From a speech June 17 by Ward B. Chamberlin Jr., former president and CEO of WETA-TV and WETA-FM, accepting the Ralph Lowell Award from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting:
Television has special protections -- the First Amendment -- and special responsibilities, because we are licensed by the American people to use part of a scarce spectrum. Public TV has additional responsibilities, because almost all of the money we spend comes to us in trust -- our members' money, state and federal money, NEA and NEH and the foundations and corporations. They all entrust their own or taxpayers' money to us in an unspoken compact -- namely, that we will use it to produce television and radio programs that mean something more to our audience than just a way to pass the time. ...
I know that we are an important part of this complex society. ... We provide some of the essentials of life to a democratic society: news analysis, history and science, music and the performing and fine arts, children's programs. Now we may play a deeper role in the democratic process itself in the 1992 elections.
Isn't it interesting (and somewhat alarming) that in the countries that have newly found their freedom, they can't wait to vote and seem to use every waking moment to debate and discuss the issues of the day, whereas here in this self-proclaimed land of liberty, we can only get people excited about flag-burning and can only get 50 percent of the populace to vote?
I hope in the 1992 elections we can really help begin to correct this failure of our democratic society. ... In the past we've been a fringe player in presidential elections. Now we have a chance to get off the sidelines, and I hope we grab it.