Historic Television Broadcasts Documenting the Conservative Movement in the 1960s Released by the American Archive of Public Broadcasting

Curated National Educational Television (NET) Collection of 1960s Broadcasts and Essays Now Available Online

Footage Includes William F. Buckley, Jr., Ronald Reagan and Robert Welch, Founder of the John Birch Society

The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) has released a new online exhibit – “On the Right: NET and Modern Conservatism,” which explores the growth of the conservative movement in the mid-20th century through the lens of public television. Rescued from deteriorating videotape and film, 21 National Education Television (NET) programs produced between 1956 and 1970 explore multiple perspectives on the modern conservative movement. The programs are now available for online viewing, many for the first time since their original broadcast.

The exhibit features programs broadcast by NET, the precursor to PBS, mostly between 1963 and 1970, a period beginning with conservative Barry Goldwater’s run for president in 1964. Though Goldwater lost his bid for the presidency, his campaign catalyzed a modern political movement for future growth, building on what both the right and the left saw as the failure of American institutions. NET would dedicate a number of telecasts to this burgeoning movement when conservatives were in the process of building institutions and influence that later would enable them to become a major political force. The exhibit is curated by Allison Perlman, Associate Professor in the Departments of History, and Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine.

“Early public television provides a unique window into this tumultuous time in American politics, when journalists sought to make sense of seismic shifts in sentiment. The AAPB is proud to partner with scholars like Allison Perlman, who surface illuminating moments from broadcasts and contextualize our history,” said Alan Gevinson, Ph.D., AAPB project director at the Library of Congress. “Perlman’s ‘On the Right: NET and Modern Conservatism’ captures how politicians, reporters and the American public understood and reacted to a political sea change that few anticipated.”

The programs feature influential conservative leaders such as William F. Buckley Jr., founder of National Review, a leading conservative journal, and host of Firing Line, a conservative public affairs television show; Ronald Reagan, then-Governor of California, profiled as he debated skeptical students at Yale; author Russell Kirk, a foundational figure in modern conservative thought; political scientist Clinton Rossiter, author of a key history of American conservatism; Robert Welch, founder and director of the extremist John Birch Society; and H. L. Hunt, one of the richest men in the U.S. who provided funding to put far right ideas into action.

Lesser well-known figures include representatives from many conservative organizations, conservative politicians, citizens from a small Midwestern town dominated by the radical right, and the head of an educational organization promulgating extreme conservative propaganda.

“Public television, from its beginning, has provided a platform for a range of voices. NET captured many perspectives on the rising conservative movement at a unique time in history. We’re happy to be able to provide access to these programs for all to explore online,” said Karen Cariani, the David O. Ives Executive Director of WGBH Media Library and Archives. “A big thank you to Allison Perlman for her scholarship, and to the archivists involved in preserving these historic programs.” 

The AAPB is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and WGBH to preserve and make available historically significant at-risk public media. “On the Right: NET and Modern Conservatism” was created as part of the National Education Television (NET) Collection Catalog Project, funded by the Council on Library and Information Services.


About the American Archive of Public Broadcasting   
The American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the WGBH Educational Foundation to coordinate a national effort to preserve at-risk public media before its content is lost to posterity and provide a central web portal for access to the unique programming that public stations have aired over the past 70 years. To date, over 100,000 digital files of television and radio programming contributed by more than 100 public media organizations and archives across the United States have been preserved and made accessible for long-term preservation and access. The entire collection is available on location at the Library of Congress and WGBH, and more than 51,000 files are available online at americanarchive.org.  

About the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, offering access to the creative record of the United States — and extensive materials from around the world — both on-site and online. It is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.  Explore collections, reference services and other programs and plan a visit at loc.gov, access the official site for U.S. federal legislative information at congress.gov and register creative works of authorship at copyright.gov.

About WGBH

WGBH is America’s preeminent 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 primetime, lifestyle and children’s series. WGBH’s television channels include WGBH 2, WGBX 44, and the digital channels World and Create. WGBH TV productions focusing on the region’s diverse community include Greater Boston, Basic Black and High School Quiz Show. WGBH Radio serves listeners across New England with 89.7 WGBH, Boston’s Local NPR®; 99.5 WCRB Classical Radio Boston; and WCAI, the Cape and Islands NPR® Station. WGBH also is a major source of digital content and programs for public radio through PRI/PRX, including The World and Innovation Hub; a leader in educational multimedia with PBS LearningMedia™ providing the nation’s educators with free, curriculum-based digital content; and a pioneer in services that make media accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired audiences. WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors: Emmys, Peabodys, duPont Columbia Awards and Oscars. Find more information at wgbh.org.

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