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Corporate US to Reagan's PBS plea: 'Sorry'

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Has the Reagan administration's call for more private-sector support for the Public Broadcasting System resulted in a great outpouring of corporate funding for PBS?

I asked that question of PBS president Lawrence K. Grossman, and his answer was a succinct ''No.''

He explained: ''Corporate support has been generous but at a relatively level pace. The addition of one new big grant from AT&T (for the ''MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour'') or the James S. McDonnell Foundation (for ''Smithsonian World'') might make it seem as if there is a great rise, but one or two grants can radically change the picture. Basically, however, there has not been any great response from corporate America.

''The companies which concern themselves with their roles as citizens do certainly use PBS as a major resource, and we continue to get generous support, but it certainly cannot be said there has been a great outpouring of funding money as a result of the Reagan administration strong urging. Why, even the White House concerts were not easy to get fully underwritten.''

Does corporate underwriting of arts programming on PBS compete for the funds that corporations set aside to support the arts themselves?

''I think there are some who believe that,'' Mr. Grossman says. ''But my own view is different. I think it's synergistic.

''If a company is interested in supporting the Metropolitan Opera, as Texaco was for so many years, they put it on radio and eventually they end up underwriting it on television. And vice versa. If Shell Oil becomes interested in the Kennedy Center television programs of PBS, it would tend to be more receptive to underwriting such arts events which have nothing to do with television. One form of support whets the appetite for other forms.''

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