The great balloon of educational television in the Boston area has developed a serious puncture. Its foremost brace, the Lowell Institute Broadcasting Council, lacks the one thing which upper story ideals cannot replace--financial backing. Without it the Council is going nowhere.
On June 1, 1952, the Federal Communications Commission gave the Council a year in which to collect funds. The goal was--and still is--in the vicinity of $500,000, the sum necessary to build a broadcasting station and maintain it for the first few years.
Once the Council had the money, the FCC promised to grant them channel 2, one of the two very high frequency channels allocated to the Boston area. The other was opened to commercial bids. The Council, which includes Harvard, five other universities, the Boston Symphony, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the New England Conservatory, hopefully cast about for money. Its first touches were naturally the foundations; all refused, although they still keep the issue under consideration.
With its major hope gone, the Council began to pick at its own resources, which, it found, could hardly supply half the prescribed figure. At that point the great idea bogged down.
The Council is safe from the commercial interests at least until June of 1953, when the F.C.C. will lift the channel freeze. Another force, however, may take over. Governor Paul A. Dever has announced the appointment of a committee to investigate the need for government intervention in the field of educational television.
There is no indication that the commission will return a favorable report on state construction and ownership of T.V. stations at present. But, if the Council fails repeatedly to meet the costs of such an operation, the case for the Government will grow proportionately stronger.
The state could extend to the Council a partial subsidy towards building a station, to be repaid in air time once the station is operating. Since the Lowell Institute is a non-profit organization, there is no limit-on the amount of money the state could give, while a strict allotment of air time could easily regulate the extent of its participation.
Carefully guarded, limited state control can push educational television over its initial and most difficult problem. Otherwise, the Council will soon be handing over channel 2 to Hoppy and the Space Cadets.