Public TV tunes in the future 'Cybercast': To help ensure its future, public television plans to offer broadcast and computer coverage of events.


Merging traditional television production with burgeoning computer technology will help enable public broadcasting to ensure its future, says Ervin S. Duggan, president of the Public Broadcasting Service. "Public televnd Public Television to announce the launch of several new technology innovations.

For example, MPT's broadcast coverage Oct. 8 of Pope John Paul II's Mass from Camden Yards will also be available via computer through the Internet's World Wide Web, said Raymond K.K. Ho, MPT president.

"We're making history with this thing. We had to come up with a new word to describe it," said Mr. Ho of the TV/computer link he described as a "cybercast."

As a first step toward this event, MPT plans on Tuesday to transmit a global "cyber-simulcast" of the Greater Baltimore Committee Technology Council's Tech Night. The event will not be seen over the MPT airwaves, but audio and video will be available on the Internet.

"It's all still television, but breaking out into another medium," said Mr. Ho, who added that this may help public television gain funding sources because potential program underwriters will reach more people.

"They want the widest possible distribution of the information . . . [and] this opens up entire new ways of getting the information across," Mr. Ho said.

MPT's cybercasting efforts are being done in conjunction with Maryland-based firms Husky Labs, MFS Datanet and Maryland Sound and Image, in addition to Silicon Graphics Inc. and Xing Technology of California.

Mr. Duggan said these innovations are "a tremendous contribution" to public broadcasting, whose future has been much in debate this year, as members of the Republican Congress threatened to sharply curtail federal funds to public radio and TV.

He said that although "the outcome is not yet clear . . . we do perceive a more encouraging turn in the debate."

Last week, Congress left funding for the Public Broadcasting Service untouched in fiscal 1996, approving a $275 million budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting that included $22.5 million for PBS, the same as 1995.

Mr. Duggan attributed the congressional shift to "a solid wall of public support," as measured by five separate national polls showing 75 percent or more of Americans "believe that this is a wonderful institution that deserves continued public support."

He also said he believes "a true education process has taken place on Capitol Hill," as legislators learned the scope of PBS services.

In other technology announcements yesterday by MPT:

* Mr. Ho said Monday's cyber-simulcast of the GBC Tech Night event will also launch MPT's World Wide Web site on the Internet. It offers computer users a variety of information services relating to MPT programming, such as biographies of program LTC personnel and ways for viewers to offer their opinions of MPT fare.

* Conversion to digital production and broadcast capability is progressing rapidly, as three of MPT's six transmitting stations now are able to use the more sophisticated technology.

A digital editing suite is scheduled to go on line in October and eight digital cameras will be in use in the MPT studios in Owings Mills by November.

Mr. Ho said converting to digital production will mean such nationally distributed MPT productions as "MotorWeek," "Wall $treet Week" and "To the Contrary" will not become outmoded as the technology takes over the home video market.

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