'In Performance' to be produced by new PBS station

September 14, 1990|By New York Times

In a move that stunned the management of WETA, the major public television station in Washington, a public television station in Rochester, N.Y., has been chosen to produce future programs for the series "In Performance at the White House," the White House said yesterday.

The series, which WETA developed, has presented 25 concerts since 1978, including three in the Bush Administration, ranging from classical to popular music.

The programs, each of which cost about $350,000, will now be produced by WXXI, a station with little experience in presenting concerts for the national public television audience.

"We're deeply disappointed," said Richard Hutton, the senior vice president for programming and production at WETA.

Sig Rogich, President Bush's assistant for public events and initiatives, said the change was not being made because of disappointment with the WETA productions.

"WETA has done a very nice job, but it's positive from time to time to make a change," Rogich said. "They're all in the public television services, and they're not really in competition with each other."

This year, WXXI produced two lectures on life in the White House under Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. The programs were not presented on the Public Broadcasting Service's national schedule.

"They did a great job on the presidential lectures," Rogich said of WXXI.

But the Washington station, a major producer of public television programs, had campaigned hard to continue producing the series.

"I've spent the last two months on this," said Sharon Rockefeller, the president of WETA. Rockefeller said that until last spring, the first lady's office had been the station's liaison for the programs.

In March, however, Rockefeller was informed that Rogich, a media adviser to the president, would become involved in the programs. Rockefeller said that throughout the summer, the White House did not respond to several WETA proposals for future programs, and that she had only recently become aware that another station might get the series. "It's been very frustrating," she said.

William J. Pearce, the president and general manager of WXXI, said yesterday that he had established "an excellent working relationship with the Bushes" during the lectures, and that as a result the station had submitted proposals for the series.

While it is not unprecedented for a public television program to move from one presenting station to another, several public television station executives said yesterday that they could not recall a change having taken place so secretively.

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