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TV Notes: WQED to join PBS in test of new lineup

Tuesday, June 13, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Get ready to play hide and seek with your favorite prime-time PBS programs on WQED. Pittsburgh's Channel 13 will be one of seven PBS member stations across the country testing a new schedule intended to create better audience flow from one program to the next.

"Antiques Roadshow," a Monday night staple, will move to 8 p.m. Sunday and Sunday's "Masterpiece Theatre" will become a Monday night show.

For years, "Mystery!" has aired on Thursday night, but it will move to Tuesday at 10 p.m., while Tuesday night regular "Frontline" goes to Thursdays at 9 p.m.

PBS executives hope any initial inconvenience will give way to a better prime-time schedule for all PBS stations.

"Our goal is to create a more logical schedule for our viewers, which we hope will draw more people to PBS stations, increase audience flow from program to program and extend the time viewers spend watching our programs," said PBS programming chief John Wilson in a press release. "This pilot schedule, developed after extensive research and station collaboration, will make it easier for viewers to find their favorite programs and to discover new ones."

Taking a cue from cable and ABC's success airing multiple editions of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," PBS will air "Antiques Roadshow" twice a week, with an original edition on Sunday and a repeat on Wednesday. Similarly, an original "Nova" will air Tuesday with a repeat of a different prior broadcast on Thursday. The 10 p.m. Friday hour will also be reserved for a repeat of some program that aired earlier in the week.

The seven PBS stations will test this schedule from October through March, and if the test results prove positive, all PBS stations will operate on a revamped schedule beginning as early as April 2001.

PBS announced these changes Saturday at its annual gathering of member station executives in Nashville, Tenn. PBS also unveiled a new slogan: "Stay Curious. PBS." It replaces "If PBS Doesn't Do It, Who Will?"

During the PBS annual meeting, WQED director of promotion John Seekings was honored for the press kit he created with designer Sue McConnell to accompany Rick Sebak's "A Hot Dog Program."

The kit, distributed to media outlets across the country, was named best large market press kit of 1999, beating out finalists from Los Angeles' KCET and New York's WNET.

Here's a look at the PBS pilot schedule:

7 p.m. PBS Specials: History, science, adventure

8 p.m. "Antiques Roadshow"

9 p.m. Biographies/history ("The American Experience," "American Masters")

8 p.m. Exploration/adventure specials

9 p.m. "Exxon-Mobil Masterpiece Theatre"

8 p.m. "Nova"

9 p.m. Science programs

10 p.m. "Mystery!"

8 p.m. "Antiques Roadshow" (repeat from Sunday)

9 p.m. PBS specials: History, arts, science, public affairs

8 p.m. "Nova"

9 p.m. "Frontline"

10 p.m. Local programming

8 p.m. "Nature"

9 p.m. "Washington Week in Review"

9:30 p.m. "Wall Street Week with Louis Rukeyser"

10 p.m. Repeat of some program from earlier in the week

CHANGE ON THE "HORIZONS": Because of the new PBS pilot schedule, "Black Horizons" will get bumped from its weekly berth. Instead, the program will be broadcast as a series of nine one-hour specials, tentatively slated to air at 10 p.m. the first Thursday of each month.

Host Chris Moore said he has mixed feelings on the change.

"There are a lot of people in the black community who depend on the regular weekly presence of 'Black Horizons' for coverage of events no on else would cover, except The Courier," Moore said. "In that sense, it's a loss. But there's also a great opportunity to explore some things we did not have the opportunity to do before."

"Black Horizons" has usually been chained to the studio, Moore said, which is fine for many editions which allow guests to speak their minds. He wants to continue that, but Moore also hopes to take the cameras out of the studio for some segments. And with one hour instead of 30 minutes, he looks forward to the "opportunity to have more time to explore some serious issues."

Moore said there was some internal discussion about whether he would continue as host of "Black Horizons" or pass the torch to "some other younger person with new ideas.

"I didn't necessarily disagree with that," he said. "As much as I'd hate to give up 'Black Horizons,' 20 years is a pretty long run and there are always other things."

But with all the changes the PBS pilot schedule will cause, Moore said station executives felt they "needed a presence that had been there that would be able to make that transition, and I was happy with that."

In addition to the Thursday night airing, "Black Horizons" specials will air the following Sunday at 1 p.m. Subsequent airings will be on the next Sunday at 11 p.m. and a weekday repeat Tuesday at 1:30 p.m.

"BUSINESS" MOVES: One change in WQED's schedule that's sure to make some viewers happy is the return of the "Nightly Business Report" from its late-night exile.

The show was moved from an early evening time slot in January to make way for the launch of "On Q." After many complaints from viewers, WQED will broadcast "NBR" weeknights at 7 p.m. beginning July 31.

That same day, "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" will move from a 6:30 to 6 p.m. start time. "On Q" remains in place at 7:30 p.m.

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