CHANGE THE CHANNEL: WCVB-TV 1972-1982
curated by Michael Hutcherson and Gary Fogelson
In 1972, after the longest battle in FCC history, Boston Broadcasters, Inc.—a collective of esteemed academics and local leaders—wrested control of Boston's Channel 5. For the first time, high-quality, locally-produced programs, independent film, and other non-commercial content was made available to the masses by a network affiliate.
Change the Channel: WCVB-TV 1972–1982 looks at the innovative programming during BBI's station ownership. Channel 5's shows raised and discussed ethical, legal, religious, and social issues (The Baxters, Miller's Court); investigated crime, conspiracy, race, sexuality, health, and death (The Investigators, The Young Reporters, Medical Call, Third World), and some either directly became or inspired nationally syndicated programs (Jabberwocky, Good Day!, Park Street Under).
In addition to those programs, this exhibition highlights the contributions of Robert Gardner, documentary filmmaker, director of BBI, and then director of Harvard's Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts. Gardner was responsible for the creation of Screening Room, a 90-minute late-night program which showcased the work of documentary and experimental filmmakers and animators such as Stan Brakhage, Les Blank, John Whitney, Hilary Harris, Peter Hutton, and Jonas Mekas (to name a few). He also produced two films for WCVB-TV: Derek Lamb's Psychic Parrot (1975), a 26-minute short about a parrot who predicts the end of the world, Richard P. Rogers' Cost of Living (1979), a documentary about people's relationship with money, and Anthem, (also by Rogers) a 3-minute collage film of the American flag intended to serve as the station's sign-off. Gardner also created several ‘non-commercials': 60-second short films showing a member of the community at work inserted at random during commercial breaks in place of advertisements. Also on view is a realization of his proposal to broadcast the Bill of Rights, uninterrupted, for 24 hours during the US Bicentennial.
This exhibit's collection of original video footage, press material, and viewer correspondence encourages visitors not only to consider WCVB-TV's impact from 1972-1982, but also to ponder the question, "how might this happen again?" Could this story inspire others in a position to impact an equally large audience? On view January 12-March 5, 2011. Full press release, brochure, images and supplementary material available here.
291 Church Street
New York, NY
hours: tue - sat 11 - 6 pm
letters to Screening Room
Lance Wyman and Bill Cannan, photo by Sean Cannan
Cost of Living by Richard P. Rogers
Psychic Parrot by Derek Lamb