Producing and recording “Favorite Themes for Masterpiece Theatre”

In 1980, shortly after departing WGBH to seek fame (and possibly fortune) as an independent producer, I approached Joan Wilson with a proposal to issue a record album of “Favorite Themes from Masterpiece Theatre.” Joan went for the idea immediately and asked Henry Becton and Sam Tyler for their endorsements. We got a budget and were ready to rock.

Alice Kossoff was our legal beagle at WGBH, and she was great! At the outset, the hardest part of the whole project was negotiating and collecting the executed contracts back from Britain. These were the days of the FAX and/or teletype, but no e-mail, and unless I phoned or until I actually presented myself in person at their door, the Brits seemed content to just ‘muddle along’ until the eleventh hour. One had to wait for weeks for confirmation from mysterious and slow-moving institutions like Clarabella Music, Limited and The Mechanical Copyright Protection Society.

Most of the music rights were held by the BBC, London Weekend, EMI, Thames TV, British Decca, and Pushbike Music in London. The copyright to the main theme, “Rondeau” by J.J. Mouret, was held by an obscure and hard-to-locate company, Vogue Music, somewhere in France.

Since two of the selctions were not quite long enough for a record album, I commissioned Kenyon Emrys-Roberts and Wilfred Josephs, the composers of “Poldark” and “I, Claudius,” respectively, to extend their music specifically for the LP. Both were happy to do so and luckily, I got permission to record these extensions with an orchestra of top-flight players at a BBC music studio in Maida Vale, just outside London.

Having previously produced an album for RCA London was, I suppose, useful in opening some otherwise sticky doors but looking back, I must acknowledge that Joan’s unflagging support, a decent budget, and Lady Luck were with me all the way.

Setting up at Maida Vale on a gray Saturday morning, while waiting for all the musicians to arrive, I was stunned to learn from my studio producer that a musical legend would be joining the band that morning: Alan Civil had been contracted to play French horn. Holy Cow! Alan was Dennis Brain’s successor at the Philharmonia, and had played in the Beatles’ albums “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Holy Cow!

Mixing down at Maida Vale 6 (Kenyon Emrys-Roberts rear doorway)

Our band was superb; most everything was completed in just two takes. Some of my fondest memories include meeting and chatting with the composers of “Poldark” and “I, Claudius” and afterwards, enjoying Shepherd’s Pie and a pint for lunch with the crew a local pub following the sessions.

I corresponded with Emrys-Roberts and his wife for years, and was once a guest for dinner in their beautiful home in Sussex. It was a different world, recording in England, and I have often yearned for one more trip, one more tune … just one more take.

Jean (Coggan) Becton, 91

Henry Becton’s mother, Jean (Coggan) Becton (91), passed away on Wednesday.

The family will hold a private memorial service for her later this summer. In lieu of flowers, Henry and the family have asked that those wishing to make a donation in her memory could contribute to the Blue Hills Heritage Trust or the Kollegewidgwok Sailing and Education Association. Information about each follows below.

Condolences may be sent to Henry c/o WGBH, One Guest Street, Boston, MA 02135.

The Blue Hill Heritage Trust

Blue Hill Heritage Trust
PO Box 222
Blue Hill, ME 04614 USA
Phone: (207) 374-5118
Fax: (207) 374-3778

Kollegewidgwok Sailing and Education Association (KSEA)

KSEA Sailing School
P.O. Box 473
Blue Hill, ME 04614
E-mail: ksea@kollegewidgwokyc.comPhone: 207-374-5581

    Henry Becton: The great sense of possibility

    This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series The Henry Becton Collection

    Henry BectonAt a December 4, 2007 meeting of WGBH staff, longtime President Henry Becton ceremoniously passed the baton to Jon Abbott, who stepped in to the presidency in October after serving as Executive Vice President and COO. According to Cynthia Broner, their remarks met with a prolonged standing ovation for Henry’s nearly 38 years at WGBH. Henry remains at WGBH part time as Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees as well as senior editorial advisor.

    Introduction by Jon Abbott

    The accolades for Henry Becton have been pouring in from all quarters since October, when I had the honor of succeeding him as WGBH president. And this morning we want to add to those.

    For 37 years at WGBH — 24 as president — Henry has been a creative and visionary force for all of us, and for the larger public broadcasting system … and indeed all of broadcasting.

    For 37 years at WGBH — 24 as president — Henry has been a creative and visionary force for all of us, and for the larger public broadcasting system … and indeed all of broadcasting. He led WGBH to national prominence as a production powerhouse, technological innovator, and media-access pioneer — all the while keeping a steady eye on WGBH’s local identity, editorial integrity, and strength of purpose.

    The good news is that Henry’s not going away. In fact, he’s just moving down the hall a little bit. We’ll continue to benefit from his wisdom as Vice Chair of our Board of Trustees, alongside David Mugar and Howard Jacobson and working with Board Chair Amos Hostetter. He is continuing on, as well, as senior editorial advisor to WGBH.

    But we want to thank Henry this morning, and salute him. I know that in addition to his broad accomplishments and leadership, Henry has played a positive, encouraging role for many of us in our professional lives. Please join me in recognizing Henry and thanking him for all he has done for WGBH and the work we each do.

    Remarks from Henry Becton

    Thanks, Jon.

    When the PBS Board was here a few weeks ago, I met a new PBS Director who has just stepped down as president of the North Carolina University system, and so we were comparing notes. She said, “Well, Henry, you and I are now what they call PIPs. Do you know what that is?” I was thinking this must be some regional slang from the great Smokey Mountains. “No,” she said, “a PIP is a Previously Important Person!”

    So, now that I’m a PIP, I can tell you that it feels good to know that ’GBH is in such excellent hands with Jon Abbott and the senior management team, and to sleep soundly at night knowing that the buck doesn’t have to stop on my desk anymore, but on the desk or desks of those in whom I have great confidence.

    Jon and I have been struggling over what kind of staff event to have to acknowledge my recent PIP-dom.

    First, we knew we had to delay it because of all the other events going on in October and early November. Then it seemed too odd to have the kind of big roast of the type we gave, say, David Liroff when he went off to CPB. Because I’m not really going anywhere.

    So we settled on the metaphor of the passing of the baton — of a relay race, and this part of today’s event is going to be a baton passing. Literally. And we’ll do the hand-off in a few minutes.

    But before we do that, I want to reflect a bit on what’s changed during my years at the helm and what remains the same.

    I came to WGBH in early January 1970, so I’m only a few weeks away from my 38th anniversary. But even before I was an employee of ’GBH, I was a fan of public TV and radio. I think I was actually watching when Julia Child famously dropped a chicken she was preparing on the Studio A kitchen floor, and then in front of 5 million TV viewers said, “It’s ok, dearie, just pick it up: no one is watching!”

    I came to Boston to go to law school. But in my third year, I took a filmmaking course at the Carpenter Center at Harvard, and made two short animated films that were shown on Channel 2, on Flickout (a very’70s title).

    After teaching for a year, I decided filmmaking was the career for me, and I applied for a job at WGBH as a producer trainee. Two weeks later I got my rejection letter, and as I was reading it the phone rang to offer me the job. Any organization that chaotic had real potential for improvement, I thought!

    I got the job and began a rotation through different assignments, starting with three months working on the studio crew. I never intended to make WGBH my career. I thought I’d be there a year or two and then move on. But they kept offering me better and better jobs, and I stayed.

    When I arrived at ’GBH … we were very excited about the mission of public broadcasting. There was a great sense of possibility; we could take risks and try anything, and more often than not we’d succeed in creating some exciting new series!

    When I arrived at ’GBH we had about 100 employees and a budget of about $6 to 7 million; no endowment. And I remember it was always touch and go whether we had enough cash to make the payroll every two weeks.

    But we were very excited about the mission of public broadcasting. There was a great sense of possibility; we could take risks and try anything, and more often than not we’d succeed in creating some exciting new series!

    Today there are some 950 of us working here, an annual budget of close to $200 million, and an endowment of a little over $63 million. Our services and audience reach are vastly greater than they were in 1970. You know well the roster of all the things we are doing now which we hadn’t even imagined were possible back then.

    What hasn’t changed is our mission and that sense of possibility I remember from the early ’70s. It has been my conviction through all these years that there will always be a place for high-quality, educational content that offers a real alternative to what commercial business models will support.

    The commitments that are part of the long form of our mission statement won’t be found on any P&L spreadsheet:

    • to foster an informed and active citizenry
    • to make knowledge and the creative life of the arts, sciences, and humanities available to the widest possible public
    • to reflect positively the diversity of our audience, inviting a sense of inclusion and a better understanding of each other
    • to improve, for all people, access to public media
    • to be a trusted partner to parents and educators, providing programming and services that promote the healthy development of children
    • to serve the individual not just as a spectator but as a participant, able and willing to learn new skills through our programs and services.

    There were times in the 1980s and early ’90s when cable TV seemed to many people to provide much of what public TV had done. We now know that that was an illusion. And when the Internet and broadband came along, cable couldn’t any longer be the gatekeeper that it once was, blocking public TV from adding new services. I think we are once again in an environment where anything is possible for WGBH. It reminds me more of what it was like in the early ’70s than any time in between.

    But if we’re going to succeed at taking advantage of those possibilities, we’ll need to continue the internal change initiatives we began in the last few years: We need to continue to evolve our business processes to bring them in line with best practices elsewhere and with the more competitive environment. We’ll need to realize the synergies of greater internal collaboration and teamwork across departments and projects. And we’ll need to explore and develop new revenue streams that are compatible with our mission.

    The goal of these changes, of course, is to better support our mission; to have the resources to invest in new programs and services; and to realize the great possibilities in front of us.

    The … most important advantage we have is the caliber and dedication of all of you who make up this WGBH community. Whatever credit I’ve gotten for the achievements of ’GBH during these years is due to your accomplishments.

    We have three great assets as an organization that make me very confident in our future success.

    First, we have developed very powerful brands that can cut through the clutter of an increasingly crowded media field.

    Secondly, we have an extremely high level of trust among the audience. You’ve read the Roper Polls.

    The third and most important advantage we have is the caliber and dedication of all of you who make up this WGBH community. Whatever credit I’ve gotten for the achievements of ’GBH during these years is due to your accomplishments.

    If you’ve been in my office you may have seen a large photograph on my wall of the staff and crew of the original Zoom series in the mid ’70s. There are some 30 people in the photo. I keep it there as a reminder of how many people and how much teamwork it takes to produce a major project, from producers to studio techs to fundraising and Physical Plant … from the on-air kids to the choreographer … from NABET and AEEF to management. There are people in that photo who are still here — although their hairstyles have changed — and there are sadly those who are no longer with us, but whom we remember well.

    For me, that picture symbolizes the greater WGBH community, and I treasure it. You and this community are why I have stayed here for 38 years; you are the reason why I don’t really want to be anywhere else. And you are the reason why I’m so optimistic about our future.

    One of the most important things a CEO can do is help identify and develop a strong successor for his community. And I’m proud of the smooth transition to the capable leadership of to Jon Abbott.

    Jon really understands and is passionate about our mission. He has demonstrated great strategic sense about how best to develop our new digital services. He has a great marketing sense of how to expand our share of attention in this cluttered environment. He has the respect of all parts of the system nationally, and has already earned a top leadership position among his system peers. And he works tirelessly on our behalf.

    So now’s the moment for the symbolic passing of the baton.

    Perhaps belatedly, but proudly and ceremoniously, I want to hand off the baton to Jon Abbott. Here we go!

    Jon Abbott

    Thank you, Henry.

    I should note that one mark of the widespread respect and affection for Henry is The Becton Fund that was launched by donors to our Breaking New Ground Campaign. That fund will continue on — nurtured by the Major Gifts team led by our new VP for Development, Win Lenihan — when the Campaign draws to a close at the end of this month, and the Fund will support producers and editorial efforts that carry on Henry’s legacy of excellence.

    So … following Henry as president is a little like following Larry Bird onto the parquet floor at the Boston Garden. Fortunately for me, there is a terrific team of talented people and assets firmly in place as I step into my new role.

    Honoring Henry Becton With a Campaign Gift

    This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series The Henry Becton Collection

    WGBH President Henry Becton will be passing the baton in October 2007 to Executive VP/COO Jon Abbott, and stepping into the role of vice chair.

    Henry Becton
    Henry Becton at the 2006 alumni reunion.

    As we make this historic transition, a new fund has been added to WGBH’s Breaking New Ground Campaign to honor WGBH’s fifth president, whose vision, leadership, and entrepreneurial spirit has brought our organization to such impressive heights. WGBH employees—current and past—are invited to contribute to The Becton Fund.

    This endowed fund will support future editorial efforts that carry on the legacy of excellence that has set the standard for us all.

    WGBH Trustee David Mugar established The Becton Fund with a $1 million Campaign contribution. Trustee Bill Pounds then added $1 million—his second million-dollar Campaign donation. Gifts of any size are welcome, to build on their generosity.

    To learn more about the Campaign, which is helping to enable WGBH’s upcoming move to our new all-digital studios in Brighton , go to To make a gift online, click on Make a Gift. To direct that gift to The Becton Fund, use the Comments box. Gifts also may be directed to the Campaign’s Building Fund, Building Endowment, or Strategic Opportunities Fund. You’ll find details about each one on the site.

    A gift of $500 earns you a spot on the Groundbreakers’ Wall in our new Brighton studios. If you’re interested in appearing on the Wall, please contact Caitlin Downey (617-300-3801, by Wednesday, January 31. Contributions may be paid in full or in installments through your credit card.

    WGBH Timeline (1946-1978)

    From “The first 24 years: A somewhat random compendium of milestones along the way”


    John Lowell Jr., leaves a bequest creating free “public lectures for the benefit of the citizens of Boston.”


    The Lowell Institute forms a cooperative venture with six Boston colleges (spearheaded by Ralph Lowell) to broadcast educational programs on commercial stations. Original offices are housed at 28 Newbury Street.



    WGBH Educational Foundation is incorporated. Parker Wheatley is first station manager.

    October 6

    WGBH-FM is on the air with a live concert by the Boston Symphony orchestra under conductor Charles Munch.


    May 2

    WGBH-TV begins regularly scheduled broadcasting on Channel 2, 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday. Studio and offices are located at 84 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, with remote cables and lighting at MIT’s Kresge Auditorium (next door) and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

    First program: Come and See, “a progra.m. for young children” with Tony Saletan and Mary Lou Adams, from Tufts Nursery Training School. At 6:30 p.m., Louis Lyons, who has been a fixture on WGBH-FM, reads the news before a TV camera for the first time. Transmitter is located (as is FM transmitter) on Great Blue Hill in Milton; thus the call letters.


    First BSO simulcast (FM/TV) originates from Kresge Auditorium, MIT, beginning a tradition of musical broadcasts unique in the U.S.



    Sunday programming begins, 2:30 to 6:30 p.m.; in May, Sunday hours are extended by moving sign-on to 11:00 am.


    Hartford Gunn becomes WGBH station manager.


    First “Boston Pops” telecast (from Kresge).

    In the Sylvania Television Awards for 1957, WGBH’s Discovery is honored as the outstanding children’s educational series created by a local station. And Louis Lyons wins a Peabody Award for local TV and radio news.



    In-school instructional television service commences with eight weekly 6th grade science programs shown “in some 48 separate school systems in and around the Boston area.” In the fall, The 21″ Classroom is formally set in operation.


    WGBH acquires its first videotape machine (one of the very first to be sold by Ampex).


    Elliot Norton Reviews begins lengthy run.


    A high power transmitter (a gift from Westinghouse) doubles Channel 2 signal to 100,000 watts maximum.



    WGBH helps set up WENH-TV, Channel 11, in Durham, NH, and the interconnection between the two stations represents the first “network” of educational stations; the Boston-Durham link will become the basis for the Eastern Educational Network.


    Eleanor Roosevelt’s Prospects of Mankind, a WGBH monthly series carried on educational and commercial stations around the country, begins with V. K. Krishna Menon of India as first guest.

    A Peabody Award goes to WGBH’s Decisions series.


    WGBH programs win six Ohio State Awards, more than any other station or network in the U.S.


    October 14

    A fire in the early morning at 84 Massachusetts Avenue completely destroys WGBH facilities. Channel 2 is off the air for all of Sunday, October 15, but, by dint of herculean efforts by staff, and superb cooperation from the community, manages to sign on at the regular time on Monday the 16th. Emergency control room is set up in Catholic Television Center (WIHS), which also lends use of its limited studio space.

    For the next seven months WGBH-TV functions as the “diffuse organization” — control rooms at Catholic Center, large-studio facilities provided late at night and on weekends by WHDH-TV on Morrissey Boulevard, films and tapes (some of which have been salvaged from the fire) originated, via network, at Channel 11 in Durham, as well as other Boston stations. Scenic department finds home at Northeastern, arts department at B.U., programming and production offices at Kendall Square, Cambridge. Full schedule of programs maintained.



    A film on the poet Robert Frost is begun by WGBH, encouraged by Secretary of the Interior Stuart Udall.


    In a major consolidation, programming, production and engineering move to the Museum of Science, occupying the “red frame building” that had been used for construction offices when the Museum was built; space for a studio is found in the Museum itself. FM and some offices remain in Kendall Square.


    Three programs on French cooking are produced in a special kitchen constructed in the Boston Gas Company’s auditorium; as a result of their instant success, a full series is decided upon, to begin in 1963. Within a year after that, Julia Child is being seen regularly in New York, Washington DC, San Francisco, Pittsburgh and many other cities, as educational TV’s first nation-wide “hit.” She is also the first in the distinctive WGBH series of “how-to” personalities that will in time include Thalassa Cruso, Joyce Chen, Erica Wilson, Maggie Lettvin, Theonie Mark, the Romagnolis, and many, many others. History is made!

    October 14

    By the first anniversary of the fire, over $1,700,000 has been raised to construct new studios for WGBH; a half million dollar matching grant from the Ford Foundation is the key contribution. Construction to begin in spring, 1963.



    National Doubles televised from Longwood Cricket Club in Brookline for first time; obscure Boston newspaperman becomes TV star. [Ed.: This reference begs for clarification. Bud Collins? Please help us.]


    Symphony Hall is cabled and lit properly. Henceforth, all BSO and Pops telecasts originate there.



    Louis Lyons receives Dupont Award “in recognition of the nation’s outstanding news commentator of 1963.”


    Louis Lyons retires as Curator of Nieman Fellowships, joins WGBH staff after a dozen years of news on FM and TV.

    The Robert Frost film, A Lover’s Quarrel with the World, wins an Oscar for WGBH.

    August 29

    WGBH-TV signs on from new studios at 125 Western Avenue, Allston. Building is only partly finished, but functional. FM to move in by April, 1965.


    Saturday programming begins with the support of the Boston Globe and Record American.

    Late Fall

    In order to film the two-part South African Essay series, a clandestine organization is set up with money laundered through Texas, a dummy corporation, and a specially trained African photographer, who mails exposed film back to the U.S. as “Zulu beads.” Cover never blown. [Ed.: This reference begs for clarification. Please help us.]



    Julia Child receives Peabody Award.

    May 1

    On WGBH-TV’s tenth anniversary, the new building, work complete, is formally dedicated as the Ralph Lowell Studios. In the course of a live anniversary broadcast, Louis Lyons tells a story: Lady from Boston meets a new faculty wife, who identifies herself as from Iowa, and tells her, “My dear, we say ‘Ohio.'” [Ed.: This reference begs for clarification. Please help us.]


    Hamilton Osgood comes to offer his talents to WGBH, and is instantly pressed into service planning first Channel 2 Auction, scheduled for June 1966.



    Julia receives Emmy; South African Essay receives UPI Tom Phillips Award and is one reason for a special Peabody Award to NET.

    May 31

    First Channel 2 Auction begins. It raises more than $130,000, plays to biggest audiences in station’s history.

    June 17 – 18

    Channel 2 transmitter is moved to Needham.



    Vietnam View-In, a four-and-a-half hour special produced in WGBH studios, includes propaganda films, panelists of all persuasions, a studio audience asking questions, and open telephone lines. Well over six thousand phone calls are counted.


    What’s Happening Mr. Silver? begins a year’s run.


    WGBX, Channel 44, signs on. The first color cameras arrive: four by the end of the year, two more on order.


    Public Broadcasting Laboratory (PBL) begins two-year run on Sunday nights, demonstrating potential of national public TV network.


    Following Carnegie Commission Report, congress passes the Public Broadcasting Act, establishing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which will lead to the creation of the Public Broadcasting Service (and National Public Radio). Within three years, public TV will have its own coast-to-coast interconnection and simultaneous national programming.

    MIT’s Dr. Jerome Lettvin takes on Timothy Leary in debate about drugs and “dropping out.” Filmed by WGBH and broadcast four times in one week, the debate becomes topic number one throughout Greater Boston.


    April 5

    The night after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a concert at Boston Garden starring James Brown is televised live by WGBH on roughly six hours notice. Worried that the concert might provide the critical mass to set off a riot, and certain that cancellation would be even worse, Mayor White gets the WGBH commitment and then urges people (via commercial radio stations) to stay home and enjoy the show for free. WGBH broadcasts the entire show, and then immediately begins showing it again on video tape, staying on the air until 1:45 a.m. It is shown twice more over the weekend. The Mayor writes that this “contributed as much as any other event to the atmosphere of conciliation which prevailed in Boston this past week.”


    Premier of Say Brother, the first regular program by, for and about Boston’s black community.


    After a controversial play — designed to help students understand black frustration in white America — has all but rips Wellesley High School apart, WGBH re-stages it (with some 11 words “blipped” to stay within the law) and follows it up with a lengthy discussion among parents, teachers and students dealing with its propriety and meaning. It is front-page news for two days running.



    In the aftermath of the University Hall bust at Harvard and the subsequent strike that paralyzed the school, WGBH places 16 chairs around a table in studio A and invites any and all members of the Harvard community to come in and speak their piece. And for five solid hours in the evening, students, faculty, neighbors, and other people keep coming in and sitting down and talking to each other … and all of Greater Boston. [Ed.: This reference begs for clarification. Please help us.]


    The Forsyte Saga arrives in the United States. Public TV has an unprecedented success: telephone calls go unanswered, social engagements are rescheduled and life is generally disrupted throughout the country. To cushion the shock in Boston, channel 2 runs each weekly episode three times, Channel 44 an additional five times. Thanks to various repeats of the entire series, the final episode will be seen in Boston for the last time in August, 1972 … nearly three years later. If nothing else, the Forsytes give American television viewers a case of galloping Anglophilia (also known as BBC fever) that soon leads to other things.

    The Advocates, produced on alternative weeks by WGBH and Los Angeles’ KCET, makes its debut via a national interconnection of public TV stations. Its even-handed debates on pressing national issues ellicit considerable mail (an early show on abortion brings over 11 thousand pieces), and in the first of its five seasons it wins a Peabody Award.


    The voice of the Cookie Monster is heard in the land: Sesame Street, easily the most important children’s program in the history of American television, makes its debut. Shortly thereafter, every kid in the neighborhood can identify can identify the letter R.



    Hartford Gunn resigns as General Manager of WGBH to assume the presidency of the new Public Broadcasting Service in Washington. Later in the year, David Ives becomes President and Robert Larsen General Manager.


    Evening at Pops’ first summer series brings Arthur Fiedler and WGBH’s Symphony Hall savvy to the whole country.


    PBS’ first season begins, with a network of 198 public TV stations coast to coast. WGBH contributes The Advocates, The Nader Report, and a brand new French Chef (in color). Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation dazzles the eye.

    Locally, more excitement: The Reporters, expanding the definition of “television news” five nights a week; Catch 44, the first public access TV program in the United States; Dr. Sachar’s The Course of Our Times.



    John, meet Sarah. The First Churchills inaugurates Masterpiece Theater, and Alistair Cooke becomes a regular Sunday night visitor.


    Jean Shepherd’s America shows what the PCP-90 portable TV camera can do.


    WGBY, Channel 57, signs on the air from its studios in Springfield, bringing public television to western Massachusetts. The microwave link between WGBH and WGBY establishes the first state-wide TV network, reaching over 90% of Mass. homes.


    The Electric Company arrives to take on the task of reaching problem readers. And reaches them.



    ZOOM, WGBH’s revolutionary program for and by kids, makes its PBS debut and the first requests for ZOOMcards come in from all over the country. Within ZOOM’s first two years on the air, more than a million ZOOMcards will be mailed out.


    The Advocates, now entirely a WGBH production, moves to Faneuil Hall for its Boston shows (and goes on the road for others).



    Are you ready for Lance Loud? An American Family startles the nation.


    Death of Robert Larsen.


    ZOOM and The Advocates are awarded Emmys.


    For the first time, the Channel 2 Auction breaks the half-million-dollar barrier.


    The mammoth BBC production of War and Peace marches onto American TV screens (introduction by WGBH).


    With the cooperation of the American Broadcasting Company and its affiliates, WGBH’s Captioning Center begins nightly broadcasts of ABC Captioned Evening News for the hearing-impaired.



    Philip Garvin’s films of Religious America, produced at WGBH, begin on PBS.

    On Masterpiece Theater, Upstairs, Downstairs brings back the bad old days and makes them look good.


    Science adventures for curious grownups, some from WGBH, some from the BBC, and some joint efforts, give NOVA a breadth previously unknown on American TV.


    Upstairs, Downstairs wins an Emmy as the best dramatic series of the season. And ZOOM receives its second Emmy in two years.


    Evening At Symphony demonstrates nationally on PBS what Boston has known for years: orchestral music, even without special guests, makes for exciting television. (Also, Seiji Ozawa wears a turtleneck with his tails.)


    A former Advocates moderator, Michael Dukakis, is elected governor of Massachusetts.



    The Ascent of Man, Jacob Bronowski’s brilliant bequest, is presented to U.S. audiences with introductions and epilogues by WGBH.


    After over a year of preparation and six months of production under conditions that verge on impossible, the WGBH series Arabs and Israelis gets under way on public television.


    NOVA receives a Peabody award, with special praise going to the programs produced by WGBH.

    Michael Rice, head of programming and Vice President of WGBH since 1973 becomes General Manager.


    Channel 2 News moves out of early evening for the first time in 21 years, and The Ten O’clock News is born.


    Dying, a cinema verite’ visit with terminally ill cancer patients, moves local audiences, and later the nation.

    Club 44 brings live TV back to Boston. The two hour show happens in a pub set in studio A, with live audience and scads of local talent and talk.


    Say Brother Salutes Webster Lewis With A Night On The Town, to rave reviews.

    Channel 44 cuts the apron strings from Channel 2; within the year, 74% of its programming is unique to it — meaning we nearly double the public TV programs available to local viewers.

    The WGBH Declaration of Independence — a major capital drive for equipment and programming funds — goes public. PrimeTime becomes a magazine again after a year as a calendar. ‘GBH radio sponsors the first Boston appearance of legendary Soviet pianist, Lazar Berman; Louis Lyons continues a stellar ‘GBH radio career by launching Pantechnicon, a magazine-format show with Elinore Stout and Frank Fitzmaurice.

    Kudos: Upstairs, Downstairs wins its third Emmy in a row — and sixth over all. ‘GBH radio’s The Spider’s Web increases the number of NPR stations carrying it to nearly 100, while wining the Action For Children’s Television Award as “the most positive alternative to television.”

    The New York Times is moved to ask, in an August feature article, “what makes WGBH Crackle with Creativity?”


    Christopher Lydon takes over The Ten O’clock News; the Boston Phoenix says viewers can now “expect to see lengthier and more professionally produced pieces as the Channel 2 news show moves away from heavy coverage of spot news.”

    Ben Wattenberg begins his search for The Real America on Channel 2, and we find the ancient Mid-East at the Museum of Fine Arts and bring it home in Thracian Gold.

    WGBH presents tennis for the 15th year in a row and World Tennis magazine says, “For the discerning viewer of this sport PBS is the only game in town.”

    Crockett’s Victory Garden maven Jim Crockett’s book of the same title hits the best seller list.

    ‘GBH radio launches Evening Pro Musica, and a Live Performance series in its own studios – and sponsors another live event in Jordan Hall: Daniel Shafran is the visiting artist.

    “Stereo television” takes a giant step forward with improved technology: a new kind of video tape is invented which has a stereo audio track right on it, making the vastly superior sound of FM-TV simulcast an affordable luxury, at long last.

    Milestones: Upstairs, Downstairs ends May 1 with a Boston cast party which nets PBS stations nearly $2 million in viewer contributions; and, the series gets its seventh Emmy — making the total to date for Masterpiece Theater an even dozen. Emmy also goes to “ballet shoes” from the Piccadilly Circus series, ZOOM (for the third time!), and a Women’s Special: Rape, by ‘GBH’s own Nancy Porter.


    Ralph Lowell dies in May at the age of 87. He founded the Lowell Institute Co-operative Broadcasting Council in 1941, the parent organization of WGBH radio in 1951 and WGBH-TV in 1955.

    Awards: Upstairs, Downstairs adds the prestigious Peabody Award to its long list of kudos. Ten O’clock News’ Mike Kolowich captures a Local Emmy for “outstanding news reporting” in his Logan Airport pieces — as the program celebrates its 2nd birthday.

    People: Michael Rice departs for the Aspen Institute after a 13-year WGBH career. Henry Becton, Program Manager for Cultural Affairs since 1974 and an 8-year WGBH veteran, moves up to the Vice President and General Manager spot.

    At CPB, Henry Loomis steps down and Robben Flemming is appointed to the President’s post. Newton Minow is elected Chair Person of PBS.

    Milestones: Public television celebrates its 25th year in March, and, in November, becomes the first network in the country to be linked by satellite.

    Two old friends return to WGBH studios: Julia Child to make her first new shows in 5 years, titled Julia Child and Company, and The Advocates returns after a 4-year hiatus to continue the debate tradition begun in 1969.

    I, Claudius on Masterpiece Theater earns rave revues; James Lardner, in The New Republic, calls it “probably the best historical drama ever mounted on television.”

    After a 2-year run on Channel 44, The Club books its exuberant act on Channel 2.

    WGBH provides national and local TV audiences with a feast of new productions, among them World, Solzhenitsyn at Harvard, Mr. Speaker – A Portrait of Tip O’Neill, and three lush specials on exhibits at the Museum of Fine Arts: Thracian Gold, Pompeii – Frozen in Fire, and Treasures of Early Irish Art.

    Local debuts include Dancing Disco (a Local Emmy winner), The Photo Show, Sports Weekly, At Home, and the fund raising extravaganza, Disco Dazzler.

    ‘GBH radio adds new local productions: Mostly Musicals, Folk Festival USA, Artists in the Night with Eric Jackson, MusicAmerica, and Poetry in Massachusetts.

    Morning Pro Musica extends its reach to the Big Apple itself where it is heard on WNYC radio.

    A fiscal-year fundraising gap is narrowed in a month-long on-air “Race To The Finish,” which includes the second biggest pledge night in WGBH history as the regular schedule is scrapped for a marathon effort — viewers call in with contributions totaling $92,000 in just one night.

    Becton to Sign Off at WGBH

    This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series The Henry Becton Collection

    From the Boston Globe

    WGBH president Henry Becton Jr., who presided over the growth of Boston’s public television station into a national production powerhouse, told the station’s staff yesterday that he will step down from his post in October.

    Jonathan C. Abbott and Henry Becton Jr.

    Jonathan C. Abbott, WGBH’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, will take over as president.

    The move comes at a time of change for WGBH, which is expanding its digital programming, struggling to attract corporate underwriting, and moving, next spring, to a vast new complex in Brighton.

    David (DOI) Ives Passes

    I am deeply saddened to have to share the news that David Ives passed away Friday afternoon, following a brief illness. His wife Patsy, his sons Stephen and David, and their families all were with him. He was 84 years old.

    David was a pioneer, and a friend. This is a sad time for all of us who were fortunate enough to work with him. During a career that spanned four decades, he provided WGBH with leadership and vision, warmth and humor, and a boundless enthusiasm for our mission.

    A memorial service is scheduled for May 29 at 2pm at Harvard Memorial Church in Cambridge.

    Honoring David O. Ives

    Patsy and David Ives at the April 2000 Reunion

    At this Wednesday’s Annual Meeting of the full WGBH Board of Trustees, David Ives will step down as vice chair of the Board and chairman of the Executive Committee, taking on the new title of vice chairman emeritus.

    “David has been a vibrant part of WGBH since 1960, and we welcome his continued involvement,” says WGBH President Henry Becton. “But he’s decided the time has come for his role to shift to a less hands-on one.”

    The Trustees will honor David for his years of service on Wed night. Staff will do the same next Mon, 2/12 with a room naming and a toast. On that day, a tribute page will go live on InnerTube for sharing anecdotes and memories from the “DOI era.”

    David came to WGBH in 1960 as director of Development. Ten years later, he stepped up to the presidency. For the next 14 years, David led the station to become a major force within the national public television and public radio systems. At the same time, he never lost sight of WGBH’s community roots, assuring a place for strong local programming.

    “Succeeding David in 1984,” Henry notes, “I was acutely aware that I had big shoes to fill — or perhaps, a big bow tie. Over the years David, more than anyone, has personified all the good things our audiences believe about WGBH. He has been our greatest champion, a tireless and persuasive fundraiser, and a thoughtful leader.”

    David earned public broadcasting’s highest honor, the Ralph Lowell Award, in 1985; in 1988, he received the Governors Award of the New England Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

    Call for Memories

    As mentioned, the staff at QuickNooz is putting together a tribute page for David on InnerTube (the internal network/web site for employees), which will serve as a place for his colleagues and friends to share “DOI” memories and anecdotes.

    The site can only be seen from inside the WGBH network system, but having input from alumni would really enrich the content. If you’d like to participate, or know others that would, please e-mail messages to or the QuickNooz account

    The Party XVIII

    248. Mai Cramer with Ron Della Chiesa.

    249. Olivia Tappan, Russ Morash and Susie Doroney.

    250. Gordy Mehlman and John McKnight.

    251. Linda Morgenroth, Wendy Davidson and Moon Nimon.

    252. Dave Coveney and Paula Apsell.

    253. Ron Blau and Jean Wardle.

    254. Susan Presson and Ashton Peery.

    255. Henry Becton and Susan Presson

    256. Bill Charrette, Paul Souza and Henry Becton.

    257. John Kerr, Jim Donahue, Ron Della Chiesa, Mike Goldberg and Judy Osborne.

    All photos this page: Jeffrey Dunn

    The Party XIII


    Judy Hurley, another lottery winner.


    Fred Barzyk and Ted Conant.


    Frank Coakley and Maureen Fahey.


    Paul Solman, Judy Stoia and Steve Atlas.


    Henry Becton and Don Hallock.


    Margaret McCleod with Steve Gilford.


    Lisa Schwartzbaum and Chris Pullman.


    Louise Daniels-Miller, Aida Moreno and Marilyn Greenstein.


    David Ives, Judith Martin Larsen Mehring and Jeanne Irwin.


    Patsy and David Ives.

    All photos this page: Jeffrey Dunn.