Culture gets a boost - from several directions

An outgoing National Endowment for the Arts chairman has just announced a record $7 million in funding for the largest collection ever of cultural programs for public TV and radio.

Current chairman Livingston L. Biddle Jr., who will be replaced by Reagan appointee Frank S. M. Hodsoll on Nov. 4 (or as soon as Congress approves his appointment) announced the $7 million funding program about a week ago. Sixty-three federal grants were awarded to eight major new series, five continuing series, several short series, pilot programs, and specials. The new programs included in the funding program concentrate on opera, musical theater, architecture, design, drama, folk arts, jazz, and filmmaking. WNET/NY received the largest amount, with WGBH/Boston receiving the second largest amount.

At the same time, Brian O'Doherty, director of the endowment's Media Arts: Film/Radio/Television Program, disclosed that he expected next year's funding under the Reagan administration to be only $2.5 million - about the same level of the 1978-79 funding program. All of these are ''challenge'' grants, which means they must be matched or surpassed in the private sector. According to both Messrs. Biddle and O'Doherty, it is hoped the arts funding, which initiates support for programs carrying a total cost of $31 million, will spur additional funding from the private sector.

Thus, it is that incoming chairman Hodsoll may well be perceived as harsh in his cutbacks, since he will probably be starting his funding program at a much lower level than the outgoing program. But that may be very much in line with the reported Reagan position in regard to the National Endowment for the Arts - a policy of depending mostly on corporate funding rather than official handouts.

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