Thinking Inside the Box


by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV

To paraphrase the song written by Ervin Drake and popularized by Frank Sinatra: "When we were 49, it was a very good year!"

This past October, Milwaukee Public Television turned 49 years old. We are already planning for our big birthday in 2007, but we've got a lot to celebrate as we look back on the highlights of last year.

A visit from ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, the most popular weekly program on PBS, and the resounding success of the most ambitious documentary project in our history, THE MAKING OF MILWAUKEE, made the year a truly memorable one for the community, our viewers, and our staff.

THE MAKING OF MILWAUKEE, the five-hour saga which traces the community's history from the time of Indian settlements to the present day, premiered in October. For its first broadcast, the series attracted the highest ratings among all primetime programs aired on all public television stations in the nation!

Fans of MPTV filled The Streets of Old Milwaukee exhibit and saw excerpts of the series at a preview event at the Milwaukee Public Museum in September. It was impressive to see a full auditorium give our staff a standing ovation after the clips were shown (it's not too often that TV producers experience a standing ovation!). THE MAKING OF MILWAUKEE was our most successful fundraising program during our December on-air membership drive. And the DVD of it has been made available free to teachers for classroom use thanks to a grant from the Faye McBeath Foundation. Sixteen other local foundations and companies provided funding for the production, and we are grateful for all their support!

The ANTIQUES ROADSHOW visit, in July at Milwaukee's Midwest Airlines Center, was a lot of fun for everyone. More than 5,000 area residents brought items to the event for appraisals. The quality of the items and the interesting stories their owners told about them were so impressive that PBS has decided to use the three programs recorded here as the premiere episodes for next fall's season -- so look for them in October 2007 on MPTV and on PBS stations nationwide!

Other annual highlights included the launching of a partnership with Discovery World, the new facility on Milwaukee's lakefront devoted to innovation, science, and entrepreneurship. MPTV covered its Grand Opening with a primetime special in September, and we have produced three other programs from Discovery World since then, including the 2006 Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Gubernatorial Debate, which was carried statewide as well as nationwide on C-SPAN. In 2007, we plan to begin taping our first co-produced series with Discovery World, a fun and interactive science program for middle school age students.

Last January, viewers who have digital TV sets or Time Warner Cable's digital tier were introduced to our newest multicast channel, MPTV CREATE, an innovative noncommercial 24-hour channel featuring the best "how-to-do-it" and lifestyle programs.

Then in February, we ventured into new territory with our first MILWAUKEE SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA program that was broadcast both live and in High Definition Television -- a superb all-Tchaikovsky concert featuring guest pianist Vladimir Feltsman.

It was a very good year, too, for THE GREAT MPTV AUCTION, a southeastern Wisconsin tradition. In its 38th year, the AUCTION set a new record of $1,209,053 raised on-air during its nine-day run in April and May. Then, at the PBS Development Conference in October, it was recognized as the best public television auction in the country!

Along with the auction award, the station garnered a number of other honors. Outreach Coordinator Darlyne Haertlein earned the 2006 Women Putting Their Stamp on Metro Milwaukee Award from the United States Postal Service. In their "Best of 2006" issue, Milwaukee Magazine recognized MPTV Producer Bill Werner as the year's Best TV Producer. Three MPTV specials, KEEPING JAZZ ALIVE, SPANISH SPOKEN HERE, and the humorous TWO MEN IN FISH HATS, were honored with awards for excellence, as were two of our weekly local series, GREAT LAKES GARDENER and OUTDOOR WISCONSIN.

In 2006, for the first time, MPTV produced all our local series and specials in HDTV and with closed captions for the hearing-impaired.

We said goodbye to several longtime staff members, including BLACK NOUVEAU host Sharon Patterson, TRACKS AHEAD producer Dave Baule, TV listings coordinator Karen Copper, and engineers Thad Groszczyk, Rex Nielson, Jan Pritzl, and Gary Sharbuno. But we welcomed to the air BLACK NOUVEAU's new co-host Faithe Colas and producer Everett Marshburn, and the new host of COOKING SIMPLY FOR THE SOUL, Tyler Brown.

We wrapped up the year with a successful and significant community outreach project, CLIFFORD'S BOOK DRIVE, which collected 6,417 books for family centers, agencies, and schools to distribute free of charge to the children they serve. The drive, which represents MPTV's commitment to children and family literacy efforts, is based on the popular PBS KIDS series CLIFFORD THE BIG RED DOG.

Now it's on to MPTV's 50th, and what we expect will be another great year of service to the viewers of southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. We've got plans for a number of special programs and events we trust you'll enjoy!

On behalf of the entire MPTV staff, our members, and the Bromberg family, all the best for a healthy New Year!

Ellis Bromberg
General Manager