A Boston television station has received a reported $1.2 million grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to produce a 13-part series about Vietnam from 1945 to 1975.
"It may be the first attempt to put the conflict in a larger context of history," said Peter McGhee, program manager for news and public affairs at Boston's WGBH-TV.
The documentary series of one-hour shows will be aired in approximately two years, McGhee estimated, on PBS stations around the country.
Toward the total production budget of $4 million, McGhee said, WGBH also expects to receive about $1 million from PBS, $1 million from two foreign TV stations -- one British and one French, each of which will have broadcast rights to the show -- and $500,000 from the Smith Foundation on the West Coast. Of the $1.2 million contributed by NEH, $500,000 must be matched dollar-for-dollar with outside funds, McGhee said.
WGBH has already spent a quarter of a million for planning and development of the show over the past two years. Fifty thousand dollars of that has come from ABC-TV -- which has the right to air a one-hour condensation of the 13-part series according to Barry Wanger, public-relations director of NEH; $60,000 of the planning money has been contributed by NEH.
NEH calls the project "the first major American historical television series on the Vietnam conflict." Wanger said that consultants to the project will include such historians and journalists as Frances Fitzgerald, who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on Vietnam.
WGBH has already conducted interviews with such figures in the Vietnam conflict as Averell Harriman -- the former American ambassador to Vietnam -- Gen. Maxwell Taylor and Henry Cabot Lodge.
McGhee said the TV group hopes to get a film crew and producer into Vietnam for filming and talking with the people. "We've started discussions which are promising," said McGhee. "The Vietnamese seem receptive."