Nobody at National Public Radio has yet come up with a definitive name for what they are calling "the Sunday afternoon show," but excitement is high and plans are bubbling. The five-hour program will be transmitted live on Sundays, beginning April 4, from noon to 5 p.m. Eastern time, and it will include performances (some transmitted live), arts criticism, commentary, sound portraits, documentaries and comprehensive coverage of major arts events -- something like a long, specialized counterpart of "All Things Considered" and "Morning Edition." Like these award-winning shows, it will be a complex operation involving close collaboration among the 255 member stations of NPR and instant transmission of material from remote locations via the network's satellite system.
Supervising the operation as executive producer will be David Ossman, whose diverse credentials (poet, scriptwriter, veteran radio broadcaster and charter member of the Firesign Theatre) seem to be the right profile for the job. The Firesign Theatre experience may be particularly appropriate for this new, still largely undefined assignment. In such sonic extravaganzas as "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers," "Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him" and "I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus," the group explored in dazzling detail the possibilities of sound without pictures as a medium for complex, multi-layered communication. This kind of flexibility seems to be needed for the coverage of the arts scene in America today -- particularly for audiences that will simultaneously be having breakfast in California and lunch on the East Coast. "The Brand New Illustrated Journal of the Arts," an experimental video counterpart produced by PBS, seems to leave a lot of possibilities for reporting in the field still untouched.