An Unreserved Apology To ‘WILL-TV’

It’s not often Sparrow Chat gets it wrong. Research is the key to factuality and before writing any article it behooves the writer to ascertain facts, as opposed to rumor. Nevertheless, to err is human and no-one is above making the occasional mistake.

In the case of a recent article entitled, “Why I Won’t Support Our Local PBS” just such an error occurred, and for that I unreservedly apologize to PBS and our local provider of that service, WILL-TV.

Sparrow Chat accused WILL-TV of removing the 5.00am broadcast of BBC World News from its listings and substituting with a kid’s cartoon.

In an email, set out below, the program director, David Thiel, tells how the fault lay not with WILL-TV, but with the BBC itself, for reducing the number of satellite feeds available for PBS, thus making it impossible for them to transmit the program in the morning:

Thanks for writing. I’m sorry to learn that you have such a low opinion of our operation, even though it seems that you place a good deal of value on our programming.

I want to correct a couple of misconceptions in your essay, the first being the presumption that WILL-TV is connected with Millikin University. That’s incorrect, we are part of the College of Media at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It’s a minor point, but worth clearing up.

Second, the reason that we are no longer able to offer BBC World News at 5:00 am is thanks to the BBC itself. Their new agreement with public television stations, effective October 1, reduces the number of satellite feeds available for our use. Unfortunately, one of those was the 5:00 am feed, and there is no other suitable early morning alternative. This change in our schedule was noted in our member program guide as well as our online listings. We will continue to offer the 5:00 pm weekday feed, as we have for many years.

It’s your choice, of course, as to whether you help us bring to you BBC World News and all of the other national and international public affairs series offered by WILL-TV. We will do our best with the resources and programs that are available to us. Again, thank you for your interest in WILL-TV.

David Thiel

Program Director


I have no hesitation in apologizing for the hasty assumption that caused me to write the article, but I would still point out that nothing was available on-screen, either before, after, or during the time-slot, to inform the casual viewer of the change. Surely, a marquee-type banner giving the relevant information could have been displayed for a few mornings, so we early risers could understand what was going on?

The lesson to be learned from Mister Thiel’s email, is that it’s always a mistake to attack one’s friends. After all, there are enough enemies out there, and in the media world PBS is a true friend of the American people. Unlike the cable news outlets it manages to maintain a high degree of credibility and fairness in its programming, despite serious political and corporate pressure to the contrary.

And now, a strongly worded letter to the BBC.

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