Prof. Henry Louis Gates Jr. has his eyes not only on the prize, but on the bottom line.
“African American Lives” and many of the writer, critic and Harvard scholar’s other documentaries have been funded at least in part by PBS, including his latest: the self-descriptive “Black in Latin America,” which begins a run over four consecutive Tuesdays on April 19.
Gates is well aware that public broadcasting is facing the possible loss of the U.S. government’s financial support. A new factor is the resignation Wednesday (March 9) by National Public Radio president and CEO Vivian Schiller over another just-resigned NPR executive’s video-captured bashing of the political Tea Party.
“I can’t imagine that any self-respecting senator or member of the House of Representatives would actually cut, or attempt to eliminate, the funding of one of our truly great national resources … public broadcasting,” Gates tells Zap2it. “It’s just unheard of. No civilized nation would do that, and I just hope that people will come to their senses.
“It doesn’t have to do with me particularly, but with all of us who depend on public broadcasting. It just shows you how politicized the arts have become by the Right, and it’s disgusting. And I think we should all be embarrassed by it.”
For now, anyway, Gates has the financing in place for his next big PBS project. He’ll expand his 2010 miniseries “Faces of America,” in which such notables as Meryl Streep, Stephen Colbert, Eva Longoria and stage and screen director Mike Nichols explored their genealogical roots.
“It’ll be a weekly primetime format,” Gates reports. “We’ll be broadcasting it next year, and we’re in the process of picking our guests and doing the research and tracking their DNA. We’ll be filming them this summer, and we’ll have two guests a week for 10 weeks. I’m very excited about it.”