History of public broadcasting

Timeline: 1970s

1970 | 1971 | 1972 | 1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1977| 1978 | 1979


Feb. 26 NPR incorporates [document]; Don Quayle is to become first president. (Lee Frischknecht becomes second president in 1973.) William H. Siemering drafts statement of purposes [document].

November NET and WNDT merge, creating WNET.

Nov. 9 PBS carries NET’s “Banks and the Poor,” generating major controversy [document: Nixon papers from 1971].

Nov. 20 Maryland PTV launches Wall $treet Week.

Screen shot of investigator in "Banks and the Poor"
Interviewer probes
red-lining in "Banks and the Poor," 1970.


The Great American Dream Machine and Masterpiece Theatre debut.

April 20 NPR begins service with live broadcast of Senate hearings on ending Vietnam War.

May 3 NPR begins All Things Considered (ATC) [timeline on NPR.org].

NAEB’s National Educational Radio Network merges with NPR.

National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT) is created.

Oct. 21 Nixon aide Clay Whitehead challenges public TV in speech at NAEB meeting.


June 30 President Nixon vetoes two-year CPB authorizing law; a reduced one-year bill is enacted later [document: White House papers].

John Macy resigns as CPB president, succeeded by Henry Loomis.

Frank Pace, CPB’s first chairman, also quits, succeeded by Tom Curtis.

PBS forms Adult Learning Service.

The Electric Company debuts.

Nov. 4 PBS airs WNET’s first Great Performances.

WGBH Caption Center prepares first open-captioned national broadcast, The French Chef.

October PBS President Hartford Gunn proposes Station Program Cooperative to shield program funding choices from political interference [document]; SPC lasts until 1989.

Stamberg head shot
Susan Stamberg became ATC co-host in 1972 — the first woman to anchor a daily national broadcast — and stayed with the program for 15 years.


Jan. 11 WNET begins verite documentary series An American Family.

Association of Public Radio Stations (APRS) is formed to lobby for field.

May 15 Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer team up on NPACT’s coverage of Senate Watergate hearings.

May 31 CPB and PBS make peace with Partnership Agreement [document], letting PBS schedule the interconnection.

September With Ralph Rogers as chair, PBS reorganization cuts parental ties with CPB, adds board of lay leaders.


March 3 WGBH inaugurates Nova.

PBS establishes Station Program Cooperative (SPC) to aggregate station funds for national programming and Station Independence Program (SIP) for pledge specials.

Upstairs, Downstairs debuts on Masterpiece Theatre, runs through 1978.


April PBS launches first national pledge drive, Festival 75.

May KERA in Dallas begins airing a discontinued British comedy series, Monty Python's Flying Circus, which becomes known to Americans though public TV. Three decades later the show was repackaged and distributed by PBS in 2006.

Sept. 15 National Federation of Community Broadcasters incorporates.

Publicity photo of Loud family from "An American Family"
Filmmakers lived with the Louds to produce An American Family.


Cast photo with Bellamy family in front, their household staff behind
Fans followed the Bellamy household of Upstairs, Downstairs for 55 episodes.

Oct. 20 WNET starts The Robert MacNeil Report (in 1976 renamed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report).

Lawrence Grossman named president of PBS. The network gave Hartford Gunn a new staff position, vice chairman.

Dec. 31 President Ford signs five-year funding act anticipating a new feature: advance appropriations. In 1976, Congress follows up with appropriations through fiscal 1979.


In a bid to catch up with British costume dramas, WNET produces The Adams Chronicles for the U.S. bicentennial.


May 4 NPR takes on public radio’s lobbying functions, merging with APRs

Carnegie Corporation establishes Carnegie Commission on the Future of Public Broadcasting (Carnegie II). Report will come in 1978.

NPR expands All Things Considered to the weekend and launches Jazz Alive!

Lehrer and MacNeil
Lehrer (left) joined MacNeil as reporter and then co-anchor.

Lawrence Grossman speaking

PBS hired Grossman from the publishing world.

Aug. 1 Frank Mankiewicz begins work as NPR president.


March 1 Public TV’s satellite interconnection begins operation.

July 3 Supreme Court upholds FCC indecency ruling against afternoon broadcast of George Carlin’s “filthy words” routine on Pacifica’s WBAI in 1973 [ruling on FindLaw website].

Frank Mankiewicz pondering

NPR grew as a journalistic service under Mankiewicz.


January Public TV splits lobbying function from PBS. (In 1980, new group will be named National Association of Public Television Stations. Later, it’s called America’s Public Television Stations, APTS). David Carley is first president.

Jan. 30 Carnegie II releases report [document: summary of findings and recommendations]

Aug. 23 CPB creates Television Program Fund.

Nov. 5 NPR launches Morning Edition.

Edwards with marionette in his likeness
Morning Edition host
Bob Edwards, with
puppet likeness.

1980s ARROW

Web page revised June 9, 2006
Copyright 2006 by Current Publishing Committee
Adapted from Current's A History of Public Broadcasting

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