November 3, 2017 Library and WGBH Acquire Historic TV Coverage of Senate Watergate Hearings
Digital Files Now Available on the American Archive of Public Broadcasting Website
Press Contact: Sheryl Cannady, Library of Congress, (202) 707-6456 | Emily Balk, WGBH, (617) 300-5317
Public Contact: Alan Gevinson, Library of Congress, (202) 707-0582 | Karen Cariani, WGBH, (617) 300-4286
Website: “Gavel-to-Gavel”: The Watergate Scandal and Public Television External
The Library of Congress and Boston public broadcaster WGBH announced today that gavel-to-gavel television coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings in 1973, donated to the Library by WETA Washington, D.C., has been digitally preserved and made available online. Produced by the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT), the hearings were taped during the day and rebroadcast every evening on public television for 51 days, from May 17 to Nov. 15. These broadcasts became one of the most popular series in public broadcasting history.
For the first time in 44 years, these riveting moments in history will once again be available to the American public through an online presentation—“Gavel-to-Gavel: The Watergate Scandal and Public Television”—on the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) website at americanarchive.org. AAPB is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH to preserve and make accessible significant at-risk public media.
The presentation will provide access to all the coverage, a highlights reel, episode guide and an essay putting the coverage into historical perspective. Visitors to the online exhibit—curated by 2017 Library of Congress Junior Fellow Amanda Reichenbach—will see firsthand the memorable personalities involved in this national drama and the revelations that ultimately led to resignation of President Richard Nixon. Journalists Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer worked together for the first time as anchors to bring balanced commentary, allowing viewers to experience the full hearings and make their own informed opinions. The coverage became a model for public television and, later, C-SPAN.
Each episode of the coverage begins with about five minutes of commentary by MacNeil and Lehrer, including a recap of what happened during that day’s hearing. The hearings range from two to seven hours in length. The anchors close out with a 10- to 20-minute wrap-up with experts and interviews conducted by correspondent Peter Kaye. The Senate Watergate Committee conducted its investigation in three phases: Watergate (May 17–Sept. 25), Campaign Practices or “Dirty Tricks” (Sept. 26–Nov. 6) and Campaign Finance (Nov. 7–Nov. 15). Coverage by NPACT of the subsequent House impeachment hearings in May and July 1974 also has been digitized and made available online.
After acquiring the tapes, the Library digitized nearly 352 hours of NPACT’s continuous coverage. The digital content was transferred to WGBH for inclusion in AAPB. Nearly a third of AAPB’s complete collection of 50,000 hours of preserved public TV and radio content is now available online for research, educational and informational purposes.
WGBH Boston is America’s pre-eminent public broadcaster and the largest producer of PBS content for TV and the web, including “Masterpiece,” “Antiques Roadshow,” “Frontline,” “Nova,” “American Experience,” “Arthur” and more than a dozen other prime-time, lifestyle and children’s series. WGBH also is a leader in educational multimedia, including PBS LearningMedia, and a pioneer in technologies and services that make media accessible to the 36 million Americans who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards and two Oscars. Find more information at wgbh.org.
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