Smithsonian Productions shuts down

Budget cuts sound the death knell for the Smithsonian Institution's production unit.
June 21, 2001

Public broadcasting in the U.S. will lose one of its most vibrant and innovative program-makers this fall when Smithsonian Productions is shut down due to cost-cutting measures. The media production unit of the Smithsonian Institution will cease operations September 30.

Smithsonian Productions created exhibit-related videos and television documentaries, including the two-hour Piano Grand! A Smithsonian Celebration and the hour-long, Emmy Award-winning video Dream Window: Reflections on the Japanese Garden. The unit was most renowned, however, for a slate of award-winning radio programs, such as the recent 13 x 1-hour Jazz Singers series, hosted by Al Jarreau.

The elimination of Smithsonian Productions was strictly a budgetary decision, says David J. Umansky, director of communications for the Smithsonian Institution. In the Smithsonian’s fiscal year 2002 budget, which is still awaiting final approval in Congress, the organization received a 2.4 % increase for salaries and expenses, but that was not enough to cover a federally mandated 3.7 % raise for its employees. To make up the shortfall, the Smithsonian slashed 180 positions, including the nine-member staff at Smithsonian Productions, Umansky explains.

For more on this story, see the July/August issue of RealScreen

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