Though the San Francisco bay area boasts four public television stations, none of them will be carrying the first hour of the 1999-2000 Tony Awards, to be co-hosted by Rosie O'Donnell and Nathan Lane at Radio City Music Hall.
Brian Eley, manager of television program publicity for KQED told Playbill On-Line, there were four reasons he decided not to carry the Tonys this year:
"First, this year we have our pledge drive, which we have to do to raise money. So we have very specific programming geared towards that. Then, connected with that, we aired the show last year, and it did not do very well for us ratings-wise. I can't give specific numbers, but our regular viewership went down by two-thirds. Ratings aren't the be-all and end all, but we had very few viewers.
"The third reason is that when I talked to the programmer, who puts our schedule together, he didn't feel comfortable about doing a `stunt' program, meaning the first hour is kind of a promo for another network [CBS], since you start people watching and then they change the channel. Finally, CBS policy this year is that we can only air the show exactly one hour before their tape-delayed broadcast. That's 8 PM -- our prime time. In the past there was more flexibility, maybe an hour or two in either direction."
Asked what KQED viewers would be watching instead of the Tonys, Eley said, "We have a documentary about glass blowing. The family's been doing it for years... I know, I'm laughing too, but it's very good, and it's done very well at member stations all over the country." Eley also noted that the other three local PBS stations -- KTEH, KCSM, and KRCB -- were not airing the Tonys either.
A source at a PBS station in New York said of the un-Tonied stations, "Across the country, stations have the privilege of airing what they choose to air, based on what they feel to be the needs of their viewership. It's up to the individual stations."
-- By David Lefkowitz