Two coins in the fountain: industry, government back acclaimed series
Where should a first-rate public TV series look for future funding - to industry or government?
In some cases, to both.
Take the ''Great Performances Alliance,'' a consortium of five public TV stations, supported by major funders, which is a prime example of the intertwining of government and industry in Public Broadcasting Service programming.
The renowned ''Great Performances'' - an award-winning series of music, dance , and theater events - began its 10th season with a $4.9 million budget from Exxon and public television stations. But under this new arrangement, an additional $2 million will be coming from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts.
One of the ''Great Performances'' projects now possible under the new agreement is the first major television presentation of the entire Wagner ''Ring'' opera cycle. Other productions scheduled for this and upcoming seasons are Mark Twain's ''Innocents Abroad,'' ''America's Musical Theater,'' excerpts from Balanchine's New York City Ballet Stravinsky Festival, Twyla Tharp's ''The Catherine Wheel,'' and Stendahl's ''Charterhouse of Parma.''
The consortium comprises WNET-New York, KQED-San Francisco, WTTW-Chicago, SCETV-South Carolina, and KERA-Dallas-Fort Worth.
Funds for special projects have been granted by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. (Exxon, while reaffirming its faith in PBS and the series, did not announce any specific increase in funding.)
At a press conference announcing the alliance, representatives of government agencies faded diplomatically into the background to let Exxon star in its role as the major corporate funder of this series. This public relations maneuver was typical of the way public agencies tactfully defer to the private sector at public functions in order to encourage future private support for noncommercial television.
John Jay Iselin, president of WNET in New York, the nation's top recipient of corporate funding, stressed that the new consortium will help PBS ''maintain the unity and strengthen the important presence of cultural programming on public television through increased domestic production and continued presentation of the greatest examples of Western cultural achievement from worldwide sources.''
In response to criticism that too many of the PBS cultural programs seem to stem from New York, Mr. Iselin stressed that the consortium's makeup will add to ''the presentation of the regional cultural riches of the United States.
He also stressed, though, that final administration and programming judgments will remain with the original producer of the series, WNET, and its executive producer, Jac Venza. PBS stations that are not consortium members will be encouraged to submit programs to be aired on ''Great Performances.''