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Statement to the Committee on Science and Technology, Subcommittee on Science, Research

and Technology

Mick Rhodes
Head, Science Unit

My experience covers nearly fifteen years of science broadcasting mostly with the BBC in the United Kingdom but for the last 14 years with WGBH-TV, the PBS station in Boston. y current position is Executive Producer of NOVA.

To help you consider the matter before you I believe I can be most aid by comparing what I know of science broadcasting in the United Kingdom with the United States.


Radio in the United Kingdom is far less diversified than in the United States: that is there are far fewer stations available to an individual listener. In general, there are probably only six in any one area: Radio 1, 2, 3, and 4 from the BBC, (give or take a bit these are country-wide) plus a local commercial and a local BBC station. For the locals, I have no information, but nationally each week there will be approximately three hours of science broadcasting split between BBC Radio's 3 and 4. This is excluding any science broadcasting in the news and current affairs programs. This is produced by six full-time science trained producers sufficiently well-funded for three of them to attend the AAAS meeting in San Francisco in Jan. 1980. They returned from the week-long meeting with about 10 hours of programming.

I find it impossible to compare this output with u.s. Radio simply because of the complexity of the U.S. radio system. However, I'm not aware of comparable programming although a similar production group exists in Canada and reaches audiences of over one million with individual programs.

Quite clearly radio is enormously accessible to the population at large and cheap to produce. It is, I suspect, an area ripe for development.

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British science television breaks into several components (again ignoring news and current affairs).


Science programs designed for a general evening viewing audience. Audiences for these programs frequently rise to 10,000,000 or 20% of the total population. Such programs are found on both the commercial channels and the BBC.

b. Further Educational programs designed for continuing education of adults but excluding the Open University. And,




For the year April 1978 to April 1979 the data for the BBC is as follows:

7907 hours

Total hours of all kinds of TV transmitted
(excluding Open University)

General audience Science programs (approx)
Further Education total 426 hrs.

Science prog.
Schools total 368 hours. Science Program.

17 hours
106 hours (approx
92 hours (approx

TOTAL BBC reach 4.7% or,

368 hours

In addition to the 4.7% of BBC-TV has to be added the science on Commercial television probably another 25 hours per year for a general audience making in total nearly 400 hours per year, or 8 hours per week available to the science glutton!

In the U.S. again, like radio, it is difficult to be complete.
To list a sample of programs for 1980:

20 hours
National Geographic

4 hours COSMOS

13 hours


13 hours

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In addition to this there will be various locally produced shows; health shows for example, on the commerical channels plus much educational TV though the non-commercial channels. The figures for these I cannot estimate.

From the above, I draw out two figures:

In the U.K., general audience science TV totals nearly 200 hours

per year. In the U.S. a comparable figure is probably near 100 hours per



It is for you to decide whether four hours of science TV available per week is "better" than two. I can only offer evidence of audience appetite.

a. As a general rule any survey of PBS identifies "science" and "wildlife" as

audience needs done by areas where they want more



NOVA is consistently, year in and year out, one of the biggest rated PBS shows. As an example the last show measured reached 4,200,000 homes (5.5% of all U.S. Television households). In the same week, CONNECTIONS reached 3,280,000 homes (4.3% of all u.s. television homes).


The NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC specials are almost invariably among the most watched individual programs in every PBS year.


In the area of wildlife, a whole array of indicators of interest (membership of clubs, sales of binoculars, etc) is rising although audiences for Wildlife TV shows are on average, falling.

I admit that all these points are only small indicators but to me they add up to suggest that there is an appetite for more sciencebased television than now reaches that small silver screen.

This I believe is supported by the British experience: I see no obvious reason why the appetities of the two countries should be so fundamentally different for science information on television.

Which has

Mr. Brown. Thank you very much, Mr. Rhodes.

I now call on Dr. Joel N. Bloom, vice president, Association of Science-Technology Centers.



Dr. Bloom. I would like to begin by thanking the chairman and Congressman Pease for drawing attention to the differences between expressions of support and dollars of support. I am submitting a written statement and I will try to summarize my position.

Most of us tend to think that school and education are synonymous. Actually most education takes place out of school—from the young child trying to get mother's attention, to the senior citizen trying to survive on a fixed income. We call this education informal education and because it is so all pervasive it tends to get neglected.

If education is a stepchild of the National Science Foundation, museums are an illegitimate child of a stepchild. The Nation is going to be spending about $12 million in support of art museums, and some $8 million essentially in support of history museums this year, yet NSF with its over $1 billion budget will be spending about $1 million in support of compatible public programs in science museums.

I hate to talk about museums, because they are meant to be experienced; so I will show you some slides.

Museums go all of the way back to ancient Greece. This is the Greek God Zeus. Legend has it that he had nine daughters who sang and danced to make people forget their sorrows. People liked that very much, and they soon established palaces in their honor, and they called those palaces museums. Museum in Greek means palace of the muses, and since then we have had museums.

This is a picture of another “Greek temple". It happens to be in Philadelphia—the institution I am associated with, the Franklin Institute. We serve almost 2 million people a year. What do we do? We are an informal learning center.

This means: “hands on" [slides]; "self-structured" [slides); "lifelong" [slides]; "no grades” (slides) ;; “no prerequisites" [slides]; "informal groupings" [slides]; and “can't flunk" [slides).

I was trying to make the point here that one can't flunk a museum. [Slide of sad-looking child.) This young man looks like he did flunk. Maybe he is just thinking about how the world will be when he grows up. [Series of slides showing positive and negative results of science and technology.] Are we going to have this or this? Are we going to have this or this? This or this? Yet, I believe that we can make this a better world for our children and our grandchildren through the wise use of science and technology, but the wise use of science and technology is dependent on widespread public understanding of science and technology, an understanding which requires the fullest possible involvement of both the schools and the informal educational institutions such as TV, print media and science museums.

Science museums of all kinds represent the largest, most concentrated audience for informal science education in the United States. More than 160 million visits a year are made to such museums, nearly

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