Bill Moyers is back on public television with $10 million worth of funding and an unlimited supply of exciting ideas for future programming. ``I am making the Constitution my beat this year,'' Mr. Moyers, who has been called ``the conscience of American broadcasting,'' told the Monitor in an interview by phone from the West Coast.
He described six projects that will begin airing this spring with what he calls ``a very strong mixture of funding'' from various sources: The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ($5 million), the Public Television Programming Challenge Fund ($2.2 million), General Motors ($1.5 million), Chevron ($1 million), and the CPB Program Fund ($175,000).
``In Search of the Constitution.'' According to Moyers, ``This will be 10 one-hour conversations with people who have spent their lives wrestling with the meaning of this document.''
Included will be such experts as Supreme Court Justices William C. Brennan, Harry A. Blackmun, and Lewis F. Powell Jr., and educator Mortimer Adler.
``In Search of the Constitution'' Special. Moyers explains, ``On Sept. 16, the night before the 200th anniversary of the ending of the constitutional convention in Philadelphia, the day before Congress convenes in Philadelphia to honor the Convention, we will do a 90-minute special as the culmination of a PBS day of celebration.''
``Bill Moyers's Philadelphia Report.'' ``This will be a nightly three-minute account of what happened each day 200 years ago in the debates in Philadelphia,'' says Moyers.
``For instance, there was a debate one day on property qualifications for holding federal office and several Southern delegates argued that not only officials but voters should be men of property. The series will start in May and run till September.
``I have the funding, and PBS is now working on the scheduling.''
``God and Politics.'' Moyers notes that this co-production with the BBC ``will be taking a look at how religious forces are influencing political events in different parts of the world. I am looking at the role of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines in trying to bring about social change. In Israel, I am looking at the clash between Muslims and Jews in Hebron. In South Africa, I am looking at three white clergymen who take widely different views on apartheid. And I am looking at the Buddhists who are training a two-year-old Spanish boy to be the new Dalai Lama.
``These will air in the fall, after the constitution programs.''
``Moyers: The Wisdom of Joseph Campbell.'' ``I am editing to six one-hour programs, 23 hours of taped conversations that I have done over the past two years on my vacations with Joseph Campbell,'' explains Moyers. ``Now 82 years old, he is a world-renowned teacher and scholar of mythology, a great wise man and a wonderful storyteller. He manages to link the mythical ideas that have dominated all cultures.''
A series on ideas. According to Moyers, ``Still untitled, this 1988 series on ideas is being made possible by the MacArthur Foundation grant. ``It's my old vision of getting on the air people who have something valuable to say - historians, scholars, philosophers, writers - a forum for news of the mind and ideas of all persuasions. Television should be both a carrier and a connector of ideas which stimulate people to think and make an attachment to the issues of the day. I hope the ideas series will do that.''
Tomorrow: Bill Moyers talks with Monitor television critic Arthur Unger about the differences between commercial television and public television.