Television in the 21st century may be very different from what viewers are used to today, the president of PBS said Thursday.
Bruce Christensen, president and chief executive officer of Public Broadcasting System, told a group of BYU communications students that advancing technology will make television stations more specialized, and viewers will, in effect, become their own programmers."The role of broadcast programmers will decrease as we move into the future," he said.
Stations will have such narrow programming that people will simply decide what they want to watch - sports or movies, for example - and choose from the stations that offer that programming.
Christensen's address was part of Brigham Young University's alumni lectures during homecoming week. The Utah native was appointed director of the Department of Broadcast Services at BYU in 1972, where he served for seven years.
Christensen had some advice for students attending the university: Don't worry about your grade point average and take courses taught by the best professors, regardless of how hard they grade.
"You know who the tough professors are. Find the best professors in whatever class you're looking to take," he said. "You want to find someone who can be your guide."
Students should also be willing to take risks and accept the fact that life comes with surprise opportunities that they must be ready for, he said.
"We're not trained very well as a people to take risks. We're content to be fairly homogenized and insulated in this particular community. In everyone's life there come opportunities you just didn't count on. Be ready for that kind of opportunity."
Christensen took advantage of all of his opportunities. He began his broadcast career in 1965 as a reporter for KSL-TV in Salt Lake City. In 1968, he joined WGN-TV in Chicago as a sports writer and producer, and he later returned to KSL as statehouse correspondent.
After his stint at BYU, he became manager of KUED-TV at the University of Utah in 1979, the same year he was elected to a three-year term on the PBS board of directors. He was named CEO at PBS in 1984.
He represented PBS in establishing the Program Challenge Fund, a $24 million joint agreement between the stations and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for the development of quality prime-time series.
Christensen said PBS will move back toward educational programming and away from cultural programs in the future.