Thinking Inside the Box

The New TV Season on MPTV

by Ellis Bromberg, General Manager of MPTV

Hello again everyone, Ellis Bromberg with another video "Thinking Inside the Box."

You know it was just one year ago we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of Milwaukee Public Television: Channel 10 signed on the air in October 1957. That was such a memorable occasion on-air and off-air last fall, and a tough act to follow.

But this coming year has the potential to top it all!

In fact, this year could be the most significant in the history of MPTV, with the analog shutoff in February, and the recommendations of a community task force which could profoundly remake our station.

One thing that won't change is our commitment to great programming, both local and national.

The fall season is a well-known concept in television; the fall is when TV networks and stations introduce new shows, and we're no different. So let me tell you about a few of the programs you'll be seeing on MPTV in the coming months -- first on the national scene:

- From NOVA, "The Bible's Buried Secrets." This is a program which explores provocative recent findings of biblical archaeologists.

-Then we have THE NUTCRACKER: this is a full performance by the San Francisco Ballet, celebrating its 75th anniversary.

- How about A RIDE ALONG THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY, a journey on America's first coast-to-coast highway, from Manhattan to San Francisco.

- From AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, "The Death of Lincoln," the story of Abraham Lincoln's final months, his murder, and the manhunt for John Wilkes Booth.

- MAKE `EM LAUGH: THE FUNNY BUSINESS OF AMERICA, from the producers of BROADWAY: THE AMERICAN MUSICAL, which we broadcast a couple of years ago. This is an examination of what has made America laugh, and why, from the turn of the 20th century to today's contemporary comedy, to be hosted by Billy Crystal. Should be a lot of fun!

- And WE SHALL REMAIN. This is a multimedia project that establishes Native American history as an essential part of U.S. history.

All that is leading up to next fall's big project -- Ken Burns' next big project -- THE NATIONAL PARKS, the human story behind the creation of the U.S. national parks.

All great shows and series, all coming up on MPTV-10-HD.

And what do we have cooking locally?

- Well, in addition to our continuing nine weekly series -- series you know about, from ADELANTE! to I REMEMBER to OUTDOOR WISCONSIN to INTERCHANGE -- we actually have two new series this fall:

- ETHICALLY MILWAUKEE, hosted by Mark Siegrist: discussions with members of the interfaith community about key issues facing the moral fabric of this region, from poverty to health care to cultural diversity.

- And ON THE ISSUES WITH MIKE GOUSHA, a series of quarterly discussions with newsmakers, taped at the Marquette Law School, and hosted by longtime TV anchor and now a distinguished fellow in the Marquette Law School, Mike Gousha.

- In December, we've got LES PAUL AT THE PABST, Les Paul's 93rd birthday concert, a terrific show taped this summer, which we'll use on our pledge drive in December -- look for that!

- And comedian John McGivern is back with his WINTER TALES, taped at the Off-Broadway Theatre in Milwaukee.

- There's a new season of the cooking series THE KITCHENS OF BIRO taped by our crew at the Biro restaurant in Sheboygan.

- From the Milwaukee Symphony, Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

- And from the Florentine, a children's opera, PINOCCHIO, coming in early 2009.

- And the long-awaited premiere of THE SECRET LABS -- that's our co-production with Discovery World. It's a science program which uses animation and humor to reach middle school-age youngsters.

- THE MILWAUKEE BRAVES: BASEBALL, BUSINESS AND BETRAYAL, the story about how the Braves' move, from Boston to Milwaukee and then to Atlanta,reflected significant changes in the business and social impact of baseball. It's based on a new book by William Povletich.

- And NATURE IN THE CITY, a documentary about Milwaukee's nationally known Urban Ecology Center, its preservation and educational work.

- And THE WISCONSIN PRESCRIPTION, an investigation of what effect changes in national health care policies and programs, proposed by the incoming administration, will have on the citizens of our state.

And some other productions for which we are looking for funding -- if you have any funding, let me know: programs on bi-racial Americans, the Great Lakes, south Indian cooking, and aquariums.

So, we've got an exciting year ahead of us.

I was at the doctor's office the other day -- don't worry, things are fine, and I've lost five pounds in the last three months (it's a start). I need to make another appointment, and the office suggested I should come back on February 17th. I said no -- not a good day.

You know why? On February 17, 2009, the world of TV will change forever, and I probably need to be in the office, in front of a television, or really close to a cellphone.

That's the day when the Channel 10 and Channel 36 we all grew up with, the stations we know and love, will actually sign off the air forever, replaced by our digital family of stations. Now, concerns for us are to ensure that you, our viewers and our members, know how to find the new stations and will continue to watch and support us in the new digital TV world.

You savvy TV fans know there are three ways you can ensure that you will have digital TV on February 17th. They are:

- One: get a cable TV or satellite service that carries the local digital channels. Right now, just so you know, Time Warner Cable is the only such system that carries all the MPTV digital channels on their digital tier.

- Number two: if you have an old set and watch TV using an antenna, get a digital converter box for about $50- to-70. You can probably continue to use your old antenna, and if you have the government's $40 converter box coupon, well that's a great deal!

- Or three: get a new TV set. It doesn't have to be an HD set, doesn't have to cost $1500 or $15,000 dollars. Every set sold now at Wal-Mart and Best Buy, big and small, is a digital set.

Now with all this talk of February 17th, some of you may not realize that all the digital stations we're talking about are on the air right now. Nobody has to wait until February to start watching them instead of watching Channels 10 and 36. The new channels look and sound better -- so watch them!

Finally, there is one more issue that could rock our world in the coming months -- in a good way: the Vision 2057 Task Force. That group, made up of 25 community leaders, will be coming up with recommendations this fall about ways to ensure the station's long-term survival and growth over the next 50 years.

The task force has three working groups which are looking at: ways for the station to better engage our community; the kind of facilities we will need to do that; and the organizational structure that can best manage and ensure funding for such a vision and the operations needed to carry it out.

These are challenging times, we all know that, in our economy, and in public broadcasting, too. But I do believe in that theme we came up with a year ago for the 50th anniversary to illustrate our faith in the future and in the special mission of public broadcasting: "the best is yet to come."

Have a great fall, keep watching MPTV, and I'll talk with you again soon.