watch 32 weekly episodes, 15 minutes in length, in classrooms, either on the air or on-demand over the Internet. Teej Jenkins, the last host to anchor the show, presented a roundup of news events from the past week; teachers and students often interact with the show through writing prompts, issue questions and polls. Since 1976, the Assignment: The World poll has correctly predicted the outcomes of the last 10 presidential elections.

The program was developed by Lloyd Kaiser when he worked for the Rochester Area Educational Television Association, forerunner of WXXI; Kaiser later became president of WQED in Pittsburgh. The first episode premiered in fall 1959 on two local commercial broadcasters. When they dropped the show in 1966, WXXI picked it up.

In 1975 it started airing on pubTV stations statewide and in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine. The Agency for Instructional Technology began national distribution in 1982.

The final episode was recorded May 21. Afterward, WXXI hosted a small reception for the production team, former hosts and producers and WXXI staff, according to Kristin Tutino, station publicist. “After 54 years of producing the show, it was a sad day,” she told Current.

The series has received many honors, including two New York State Broadcasters Awards of Excellence, a Telly, a Gold Aurora, two Certificates of Excellence from the Central Education Network and a Wilbur Schramm Award of Excellence.

This article was first published in Current, May 28, 2013.

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