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Noncom Stars Align to Hail PBS at 50

The Library of Congress and noncommercial WGBH Boston are teaming up to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Public Broadcasting Act.

On Friday, Nov. 3, the library will hold a symposium, “Preserving Public Broadcasting at 50 Years," at the James Madison Memorial Building in Washington.

The event features an all-star lineup of noncom luminaries including former FCC Chairman Newton Minnow, a champion of noncommercial TV; Dick Cavett; Cokie Roberts; children's TV advocate Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.); Jim Lehrer; WETA CEO Sharon Rockefeller, former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson; and CPB CEO Patricia Harrison.

The Public Broadcasting Act created the noncommercial broadcasting system as well as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to distribute federal funding for the service. That is the CPB that President Donald Trump had been attempting, unsuccessfully, to defund short of that birthday.

“[I]t is still not easy to overstate the immense cultural value of this unique audiovisual legacy, whose loss would symbolize one of the great conflagrations of our age, tantamount to the burning of Alexandria’s library in the age of antiquity," the library said in a 1997 report on video preservation.

The library created the American Archive of Public Broadcasting in 2009. WGBH joined up to share responsibility for the care and feeding of the archive in 2013.

The archive currently has more than 50,000 hours of noncommercial TV programming, with almost a third of those now available online, according to the library.

Among the programs getting special mention during the event will be PBS NewsHour and (WGBH's) American Experience.