Inside the White House, it was violins and the flashing brass of the Marine Corps Band while outside, the heavens chimed in with sound and light and hailstones. "Great special effects," commented one of the members of the younger set attending the reception for PBS officials and station managers. "If only PBS could afford it."
The talk was all about the new techniques and the old financial crunch, but it came packaged in quiet jubilation and a sense of newly invested virtue what with all the brouhaha over the recent airing of "Death of a Princess."
For those long on controversy but short on anything less recent than yesterday, that was the show that had everyone from the Saudi Arabians to Mobil Oil to the State Department in varying degrees of hysterics over the effects it would have on The Image of the Arabs and The Energy Crisis and The Situation in the Mideast.
If the pride in feeling like defenders of the First Amendment and bulwarks against the pressures of big business wasn't enough. Rosalynn Carter was on hand in the East Room to praise public broadcasting for bringing the White House to the people through the broadcasts of such cultural events as performances there by Mikhail Baryshnikov, Vladimir Horowitz and Andre Segovia.
They were all in town for public television's annual meeting and at times, what with all the terms and technological options being bandied about, the reception seemed to resemble a convention of criers for the hitech carnival. A question about the impact of cable systems here, a comment on video-cassette and disc catalogues there, and a discussion all over the place about the possibility of a new national nonprofit pay cable television network for the performing arts, culture and entertainment -- PACE, but of course. Blatant optimism prevailed despite the dour skies without.
Many of those present were people like Bob Ellis, general manager of KAVT in Phoenix, who managed a cautious mix of concern and optimism for the future. Ellis can tell you exactly how many phone calls they got on "Death of a Princess" before it aired (325 for, 326 against), the number of phone calls they got after it aired (34 for, 30 nyet) and the number of threatening phone calls (one, against Ellis). While Ellis is worried about what inflation will do to new programming, he is very "into the new technology," and that will buy a round of approving beams in the broadcasting biz just about any day.