Public television pioneer James Day, who created San Francisco’s PBS station KQED died of respiratory failure April 24 in New York. He was 89.
Day created KQED in 1954; it was one of the nation’s earliest public television stations, serving as president and general manager for 16 years. The station’s fundraising techniques such as the concept of audience memberships, pledge nights, and televised auctions became the national funding standard.
While president of KQED, Day hosted a weekly program, “Kaleidoscope,” on which he interviewed personalities including Eleanor Roosevelt, Buster Keaton, Robert F. Kennedy, Bing Crosby and Aldous Huxley.
In 1969, he became president of National Educational Television in New York, public television’s national network at the time. When NET was merged with New York’s WNDT/Channel 13, he became president of the New York channel, renaming it WNET. During his time at NET and WNET, the stations showcased programming such as “The Great American Dream Machine,” “An American Family,” “Banks and the Poor,” “VD Blues,” and “The Forsyte Saga.”
In 1973, he left WNET and formed his own production company, Publivision, where he created the nationally-distributed nightly interview program, “Day At Night.”
In 1976, he became a professor of radio and television at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. After his retirement, he became chairman of the advisory board of the City University’s cable television channel (CUNY-TV).
He served on the original boards of the Children’s Television Workshop, the Public Broadcasting Service and the International Public Television Screening Conference.
Prior to entering public television, Day was Director of Public Affairs and Education for NBC’s San Francisco station, a Civilian Radio Specialist with the Allied Occupation of Japan, and Deputy Director of Radio Free Asia. He has been a consultant on broadcasting to several East African nations, the government of Venezuela, and the State of Hawaii.
His book, “The Vanishing Vision: The Inside Story of Public Television,” was published by the U. of California Press in 1995.
Born in Alameda, Calif., he graduated the U. of Calif., Berkeley, and Stanford U. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army.
He is survived by three sons and his partner Jeanne Alexander.