Note that I didn't say that the performing arts shouldn't
be made available for free over broadcast TV, nor that programs like "Great Performers" and "Live from Lincoln Center" shouldn't get NEA / NEH funding. However, broadcast TV is going the way of the telephone land line. If I were in charge of a large performing arts organization and wanted to get a filmed version of a performance in front of the viewing public, I'd be paying more attention to Louis C. K.
than pledge week. (For a less commercial model, I might look to what the humble little podcast has done for "Radiolab," "This American Life," and "On the Media.")
And, if I were on the board of NEA and was looking to cut a check to PBS, it wouldn't be for yet another one-time broadcast that would languish in the vaults for a generation after its brief run was over. I'd help pay for them to 1) lawyer up and finally secure the rights to the treasure trove of past performances currently mouldering in said vaults; 2) hire the technical staff they need to get that stuff promptly and properly digitized and on to spinning disks; and 3) make it accessible forever and always
with two clicks of a mouse or two swipes on a touchscreen. Maybe for free, maybe for $1.99; maybe for free if you stream it and $1.99 if you want to download it onto your very own spinning disk. Whatever. But free to schools and libraries for sure. And If I were on the board of the NEH I'd pay scholars and educators to produce some first-rate materials to help teachers make those performances accessible to new audiences whenever it worked in the curriculum or whenever they were moved to do so. And note that that "new audience" could well be seniors taking a course in the arts at the local community college.