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PBS pitches baseball docu for September

PBS plans to schedule Ken Burns’ 18-hour-plus epic “Baseball” over two weeks in late September, the same window where the service premiered the documentary filmmaker’s record-breaking “The Civil War” in 1990.

At a session with press Thursday, PBS officials also spoke of a desire to instill more stability in the schedule by offering more recurring series, characters and programs that will “bring viewers back to the schedule week after week,” as senior VP John Grant put it, as opposed to the in-and-out viewing pattern established with public TV’s numerous one-hour anthology series.

“Baseball” will be presented in nine “innings” running roughly two hours each. The timing will put the show opposite the introduction of many new network TV series next fall, but will capitalize on proximity to the Major League Baseball playoffs.

Aiming for diversity

Reiterating its commitment to diversity, the Corp. for Public Broadcasting’s Television Program Fund also outlined 16 projects that have received a total of $ 2.7 million in grants funding research, development and/or production, as well as a $ 5 million allotment for programming related to the 1996 elections.

Those programs include “The Sixties, Extreme Remedies,” a six-part series exploring negative aspects of the movement from producer Lionel Chetwynd; “Scientific Creationism with Randall Balmer,” four half-hour programs looking at the creationism-evolution debate; and “Politics in America,” a four-part series.

“The Russian Mafia,” a documentary; “Matisse,” a 90-minute profile of the artist and his work; “Magic, Sorcery and Sleight of Hand,” a three-part series; and “Chicano: History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement,” which is receiving additional funding for revisions.

Others are “Rights & Responsibility in a Free Society,” four one-hour Fred Friendly “media & society” seminars; “Long Shadows,” a 90-minute drama about the wife of the former U.S. ambassador to Japan; and “Griot New York,” an examination of the African-American experience, directed by Debbie Allen, through performances by Wynton Marsalis, Martin Puryear and Garth Fagan.

Also, “The American Revolution,” a seven-part series; “America’s War on Poverty,” a five-parter; “Mohammed’s Army: The Rise of Fundamentalist Islam,” three one-hour programs; “School Colors,” three-parter tracing high school students through their senior year; “Making America Work,” a prospective series; and “Quarterly Media Report,” examining both the print and electronic press.

In the same vein as that last program, PBS’ “Frontline” will air a one-hour special, “Tabloid Truth: The Michael Jackson Scandal,” on Feb. 15, providing a behind-the-scenes look at how the media covered the story.

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