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Among today's news links was a story about the revamped Ovation channel.

Ovation executives have given the channel's programming a face-lift, broadening the definition of art beyond orchestral music, opera and ballet to include photography, film, contemporary music artists such as Kurt Cobain and Madonna and even tattoo art. Part of the idea is to make the arts "more accessible to viewers in their daily lives," the company said.

I don't find this approach at all encouraging, since the "broadening" of programming in the name of "accessibilty" seems to lead to the inevitable disappearance of "high art" from the schedule rather than converting viewers to it. It makes me wonder yet again why previous attempts at performing arts television channels such as A&E and Bravo (both in the U.S. and Canada) eventually jettisoned their serious arts programming. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, funded primarily by tax payers and presumably less dependent on market forces than commercial networks, recently cancelled its (admittedly disappointing) performing arts program, even though it aired only one hour a week, four months out of the year. The CBC's Francophone counterpart, Radio-Canada, cancelled its Sunday-evening arts showcase many years ago. And the face of the PBS pledge drive has certainly changed. Long gone are the days when concerts by opera stars accompanied by CD giveaways were considered big pledge draws.

I apologize if my post sounds like yet another hopeless complaint, but I'm really at a loss to understand why so few people out there seem to want the same sort of television I'd like to see.

So, ballet lovers, what on earth is the problem? Is there any hope the situation will ever change?

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I was thinking the same thing when I read that link, too. Sadly, I think it's a hopeless battle to fight. It's society. Not many people now-a-days want to watch the arts. They're all tuning in to MTV, VH1, etc. and PBS and Ovation (come to think of it, are these the only 2 arts channels offered in America?) are left quiet and in the dark. People like us just don't add up to the number of bone-heads who watch these stupid reality shows. Is that the reason why shows go off the air? I think that's why in southern CA the broadcasting times for CAS are 2:00 am - 5:00 am. They figure they'd fit it in sometime since no one watches it prime time. ?

I guess since a minority watches Ovation they're trying to popularize it (and probably end up polluting it) by putting on up-to-date "arts" and making it more 'accessible.' But this won't solve the lack of art viewers - just enhance the viewing of popular tv. At least we still have TCM. :unsure:

Most likely, those who'll tune in for the 'contemporary artists' won't stick around for the ballet. So maybe there'll be more viewers for Ovation, but the original problem still isn't solved.

Unfortunately, I think Gresham's Law will summarize the whole world - not just ballet. :helpsmilie::sweatingbullets:

And I don't think that can be changed since it's a money issue. It all comes back to money. I don't think it's something to even cry over because there's really nothing that we can do to change these people. But then what? :crying:

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As a former professional ballet dancer, who has produced-directed (shot-edited etc.etc.) at several PBS stations in the US (with some forays overseas), let me explain a few things...

1) PBS is a kind of ad hoc "network" composed of approx. 350 stations--each with their own agendas and ideas concerning programming. Stations are offered the national schedule (think long-running series--usually created at either WGBH or WNET) which they can choose to take or not in varying percentages. In the interest of unified national promotion, if a station does take a national sched programming package, it should try to air the programs at the same time as the national sched. or other stations have established. But not always. So there is the chance that a certain kind of programming (e.g. Arts) may not appear on your local station, or at a time (2am?) when you may not see it. But since the majority (usually over 50% to 2/3rds) of station funding is from viewers, their voice does count, so speak up!

2) Performances are expensive to film, which is why a production can take several years of planning (and searching for funding) before it is ever recorded for air. Smaller stations simply do not have the large crews, or large budgets to do such programming--or only in limited amounts. (My problem as an arts producer-director at smaller stations, and why I have so often ended up doing other types of programmig such as documentaries or long-form series.) Of course venues are smaller too, so the full-length ballets are not likely to be performed unless they're "black box" or "semi-staged". My local station has done several operas this way.

3) Only ONE station, ONE program, and practically ONE production team in the entire PBS system is producing dance programming on a regular basis: WNET's "Dance in America". "Live from Lincoln Center" is a separate program, which has confused the issue about what is or is not available on dvd now. And what DiA/WNET decide is what you see. Cutbacks in funding has also affected how far afield they travel to cover something. In the past, several smaller companies appeared regularly in addition to the 'big three' NYCB, ABT, SFB, but not lately. Instead, the choice was made to broaden the audience by including other forms of dance or shorter/smaller mixed reps rather than full-lengths. The big productions, again, require lots of planning and lots of $ to produce, and so are infrequent. (Case in point...ABT's "Corsair" was filmed c.1998, "Swan Lake" 2005) ABT's "Swan Lake" was well-filmed, but I had to laugh at its "Special Class" Emmy win, and the fact that there wasn't much competition (I certainly didn't see any other ballets in contention but instead, orchestral or B'way variety type programming, all of which are easier to do.)

So what can you/we/us do? Make your voice (and $) heard--esp. at your local stations. Contact them to inform them that interest exists in fine arts programming, do a program proposal if necessary (and make sure you find out how first), or try to see if co-productions (and so a sharing of costs) could be done with other area arts organizations or venues. And try to convince the New York - centric station that other works, by good choreographers, and renowned companies with excellent dancers exist outside the metro area. (Personally, I am always amazed that WGBH has never bothered to film anything Boston Ballet has done, despite having numerous long-running series on the Pops, BSO, or Arts in general?!)

Thats all for now folks. These days, I'm enjoying the live performances I see, while wishing they could have been filmed for someone/somewhere other than the NYPerf.Arts Library archives.

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What 4mrdncr said.

As a Comcast subscriber, I used to have Ovation. I wasn’t blissfully happy with it because of the many, many repeats and the many, many commercials, but it was certainly better than nothing, although generally inferior to the arts programming on PBS. Comcast took it away and I complained, but couldn’t get it back – it was not available even on the Super Colossal Absolutely Everything Exorbitantly Priced Golden Superior Digital Package.

I think any arts channel that is required to attract the maximum number of eyeballs and compete on the open market with more commercial channels is going to fail, and that would likely have been true in past decades also. The high arts do not as a rule pay for themselves and shouldn’t be asked to do so, which is why PBS and the Classic Arts Showcase programming are the last redoubts – they are subsidized.

(Also, back in the old days the networks had to pay a lot more attention to the FCC’s strictures on broadcasting programming in the public interest.)

It may also be possible that those viewers who did appreciate Ovation’s original programming weren’t vocal enough when they lost the network or didn’t indicate their appreciation while they still had it. It’s very important to do that. PBS, as noted, does pay attention to what its subscribers say they want. Send money – and tell them what you want when you do so, and make it clear that your support is contingent on getting what you want. If you get the new Ovation, tell them and your provider that you want to see the arts and plenty of them. Maybe it will work, maybe not. But you’ll have tried, and they will know you’re out there.

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I have not had access to Ovation, but remember very well the early days of both A&E and Bravo. Both relied primarily on videos produced elsewhere and did not really pretend to be doing anything else. (A&E's "Breakfast with the Arts" was an exception, and it really did cover the classical arts.)

I can appreciate all the costs and difficulties of producing original work. But just how expensive can showing pre-existing dvd's really be? I'm thinking of something along the lines of showing a movie.

Edited to add. WNET claimed some sort of co-production credit for the Paris Opera Ballet "Jewels" which they showed and distributed last year. But wouldn't it have been possible just to purchase the rights to show the dvd?

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WNET claimed some sort of co-production credit for the Paris Opera Ballet "Jewels" which they showed and distributed last year. But wouldn't it have been possible just to purchase the rights to show the dvd?
With absolutely no knowledge about the arrangement, let me hazard a guess that the good folks at WNET considered the co-producer/underwriter/whatever role to be cachet worth paying for. If they had merely shown the dvd, can you imagine the damning posts on this board? "Total abdication of their responsibility!" "The end of PBS as we've known it!" Yada, yada, blah-blah-blah.
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The odd thing is, they (WNET- DiA) were planning to do an international "Jewels" peformance way back in 2000, so look how long it's taken to get this co-production finally made. If everything is taking 5 years or more to put together (contractually? financially? artistically?) that really says something about arts programming viability. :clapping: I had a more detailed post about this arrangement at another BT thread--too late to link, but it was...

"Why aren't there more (recent) ballet performances on DVD?" it was posted Dec.15, 2008.

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Like dirac, I am a Comcast subscriber who lost access to Ovation despite my written and verbal requests and complaints. It was wonderful to have Ovation and we watched it regularly. Classic Arts is my refuge as well.

I also wonder like bart, why not just broadcast videos/dvds? As well as why there is such a dearth of ballet even on PBS? The broadcast of Jewels was so infrequent and strangely scheduled, I am sorry to say, we missed it altogether.

I have had it explained to me so many times why ballet is expensive to produce, film, everything, as well as the lack of demand. Yet many people are often transported by their first limited live exposure to ballet, but this exposure, too often, never occurs. Then, no audiences. If ballet is an aquired taste, how do we make sure it is acquired?

In times of financial contraction and scarcity, with programming choices ruled by a short-sighted view that's determined by the bottom line after it is married to the lowest comon denominator...It's hard even to figure out how to hope.

Darn that Gresham!

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