Timeline: 1980s
from A History of Public Broadcasting

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1990s to present >



March: Closed captioning, developed by PBS, premieres on three networks, including PBS (Masterpiece Theatre). March: NAEB launches trade newspaper, Current [timeline]. May 3: Minnesota Public Radio begins national feeds of Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion. June 20: NPR completes first national satellite network for radio. August: WNET launches Dial program guide for major stations (it loses millions, dies in May 1987). “Death of a Princess” on WGBH’s World outrages Saudi royalty. KCET offers Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

February: Walter Annenberg pledges $150 million over 15 years, launching Annenberg/CPB Project to make college-level video courses; he breaks off funding in 1990 and begins new math/science project to train grade-school teachers in 1991. March: President Reagan seeks $88 million cut in CPB funding, achieves $35 million cut in fiscal 1983. Oct. 2: FCC’s Temporary Commission on Alternative Financing (TCAF) begins work. Nov. 3: NAEB membership votes to dissolve bankrupt association.

Once MPR's morning
deejay, Keillor revived
the radio variety genre with A Prairie Home Companion.

June: Bruce Christensen succeeds David Carley as president of NAPTS. Nov. 4: Station consortium raises curtain on American Playhouse. WNET lets Nature loose on PBS.

Feb. 23: Many public TV stations air live open-heart surgery covered by KAET, Phoenix. April 8: FCC allows public radio to use FM subcarriers for profit-making. April 15: American Public Radio incorporates (it changes its name to Public Radio International in 1994). April 19: NPR President Frank Mankiewicz steps down from management role as financial crisis becomes known [GAO summary, 1984]; he resigns May 10. Aug. 2: CPB joins stations in bailing out NPR. Sept. 5: First hour-long nightly news program debuts: MacNeil /Lehrer NewsHour. WGBH and consortium launch Frontline. WGBH produces Vietnam: A Television History. Oct. 27: NPR elects Douglas Bennet as president, succeeding Mankiewicz. December: NBC News announces hiring of PBS President Lawrence Grossman as its president.

March: FCC loosens rules, allowing “enhanced underwriting.” April: Bruce Christensen of APTS named PBS president. Peter Fannon succeeds him at APTS in January 1985. July 3: U.S. Supreme Court overturns law prohibiting editorials by CPB-assisted stations, acting in case brought by Pacifica and others [ruling on FindLaw website]. Chicago’s WTTW is first station to air TV stereo sound full-time. Christian Science Monitor launches Monitor Radio (ceases June 1997). Nov. 28-30: In meeting at Wingspread conference center, stations develop statement of editorial integrity for independence from state governments [document].

Anna Deavere Smith in
"Fires in the Mirror" on American Playhouse.

GAO investigators testify
in House on NPR
crisis, 1984.

May 22: Public radio stations approve NPR business plan: they receive the funds that CPB previously sent directly to NPR. June: CPB President Edward Pfister quits in dispute over planned Moscow trip [article]. June 30: Public broadcasting revenues pass $1 billion by end of fiscal year 1985. Nov. 2: NPR debuts Scott Simon’s Weekend Edition on Saturdays. CPB begins aid to Public Television Outreach Alliance.

January: CPB hires Martin Rubenstein as president (and fires him Nov. 13). CPB establishes Radio Program Fund. September: Co-host Susan Stamberg leaves All Things Considered after 14 years. Sept. 30: NPR makes final payment on $7 million debt. WGBH introduces Descriptive Video Service for vision-impaired viewers.

January: Bill Moyers, gone since 1981, announces return to PBS. Jan. 21: Henry Hampton’s Eyes on the Prize debuts. March: CPB drops proposal for political content analysis of programs. June 13: Garrison Keillor’s last Prairie Home Companion before (temporary) departure from public radio (he returns in September 1989 with American Radio Company of the Air). July: CPB promotes Donald Ledwig to president. Dec. 7: NAPTS (later renamed APTS) names David Brugger president, succeeding Peter Fannon. Dec. 10: Senate rejects Ernest Hollings’ trust fund plan. NPR begins producing Performance Today and Weekend Edition Sunday, and distributing Fresh Air and Car Talk.

February: APR hires Stephen Salyer as president. Oct. 11: WGBH launches The American Experience. November: Congress directs CPB to create a program service to aid independent producers (the resulting Independent Television Service is established in September 1989 [document] and begins operation in June 1991).

Henry Hampton
produced Eyes on the
and other
documentary series.
January: KUSC and APR launch Marketplace. March: Whittle Communications stirs controversy by offering free satellite dishes and TV sets to schools that show daily Channel One newscast with commercials. October: PBS names Jennifer Lawson as its first chief programming executive [article]. CPB adds $23 million to her budget.
1990s to present >

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Web page created January 2001
Compiled by Steve Behrens
Adapted from A History of Public Broadcasting
Current Publishing Committee, Takoma Park, Md.
E-mail: webatcurrent.org
Copyright 2001