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With cuts looming, a look at some of WNED's best

I'm feeling concerned -- even frightened -- for WNED-TV and its viewers because the Trump administration proposed a budget that eliminates funding to the Corporation of Public Broadcasting in 2018.

With that in mind, I feel it is my civic duty to preview the station's programming plans over the next few months.

WNED-TV's president and chief executive officer Donald K. Boswell has said that the proposed funding cuts would affect its program acquisitions and the original programs its produces to supplement the PBS programming its carries. The acquisitions include one of the most popular programs on the public broadcasting station, the Australian series "A Place to Call Home."

"There is not a day goes by where we don't hear, where is it?" said Kathryn Larsen, the senior director of radio and television programming for WNED. "When is it coming back?"

The answer is the first episode of season 4 will air at 9 p.m. Thursday. However, some of its biggest fans received an early look a few days ago as part of the station's preview club, "Coffee, Donuts and Screenings."

The station periodically holds those screenings for major donors and viewers who pay a fee slightly larger than the cost of coffee and donuts. The next club meeting is April 11 when the station shows the first episode of a series called "Food-Delicious Science" that illustrates "the physics, chemistry and biology that lie hidden inside every bite."

Call me crazy, but I'd rather not know all that

I'm told "Coffee, Donuts and Screenings" is designed for my readers who are envious that I get to preview new programs before they air.

Envious? I thought those viewers should feel sorry for me. I have to watch a lot of stuff that turns my stomach more than the thought of knowing the physics, chemistry and biology of what I'm eating.

However, I am looking forward to a new WNED-TV acquisition from Australia, "800 Words," that premieres at 10 p.m. Thursday after "A Place to Call Home."

It is about a columnist whose written pieces consist of 800 words -- which an editor once cracked is how long my column lead is before I get to the heart of the story. A recent widower, the columnist moves his teenagers from Sydney to a small town in New Zealand.

"It actually is really lot of fun," said Larsen.

Larsen said the proposed funding cuts to CPB wouldn't necessarily result in dropping popular station acquisitions, but it could put them at risk in 2018 if Congress doesn't come to the defense of CPB as it often does.

Larsen said the cost of acquisitions range from $400 to $700 per hour episode, with an average of about $500 per episode. She said "A Place" costs between $550 and $600 an hour so the total for 13 episode-season costs between $7,150 and $7,800. And that's only one acquisition. The cost adds up with each acquisition.

The proposed funding cuts also could impact how many local productions WNED could commission. On Friday, it airs four original productions. A repeat of "Canadian Rockies by Rail" kicks off the night at 8 p.m., followed by a new production previewing the 2017 Shaw Festival season, with host Anthony Chase at 9 p.m.

A 2013 production, "Shaw Festival Behind the Curtain" airs at 9:30 p.m., followed by a repeat of "Toronto's First Family of Theater: The Mirvish Family" at 10:30 p.m.

On April 19, Academy Award winner Adrien Brody narrates "Violins of Hope: Strings of the Holocaust," which documents efforts to restore violins from the Holocaust. It is an acquisition from American Public Television.

The classical music station, WNED-FM, will highlight "Violins of Hope" on April 19th, which is the 40th anniversary of the station.

"There will be a yearlong celebration of our 40th anniversary," said Larsen.

WNED plans to repeat "Making Waves: The Battle for the Great Lakes" on April 7 and April 14.

"We wanted to put it on again because of the renewed interest in the Great Lakes situation," said Larsen.

WBFO-FM, has been a leader in documenting the Great Lakes battle for survival as part of a regional journalism collaborative that is based in Buffalo and also involves stations in Cleveland and Rochester. Many of the reports have aired on NPR.

The repeats also air a week or two after the International Joint Commission's public meeting Thursday at WNED-WBFO to hear what Buffalo residents think of efforts to improve the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes also have been in the news because Trump's proposed budget eliminates funds to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Among the several series and programs that WNED is carrying this spring is one that sounds like a local news sweeps series: "Hidden Killers of the Victoria House." The series, which airs April 17 and April 24, documents how scary it was to live in Victorian and Edwardian times.

"Everyday household items, especially in the Victorian era, were killing people," said Larsen. "Women would put lead on their faces with face paint."

PBS is offering a three-part music series, "American Epic," starting May 16 about the record company in the 1920s that recorded early blues, country Hawaiian, Cajun, country and folk music.

Parents and kids will be celebrating a Friday Family Movie Night on the new PBS Kids channel that airs on digital channel 17.3 and on local cable and Verizon FiOS. The two-hour original movies, which are longer versions of the daily shows on the recently-added channel, will run on Saturday and Sunday.

As decent weather hopefully arrives, WNED plans to carry a program called "Wild Weather" on April 26. "You can't be in Buffalo without a weather show," said Larsen.

The last place you'd expect to see a reality show is on a PBS station. However, starting May 4, WNED is carrying a four-part series, "Victorian Slum House," in which present-day citizens experience life in a Victorian tenement in the heart of London's East End.

That sounds a long way from "A Place to Call Home."


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